The Informed Palette
by JL Farmer
Djem el Fna, Marrakesh
OK, what would I describe
as "basic" colours? The following is my
go-to 24 palette choice.
No need to
buy around eight different versions and
spend a small fortune like I did to find
out (unless you want to.) These mentioned
are arguably the best available. Many of
the links go to a web shop - but only
because they have done a great job in
their description of the pigments and
their characteristics, which is the only
reason for the links.
PB15 - Winsor Blue RS (Winsor
& Newton) or Phthalo Blue RS
in the M.
Graham and Daniel
Smith ranges. The above three
colours are the three primary colours
which can be used to make clean
secondary colours and the W&N 37ml
tubes are an excellent, and lower
PY35 - Cadmium Yellow
Pale (or Light) - (
& Newton, M.
Graham) Best two choices. Some
other brands can be chalky. Daniel
Smith no longer sells any pure cadmium
PY53 - Nickel Titanate
Smith) - same pigment yet
cheaper to buy than W&N Series 4
Lemon Yellow) MaimeriBlu version
appears to be somewhat weaker.
PO20 - Cadmium Orange (M.
Graham) The M. Graham version is
truly in a class of its own. (W&N
and Rowney brands are a 2 pigment mix
of Cadmium Red and Cadmium Yellow.
MaimeriBlu is weaker and also
PB29 - French
& Newton) or Ultramarine
Vinci) I prefer the Da Vinci
version for its superb depth and
clarity of colour.
PB27 & PBk6 - Indigo
I go with the Holbein version which I
much prefer over either Prussian Blue
or straightforward Antwerp Blue. It's
superbly transparent, dark and moody.
The W&N version is opaque.
PB35 - Cerulean Blue (Winsor
& Newton, or PB36
- M. Graham) The Graham version
is somewhat darker valued, leaning
towards an ultramarine tone, but both
versions are very good. W&N has
the slight edge but getting expensive
now, hence the new "chrome" version
PG50 - Cobalt Green SO-G
Graham) Best version by far, but
needs to be leached before using as it
is very "gummy" and thus almost
impossible to use from the tube - (I
have discussed this problem with a
Graham rep) - does not travel well in
a portable palette, spills over
everything and always remains in
liquid form, never to dry-out. Aside
from all that, how do I like it?
I prefer the M. Graham version
to all the other brands - very
beautiful effects and easy to
use after leaching. Scroll
down the linked page to read "Reducing
the Vehicle Content" here.
PG18 - Viridian (Winsor
& Newton, M.
Graham - or any of the top
brands, except Blockx) I had a
terrible time with the Blockx version
and was very disappointed. More than
half the tube was vehicle. After I had
completely leached the whole tube, it
looked OK but within one week it
completely shrivelled up and all I was
left with were a very few thin
slivers of dried paint. W&N has
the edge for me, glorious in tints.
PO49 - T-G Quinacridone
Smith) a single pigment colour
(15ml tube only.) All other versions
(including DS 5ml tubes which contain
pigments PO48 and PY150) are mixes.
PBr7 T-G - Monte Amiata
Natural Sienna (Daniel
Smith) Gorgeous alternative to
Raw Sienna. Adds terrific light to
painting. Try this and you'll never
PBk6 - ST-G Sepia
The Best Sepia brands. Why? Both
brands are darker valued than the rest
and are both semi-transparent and
granulating. No other brown gets this
dark. The W&N version is nearer
mid-brown, opaque and non-granulating,
as is also the MaimeriBlu version. No
more burnt umbers for me - I
eventually found the granulating dark
brown I was looking for. Paint-out here
PB15, PV19, PBk6 -
Payne's Gray - ST-St (Winsor
& Newton) The classic
PV19 & PG7 - Neutral
Graham) Best version. Contains
no black and is not blue in tone, as
are most of the other versions. Good
alternative to Payne's Gray, (if one
can live without the blueish tone.)
many beautiful colours to discover. Some
of my other favourites are "Buff Titanium"
"Deep Scarlet" "Raw Umber Violet"
"Naphthamide Maroon" "Serpentine Genuine"
"German Green Raw Umber" "Undersea
Green" and "English Red Ochre" from Daniel
Smith along with "Cobalt Turquoise Light"
"Quinacridone Magenta" and "Perylene
Violet" from Winsor & Newton; "Golden
Green" and "Green Umber" from Old Holland;
and "Ultramarine Pink"
"Ultramarine Violet Deep" "Nickel
Quinacridone Gold" and "Olive Green" (the
most realistic, IMO) from M. Graham.
every budding watercolour
artist can afford the luxury
of painting large works by
using Daniel Smith and M.
Graham paints (which cost
substantially more in Europe
than the USA) although
I highly recommend these two
brands for small or medium
sized paintings. These two
brands are proven to have the
best range of colours,
pigments, lightfastness and
granulation properties. And...
there's nothing quite like
spending fifteen minutes or so
scrubbing M. Graham Phthalo
blue off ones hands with soap
and water. No watercolour
brand gets close to overall
high pigmentation like M.
are the occasional tubes of colour from
Blockx (Gold Ochre, Cobalt Blue, Light
Red,) Schmincke, (Transparent Orange,
Transparent Brown, Helio Turquoise, Barok
red) Holbein (Mineral Violet, Indigo)
Daler Rowney Artist (Cobalt Green Deep,
Raw Umber) and Old Holland (Golden Green,
Golden Green Deep, Green Umber,) as
examples of good choice, but not
necessarily enough of them to formulate a
full palette of colours to satisfy the
demands of the loose watercolour artist as
many colours from these brands are not
transparent or granulating and some of
them use fugitive
pigments in their formulation and
sometimes using three (or more) pigments
to formulate one "colour."
I hope the above list and comments may be
helpful to you in deciding on a 24 palette
of colours. Thank you for reading.
written September 5, 2016
Established January 2013
aquarellemaroc.com and paintingmorocco.com