I was asked a few days ago by a reader of this blog if I could share the colours I use on my palette and how I make some of the colour mixes I use in my paintings.
Mel asked: Andy, I would love it if you would talk about the paint colors you choose when you’re doing your landscapes. I see some greens…just wondering which you pick. Also, do you use a different palette for urban / city sketching? I see turquoise, peach tones …. some colors that don’t seem possible with your recommended basic eight colors. I would love to hear what colors you use in your minimal kit and how that differs from your studio set up…
So, Mel, for you and everyone else who is interested… here’s my colour palette (as of now) that I use for watercolour sketching. (See my portable sketching set-up here)
Top row, left to right:
- 1. ultramarine blue – a great all-rounder, useful for darks, skies, and also for shadows when mixed with cadmium red. Having a violet bias it makes a bright purple when mixed with quinacridone violet.
- 2. cerulean blue – a good sky blue which makes lovely bright greens. Mixed with cad red it makes a slate grey.
- 3. quinacridone violet – a cleaner version of the commonly used alizarin crimson, which can be a little dirty.
- 4. cadmium red – an orange-red. Mix a little with ultramarine blue for shadows.
- 5. cadmium yellow – An orange-yellow.
- 6. lemon yellow – a green-yellow, good for spring foliage.
With these six you can mix pretty much any colour, but for the sake of speed I have added other colours in the bottom row which are great for when outside sketching and you need a shortcut!
Bottom row, left to right:
- 7. green apatite – this is a Daniel Smith colour that I came across last year and have used in almost every landscape painting since! It’s great for quick foliage and granulates out nicely with brown flecks appearing. Mixed with burnt sienna it produces a rich natural dark for the shaded undersides of trees etc.
- 8. viridian – a harsh unnatural colour on its own, but when mixed with other colours such as raw sienna or burnt sienna, it produces wonderful clean landscape greens. Mixed with quinacridone violet it makes a lovely black.
- 9. burnt sienna – another good all-round earth colour.
- 10. raw sienna – or yellow ochre. I use it all the time for everything from clouds to sand. Makes a natural mucky green with ultramarine blue.
- 11. Payne’s grey – a recent addition A quick black for when you need it when out sketching which can be used also as a neutral grey. Use it with care when mixed with other colours to avoid mud.
- 12. zinc white gouache – use alone for white highlights or mixed with any other colour to give opacity. Great for painting lights over darks.
One of my most used colours is ultramarine blue as it creates great darks and also a variety of other colours.
Here it is, mixed with a few other colours.
I use it mixed with cadmium red (4) to make a general all purpose transparent shadow colour. Paint it over your local colour and it immediately creates a good shadow colour, or use it as it is on white paper.
When mixed with yellows it creates some nice greens for foliage.
Here I’ve shown it mixed with raw sienna (10), cadmium yellow (5) and lemon yellow (6).
Here are some other useful green mixes.
At the top is cerulean blue (2) and lemon yellow (6) that gives us a lovely bright spring green.
Below is viridian (8) and cad red (4) which gives dull greens and browns – again useful for foliage.
Just to finish answering Mel’s questions: I don’t use a different palette of colours in the studio or out urban sketching as I like to get to know my colours well and so can use them quickly and instinctively when I’m out and about. I try to keep my colours in the same order at home and en plein air so I know where they are when I need them.
For the turquoise and peach colours, I expect I added some white gouache to a blue and a red. The white tones down the original colour and produces some nice soft pastel shades.
Please ask me any other questions and I will attempt to answer them here in this blog.
For more information on my method of colour mixing see my online course .
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Thanks for reading!