Where I live, summer is quickly approaching and the travel season is upon us! Since there aren’t too many artists who enjoy carrying a suitcase full of watercolors along for an adventure, I thought I would share a idea for a compact yet fully functional 8-color watercolor palette.
I was tickled to participate in the recent the Da Vinci Trio project, and though the Trio palettes work well on their own, I thought I would turn my “Nature” Trio colors into a limited travel palette. By adding 5 colors to the Trio, I've created a great 8-color palette that should work for any location or subject matter.
Though I love and use Da Vinci watercolors, you can easily put together this 8-color watercolor palette with any brands that are convenient or work best for you; just look for comparable pigment numbers. I’ll also share how well these palette colors mix so you can see how to expand these 8 colors into many, many more.
Before we dive into the 8-color palette, these articles share more about my preferred paints for this palette, but again, please feel free to substitute your personal favorites.
8-Color Watercolor Palette
When using a limited watercolor palette, it’s important to have a good range of pigments. This 8-color palette contains an nice variety of warms and cools along with opaques and transparents. A few of the colors are also granulating which adds interest and texture to a painting.
I've got a bit more about each color and pigment below. Click on each color's title to learn more about the color and see current pricing at Da Vinci's website.
Cadmium Red Light (PR108)
Until I discovered this beauty while testing Da Vinci's sample set, I had always avoided Cad's because of their opacity. However, Cad Red Light is a bright, warm red that dilutes beautifully! I love infusing landscapes with a pop of this color, but it's also an excellent mixer. For a non-Cad option, try Permanent Red (PR188).
Alizarin Crimson (PV19)
This is one of my Trio colors, and Da Vinci's version is crafted from one of my favorite pigments. Alizarin Crimson is a gorgeously deep, cool red and mixes to produce a startlingly range of purples and darks. Love it!
Manganese Blue (PB33/PB15)
Manganese blue is a warm blue reminiscent of sunny skies, Sante Fe sunsets, and Caribbean waters. Da Vinci still uses the original manganese pigment (PB33) to produce this color. I love the light granulation and warmth this blue adds to the palette.
Ultramarine Blue Green Shade (PB29)
This is another one of my Trio colors, and it now has a permanent spot in my palette. Ultramarine Blue Green Shade is a remarkably flexible blue with slight granulation. It's gorgeous on its own and is a workhorse in a palette. If you have one blue, I'd recommend this one.
Da Vinci Yellow (PY154)
This pigment is a common yellow offered by several paint brands. It’s a great choice for a neutral, all-around yellow. Not only does it look lovely in masstone, but it’s also a fine mixer. No wonder Da Vinci and others have claimed it as their signature yellow!
Yellow Ochre (PY43)
This yellow ochre is one of the prettiest versions that I’ve seen. Like most PY43s, it's rather opaque but dilutes beautifully and adds a nice warmth to this palette. When we moved to the mountains, I switched from Yellow Ochre to Raw Sienna (PBr7). DV's version has me rethinking my switch, but if you prefer a transparent option, DV Raw Sienna would be a fine substitution.
Burnt Sienna (PBr7)
This is my top earth pick for this palette. I have a love affair with all of Da Vinci's earth colors and find it nearly impossible to choose only one, but this Burnt Sienna has a rosy richness infused with smooth granulation that nicely balances this palette. It's also an excellent mixer (unlike other popular Burnt Siennas that I know... not naming names). What more could a painter ask for?
Hooker’s Green Light (PY42/PG7)
This is one of my Trio colors because it’s an absolutely beautiful green and a surprisingly nice mixer. I paint so much with green that having a convenience shade in my palette saves me loads of time, but you could also substitute single-pigment Phthalo Green (PG7).
For in-depth information on my Trio colors along with more suggestions for creating an 8-color palette with my Trio, see my Da Vinci Trio Guide.
8-Color Palette Mixes
In a limited palette, it's important to choose colors that play well with others and these 8 colors are happy mixers! You can see examples of this palette's two-color mixes in the chart below, but by diluting the mixes, varying the ratios of each mix, or upping the mix to three or more colors, these 8 colors will create unlimited color options.
For example, Cadmium Red Light mixed with Da Vinci Yellow will create a huge range of oranges from an Indian yellow to a deep vermillion. Alizarin Crimson mixed with Ultramarine Green Shade creates a gorgeous lilac color when diluted. I could go on and on about the options, because the mixes created with this palette are endless!
Even if you prefer premixed colors, this palette will still work wonders, but look at all of those beautiful mixes! This palette is bright and cheery yet still allows plenty of gorgeous darks and earths. A perfect combo! I hope this inspires you to try a few mixes of your own.
Instructions on how to read this chart plus a free printable to create your own, see this article. If you would like to keep up with this blog via email and be the first to know about giveaways, free printables, tutorials, and more, sign up here.
More Watercolor Palette Ideas
I love creating fun and functional color combos! For more palette color suggestions, check out these articles.