I have been wanting to make a sort of watercolor resource including swatches of all the colors I have been able to get my hands on. Since that would mean watching all of the colors in my palate, I decided to take this as an opportunity to talk about the colors that I paint with regularly.
At the moment there are 42 colors in my main palette, although that’s probably way more than I need. My palette is in a state of transition, and I’m really trying to figure out what yellows and oranges are important to my painting.
In addition to those 42 colors, I also have 38 other colors that are not in my main palette. They are either redundant, not exactly fitting my needs, or waiting their turn to be put into the pallet.
My Selection Criteria
The way I choose colors is pretty simple. I want high quality, single pigment colors, that are fairly non-toxic. I stay away from cadmium, cobalt, cerulean, manganese, and viridian paints.
(Even though I really love cerulean and viridian, and miss them very much. I have heard that Kremer Pigments sells a non-toxic Zirconium Cerulean that I just can’t wait to get my hands on!)
I also want my colors to mix well and try to avoid repeating the same hue unless there is something very different in the characteristic of the watercolor.
The brands I choose are often determined by whether the pigment I want is available in the brand, the quality of the pigment in that brand, and the price.
- PY 53 – Nickel Titanate Yellow – Daler Rowney
- PY 175 – Lemon Yellow Hue – Winsor & Newton (discontinued)
- PY3 – Lemon Yellow – Schmincke
- PY 97 – Transparent Yellow – Winsor and Newton (discontinued)
- PY 153 – Sennelier Yellow Light – Sennelier
- PY 97 – Hansa Yellow Medium – Daniel Smith
- PY 74 –Schveningen Yellow Light – Old Holland
- PY 153 – Indian yellow – Daler Rowney
- PBR 7 – Raw Umber – M Graham
- PBR 7 – Burnt Umber – Daler Rowney
- PY 43 –Goethite – Daniel Smith
- PBR 24 – Naples Yellow – M Graham
- PO 49 – Quinacridone Gold – Daniel Smith
As you can probably tell from this list, I have some kind of yellow obsession. For a while I was on the hunt for the coolest yellow possible, and I think that I have finally found it with Nickel Titanate Yellow. Still I am tinkering around to figure out the best combination of cool, warm, and middle yellows, so my palette is kind of a mess.
PY 53 – Nickel Titanate Yellow – Daler Rowney
This is the coolest yellow that I have been able to find. Unfortunately, it’s a bit opaque, but it makes the most vibrant greens with phthalo blue or phthalo green that I have ever seen!
Note: You can mix this with nearly any color to make a pastel or milky version.
PY 175 – Lemon Yellow Hue – Winsor & Newton (discontinued) & PY 97 – Transparent Yellow – Winsor and Newton (discontinued)
I was lucky to find beef to discontinued yellow colors from Winsor and Newton on the sales rack at my local art store. They are both beautiful colors, and very lovely and transparent. Unfortunately, I don’t think that I will be able to find a replacement once they are out because the same pigments and other brands seem to have a different hue.
PY 153 – Sennelier Yellow Light – Sennelier
My favorite middle yellow. Sennelier makes the best yellows, they just all glow.
PY 74 –Schveningen Yellow Light – Old Holland
This warm yellow is a unique pigment to Old Holland. It’s also different because it is very transparent, but also very lifting. That is a rare trait for yellow paint. Most are very staining.
PY 43 –Goethite – Daniel Smith
I use this pigment instead of yellow ocher. It’s not quite as opaque, and has a nicer texture and some granulation.
PBR 24 – Naples Yellow – M Graham
Naples Yellow is a very opaque paint, and not normally something that I would have imagined keeping on my palette. However I have found that it is really nice and glowing when extremely diluted. It’s useful for natural colors, beaches, and mixing into skin tones to give a little more weight to transparent colors.
PO 49 – Quinacridone Gold – Daniel Smith
Do I even need to say anything about this color? It’s super famous. I actually changed how I painted once I got this color, that’s how useful it is.
- PY 110 – Indian Yellow – M Graham
- PO 62 – Chrome Orange – Schmincke
- PO 71 – Translucent Orange – Schmincke
- PO 48 – Quinacridone Burnt Orange – Daniel Smith
- PO 65 – Golden Barok Red – Old Holland
- PBR 41 – Translucent Brown – Schmincke
- PR 101 – English Venetian Red – Schmincke
- PO 73 – Scarlett Pyrrole – M Graham
PO 62 – Chrome Orange – Schmincke & PO 71 – Translucent Orange – Schmincke
Schmincke definitely make some of the best oranges. These colors are pretty unique to them. They are transparent unlike most orange colors, single pigment, and extremely vibrant. Wonderful colors for botanical painting
PO 48 – Quinacridone Burnt Orange – Daniel Smith
I love all of the Quinacridone colors. This is color that I use very often for portrait painting.
