Finally got it together enough to lay out my colors

And, no…that actually isn’t meant to refer to self-disclosure, but in any case…

Laying out the colors

I did finally get my stuff together enough to research the colors I needed and wanted to fill out my palette, identify good sources, and then get out there and find them.

It helped that I had previously done a bit of work leading up to this:  the color chart which I laid out the other day (which I cut apart to create paint chips — yay photo archives!), the acquisition of the freakin’ palette in the first place (this is a Mijello Silver Nano 40-well palette, which — although it sounds like it’s tiny, it’s really pretty huge), and research on watercolor pigments at  (I’m linking you directly to the pigment section; the site is somewhat eclectic.)  Among other things, the last let me know that (largely) the same pigment types are used across brands, but with (sometimes) different suppliers and names.  For instance, Magenta Permanent in Winsor & Newton uses the same (red-violet) pigment generally known as Quinacridone Violet (PV19).  W&N’s “Quinacridone Violet,” however, is an entirely different shade (blue-violet).

There were also some interesting mixing tips at that site, which were what pushed me to pick up Dioxazine Violet (Winsor Violet, left) and Magenta Permanent; and to leave Alizarin Crimson out of my standard palette.

Speaking of preparation, I didn’t mention that I had gone to Utrecht earlier in the month to try and find quality watercolors, and all they had were a selection of Winsor & Newton, plus some sets in a case.  Of course, though, that Utrecht is shutting down — and they had been bought by Blick, so I shouldn’t be too rash.

In any case, I was able to find most of what I had been looking for at the Blick I visited.  It looks like they’re doing some kind of closeout on Daniel Smith paints, but the only hint of that is the extremely sparse stock.

Corner of the palette — layout

Anyhow!  Paint chips!  Yes.  So I had this gigantic palette in front of me, because I kept buying smaller, very cheap palettes and running out of space when I tried to put the colors I wanted to use, into them.

A small palette is good if you’re using a small set of pigments or need a compact travel-sized palette to carry around with you on your hike.  However, I just kept getting irked at having to switch between two different palettes, and kept buying cheap palettes (one of which, broke before I could ever use it).

I did puzzle out a solution to my problem of trying to lay out my watercolor paints in an identifiable manner.  As mentioned above, I took yesterday’s swatches and cut them apart, while labeling them on the back.  Then I could move them around and line them up in front of the wells I had available.  This, at least, made things a bit easier to visualize, before squirting out any paint.

I had hoped to spare you photos of my two used watercolor palettes (I had to make lots of little puddles to create my paint chips, and haven’t cleaned either of them), but realized that this entry would be much enriched by just showing you what I’m talking about.

This is the style of palette I found other students using under Yasutomo brand…though I think this one is much older.

One of these palettes (see left), my watercolor professor kind of dirtied up by not cleaning the brush before dipping back into yellow after red and blue (this was the person who had us mixing earth tones from primaries).  That brown well is actually Aureolin (yellow with green overtones).

This palette is made by Yasutomo at this time (it opens flat with an extra mixing tray which folds out of the lid), though the one I have now must have been acquired a good 15 years ago, and not for less than $12.  They can be had for much less, now.

The wells are not slanted, which means that the dirty water pools along with the clean paint, instead of to one side of it.  My Watercolor prof also stated that it was too small to do any good mixing.

Please forgive the random splotches. 🙂

The other one…I frankly have no idea of the brand, as I threw out the paper that came with it.  I did just check to see if I could find any hint of branding, but it appears to be unmarked.  It’s a 15-well plastic palette, off-white (to my slight annoyance).  It does have slanted wells, though, and as we were limited to 10 colors in Watercolor class, and I needed something portable, it served me for that time.

(It fit into the bottom of my toolbox, which is what I was using to carry everything around…however, with the advent of not having to depend on public transit, portability no longer is as pressing an issue.)

Mijello 40-well Silver Nano palette… Overkill? Not if it stops me from buying multiple cheap ones…

I found the Mijello Nano first at one of my normal art places online, but if you do some digging, you can find better prices on the same product.  I’m thinking that this is not something that’s going to spoil, and it’s pretty much a mass-produced item.  So far as things go, I’m pretty happy with mine so far (although there was a slight bit of blue-grey color which came up when I wiped it down prior to putting paints into it).  Though, ha — I haven’t really used it yet!

By the way, “Nano” in no way refers to the size of this palette; it refers to an antimicrobial coating on its surface.  This thing, I would say, is kinda …really big.  I didn’t envision it as such when I ordered it!  The good part, though, is that you do get two really generous mixing areas.

So the Nano really doesn’t have anything in the way of those little barriers which delineate different mixing bays.  There are areas to put the clean paint down, yes — and they are slanted wells, so this is good!  (They’re also mostly generously-sized slanted wells; the well capacity varies with the position of the well on the palette.)  I’m not envisioning painting while holding this thing, so it’s probably OK that there aren’t any internal dividers in the mixing areas.

What is really nice is the ability that I get with this palette, to differentiate classes of pigments.  On the far left of the lid, I’ve put the two Cotman colors I was iffy on using, plus known fugitive pigments (W&N Aureolin [PY40] and W&N Alizarin Crimson [PR83]).  In the lid, I’ve placed my muted and earth tones, while the main area closest to me has my prismatic shades.

I have really got to say that I’m happy with getting colors outside of the W&N brand — both of the colors I’ve gotten (Hansa Yellow from M. Graham & Co., and Vermilion Deep from Grumbacher) have been really unexpected, but really nice surprises.  I did do a lot of research trying to see, from swatch tests, what I was getting.

I was kind of surprised that getting larger 15 ml tubes can actually be a bit cheaper in the long run than getting W&N’s little tubes — but little tubes are a good way to start, because otherwise you don’t know what’s going to run out most quickly (like yellows).  Plus, just getting a full range of good colors is something that you might want to space out over a few months!  The way I started was with what was lying around (which was not fantastic stuff — but it was workable), then I gradually upgraded.

The only mystery that’s really eating at me at this point (besides what sort of beautiful colors I might have missed out on by going by online swatch tests) is what the hey “lithopone” is, and how it behaves.  I found a tube of Chinese White which uses Lithopone as a pigment, which I’ve never seen before…I’m trying to figure out whether I want this or Permanent White gouache in that little corner bay.

Nothing left but to try it, eh?


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Haru ("Codey") is a second-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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