JH: Possible Lineup of 8 to 10 colors for a limited watercolor palette


Influenced by some palettes listed below.

1 Yellow

[X] light to medium yellow
- DS hansa yellow medium - PY97
- cadmium yellow - PY35


medium orange yellow
- DS nickel azomethine yellow - PY150
- WN Transparent Yellow - PY150
- DS hansa yellow deep - PY65
- DS nickel azomethine yellow - PY150
- DS nickel dioxine yellow - PY153


^Could see using the orange-yellow if only one yellow exists on a six color palette. But if yellow ochre exists, then use the lighter yellow.

2 Reds

[X] orange-red - cadmium red/scarlet or whatever is - PR108

[X] purple-red - Permanent Rose - PV19
or whatever is PR122

2 Blues

[X] red-blue - French Ultramarine - PB29

[X] green-blue - Phthalo Blue Green Shade - PB15:3
or Cobalt Blue - PB28
or Cerulean Blue - PB 35

1 Green

[X] yellow-green - pure pigment - whatever is PG36
usually phthalo green Yellow Shade
or WN Winsor Green Yellow Shade

OR a convenience green mix, such as:
- Hooker's Green
- or Sap Green

2 to 4 Conv colors/mixes

[X] burnt sienna - PR101

[X] yellow ochre - PY43

[X] raw umber - PBr7

[X] burnt umber -

1 Convenience mix

[X] payne's grey

or neutral tint

both usually consists of some combination of blue, black, violet.

One other possibility

From Chuck Long's 10-color palette

dioxazine violet (PV23)

Chuck Long Palette

cadmium yellow (PY35)
burnt sienna (PBr7)
cadmium scarlet (PR108)
alizarin crimson (PR83)
dioxazine violet (PV23)
ultramarine blue (PB29)
phthalocyanine blue RS (PB15:1)
cerulean blue (PB35)
sap green [hue]
payne's gray [hue]

Charles Evans Palette

Alizarin Crimson - PR83
Ultramarine Blue - PB29
Cobalt Blue - PB28
Hooker's Green - PG36, PO49
Yellow Ocre - PY43
Burnt Sienna - PR101
Light Red - PR102
Raw Umber - PBr7

Crawshaw vs Stutler Palettes

Crawshaw on the left [Interesting]

Cadmium Yellow ---- Transparent Yellow (PY97)
Cadmium Red ---- Cadmium Red Deep (PR108)
Alizarin Crimson ---- Permanent Rose (PV19)
Ultramarine ---- Ultramarine Deep (PB29)
Cerulean Blue ---- Peacock Blue (PB17)
Hooker's Green ---- Bamboo Green (PG36)
Yellow Ochre ---- Burnt Sienna (PBr7)

Cathy Johnson Palette

First six: [Interesting]

Ultramarine Blue
Permanent Alizarin Crimson
Cadmium Red (though some avoid the cadmiums for safety reasons)
Hansa Yellow Light (or Cadmium Yellow Light)
Hansa Yellow Medium.

Conv colors

Raw Sienna
Burnt Sienna
Yellow Ochre
Burnt Umber
Payne's Gray.

John Muir Laws

Winsor Yellow
Quinacridone Gold
Yellow Ochre
Winsor Red
Quinacridone Magenta
Winsor Violet Dioxazine
Cobalt Blue
Phthalo Blue
Sap Green
Perylene Green
Burnt Umber
Neutral Tint



first six: [Interesting]

Raw Umber - PBr7
Quinacridone Gold - PO49
Hansa Yellow Medium - PY97
French Ultramarine - PB29
Winsor Blue (Green Shade) - PB15
Permanent Rose - PV19

-- Daniel Smith Winsor Blue (GS) option: Phthalo Blue GS (PB15) - intense blue
-- Daniel Smith Permanent Rose option: Quinacridone Red (PV19)

modified slightly in 2016

For sketching on tinted papers I want to include a few opaque watercolours, including white. These are much smoother and easier to use than gouache, and mix beautifully with my usual six translucent paints.

titanium white - PW6 [Interesting]
cadmium yellow - PY35
cadmium red deep - PR108
oxide of chromium - PG17

I’ve also got used to using a couple of extra pigments: Perylene Green for rich and deep foliage, and Payne’s Grey for meltingly smooth shadows.

