Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Watercolor: My Palette

My Cotman Palette
This post has been a long time coming. I've been working on getting all the colors I wanted for the last couple of years. I started out with Cotman Student watercolor but found them frustrating. When I was mixing paint, I found I got frustrated because what I got was muddier than I wanted it to be. In part that has to do with the quality of the paint.

If you want to read how I moved toward my current palette, go to my Tools of the Trade As ART! There I show all the many ways I've drawn and painted up my art supplies. I love seeing how other artists paint their palettes and supplies so I figured it was time to do a page showing all art I've made over the years all about my tools of the trade. Yes, I'm an artist and I'm kinda crazy (about my art supplies). ;o)

I had originally planned my palette to be full of only Daniel Smith Watercolors but when I came across a Schmincke Palette at WetPaint I just couldn't pass up the deal. I got the 2014 version of the palette, there is a new one out now and what a great deal it is! I wrote about the new 2015 exclusive Schmincke Palette here if you're interested. (THAT PALETTE IS SOLD OUT, go here for the 2016 version.
My Final Palette full of both Schmincke & Daniel Smith Artist Quality paint
All the colors I have on Swatches
So now I had a palette that held twenty-four half pans and since it came with half of them filled with Schmincke paint, I had twelve more to fill with my Daniel Smith selections. By the way, if you push the rows over a little, you can fit one more half pan in each row so you can actually fit twenty-six half pans in this set! It's taken me months and months to figure out just what colors I needed to get my palette just the way I wanted. That's a good thing as it allowed me to save for the paint.

I have both warm and cool (and more) for each primary color (red, yellow, blue), a bunch of earth colors and also a mixture of convenience colors. A convenience color is one that you could mix yourself but it's easier and faster to have in your palette as you use it so
Tiny Paint Tin
much, like a good green, purple and turquoise. I just recently took the time to swatch every color I have. I included paint I don't usually use (I either had them donated to me or they're my old Holbein left over paint). I keep some extra half pans of rarely used paint in another home made palette but you can also get a tiny child's palette for a couple dollars, take the cheap paint out and fill those holes with the good stuff you rarely use but still have around. I got this one at WetPaint one of the times I was ordering paint.

Daniel Smith Dots
So, as I said, my plan had ben to use all Daniel Smith paint so I did a bunch of research on their color selection. They sell dot sheets that have every color offered by Daniel Smith so about a year ago I ordered that and swatched all the colors. There's an amazing number of colors, 238 to be exact. The only ones I didn't swatch are most of the iridescent colors. I was interested in all the others though. Actually, I just recently cut each sheet into four quadrants, it works out perfectly, each quadrant gets fifteen dots. Then I just punched a hole in the top left corner and tada! I had all the dots on a  little binder ring. They're so much more convenient this way!

(click to enlarge)
My Final Palette Colors
If you'll notice, I've added black dots and white dots on top of some of the color swatches above. The white dots are the actual Daniel Smith paints I bought. The black dots are colors I own, just in another brand like Schmincke, M.Graham, Sennelier or Winsor & Newton.

I realize it's hard to see the colors and even harder to read the names on the above swatches so I ended up photographing all my larger swatches. I've included them below so you can really see all the colors. Maybe it'll help you find a new favorite! 

On each laminated card I did a juicy wash and under that represented the darkest the color would go with several glazes of each color. On the top is the brand, pigment information, whether the paint is staining and/or granulating (although it's hard to get info about granulation about Schmincke paints) and also whether the paint color was more transparent or more opaque.

These swatches include every tube or pan I own. Now I have all of the info I need, right at my fingertips. I got the idea from Jane Blundell who has a huge number of paint swatches over on her website. I was lucky enough to have a bunch of left over bookmark sleeves so I laminated each swatch. I love knowing that they're safe on a binder ring and will never be damaged.

BluesGreens & Yellows
New Colors
The final panel of swatches (on the right) are the new colors I just added to my palette. I love how bright they are. One point I wanted to make, as I end this rather long blog post, is that even metal palettes get stained when you're using staining paints like Phthalo Blue (and all other phthalos), Indanthrone Blue (PB60), Carbazole Violet, Transparent Orange, Quin Red, Sap Green, ultramarine etc. The reason we artists like a white place to mix our paints is that with watercolors, many of them art transparent so you can see the actual color better if you're working on a white background. This necessitates finding a convenient way to remove the stains after using staining colors.

Magic Eraser
When I had a plastic palette I found that after I cleaned off all the paint, the only way of removing staining was to use a kneaded eraser and some elbow grease. It was hard work and over time this method stopped working. With my new metal palette I wanted a better way to keep the surface white on the mixing side. I discovered  that Mr. Clean Magic Erasers work PERFECTLY at removing all the stains! It seems to be the combination of the soap and the non abrasive surface of the sponge that does it. If the sponge is out of soap it's less effective on getting those pesky stains out.
I thought some visual aids would make you all believers. Oh, and to save on sponges I cut each one into fourths then use just the tip, whetted, then scrub with a little squeeze to get the soap activated.

Anyway, that's my colors and my final palette. It works great to use full pans for your most used colors. It also allows you to know more easily where each color is. I use those full pans as "markers" so I can easily find the color I'm looking for. Funny, most colors look so dark in the pans that it's sometimes hard to tell what is what! When I had all half pans I tended to have to count from one end or guess and get it wrong sometimes. With this method I find it easier to get to the color I want. It should also be mentioned that along with great paint, I have invested in some great brushes lately. I had no idea how much of a difference a good brush would make in my paintings. I decided on the Da Vinci Maestro 1503 Kolinsky Sable travel brushes. You can also get long handles instead of travel brushes. I love them and if there was a fire my palette and brushes would be the first thing I rescued!

Soon I'll be posting about what I've learned about watercolors in general. For instance, why a split palette is the best way to go and why single pigment paints should be your goal. I'll talk all about granulation and transparency. It'll be fun, I promise!! Talk soon, K?

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  1. I love transparent watercolor, but it's my least used medium - my first two are oil and pastel. I use watercolor mainly for a quick sketch in the city and plein airs in the summer or on vacation. For me, it's more about technique with watercolor than about color. When the first Cotman field palette came out, I bought it, and still have that one, and old Sallie Field palette for when I'm in the mountains, and one big 24-color palette.

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  3. Hi,
    Nice jpb organizing your paint info. Did you make a how-to post on how you laminated the swatches? I've never laminated anything before. Thanks.
    -wendy ☺️


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