Thinking in Palettes

When I was learning to paint, I wanted to try out lots of different pigments to see how they worked on their own, and to see how they behaved when mixed with other colours. It’s hard to know exactly what colour a paint is going to be from looking at swatches, and especially from the colours printed in the manufaturer’s brochures or pdfs. Swatches are great, and many people have lovely swatch libraries online, but they work best to compare an unknown colour to you to a colour you are familiar with. When you’re starting out, you aren’t familiar with a lot of colours, so this is difficult.

It’s complicated to choose paints that work well together because in addition to the hue, there are other properties of the paints that you need to pay attention to. Very opaque paints will dominate in mixtures. Granulating paints have a lovely effect, but granulation everywhere is a bit overwhelming. Some paints have a very low tinting strength, which means you can mix them with other paints, but the relative volumes of paints that you’ll be using is very far from a 1:1 mixture. It’s useful to know this before you load your palette with one of these and make a huge dent in the paint in one painting. It takes a lot of research and experience to know the paints, and to know which other paints they will mix well with.

It can also be intimidating to mix colours together because sometimes the results are unpredictable. Sometimes, a red and blue won’t mix to a purple. Sometimes a yellow and blue won’t mix to a green. Sometimes though, this doesn’t matter because some subjects don’t need strong greens. Limited palettes are fantastic for creating mood in a painting, but when I was starting out I didn’t know which way I was most interested in limiting my palette.

Being able to play with the paint is the best way to get to know the paint, but even buying a few half pans can be expensive, and a bit of a gamble if you don’t know the colours are going to work well together.

I’m playing with the idea of putting together a kit that’s inspired by a season or by a specific subject. It will include dots of the paints as well as some guidance on how to mix them.

I think this would have been really useful to me when I was starting out and wondering how to get started exploring the huge world of colour.

I’m aiming it at people who are curious about watercolour. Watercolour Curious, if you will.

Previous Next