(My set up: the usual translucent six on the left of the lower lid, on the right the three opaque pigments and Payne’s Grey. On the upper lid the top three wells for white, green and skin mixes, the remaining three for mixing whatever’s needed.)

secondary palette

nickel azomethine yellow (PY150)
cadmium scarlet (PR108)
quinacridone magenta (PR122)
ultramarine blue (PB29)
phthalocyanine blue GS (PB15:3)
phthalocyanine green YS (PG36)

More Secondary Palette Info


Secondary Colors and Paints. We end up with three secondary colors: red orange (ro), green (g), and blue violet (bv).

This six color secondary palette is a classic (and classy) minimal paint selection. To take it for a test drive, I suggest you try the following six paints (again, click on the pigment color index name to identify the paint marketing names used by different manufacturers):


• primary light yellow : benzimidazolone yellow (PY154) or hansa yellow medium (PY97)
• secondary red orange : pyrrole orange (PO73) or cadmium scarlet (PR108)
• primary magenta : quinacridone magenta (PR122) or quinacridone rose ("permanent rose", PV19)
• secondary blue violet : ultramarine blue (PB29) or cobalt blue deep (PB73)
• primary cyan : phthalocyanine blue GS (PB15) or phthalocyanine cyan (PB17)
• secondary blue green : phthalocyanine green BS (PG7) or phthalocyanine green YS (PG36); the best color match to magenta falls between these two greens.

These six paints provide a substantial increase in mixing power over the three paints in a primary palette, specifically in the intensity or purity of the most saturated mixed hues, as the following color mixing comparison makes plain.

Maimeri Blu Artist Watercolors Kit

- 6 color set -

Permanent Yellow Lemon,
Raw Sienna,
Primary Red - Magenta,
Permanent Green Deep,
Ultramarine Light, and
Burnt Umber


12-color Exception

the tertiary (twelve hue) color wheel

Tertiary Colors and Paints. Reading counterclockwise from primary magenta, we have the following six tertiary colors: red ®, yellow orange (YO), yellow green (YG), blue green (BG, also called sea green), blue (B), and violet (V, or purple). These new colors define twelve equally spaced color points around the hue circle, conventionally numbered from 1 (primary yellow), clockwise to 12 (yellow green).

If you want single pigment paints for each point on this new color wheel, I suggest using this palette (again, click on the pigment color index name to identify the paint marketing name used by different manufacturers):

• primary light yellow : benzimidazolone yellow (PY154) or hansa yellow medium (PY97)
• tertiary yellow orange: cadmium yellow deep (PY35) or hansa yellow deep (PY65)
• secondary red orange : pyrrole orange (PO73) or cadmium scarlet (PR108)
• tertiary red : pyrrole red (PR254) or cadmium red (PR108)
• primary magenta : quinacridone magenta (PR122) or quinacridone rose ("permanent rose," PV19)
• tertiary violet : manganese violet (PV16) or dioxazine violet (PV23)
• secondary blue violet : ultramarine blue (PB29) or cobalt blue deep (PB73)
• tertiary blue : phthalocyanine blue RS (PB15:1) or cerulean blue (PB35)
• primary cyan : phthalocyanine blue GS (PB15) or phthalocyanine cyan (PB17)
• tertiary blue green : cobalt turquoise (PB36) or cobalt turquoise light (PG50)
• secondary green : phthalocyanine green BS (PG7) or phthalocyanine green YS (PG36)
• tertiary yellow green : a permanent green light or phthalo yellow green (both convenience mixtures listed under PG7 and PG36).

This may seem like a large expenditure in paint, but it is worthwhile to use a large, systematic selection of colors. The experience will fine tune your paint mixing skill, and it will help you appreciate the strengths of a smaller palette.

