Each artist falls in love with their own individual selection of colors. We pick colors for many reasons. Color can evoke an emotion or enchant us. We are attracted to color depending on our mood or surroundings. For example, on a cloudy day I may feel like painting bright yellow & red flowers, this may help brighten my space and bring me a feeling of sunshine. On a brilliant sunny day I may feel like using a variety of blues in my painting because I feel the open sky above me.
With all the marvelous colors available from an assortment of manufactures how do I decide which colors will make the cut and get a prized spot on my limited space palette.
The most important things I want from a tube of watercolor paint are bright & vivid colors when dry, pigments that easily mix with water, paint that performs well in washes and a paint that is easy to use after drying in my palette. It MUST re-wet and feel like fresh squeezed pigment right out of the tube. I will not tolerate a pigment that forms pellets or breaks into tiny pieces of paints when re-wet.
For my style of painting I use Holbein, Daniel Smith & M Graham watercolor paints. I am not saying I think these brands are the best, I am saying they are the best for me. Sample a wide variety of brands and discover which work best for you and they way you enjoy using paint.
This is a sample of my choice of colors when I started painting (around the year 2000). These paints did not all fit in my palette but this is a color swatch I made of my colors & brands.
This is currently the choices of colors on my palette. Only Quinacridone Gold, Hematite Violet, Bamboo Green, Thalo Blue, Cobalt Turquise Light & UltraMarine Blue have remained on my palette for 17 years.
This is how my studio palette is set up. I always have an exact color chart for each of my palettes. I may not use a palette for several month and I want to know the placement of each color.
My travel palette is set up like this. The colors are slightly different from my studio palette and I really enjoy the difference. I sometimes take this palette out while working in the studio because I am looking for a specific color that is included in this palette.
The order in which you set up your colors is a personal choice. Some artist set up their palette like a color wheel. I like similar colors grouped together. Yellows, reds. blues, greens and earth colors or granulating color all sit next to each other. Set up your palette however you feel is the most comfortable for your needs.
Whatever colors you choose to incorporate in you palette I urge you to only allow colors on to your palette that you know you will use. Now you may think that sounds silly but I have painted with artists who not only do not know what colors are on their palette but haven’t even used many of the colors. Also limit yourself to a fixed or narrow amount of colors and learn as much as you can about how they work for you. Scrape out colors that you are not crazy about and add colors that you love. I have seen artists take out 3 different palettes each containing over 2 dozen colors. That means they could have to choose between 72 colors when picking out a color to use within a painting. That is too much of a decision to make, besides I like to limit my color choices to 3-5 in each painting.
Practice painting using only 3 colors and see what happens. When you put aside the distraction of picking colors for your painting you can focus on the art not the color. Since value is much more important than color in a painting, limit the color and enjoy the process of creating art.
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