Watercolor, today…was interesting.  Like I said earlier — I did go out and get the higher grades of paints, because I could see how much it mattered as regarded the final product.  Right now, I’ve got a little rainbow on my palette…but a bit to my chagrin, not all of these are the precise colors I need.

We’re working with a split palette, meaning that we have warm and cool tones of each primary color.  The groups are:

  • Naphthol Red (warm) and Permanent Rose Red (cool)
  • Arylide Yellow (warm) and Aureolin (cool)
  • Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine, and Phthalo Blue (green shade) — I can’t tell which of these are warm or cool yet, because I haven’t painted out true Cobalt or Phthalo.  Ultramarine is a very cool color (as regards visual “temperature”), but I find that I don’t like its granulation properties, and I kind of want to use Ultramarine Deep instead of just straight Ultramarine, which seems weak to me.  Of course, though, that’s the Cotman (a.k.a. student) formulation, not the professional one (which should be more highly pigmented).

The colors I’m probably going to have to weed out of my palette (for now) are:

  • Cadmium Red Pale Hue (possibly too orange for a primary color)
  • Alizarin Crimson Hue (it may be too dark and intense for my work in class)
  • Cobalt Blue Hue (a weakened variant of Ultramarine — like I wouldn’t notice)
  • Prussian Blue (likely too muted in comparison to Phthalo Blue)

…though, perhaps I’ll keep some on hand, just for kicks.  I do like having them in my palette, especially Cad. Red Pale Hue, because it’s a very nice bridge from Alizarin to Cad. Orange Hue (which in my case is an Arylide yellow plus Pyrazolone Orange — the particular blend of which, I don’t think is made by that brand any longer).  And Cadmium Orange Hue is a nice blend into Cadmium Yellow Hue, a.k.a. Arylide Yellow.  The theme continues into Aureolin, a.k.a. Chrome Yellow, but then breaks right at Viridian Hue, which is a deep, intense green color that leans cyan.

I am thinking that perhaps this set of colors (I got most of my original colors from a set that was purchased at some unknown time in the past — after 2007, though, we know that) was made because it does have some nice color transitions.  However, it is not quite what matches my needs, at the moment.

Particularly, Prussian Blue (which I was told is OK as a substitute for Phthalo Blue) is a muted green-blue tone, whereas I know from working with acrylics that Phthalo Blue is a very intense, bright green-blue (at least in the Green Shade).  Which, of course, blends right in with Viridian on one side, and possibly Cobalt Blue on the other.

While I’m giving you all (and my future self) tips on colors, why don’t I go and check out what I have in gouache (opaque watercolor)?

This set is from my Color Dynamics class back in 2007.  The paints are, mostly, still good.  Amazingly enough.  Most of these are Winsor & Newton Professional gouache, though some are Holbein, and one is M. Graham & Co.  Our split primaries were:

  • Alizarin Crimson (cool) and Scarlet Lake (warm)
  • Lemon Yellow (cool) and Golden Yellow (warm)
  • Ultramarine Deep (cool) and Sky Blue (warm)

Beyond this, I have a number of earth tones and blacks…

  • Yellow Ochre (where the W&N Professional brand actually appears brighter than the Holbein, at least at this point),
  • Burnt Sienna (a rich red-brown color),
  • Raw Umber (a cool, bluish brown),
  • Payne’s Gray (from M. Graham and Co. — a deep blue-black, good for darkening tones; in acrylics, this transparent pigment is useful for glazing in shadows),
  • Ivory Black (a kind of thin-looking black),
  • Lamp Black (from Holbein — a warm, matte black which covers pretty well), and
  • Primary Black (from Holbein — a dark, solid black that doesn’t lean too much to either the cool or warm sides).

So, from that list, Yellow Ochre (yellow), Burnt Sienna (red), Raw Umber, Payne’s Gray (blue) are the four primaries which will give one a solid footing in a limited palette.  Also, mixing Ultramarine with Raw Umber — at least in gouache and acrylics — yields a more or less neutral paint (depending on proportions) which works very well to mute the intensity of colors.  And…right, Raw Umber isn’t the same as Burnt Umber.  Burnt Umber is warmer; Raw Umber is this kind of bluish, almost literally “mudlike” color.  But it’s useful, even if it looks too impure to help anything.  🙂

Remind me to mention the book, Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green…I found this a while ago at a bookstore which focused on commercial arts.  It may be a bit deep if painting isn’t really what one is into, but it’s worth checking out.  I think this book actually did revolutionize the way I thought about color.

Right now, I’m hoping I won’t have to go back to the art store for a softer 1/2″ flat brush — that would be irritating, as I was just there — but I think I’ll go and work on my color swatches.  It would be nice to get something else out of the way…

EDIT:  Annnd…I just realized that I forgot to mention why it mattered whether a color leaned warm or cool.  I’ll get back to you on that.

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Haru ("Codey") is a third-year Master's student in Library and Information Science, hoping to find a way to fuse their desire to make the world a better place and to finance their art.

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