What’s in your palette?

Every so often, I’ll do a palette post. Mine changes often. Some colors are always there, like Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna, but a lot will change periodically. Right now, I seem to be adding a bunch of neutral and darks to my palette. Also, 18 colors is a lot… I might  cut some of them out and put in some full pans of my most-used colors.

Below is my palette, as of now. A bunch of these colors are newish to my standard palette. More often than not, I’m surprised by the colors that end up finding a place in my palette. So many of these are recommended by friends and teachers.


Like Phthalo Green, a color I couldn’t work with for years and then a workshop with Shari Blaukopf changed my mind about it. If there’s to be just one green in my palette, this would be it. As long as I remember not to use it outside of mixes, it’s a magical color.

Carbazole Violet, like Phthalo Green, will take over your whole painting if you’re not careful. But I love it in dark mixes, it keeps shadows mysterious instead of just plain dark. Thank you, Tom Hoffmann, that’s one color I’d never seen in a palette before a workshop with you.
Oh, and Transparent Pyrrol Orange too!

Nickel Azo Yellow, Potter’s Pink and Schminke Transparent Orange are here via Liz Steel‘s recommendation. And even though the pigment in both these oranges mentioned above might be the same, they look different enough to me that I want them both: the Pyrrol Orange is a lovely burnt orange and the Schminke is that exact shade you need if you like painting at construction sites (I do!). Besides, I can never have too much orange in my palette.

Buff Titanium and Neutral Tint are colors I’m trying because Marc Holmes does super interesting stuff with them, and I really need some neutrals in my work to calm it down, every once in a while.

And then there’s colors like Cobalt Turquoise and Olive Green that I have full tubes of and don’t want to waste, but they’ll be replaced when I’m done with those tubes. Cobalt Turquoise Light or Cobalt Teal Blue will replace the Cobalt Turquoise. Which one? I don’t know, I love the color of the Cobalt Teal Blue from Daniel Smith more, but it runs all over my palette because I use my paints so wet. Cobalt Turquoise Light from Winsor & Newton is more reliable in how it behaves. I might have to make the sensible choice on this one. Green Gold or Sap Green will replace the Olive Green.

You can see that this isn’t a very logical way to build a palette, but it works for me. And if you look at that left side of the palette, it’s not a huge stretch to see my split primaries there. I’m also liking the idea of leaving that one space open. It makes it feel like it isn’t totally set, like I could chance on a color I love and add it in without having to figure which color to replace.

I could discuss palettes and paints forever (and it’s fun!) but I feel like I could paint with pretty much any set of artist grade colors if it included some version of the left row of my palette and a quick neutralizer, like Burnt Sienna.

How do you build your palette? What’s in it? What are colors you can’t live without?

If you’re looking to build a palette, and don’t quite subscribe to my “add what you love” view, then here’s a few links to artists who talk about what’s in their palette and why:

Shari Blaukopf’s palette
Liz Steel’s palette
Brenda Swenson’s palette
Marc Holmes’ palette
Jane Blundell’s palette

If you’re overwhelmed and confused, just pick a palette , use it for a while and modify as you go. Happy Painting!

About Suhita Shirodkar

obsessive-sketcher. graphic designer.
This entry was posted in How to, supplies, Supplies and Materials and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to What’s in your palette?

  1. Dana Richards says:

    What’s fun for me is that I can just “see” your sketches by looking at your palette! So distinctive!


  2. Carmela Sunnyvale says:

    Use what you love is a passionate approach to selecting watercolors–thanks for sharing your current favorites. It’s always interesting to read what various artists use in their standard palette. My palette has been the same for many years. I’ve tried some ‘unique’ colors, but keep coming back to my tried and true–which means I know what will happen in mixes, but am sometimes surprised as well. Also it means that I can work without too much thought, which helps for on-location sketching.
    I like sap green, viridian and cobalt teal blue because they mix into beautiful greens depending on which yellows or blues that I add. Although most of my watercolors are by Daniel Smith, I love Sennelier’s vermilion which I use to mix oranges, or combine it with reds for flowers, and skin tones. I have a cerulean blue by Da Vinci that is the original formula, before dyes took over. There is nothing quite like it for me for mixing sky colors.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have a very small Winsor Newton palatte that has DS and Schminke colors, but recently I got the limited 24 Schminke palette in the square format. But I decided to use a long palette that can hold 25 half pans with room for a ½” Rosemary Dagger in the middle. It has a combination of DS, Schminke, M graham and WN colors. Fav colors: Rutile Yellow/ Schm, Phtalo Blue/Schm, Magenta, WN, DS Lunar Red Earth (which is exactly like poters pink, but much stronger, even though I love the name of Potter’s Pink!!), DS Jadeite…

    Sometimes I want more colors, sometimees I want a very small palette..sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t..
    HAPPY NEW YEAR and thanks for your posts! Eileen

    Liked by 1 person

  4. miatagrrl says:

    I’ve been happily using watercolor pencils instead of paints the past year or more, so I’m no longer thinking about paint palettes, but I found that things I learned about color while using watercolor pigments also often apply to pencil pigments. Last summer I was totally in love with the secondary triad, which I learned by studying Richard Sheppard’s gorgeous paintings. By the way, even if I’m not painting, I still like studying the palettes of painters for whatever I can learn from them. Plus it’s fun, of course. 😉

    – Tina

    Liked by 2 people

  5. One thing I learned recently is to check out the art that the people showing their palette’s make — I love some painter’s art but it is so far from where I want to go that using their suggestions makes no sense. I love transparent and not opaque, and pretty well am sorry I didn’t understand that when I switched from acrylics to watercolors. Also, it is easy to dull or muddy a color than to make one bright, so I keep to mostly brights and then a grey or warm gold to do an instant muddy.


  6. ABHINAV V says:

    Pardon me If I am wrong!! I am reading your blog for the first time. Are you a painter? Are your paintings exhibited anywhere in India? Or in Delhi? I live near that area


  7. Femke says:

    Thank you for sharing your palette! I’m looking to extend my palette – it’s now based on Liz Steels 6-color basic palette but I’d like to add some more dark colors. I really love the range of colors in your sketches so I was really happy to find your color selections here!
    I was wondering which brand and type alizarin crimson you use – do you use the not-lightfast version or the ‘permanent’ version? Currently, I’ve only got quinacridone rose (pv19) so I’m looking for a slightly darker crimson-type of red.


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