1. MY WATERCOLOR PALETTE
This is going to be a long post, so grab a cup of tea and sit back! One of my most often asked questions is which watercolours do I use so here is my messy watercolour palette in all its glory; paint splatters, brush hairs colours dipped from one colour to another and all! I love it!
The watercolour supplies I have chosen to work with at any one time have previously changed depending on what new supplies I was enjoying playing with. However, recently I’ve stuck in the main to one watercolour palette. Now, this may change in time, but this is an honest look at where I am now and how I got here. I will say right from the start that you don’t need a watercolour palette as extensive as this. Most crafters have at the very least a few Distress Inks and they are fabulous for watercolouring.
I loved using the supplies I had but was enjoying watercolouring so much that I started to explore the artist’s tube watercolours and pan sets. This journey has led me to the palette you see now and to be honest, the price point of these is high. I repeat that you don’t need to have a palette like this, however, I use my watercolours a lot and they last a long time so, for me, there is value in the long run. If you are interested in any of the supplies I have a section below listing the different supply options which I hope you will find useful.
2. GETTING TO KNOW YOUR WATERCOLORS
I’m continuing my story at the point that my collection of watercolours had grown and I’d just splurged on a Schmincke set of 48 half pans when I sat down and really tried to get to know my watercolours better. Based on the advice of Dawn Woleslagle in the Online Card Classes Watercolor For Cardmakers: Intermediate Techniques, I created swatches for all my watercolours.
For each colour, I took a piece of my regular watercolour card (I like Arches cold-pressed) and drew a thick black line with a Sharpie. I then watercoloured a light wash across the top of the square, let it dry and then added a second wash to the right side. By observing how the paint overlaid the black line I was able to decide whether the watercolour was opaque, semi-opaque or transparent. I also went to the manufacturer’s websites and looked up which pigments they had used to mix that particular colour. I highly recommend going through this process, I know it will be a little time-consuming but it is so worth the effort as you learn a great deal about the paints you’ve invested in.
Armed with this information I laid all the swatches face up on my table in rainbow order and took my time to decide which reds I liked best, which oranges etc. I compared the colours and hues and left my favourites to face up and turned over the ones I was less keen on. Sometimes I was able to see that a colour I liked was simply a mix of the pigments used in its two neighbours and rejected that colour as I knew I would be able to mix it easily. It felt like a children’s memory game where you turn the cards over LOL. Finally, I was able to cut the choice in front of me to 52 colours. The metal palette I use which came with the Schmincke set of 48 colours can actually hold 52 half pans if you hutch them all together.
3. SETTING UP THE PALETTE
With my 52 colour choices now met I placed those colours which were already in half pans straight into the palette. Some of my favourite colours I had in tubes though and for these, I bought empty half pans and squirted the colour into the pan and left them to dry. The dry paint can then be rewet and used in the same way as the other half pans.
Here I’m refilling one of my favourite colours; Daniel Smith quinacridone coral. Once I’d got my lineup sorted I created a colour chart by drawing out on Arches watercolour card four rows of 13 boxes corresponding to the layout of my palette and watercoloured a swatch of each colour in the right box.
4. MY OTHER WATERCOLORS
Before I move on to outline some of my favourite colours within my choice of 52, I thought it a nice time to reflect on the other options I have and still do enjoy using. Among others, I reach for Distress Inks, Zig Clean Color Brush Markers and the Gansai Tambi watercolour palette.
Before deciding on new additions to your watercolours I urge you to look at what supplies you have already :D
5. MY FAVORITE WATERCOLORS
Back to my custom watercolour palette and here’s the full layout of my current set-up of 52 colours.
Top row: Schmincke gold, Schmincke Silver, Schmincke pure yellow, Schmincke lemon yellow, Schmincke cadmium yellow light, Schmincke translucent yellow, Schmincke indian yellow, Schmincke chrome orange, Schmincke translucent orange, Winsor & Newton orange (red shade), Schmincke cadmium red light, Schmincke scarlet red, Schmincke deep red
Second row: Schmincke permanent carmine, Daniel Smith quinacridone magenta, Daniel Smith quinacridone pink, Daniel Smith quinacridone coral, Schmincke manganese violet, Winsor & Newton violet diox., Schmincke ultramarine violet, Schmincke delft blue, Schmincke indigo, Schmincke ultramarine finest, Schmincke mountain blue, Schmincke prussian blue, Schmincke phthalo blue
Third row: Schmincke cerulean blue tone, Schmincke helio turquoise, Schmincke manganese blue hue, Schmincke cobalt turquoise, Daler Rowney phthalo turquoise, Schmincke prussian green, Schmincke phthalo green, Schmincke may green, Schmincke cobalt green dark, Schmincke permanent green olive, Winsor & Newton permanent sap green, Schmincke olive green yellowish, Schmincke jaune brilliant dark
Bottom row: Schmincke naples yellow, Schmincke yellow ochre, Daniel Smith quinacridone gold, Schmincke naples yellow reddish, Schmincke burnt sienna, Schmincke madder brown, Schmincke english venetian red, Schmincke indian red, Schmincke burnt umber, Schmincke sepia brown, Schmincke neutral tint, Schmincke payne’s grey blueish, Schmincke ivory black
There are a lot of Schmincke colours among my favourites, I like the way the pans wet easily and give rich colour. However, it’s interesting that the 12 top favourites listed below span across four companies. So my particular favourites and ones I will try to link to in the next section are:
- Schmincke silver – great for sparkly splatter
- Schmincke translucent yellow
- Schmincke translucent orange
- Daniel Smith quinacridone coral – such a pretty colour and great for flowers
- Schmincke manganese violet
- Winsor & Newton violet diox.
