Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Best Watercolor Palette Ever

Every Thursday at 10am, Red Bow Studio hosts an art journaling workshop; a morning of creation mixed with relaxation.  We work in sketchbooks, cutting, pasting, painting, drawing; each week is a different surprise.  Pictured above is Karen, a veterinarian who studied art in college, but hasn't painted frequently since then.  Because of the workshops, Karen decided she wanted to invest in a nice set of watercolor paints, but where does she begin? 
There are many types of watercolors, from student grade to artist's grade, from tube to pan, from English brand to Japanese brand, how is one to decide??  In my painting escapades, I have found that I love my hand picked palette of Winsor & Newton full pan watercolors, something that is very difficult to find in the USA, and if you can find it, it's going to run you a good chunk of change.  I recommended to Karen that if she was serious in her watercolor pursuits, then she should invest in a palette that she can have for a lifetime, with watercolors that will deliver in color and beauty every time.  I told her that she should get what I have, a metal palette with full size Winsor & Newton pans.
Once this decision has been made, then comes the hard part...this type of palette doesn't come with a preselected assortment.  You have to hand pick them and this can be difficult if you haven't been painting and know which colors you like to use.  I recommend reading a Siriol Sherlock book, because she has a very nice starter palette.  Once you begin to paint, you will figure out which colors you will need to add to the palette.  
Now here's the golden secret: the place to buy your watercolor set is Ken Bromley.  They are a British shop, but it's worth ordering from them because even with the exchange rate, the prices are much better than you will find in the USA.  I recommend a metal palette and whole pan Winsor & Newton watercolors.  I am a color snob, and these paints deliver the most vibrant colors.  And don't forget, once a pan is finished, you can wash it in the dishwasher and reuse it with watercolors from a tube (if you have them).
 (A picture of my very messy palette- a sign of lots of love)
A very basic palette (all Winsor & Newton):
Transparent Yellow, Winsor Red, Winsor Violet (Dioxazine), French Ultramarine, Permanent Sap Green, Burnt Sienna, Davy's Gray, and Payne's Gray
If you want to start with a bigger palette, add these colors to the first:
Naples Yellow, Winsor Lemon, Winsor Orange, Scarlet Lake (my favorite color),  Permanent Rose, Quinacridone Magenta,  Indanthrene Blue, Cobalt Turquoise Light (my second favorite color), Winsor Green (Blue Shade),  and Green Gold 
Once you have mastered the above colors, you might want to add:
New Gamboge, Winsor Yellow Deep, Yellow Ochre, Permanent Carmine, Perylene Green, Ultramarine (Green Shade), Winsor Blue (Green Shade), Light Red, Burnt Umber, Raw Umber, Neutral Tint, Lamp Black, Chinese White

These are my recommendations, but palettes are very personal, so make sure if there are colors that you love to use, you include them to your palette.

Good painting!

1 comment:

  1. I trust your recommendation that this is the best watercolor palette ever and just came back buying 17 of the first 18 colors you recommended. I forgot to buy Windsor Green (blue shade) in all the excitement. For years I have worked with the student quality line of Schmincke and W&N, but since I am going on holidays for two weeks tomorrow, I thought this might be the perfect occasion to create some really nice travel sketches & little paintings. Very Excited!