Watercolor habits

As I like to hear what others use to make their marks on paper, I suppose there are others like me. So I thought I´d say something about what I use, starting with the watercolors. (If you´re not into watercolors at all, you sure are going to yawn your way through this text…)

Two years ago, I had two tin boxes of watercolors. I enjoyed buying new pans of colors every now and then to experiment with, but in the end I discovered that I never used most of them. They were mostly in my way, confusing the way I mixed my colors. I must have had around 35 – 40 different colors before I decided to go a bit more minimalist. I bought myself a box that limited the number of possible colors to twelve half-pans and started experimenting with the colors I had, eliminating one by one. I´ve had this box for two years now, and I haven´t really felt the need to buy any more colors.

I have made a few small changes to it, though: After a while I got tired of the tiny size of the half pans in it (kind of messy if you´re into large brushes), so I teared out the metal holder that´s supposed to hold the pans still inside the box, and glued 10 large pans and one small in there instead. I like the small sized box, in spite of it´s crowded contents. When a pan is empty, I tear it out and glue a new one in, or I fill it with tube paint and let it dry.

I´ve also replaced the Alizarin Crimson I used to have with Perylene Maroon. Alizarin is not lightfast, and I find it strange that in every book about watercolors you are still adviced to include Alizarin Crimson in your palette. The Perylene Maroon doesn´t give as clear purple mixes as the Alizarin, but I handled that by adding Schminckes “Echtviolett” in a half pan.

And, after much angst, I added an opaque titanium white. I´m a bit traditional when it comes to aquarelle, I don´t like to use white color and I don´t like to use black. I still don´t do that when painting in larger formats, but nowadays I sometimes use white in my sketchbooks.

Apart from my main box of watercolors, I have two smaller ones. One contains only sepia and lamp black and I use it for shading when I draw with ink. It´s easier to bring watercolor than a bottle of ink if you´re drawing away from home. The sepia gives nice warm shades of brownish gray, while lamp black is more neutral.

The other small box is a new experiment. I have sometimes felt the need for an ultra-small box of a few colors that I can bring anywhere, in a jeans-pocket or whatever. And then I found this guy, John Lovett, on the Internet and saw his six-color palette and thought I might try it. I kind of like his approach to the whole thing with watercolors – keep it simple, don´t buy a lot of gear, just find what you like and stick with it. The tiny palette works quite well, actually. Maybe my usual twelve colors is too much?


I found this very interesting as I have dabbled in WC but am taking my first official WC class on Wed. Thanks for sharing

I love this kind of thing – not a yawn at all! Thanks. I’m especially interested in your mini sepia/lamp black box – for your beautiful ink sketches.

If only I had your discipline! I have 24 half-pans plus a couple of tubes in my ‘pocket’ set, and my studio collection of 65+ tubes shames me in comparison! Then there’s the 36 tubes of gouache, just in case…let’s not even get onto my acrylics – tooo shameful to count.

Thankfully, I always limit my actual working palette to a handful!

Hey Nina! Great post — very interesting! Winsor Newton makes a permanent Alizarin Crimson, by the way, which is lightfast. You have to be sure to get the one that says “permanent” though.

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