Paint Info

W&N Cadmium Red - PR108
W&N Hooker's Green - PG36, PO49
W&N Winsor Green (Yellow Shade) - PG36
W&N Yellow Ochre - PY43
W&N Transparent Yellow - PY150 is brighter/lighter than DS Nickel Azo Yellow
W&N Light Red - PR102
W&N Burnt Sienna - PR101

DS Opera-Pink (PR122) - bright red-purple-pink more pinkish-purple than perm rose (pv19).
-- DS says: "The most vivid of all pinks. A primary magenta with a hint of fluorescent pink granulation producing some of the most brilliant glowing mixes you have ever seen."
DS Burnt Sienna - PBr7 - transparent to semi-transparent
DS Light Red - PR101 - opaque
DS Venetian Red (PR101) - opaque
DS Cobalt Blue - PB28
DS Hooker's Green - PG36 PY3 PO49
DS Phthalo Green YS - PG36
DS Yellow Ochre - PY43
DS Raw Sienna - PBr7
DS Pyrrol Red (PR254) - semi transparent - orange-red - similar to cadmium
DS Pyrrol Scarlet (PR255) - semi transparent - bright orange-red - similar to cadmium
DS Azo Yellow (PY 151) - brilliant, sunny and bright
DS Nickel Azo Yellow (PY150) is darker yellow than I expected but secondary palette says py150 is an orange yellow along with:
py65 (DS hansa yellow deep),
py108 (DS anthrapyrimidine yellow),
py153 (DS nickel dioxine yellow),

Most Yellow Ochres are opaque, but Daniel Smith's is transparent

4-color palette


"nickel dioxine yellow (PY153), quinacridone rose (PV19), phthalocyanine blue GS (PB15:3), phthalocyanine green YS (PG36) • In the history of "primary" colors, the Renaissance artist's "basic colors" (as described by Alberti or Leonardo) were not three but four — red, yellow, green and blue."

Yellow. Yellow is a good first choice to make, as it helps to determine the location of the other hues. I most often choose a "middle" yellow, such as benzimidazolone yellow (PY154) or hansa yellow (PY97), rather than a green ("light" or lemon) yellow such as hansa yellow light (PY3) or cadmium lemon, to keep the warm color mixtures (mixed yellow and red) vibrant. To increase the warmth of the palette even further, you can choose an orange yellow, such as hansa yellow deep (PY65) or cadmium yellow deep. I highly recommend either nickel azomethine yellow (PY150) or nickel dioxine yellow (PY153) for their duotone hue shifts, transparency and good tinting strength. Neutralized by mixture with the other paints on the palette, a warm yellow in particular can effectively imitate a variety of earth pigments (dull yellows, browns, reds), yet still mix beautifully natural greens. (The demonstration painting was made with nickel dioxine yellow.)

Red. In a minimal palette it is possible to choose a cool or violet red pigment without affecting the saturation of mixed warm colors (see this example). Quinacridone rose (PV19) is a relatively lightfast, transparent and versatile substitute for alizarin crimson (PR83) or rose madder genuine (NR9) — both fugitive pigments you should avoid in any watercolor paint. Quinacridone rose holds a dark value in masstone, mixes saturated reds and oranges with most yellows or orange yellows, and mixes subdued violets and violet blues with phthalo blue. Other good alternatives include quinacridone magenta (PR122, excellent with a warm yellow) and, for subdued red orange mixtures that can reach to lovely dark values, quinacridone violet (PV19). If you have chosen a cool yellow, you may want to experiment with a warmer red, such as quinacridone pyrrolidone (quinacridone carmine, PR N/A) — a red any warmer (closer to orange) than this will yield violet and violet blue mixtures that you may find too dark and dull, and warm mixtures that may have too much of a yellow bias.

Blue. Phthalocyanine blue (PB15) is often chosen for its relatively saturated green mixtures, which is acceptable in the demonstration palette because the blue is paired with a violet red (if the red were closer to orange, it would mix disappointingly dull violets with phthalo blue). Choose a phthalo blue that is not too green, however, to keep the violet mixtures from getting too dull. Phthalo blue has a nice liquid texture in washes, and mixtures with quinacridone rose will make very acceptable replacements for violet and blue violet paints. Among these, cobalt blue (PB28) or ultramarine blue (PB29) are interesting alternative blues for a four paint palette: they will mix brighter violets with quinacridone rose or quinacridone magenta, and lend beautiful textural effects to washes and mixed colors.

Green. Phthalocyanine green BS (PG7) gives the most saturated turquoise and green blues mixed with phthalo blue, and mixed with ultramarine blue creates an effective substitute for cerulean blue (PB35) or cobalt turquoise (PB36). This is a dark valued but fairly saturated green, so the yellow greens it mixes with almost any yellow will be adequately intense, although dark; you will probably want to mute these mixtures with a touch of your red paint to make the greens more natural. Phthalo green YS (PG36) is lighter and yellower hue, closer to a balanced green, and produces brighter green mixtures with yellow. Powerful darks and neutrals are possible with either phthalo green in mixtures with quinacridone paints. Other good green paints for this minimal palette are convenience mixtures such as hooker's green or sap green, or granulating and duller paints such as viridian (PG18) or cobalt green (PG19).