PO 65 – Golden Barok Red – Old Holland
A gorgeous brick red, this is a unique color to the Old Holland line. I use it sometimes as a substitute for burnt sienna that doesn’t granulate.
PBR 41 – Translucent Brown – Schmincke
I use a ton of this color for painting portraits, particularly of people with darker skin. I don’t like to use burnt or raw umber because they granulate. If you mix this color with Indanthrene or ultramarine blue, you get a super nice dark brown color.
PO 73 – Scarlett Pyrrole – M Graham
Probably the brightest and most saturated color on my palette. It just pops off the paper. Crazy dispersion. Crazy saturation. Just crazy.
- PR 254 – Permanent Red Light – Van Gogh
- PR 206 – Madder Brown – Schmincke
- PR 254 – Winsor Red – Winsor and Newton
- PR 179 – Deep Red – Schmincke
- PR 209 – Quinacridone Red – Daler Rowney
- PV 19 – Quinacridone Rose – M Graham
- PR 122 – Purple Magenta – Schmincke
PR 206 – Madder Brown – Schmincke
Another color that I use a lot for portraits. I just really love how soft and warm it is. Nice for a warm brown skin tones, or blush.
PR 179 – Deep Red – Schmincke
If I were to narrow my palette down to a few key colors, this would definitely be on it. I mix this with pyrelene green to make the deepest darkest blacks.
PR 209 – Quinacridone Red – Daler Rowney
So I discovered this by accident. I had so many Quinacridone red colors, that I figured there wasn’t a reason to get another one. But I wanted to try a different pigment. And as soon as I decided to use Quinacridone read, I fell in love. This is just a wonderful, staining, transparent, mostly middle red. It’s lightly on the blue side, but I like my reds slightly cool anyway.
PV 19 – Quinacridone Rose – M Graham & PR 122 – Purple Magenta – Schmincke
Some people use these colors basically interchangeably. They both make wonderful purples when mixed with ultramarine blue. PR 122 is slightly better for this, but PV 19 is less of a finicky color when mixing with the right range of other colors.
- PV 15 – Ultramarine Violet Deep – M Graham
- PV 55 – Quinacridone Violet – Winsor and Newton
PV 55 – Quinacridone Violet – Winsor and Newton
I don’t have a lot of purples because I like single pigment colors, and many purples are convenience colors or non-lightfast. Dioxazine Violet is often a fugitive color in many brands, so I stay on the safe side and go with my trusty Quinacridone.
- PB 29 – Ultramarine Blue Deep – Old Holland
- PP 29 – Ultramarine Finest – Schmincke
- PB 60 – Indanthrene Blue – Winsor and Newton
- PB 27 – Prussian Blue – Schmincke
- PB 15:1 – Phthalo Blue – Schmincke
- PB 15:3 – Phthalocyanine Blue – M Graham
PB 29 – Ultramarine Blue Deep – Old Holland & PB 29 – Ultramarine Finest – Schmincke
Normally I don’t have doubles of colors on my palate, but these two have very different characteristics. I often like to mix a warm blue that is not granulating, so Schmincke’s Ultramarine Finest is great for that. But when I want really lovely granulation, I go for the Old Holland.
PB 60 – Indanthrene Blue – Winsor and Newton
Probably my favorite blue. I use it to darken everything.
PB 27 – Prussian Blue – Schmincke
This is my mixing blue. I find that it mixes nicer and gentler colors and ultramarine does, so it’s an essential color on my palette. Also the blue that I use when painting portraits.
PB 15:1 – Phthalo Blue – Schmincke & PB 15:3 – Phthalocyanine Blue – M Graham
Phthalo blue comes in a red and a green shade, however if this pair is not far enough apart for it to be noticeable. I will probably replace the M. Graham phthalo blue with the new Rembrandt phthalo blue red shade that I have gotten.
- PG 7 – Phthalo Green – Schmincke
- PG 36 – Phthalo Green Yellow Shade – M Graham
- PBK 31 – Pyrelene Green – Winsor and Newton
- PBr 7, PB 15 – Cascade Green – Daniel Smith
- PY 129 – Brown Green –Sennelier
PG 7 – Phthalo Green – Schmincke & PG 36 – Phthalo Green Yellow Shade – M Graham
I didn’t think that it was necessary to have both phthalo greens, but having been a green yellow shade makes a really big difference in mixing greens. This pair is sufficiently far enough apart that they can be really useful and versatile.
PBK 31 – Pyrelene Green – Winsor and Newton
This is the last in the series of dark colors that I love. I use this, Deep Red, and Indanthrene Blue to add deep values to nearly every painting.
PBr 7, PB 15 – Cascade Green – Daniel Smith
This is the only convenience color on my palette. I just love the granulation and how the color separate. Even though I can mix myself, this is much more convenient. I use the color rarely, but when I do I’m very happy to have it.
