Watercolour Palette Tour 2017 – Teaser

Whew, I haven’t blogged in a really long time.  I’m eager to get back to it.

I’ve made a number of changes to my palettes since my last colourholics post last year.    Recently, I set up a “complete” studio palette in  a tin of half-pans of all of the watercolour paints I regularly use  (it claims to hold 48 – I haven’t filled up the 52 I crammed in there yet and I think I could find a way to fit a few more in the brush well) , and repurposed one of my old 24-half pan tins to hold my 14 most commonly used pigments in full pans.

Soon after creating my 14-colour “greatest hits” set, I received some freebie dot cards from Schmincke.  One of the samples was  a 12-colour dot card.  These are the colours they include in their filled version of the same tin.  I couldn’t resist painting out the comparison.  The results are a reminder of how far I’ve drifted in only a couple of years, when I used to use sets much like this one.

The top row in the dot card below are the colours in the Schmincke 12 colour set.  The ones in the bottom row and middle are the 14 colours I’ve recently put in the same tin.

Paint Palette
Comparison of Schmincke 12 paint set vs. my top 14.

The colours in the Schmincke 12-colour basic set are:

Lemon Yellow 215 (PY3)
Cadmium Yellow Light 224 (PY35)
Cadmium Red Light 349 (PR108)
Permanent Carmine 353 (PV19)
Ultramarine Finest 494 (PB29)
Prussian Blue 492 (PB27)
Phthalo Green 519 (PG7)
Permanent Green Olive 534 (PO62, PG7)
Yellow Ochre 655 (PY42)
English Venetian Red 649 (PR101)
Sepia Brown 663 (PBr7, PBk9, PB15:1)
Ivory Black 780 (PBk9)

My set contains the following (the starred items are the most permanent fixtures)

Nickel Azo Yellow (Py150, M. Graham)*
Quinacridone Gold (PO49, Daniel Smith)
Translucent Orange (P071, Schmincke)
Quinacridone Rust (P048, M. Graham)*
Quinacridone Rose (PV19, M. Graham)*
Purple Magenta (PV122, Schmincke)*
Neutral Tint (PV19, PG7 M. Graham)
Indanthrone Blue (PB60, Daniel Smith)*
Prussian Blue (PB27, M. Graham)*
Phthalo Turquoise (PB16, Winsor and Newton)*
Amazonite Genuine (n/a, Daniel Smith Primatek)*
Serpentine Genuine (n/a, Daniel Smith Primatek)*
Burnt Sienna (PBr7, M. Graham)
Raw Umber (PBr7, Daniel Smith)*

I find this comparison a rather hilarious reminder of how far I’ve come.  I much prefer my colours (of course).  They are overall much more transparent, more saturated and darkly valued, and are far more chromatic in the magenta and turquoise ranges.  I love turquoise.  Over the course of the past 2 years, I have very effectively gamut shifted from a beginner set like this one to something I find more attractive and fun to work with.

The colours in the Schmincke 12-paint set (and most 12-colour sets like it) remind me quite a bit of the basic box of crayola crayons or pencils.  This is not a criticism of Schmincke paints, as this is the impression I get from most basic colour sets across manufacturers.  The highest chroma “primary colours”  included are the yellow, blue and red we are familiar with from kindergarden – a highlighter yellow (Py3), an opaqueish orangey red (PR108), and a very violet blue (PB29).

The magenta tone in the Schmincke set (PV19) is still quite a warm rose, and relatively muted – there is no way to use this set to mix nice violets and magentas. It’s a shame, as Schmincke manufactures an amazing pure magenta (PR122 Purple Magenta) which would really round this set out.  Even a less muted, cooler variant of PV19 (Schmincke has a few) could be used.  Similarly, the greenish blue spot is occupied by PB27 Prussian Blue.  I actually quite like Prussian blue (and have included M. Graham PB27 in my own set), but the Schmincke version  is particularly muted, and I would like to see a high chroma  turquoise-slanted blue, such as a PB15:3 Phthalo Blue or  PB16 Phthalo Turquoise (my personal favourite) in that spot.

As with most beginner sets, the Schmincke set has a black watercolour as well as a mixed dark containing black.  As most artists, the first thing I do when I buy a set is chuck the black/white and replace it with a personal favourite.  The earth tones – a yellow ochre and “English Venetian red” a brownish brick red made from PR101, are a somewhat surprising choice.  I actually quite like the venetian red but I think I would prefer a PBr7 in this set, to mix neutrals with the Ultramarine Finest.  I don’t like the yellow ochre, and would prefer something livelier and more transparent.

I also got some larger dot cards from Schmincke with my order, which I will review in a later post.  I’ve had a lot of fun experimenting with different watercolours, and it’s renewed my confidence and love for the pigments I’ve chosen for my own palettes.  I look forward to sharing my full palette tour and colour swatches with you soon.



DIY Christmas Tiny Palettes

As holiday gifts, several people on my list are receiving lovingly handmade tiny watercolour palettes, filled with a selection of artist quality paints.  I’m also making a couple different versions for myself.



My palettes are a shameless rip-off.  Last year, while putting together my urban sketching kit, I came across the absolutely amazing Expeditionary Art Pocket Palette by Maria Corryel Martin.

This palette has a number of advantages over other travel palettes.  it is extremely compact, fitting 14 colours into a business card holder. The pans are shallow but have more surface area than a standard half pan, making this a very usable palette that holds a surprising amount of paint.  In addition, the pans are made of tin and attach magnetically to the palette box, which means if you purchase extra pans, you can swap colours around at will.

Most cleverly (Maria Corryel Martin is a visionary genius), the Pocket Palette is assembled entirely out of commercially available products.  It is a snazzier version of the popular DIY watercolour kits made from Altoids tins, blister packs of gum, dollar store makeup palettes, etc.  Immediately, my gears started churning thinking of all the variations I could make myself. I’ll show you how to DIY your own palettes.

NOTE:  If you just want 1 or 2 basic palettes, support a brilliant artist by buying  from Expeditionary Art.  DIY is only cheaper if you plan to make several palettes or customize them.

What you’ll need:

How to assemble:

  • First, create your mixing surface by masking off the rest of the cardholder/box and using spray enamel on the inside lid.  Allow to dry according to package directions.
  • Squeeze your desired tube paints into tin makeup pans, and allow to dry.
  • Once your mixing surface is dry, stick the magnetic sheet to the inside bottom of your cardholder/box
  • Arrange your paint pans on the magnet surface.


  • Paint colour swatches on watercolour paper for reference.  I used the makeup pans as a template.
  • Done!  Easy-peasy.


The pictures in this post are of a palette I made and filled for my sister. For my sister’s watercolour kit,  I stuck fairly close to the original Expeditionary Art design. I ordered a business card holder engraved with her name from Vistaprint. My studio business card is included for scale reference.My enamel paint did not arrive in time, so my sister’s palette won’t get a mixing surface until later.

The chart below shows the colours I included in her set (she also received 5 empty pans to swap out with her own tubes).



Most colours are from my usual studio tube set.  However, I also purchased a QoR High Chroma Set just for travel kits.  Two of my current favourite pigments are Green Gold/Azo Green (Py129) and Cobalt Teal (PB50) but these are both extra sticky liquid in my favourite M. Graham, and thus unsuitable for small travel pans.  QoR’s High Chroma set includes lovely versions of these pigments, as well as a deep rosy PR122 Quinacridone Magenta and a very rich PV23 Dioxazine Purple, which I also included in this palette.

In a later post, I will share some of the other small magnetic travel palettes I am working on for myself and others.