12 Watercolour Paint Colours I Can’t Live Without.

There are so many beautiful colors of watercolor paint out there it can be hard to know what to choose. Depending on an artist’s style, method and subject, different hues suit different artists. Which is why many companies (like Daniel Smith watercolors) advertise by attaching an artist’s name to a pigment “playlist.” If you enjoy my vibrant florals, you may be inspired by the colours I love and I don’t mind telling you what’s a must-have on my watercolor palette right now:

Detail of "Golden Tangle" by Angela Fehr

Brands I use: I recommend you purchase and use artist quality watercolor tube paints. And do not buy them from big-box stores (starts with W and rhymes with “all-smart”), or stores that sell everything for a dollar, because you might as well mix a little Jell-o and white glue and slap that on your painting. Terrible, terrible quality.

Some of the brands listed below make both “student-quality” and professional lines. Go with the artist quality if you can afford it. It’s worth it in richness of pigment, fade-resistance and texture. Brands I buy to use and enjoy:

  • Winsor & Newton
  • Daniel Smith
  • Da Vinci
  • M. Graham
There are many other great brands out there, but I haven’t tried them. As you try different brands you will find certain hues differ between brands (I never buy Winsor & Newton Burnt Umber because it is too “orange” for my tastes – see sample below) and you’ll experiment with new colours – it’s always fun to try a new colour and see if it becomes a permanent addition to your palette.
I’ve been trying a few new colours lately and it’s been a lot of fun. Over the years I’ve seen my colour preferences change and with it, my palette. It keeps things interesting. Here’s a list of the colours I couldn’t live without right now:
  • Alizarin Crimson (lovely pinky red)

    Winsor & Newton Alizarin Crimson

  • Cadmium Red (orange-toned red)
  • New Gamboge (lovely & versatile yellow)
  • Raw Sienna (creamy neutral yellow)

    Left: Raw Sienna, Right: New Gamboge

  • Sap Green (I love Daniel Smith’s golden-hued sap green)

    Left: W&N Sap Green; Right: Daniel Smith Sap Green

  • Viridian (another darker green)
  • Pthalo Blue (turquoise on steroids)
  • Cobalt Blue (a “true blue”)

    Pthalo Blue (left) and Cobalt Turquoise doing a little flirting.

  • Ultramarine Blue (a granulating colour very similar to cobalt)
  • Cobalt Turquoise Light (a robin’s egg blue)
  • Burnt Umber (mix with cobalt to make a grey. I’m using M. Graham Burnt Umber right now)

    Left: W&N Burnt Umber, Right: M Graham Burnt Umber

  • Payne’s Grey (a rich dark grey-navy)

    Payne's Gray

There are other colours in my palette but these are the ones I don’t paint without right now. I’d love to add a few more lovely pink reds. You may also notice a lot of blues in my palette. I can survive with just a cobalt blue, but painting is just way more fun with several to work with. On my “Fragrant” painting below, I used seven different blues!

"Fragrant" watercolor painting by Angela Fehr

What are your favourite colours and brands of watercolour paint? I’d love to get a few ideas for my next art supply splurge!

And check out my watercolour supply video on YouTube here.

2 Comments

  1. Rita Hellmann · January 20, 2014 Reply

    I have no website but wanted to get on your email list. I have worked with acrylic paints in the mud ’70′s. I wanted to try water color and have been using coir pencils since early fall 2012.
    On like your ideas and want to learn more about ur techniques.
    Thanks, Rita – I am 67 and live in Indianapolis, IN.

  2. Sonya · March 5, 2014 Reply

    I just turned 76 and have just started painting. I’ve started with water color & oils. I’m getting a jar of resist in the mail tomorrow but can’t remember how to keep my brush clean. Could you remind me how to use it?

    Thank you,
    Sonya

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