PY 129 – Brown Green –Sennelier
Another kind of odd color, that is really great because of its duotone nature. Mixes with purples and with yellows to make interesting browns and greens.
PBk 11 – Lunar Black – Daniel Smith
Normally I don’t believe in using black in watercolor, but the granulation of this pigment is insane. I love using it just to play around, or to get texture in rocks.
Supplementary Palettes/Other Colors
- PBk 9 – Ivory Black – Schmincke
- Po 62, Pg 7 – Permanent Green Olive – Schmincke
- Py 151 – Azo Yellow – M Graham
- Py 184 – Permanent Lemon Yellow – Van Gogh
- Pbr 7 – Burnt Sienna – White Nights
- PY 43, PR 102, PY 83 – Raw Sienna – White Nights
- Nr 9 – Rose Madder Genuine – Winsor And Newton
- Per 7 – Burnt Umber – Schmincke
- PY 42 – Yellow Ocher – Schmincke
- PB 29 – Ultramarine Blue – M Graham
- PB 27 – Prussian Blue – Daler Rowney
- PP 29 – Ultramarine Deep – Van Gogh
- PR 122 – Opera Rose – Winsor and Newton
- Gold (90) – Kuretake Gansai Tambi
- Persian Blue (63) – Kuretake Gansai Tambi
- Dark Pink (34) – Kuretake Gansai Tambi
- PBR 7 – Burnt Sienna – Old Holland
- PR 102 – Red Ocher – Old Holland
- PB 16 – Helio Turquoise – Schmincke
- PG 23 – Green Earth – Rembrandt
- PV 42 – Royal Purple Lake – Old Holland
- PBR 7 – Raw Sienna Deep – Old Holland
- PR 255 – Permanent Red Middle – Rembrandt
- PY 184 – Permanent Lemon Yellow – Rembrandt
- PY 150 – Aureoline – Rembrandt
- PB 15 – Phthalo Blue (red shade) – Rembrandt
- PV 19 – Permanent Carmine – Schmincke
- PB 15:1, PBR 7, PBK 9 – Sepia – Schmincke
Nr 9 – Rose Madder Genuine – Winsor and Newton
It’s too bad that this color is fugitive. It’s really beautiful. I don’t know of any other slightly granulating, non-staining, vibrant pink.
PR 122 – Opera Rose – Winsor and Newton
Another fugitive color, which is why I do not keep it in my main palette. It is superduper vibrant, but I feel like I can see it fading even a few days after I have painted with it. I almost never use it.
PB 16 – Helio Turquoise – Schmincke
A color in between phthalo blue and phthalo green. It’s really vibrant, and almost like a tropical sea. You can mix this same color by mixing phthalo blue with phthalo green, but this is more convenient. It is a good cyan primary color. One day I would like to try Holbein’s PB 17.
PG 23 – Green Earth – Rembrandt
A fairly odd color in watercolors. I am always interested in single pigment greens that are non-toxic. It’s nice that it granulates gently. I could see using this a lot for nature colors. I would also like to try this as a underpainting for portraits.
PV 42 – Royal Purple Lake – Old Holland
I saw this color recommended, and wanted to try it out as a pink watercolor. I don’t paint paintings very often, but I know that a lot of people do. This is very nice and pink, obviously not as pink as Opera rose. It is also a good magenta primary color.
PBR 7 – Raw Sienna Deep – Old Holland
While many people use yellow ocher when painting portraits, I really dislike the opacity in the flatness of it. Raw sienna has a similar hue, but it is much less opaque, and much more vibrant to me. I would recommend this over the yellow ocher.
PR 255 – Permanent Red Middle – Rembrandt & PY 184 – Permanent Lemon Yellow – Rembrandt
These will probably replace the Van Gogh versions that I currently have a my palette. Since these are the artist grade to their student grade, it makes sense that these colors are more vibrant and transparent.
PB 15 – Phthalo Blue (red shade) – Rembrandt
As I said before, this will probably replace the M Graham phthalo blue in my palette.
Winsor and Newton Cotman
- PB 29 – Ultramarine – Winsor and Newton Cotman
- PBR 7, PY 42 – Burnt Umber – Winsor and Newton Cotman
- PY 42 – Yellow Ocher –Winsor and Newton Cotman
- PR 101 – Burnt Sienna –Winsor and Newton Cotman
- PY 139, PG 36, PR 101 – Sap Green –Winsor and Newton Cotman
- PR 149, PR 255 – Cadmium Red Hue –Winsor and Newton Cotman
- PY 65, PR 255 – Cadmium Red Pale Hue –Winsor and Newton Cotman
- PY 97, PY 65 – Cadmium Yellow –Winsor and Newton Cotman
- PY 175 – Lemon Yellow (discontinued?) –Winsor and Newton Cotman
That’s all for now! I love to collect unique colors, and new brands, so this list will probably be growing soon.