6 crucial landscape colours

My six most hard-working colours, and why I chose them!

I have used the Portable Painter 12 pan watercolour palette for quite a while now and it has become my main palette. All my others gather dust in a drawer, as I always take this one with me wherever I go. It is compact, sturdy and incredibly well thought out and constructed. It is also versatile and I like having twelve colours at my fingertips.

But this week I purchased it’s younger sibling, the Portable Painter Micro – a palette so small that it easily fits in the palm of your hand and slips into a pocket. It could become my new favourite as it is so compact. But, and this may be a big but, this palette only has room for six colours. 😧 So I need to make a BIG DECISION. Which 6 colours will become my crucial landscape set?

Portable painter micro

What I need for this restricted palette are six colours that are hard working, that will do anything I need when outdoors sketching the landscape or in an urban situation. But which six? Actually, I am going to cheat and add a seventh, white gouache, but I’ll keep that in a separate little pot.

I spent an hour or two searching the web and YouTube to see what others were using, but to be honest I just got confused and a bit unconvinced that their colour choices would be right for me. I needed six colours that I knew I would be happy with.
So, how did I go about making that choice?

Here’s how I picked my top six.

Firstly I looked at my current palette and wrote a list of the colours I use most from it. There are always some colours that are essentials, and these are the ones that you always reach for in a painting and which you always need to top up. They’re the ones that do most of the work. For me these are the following:

Portable painter color palette

But that’s more than six! So more editing is needed. My second question was can I make any of these colours easily from any of the others? By playing around I found that a mix of burnt sienna and lemon yellow makes a very passable raw sienna/yellow ochre. So I can eliminate that from my new set.
Payne’s grey is a mix of ultramarine blue and burnt sienna so that can go too! Now we’re getting somewhere.

I tried some other colour mixes with the six colours I had left. Would they be able to produce almost any colour I might need? My answer? A resounding yes! Time for a quick celebration!

So here are my six essential colours:

  • Ultramarine blue
  • Cerulean blue
  • Cadmium red
  • Burnt sienna
  • Lemon yellow
  • Green Apatite

To see what colour combos they can make, take a look below:

Great aren’t they?! I’m really pleased with this, but will only know if I’ve got it right after a road test or two. I’ll let you know!

What would be your 6 colours if you had to choose?
Let us know in the comments below!


  1. I love this Andy. That mix that creates a substitute for raw sienna is brilliant (I use r.s. a lot, but this gives it a different slant.)
    I had never found any use for Cad Red, except in flower garden sketches. Your mixing demo was enlightening for cad red.
    I hope you do a post expounding on the power of white gouache… I learn so much from you.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s