Since May I have been participating in Xanadu Gallery’s Art Business Academy. We have been talking a lot about making a consistent body of work, and one of the things instructor Jason Horejs recommended is using a limited palette so all the work will be related by color and tone even if the subjects are different.
I thought that using a limited color palette would be a good way to bring unity in my watercolors, so I have been experimenting to create a palette as minimal as possible to meet my needs. I started with the colors I use the most often:
1 Alizarin crimson (Qor)
2 Ultramarine blue (Qor)
3 Viridian (Qor)
4 Sap green (WN)
5 Cadmium yellow deep (Qor) (Use cad med yellow if you use Windsor-Newton))
6 Burnt sienna (WN)
7 Sepia (WN)
Here is an interactive chart of those colors:
I did a small test painting:
Blues, purples and greens were fine. I realized I didn’t need the viridian in this painting, I was able to get darker greens I liked better than the viridian by mixing sap green and ultramarine. I wasn’t happy with the pinks from the crimson – it has some brown in it so the pinks were not that “clean.”
I experimented with pinks and added a bright, crisp one — Holbein bright rose. It added a lovely range of light to dark pinks, and mixed well with the other colors to make reds, purples and neutrals.
I made a color wheel using the revised palette. It was a little challenging to get a good medium red, so if I need to paint something with a lot of warm or bright reds I would probably add cad red medium. But here’s a chart with the primaries just to see the range - I left the browns out of this chart:
• Ultramarine blue
• Sap green
• Cadmium medium yellow
• Bright pink
The only area I thought was lacking was the blue-greens, so I would probably add turquoise if painting surf or other water.
I usually blend my own neutrals, but did a test of some straight-from-the-tube just to see which were warmer and which were cooler:
So my final palette colors from this test are:
• Ultramarine blue (Qor)
• Sap green (WN)
• Cadmium medium deep (Qor)
• Bright Rose (Holbein)
• Burnt sienna (WN)
• Sepia (WN)
• Cadmium red medium
• Turquoise or manganese blue
Below are two paintings I did using this limited palette. I will paint several more with this palette to see if it does unify the work, and if I am able to get a full range of colors. It has been a fun experiment!
A note on brands: I have been a longtime Windsor + Newton user, but have been experimenting with Golden’s Qor watercolors. I will write another blog post on that topic soon.