These are the colors that are currently in my watercolor palette. I use mostly Winsor & Newton tube paints, and I squeeze them on to my palette and allow them to dry. This makes my palette portable, and shortens my prep time. I also find I waste less paint this way.Some colors here look quite similar – for example, the cobalt blue and ultramarine. They are different, but similar enough that I could probably use one or the other. I use about 3x as much cobalt as ultramarine, but I keep ultramarine in my palette because it is a granulating color and so it has a different texture when dry than cobalt. But I use cobalt for mixing with burnt umber to obtain my favorite gray.
Speaking of burnt umber, I really don’t like Winsor & Newton’s burnt umber. It is lighter than I am used to (not sure what my previous brand was) and also more orangey. I bought a tube of sepia recently, in search of a darker brown, but I need to make space for it in my palette. Maybe I’ll get rid of the Winsor Yellow light – I rarely use yellow, and when I do I use Gamboge or Raw Sienna. Not sure if Raw Sienna counts as a yellow.
My quinacridone and permanent rose magenta are also very close in hue. I will remove one from my palette, but I’m not sure which yet. I’ll check the labels to see which one is most lightfast, and which one is most staining, and decide from there.
I’m planning a part two of this post, showing a sheet where I’ve mixed all the colors. And a part three comparing staining & non-staining, opaque and transparent might also be a good idea.
If you are starting out in watercolor and aren’t sure what to purchase, don’t feel like you need to copy my palette. Get some basic colors and familiarize yourself with them. Make some swatch charts, one of pure colors like the one above, one showing gradation of each color from dark to light, and one mixing each color with the other colors in the palette. Then paint a lot and get used to the colors you have.
The paint colors I would recommend for a beginning watercolorist are:
Sap Green or Hooker’s Green
Cadmium Red Med. or Dark
Quinacridone or Permanent Rose
From these you can mix nearly every other color you might desire.