Aquarelle Maroc: The Informed Palette
by JL Farmer

Djem el Fna, Marrakesh

Menara Gardens, 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.
  1. PY154 - Winsor Yellow (Winsor & Newton) or PY97 Hansa Yellow Medium (Daniel Smith)
  2. PR254 - Winsor Red (Winsor & Newton) or Pyrrol Red in the M. Graham and Daniel Smith ranges.
  3. 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 price, choice.
  4. PY35 - Cadmium Yellow Pale (or Light) - ( Winsor & Newton, M. Graham) Best two choices. Some other brands can be chalky. Daniel Smith no longer sells any pure cadmium paints.
  5. PY53 - Nickel Titanate Yellow (Daniel Smith) - same pigment yet cheaper to buy than W&N Series 4 Lemon Yellow) MaimeriBlu version appears to be somewhat weaker.
  6. 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 expensive.)
  7. PR102 - Light Red - (Winsor & Newton) Essential palette color.
  8. PR108 - Cadmium Red (Pip Seymour, M. Graham, Winsor & Newton) Three of the best.
  9. PR179 - Perylene Maroon ( Winsor & Newton) - an excellent substitute for the fugitive PR83 Alizarin Crimson Maroon Perylene from M. Graham both brands are excellent.
  10. PV15 - Ultramarine Violet (M. Graham) and Mineral Violet (Holbein - excellent! a great find!)
  11. PB28 - Cobalt Blue (Winsor & Newton) or Cobalt Blue Deep (MaimeriBlu)
  12. PB29 - French Ultramarine (Winsor & Newton) or Ultramarine Blue (Da Vinci) I prefer the Da Vinci version for its superb depth and clarity of colour.
  13. PB27 & PBk6 - Indigo (Holbein) 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.
  14. 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 has appeared.
  15. PG50 - Cobalt Green SO-G (M. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. PBk31 - T-St - Perylene Green - (Winsor & Newton, Daniel Smith) A go-to green for any palette. For me... Sap Green is now retired.
  18. PY43 - Yellow Ochre (M. Graham, Da Vinci) or PY43 Verona Gold Ochre (Daniel Smith)
  19. PO49 - T-G Quinacridone Gold (Daniel Smith) a single pigment colour (15ml tube only.) All other versions (including DS 5ml tubes which contain pigments PO48 and PY150) are mixes.
  20. 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 look back.
  21. PBr7 - T-G - Raw Umber (Winsor & Newton, Da Vinci) W&N is the lighter version, Da Vinci the darker. Both good.
  22. PBr7, PBk6 - ST-G Sepia (M. Graham, Holbein) 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
  23. PB15, PV19, PBk6 - Payne's Gray - ST-St (Winsor & Newton) The classic version.
  24. PV19 & PG7 - Neutral Tint (M. 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.)

So 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.

Not 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. Graham does.

There 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.

JL Farmer
written September 5, 2016


Aquarelle Maroc  Established January 2013 and