Updating the Ol’ Watercolor Palette

I welcomed some Daniel Smith watercolors into my palette this week: Imperial Purple, Manganese Violet, Cobalt Blue, Pthalo Yellow Green, Quinacridone Burnt Orange, and Chinese White. For watercolor purists, including white in one’s palette is a big no-no, but I find that it’s helpful when I’m painting in a more graphic style; the white adds an opacity that works for a contemporary look.

(Using black in one’s palette is also supposed to be a no-no, but Gentian has already defended it quite articulately in her post this week.)

I’ve been using the same Schmincke 24 half-pan palette since high school with a mixture of Schmincke and Winsor Newton pans; some of the pans had dried up to unusability, and several of them had lost their labels and I no longer remembered what they were. Then, last week, I realized I had no dark colors in my palette whatsoever. Emergency! And more importantly, an excuse to try Daniel Smith!

The new lineup includes: Schmincke Ivory Black; W&N Davy’s Gray; Daniel Smith Chinese White; Schmincke Sepia Brown (not pictured above); Schmincke Burnt Umber (not pictured above); W&N Cotman Cadmium Yellow; Schmincke Yellow Ochre; W&N Burnt Sienna; Daniel Smith Quin. Burnt Orange; W&N Cadmium Red; unidentified Schmincke; Schmincke Permanent Carmine; unidentified W&N; Daniel Smith Manganese Violet; W&N Cotman Cobalt Violet; Daniel Smith Imperial Purple; Daniel Smith Cobalt Blue; Schmincke Mountain Blue; W&N Indigo; Schmincke Prussian Blue; Schmincke Cobalt Cerulean; Schmincke Cobalt Green Turquoise; W&N Viridian; unidentified Schmincke (Permanent Sap Green? Olive Green?); Schmincke Green Earth; Daniel Smith Pthalo Yellow Green; Schmincke Cadmium Yellow Lemon (I think).

…Phew.

Technically, I don’t need many of these colors. I could be mixing my purples and greens from my primary colors. But many botanical or wildlife watercolorists do have a wider color range in their palette, especially greens. The Pthalo Yellow Green, pictured above, is kind of an obnoxious neon color to have in a palette– but I find that a little bit of that neon added to a green or blue mix makes the color “pop” visually.

Too many turquoises :(. My biggest regret was ordering a full pan of Schmincke Mountain Blue, thinking that it was closer to Cobalt Blue. Instead, it barely distinguishable from some other blues in my palette.

My other big annoyance? The two W&N Cotman (student-grade) colors in my palette: Cadmium Yellow and Cobalt Violet. Still, I’m sure they’ll serve a purpose. The Cadmium Yellow is so opaque, it’s almost like gouache. I’ll probably use it for a poster sometime.

If anyone can identify that Schmincke red towards the bottom (not the one that’s half-cut off), I’d be greatly appreciative. It’s semi-transparent (leaning towards opaque), medium to low-staining, with fair granulation. Deep Madder Red? Ruby Red? Aliz. Crimson?

In any case, look for some posts this week of paintings using my new palette.

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3 Responses to “Updating the Ol’ Watercolor Palette”


  1. 1 Lane March 11, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    Thank you so much for the lovely and helpful reviews and photos.

    Would you share how (and with what tools, ink, etc.) you create your wonderful calligraphy? I absolutely love your style!

    Lane in Charlotte, NC USA

  2. 2 Claudia March 23, 2011 at 8:46 am

    Hi! I think, the Schmincke red you’r searching for is 14 350 cadmium red deep. Grüße, Claudia

  3. 3 Cole April 7, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    @Claudia Oh my goodness, I just got this comment. Thank you!


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