Building Your Own Palette Art Nebula

Watercolors are available in sets that have generic color selections manufacturers deem as necessary base colors for artists. However, many of us sometimes find ourselves not using one or two colors much or at all. Then, we should consider creating our own selection of colors that will offer everything that we need. Don't be intimidated! It can be a pretty fun experimentation.

First, you will need a house for your colors. Metal tin containers are especially made for this purpose. They have trays that are adjustable for holding pans in place even when shook. Empty full and half pans are available too.  You can view them here.

Customizing your own palette is a good way to really get to know our colors. This process may be up to personal preferences or to practicality. For example: 


  • Illustrators and designers usually use bright colors for illustrations as they will scan these for further enhancement for printed works (magazines, books, etc). 
  • Traditional artists may use more subtle hues that adhere to more realistic colors for true to life painting. 


How about you, what do you usually paint? Let's create a few color combinations that you may consider to include in your own palette.


  • Basic Primaries

These three colors produce a bright primary color wheel when mixed together. There is minimal  color bias so it is a safe selection for color mixing as seen with the saturated and vibrant secondaries and tertiaries produced in this color wheel. Primary Yellow and Blue Sennelier are both clean, transparent colors while Sennelier Red is semi-transparent but a very bright hue. All three are made from single pigments and have excellent lightfastness ratings. Overall, these three colors are good basic hues to have as a stand-alone palette. You may add in tertiaries or other colors such as browns and greens or you may opt to extend this palette by getting color-biased primaries (cool and warm colors). Here is a good site with the list of color biases: Color Biases of Artist Pigments

  •  Classical or Traditional Colors

    Colors French Vermilion, Ultramarine Deep, Naples Yellow Deep, Burnt Sienna and Raw Umber are all part of traditional colors that old masters use for painting. The primaries here create toned-down mixes especially greens. French Vermilion and Naples Yellow Deep (as substitute for Yellow Ochre) are often used for skin tones. The two browns Burnt Sienna and Raw Umber, extend the versatility of this palette to portraits and landscapes. Payne's Gray or Ivory Black is the easiest go-to for shadows and mixing darker colors. This selection of colors are mostly made with warm colors, all rated excellent in lightfastness and all (except Payne's Gray) are made with single pigments. This palette mimics the palette of classical times when artists used more expensive and rare pigments for al frescoes and the elite's commissioned portraiture.


  • Whimsical Colors

Opera Rose, Quinacridone Gold, and Cinereous Blue are bright colors that may be used in portraying interesting works. It's a great selection if you are looking for a unique palette to play with and experiment. It is great for florals, interesting portraiture, and golden sunset paintings. Opera Rose is a beautiful pink that produces great violets and oranges with the other two colors here. Cinereous blue is opaque but can be easily diluted with water. The colors are excellent in lightfastness rating except for Opera Rose, rated as average. This selection of colors would be great for artworks that will be scanned or photographed for printing.



Those are but a few combinations of colors that you can include in your own palette. Customising your set will add flare to your works support your unique style. So go ahead, you have the artistic freedom to create your own family of colors. Small palletes like the one below to bigger palettes that can hold 48 half pans are available here. You can always take out the metal tray in between to fit even more pans. 

The picture above contains M. Graham, Sennelier halfpans and tubes squeezed into pans. 

Don't forget to show us what you learned here by posting pictures and using the hashtag #DiscoveringWatercolors on Instagram or Facebook!

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