- Daler Rowney pthalo turquoise – my go-to choice for skies
- Schmincke may green
- Winsor & Newton permanent sap green
- Daniel Smith quinacridone gold
- Schmincke naples yellow reddish – great for pinky skin tones
- Schmincke sepia brown – a warm grey great for critters and shadows
These 12 colours are the ones I seem to dip my brush into most often when watercolouring :D
6. WATERCOLOR SUPPLIES
If you are interested in buying the artist’s quality watercolours individually I recommend that you buy the tubes. I feel this is the most economical way to purchase them and can be used straight from the tube or equally decanted into a palette and left to dry as I have done. If you are thinking of buying a set of watercolours then you may find the half pan palettes to be better value initially and you can then buy individual tubes to top up your favourites.
6.1 SIMON SAYS STAMP
As you probably know I’m a huge fan of Simon Says Stamp; the company, their range of stock and the good people who run it. You can find their watercolour stock here where you will find among others the Gansai Tambi palette and also individual refill pans. A recent addition is the Mijello Mission Gold set which I know Kristina Werner likes to use. On top of that are the Zig Clean Color Markers and of course Distress Inks range.
Being based in the UK, I purchased a lot of my artist watercolour supplies from Jackson’s. You can find the Schmincke 48 half pan set I based my palette on as well as the empty half pans I used to decant my favourite tube watercolours.
6.3 DICK BLICK
Dick Blick offers a great choice for US shoppers although they seem to concentrate on the larger 15ml tubes which give more value than the smaller 5ml tubes with an initially lower price point which I find great to determine my favourite colours.
6.4 AMAZON US
Of course, I couldn’t mention shopping without Amazon! Here are the links for Amazon US.
6.5 AMAZON UK
And here are the links for Amazon UK :D
7. PRICE COMPARISONS
I recommend you shop around to find the best deal for you and keep in mind that the cost may depend on your location. For example, Dick Blick the American art supply store I list above sells 15ml tubes of artist quality watercolours (you can often find smaller 5ml sizes elsewhere). To compare the prices I will compare an American paint (Daniel Smith) vs a European paint (Schmincke). The prices are current as I type this and will no doubt vary on a day to day basis.
15ml Daniel Smith Quinacridone Coral
- Dick Blick $12.46 (£9.12)
- Jacksons £11.50 ($15.72)
- Amazon US $13.65 (£9.99)
- Amazon UK £14.71 ($20.10)
Not unsurprisingly this American brand Daniel Smith paint is less expensive at Dick Blick an American online store.
15ml Schmincke Translucent Yellow
- Jackson’s £8.60 ($11.75)
- Dick Blick $13.38 (£9.79)
- Amazon UK £10.32 ($14.10)
- Amazon US $11.96 (£8.75)
Again unsurprisingly the European brand Schmincke paint in this example is less expensive at Jackson’s a UK online store. So remember to check the best price for you and don’t forget that these companies offer international shipping.
I apologise for the length of time it has taken me to put this post together, but it took a while to compile all the information. I truly hope that you find the information useful if you are contemplating a watercolour purchase or equally suggestions on how to set up your own palette and truly get to know the watercolours you have already :D
I thought I’d finish with a gallery of pictures of cards I’ve made recently with my watercolours. Click on a photo to make it larger and you can find all my watercolour tagged posts here :D
8. PIN ME
I’d love it if you pinned this summary image and called by on Pinterest :D
Thanks for all this great information, Debby. I love your watercolouring and have learned so much from your blog.
Such a comprehensive and helpful post Debby – thank you so much for your work in putting it together and sharing your very helpful (and always inspiring) experience :)
Great post it must have taken you ages to put together – thank you though. Lost of great information! It’s good to have the UK links too but I should finish my (half started) swatches before I go look just incase I’m tempted to buy more!:-)
Thank you for the thorough and thoughtful article. I am looking for a good quality watercolor set, and this information will help immensely.