DS Split-Primary



I’m pleased to finally offer a set of watercolors in my Shop! The Essential Colors includes six vibrant Daniel Smith paints that have endless mixing possibilities. The set is a split-primary palette, providing a warm and cool version of each primary color. Hansa Yellow light is a lemony yellow (cool) while New Gamboge is orangish (warm). Pyrrol Scarlet is an orangish red (warm) and Quinacridone Rose is purplish (cool). Finally, French Ultramarine is a purplish blue, and Phthalo Blue (greenshade) is more teal (cool).

The question of mixing neutral greys and browns always comes up. The trick is to mix complimentary colors together, those that are opposite each other on the color wheel: red/green, yellow/purple, and blue/orange. My rule of thumb is to mix no more than three colors together or they get muddy. Above all, just experiment and have fun!

Jan 2017 Idea


another option, alwyn crawshaw-inspired:

another option, 12 colors, to test favorites:

June 2018




interesting colors bolded and [X] that i would consider if i used an expanded palette beyond 8 colors.

I would eliminate the two green mixes and add Phthalo Green YS (PG36).



maybe a green such as pg36 green-yellow or pg7 green-blue.

hopefully dark greys, charcoal, and near-black can be made from the above colors.


oil painters

Anders Zorn limited palette



Mark Carder




additional colors

### Tim Wilmot



How to paint with only 3 colours - A watercolour demonstration by Tim Wilmot

Four colors, actually.

> I am only using Red (Rose Opera), Yellow (Yellow Light) and Blue (Cinereous Blue). Sorry, and a Neutral Tint for darks.

### Willenbrinks

Mark and Mary Willenbrink, authors of "Watercolor for the absolute beginner". The book offers a four-color palette suggestion.

Edward Wesson



[Edward] Wesson used a limited palette of eight paints: winsor blue, ultramarine, cobalt blue, burnt umber, burnt sienna, light red, raw sienna, and cadmium yellow or winsor yellow. Winsor yellow is an arylide yellow (the same pigment is in the paint used to paint the yellow lines on the roads). It’s a very intense yellow-orange. Winsor blue is a phthalocyanine blue but it is made, now at least, in a green shade (GS) and red shade (RS), but it is not clearly in the book (or the books by Fletcher-Watson) which was used. However, a little research on Wet Canvas brings up the point that, when Wesson and Fletcher-Watson were in their primes, Winsor Newton only had one Winsor Blue, phthalocyanine blue RS ( red shade) which will actually mute greens made with it (which, in my opinion, is a good idea because phthalo blue (GS) can make a green that is very high chroma like brass that has turned green and would be out of synch with most of the other colors I use any way.)

Neither of these men had greens, violets, or oranges (secondary colors) on their palettes. They had many blues, all the earth colors but the opaque yellow ochre, and not bright red (light red in Wesson case and light red and Indian red and rose madder genuine (not recommended. It is really fugitive. Substitute quinacrodone rose). Fletcher-watson had cadmium yellow and cadmium lemon.


Edward Seago


His fame has continued to grow since his death and the prices of his paintings has risen continually as well. There are a LOT of them. He was extremely prolific and he painted at lightning speed rarely spending more than a few hours on a picture.
Seago used an unusual palette mostly of duller or earth colors. Here it is:

yellow ocher
alizarin crimson
blue black or indigo
chrome yellow
Indian red or light red
sometimes burnt sienna
flake white

Seago usually worked on canvas and on panels that he himself applied a thick brush stroke texture to in lieu of a more conventional priming. This texture had a profound effect on how his paintings were made.


John Lovett


Similar to my fav 6.

The inspiration for my new palette came from Australian artist John Lovett who has a fantastic website with lots of inspiring tips. I love his watercolours. JL recommends a basic palette of Indian Yellow or Quin Yellow, Raw Sienna, Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Sienna, Phthalo Blue and Ultramarine Blue. In addition he sometimes uses Cobalt Blue, Indigo and Permanent Rose or Rose Madder.

#watercolor - #blog_jr

created Apr 13, 2013