Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Building a watercolor palette.

Up until I painted these cards I had been using student grade watercolors, which are great for sketching, but not for art that will be displayed. Student grade watercolors usually fade over time. Before painting the cards in the above link, I set up a watercolor palette with artist quality paints. I searched the internet for tips on creating my own palette, and while there is some information out there, it wasn't as much as I'd hoped for - so, I thought I'd add my own process to the mix of what's online. 

I needed to keep this as cost effective as possible, so I selected a fairly inexpensive palette. The quality seems to be pretty good, but the palette, including the mixing tray does stain, which is not ideal for mixing transparent color. I may purchase a non-staining mixing tray in the future.

Thankfully, I still had many tubes of artist quality watercolors from about ten years ago when I dabbled in the medium for a few months. I did have to buy a few colors to round out my palette. Many watercolor artists use a more limited palette, but I love having a lot of colors to choose from. I'd actually like more than the thirty-three that this palette holds. I'm sure once I've used these colors a while I'll find ones that I'm missing and will create another palette of color.

I started by roughing the palette up a bit with a slightly abrasive cleaner. I used Soft Scrub. I read that this will help the paint stay-put in the wells and keep your paint from beading up when mixing it in the tray. I rinsed, and rinsed, and rinsed the palette to make sure all the cleaner was off - Soft Scrub laced paint - not good. Once the palette was dry I started filling the wells with paint. As I filled the wells I noted what color was in each well on a sheet of scrap paper.

Once I had filled all the wells with paint, I left the palette open for a few days so the paint could dry and harden. Some paints may not dry completely, so if you want to travel with your palette you should research what brands and specific colors will dry hard and which ones will not.

With the paint dry, I created a color chart on watercolor paper to keep inside my palette, stored under the mixing tray. The colors are laid out on the chart the same as they are in my palette. I started by laying down three, thick, waterproof black lines with a brush marker. I then used a 1" flat brush to lay down a swatch of each color over the black lines. This shows the opacity of each color and how it will react when painted over a darker color.

Once dry, I lifted color from each swatch below the black line. To lift color, simply rewet the surface with clean water and blot with a clean rag or paper towel. This will show which colors stain. Most watercolorists use lifting regularly in their painting, and staining colors will not lift completely which is important to know when working on a painting.

Finally, I added the color name and brand to each painted swatch.

I love my new palette!

If you have any questions, let me know in the comments. I'll leave you with the aftermath from building my palette. ;-)


Janine said...

I pinned this so I can keep it as a reference. So helpful! I love the idea of the black line and lifting. I have not done that with a chart of my paints and that would be invaluable! Love your blog!

JENNY K. said...

Wow! This is great info and a lot of work.

Unknown said...

Hi, what is the paper you use to make the color chart? I like its texture :)

Cindy Tobey said...

Hi Jamie. It has been so long since I created the color chart I can't remember the paper I used. It might have been from a Strathmore 400 series watercolor pad.

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