Color Curriculum

The Advantages Of Choosing Your Own Palette And Creating Splotches 

By Carolyn Payzant 

Originally appeared in The Botanical Artist – Volume 17, Issue 3


In June 2010 I wrote an article on creating your own “Color Diary.” I would like to focus on this suggestion just a bit more. As a botanical artist it is important to know how the pigments on your palette behave; and I mean every single time you dip your brush into a puddle of paint. If you choose your own pigments for your color wheel you will know them like the back of your hand – you will know them very well indeed. 

The first decision you need to make is how many points on the color wheel you want represented. I would suggest that you select the primary and secondary colors: yellow, orange, red, violet, blue and maybe green. The reason I am not eager for you to purchase any green is that the ones you make yourself are oh-so-much more interesting in character and they are lusciousness.  

Next you need to determine if you want both biases of your primary and secondary colors. Such as: a yellow with a green bias and a yellow with an orange bias. I highly recommend you choose to include these colors. Reason: You never have to combine more than two pigments together for any given mix. If you choose all of these colors on your personal palette the number will total 15; this number excludes any greens. 

The second decision you need to make is what brand or brands are you most comfortable working with. And believe me each brand is different in color and the way they handle. Let me give one example. Did you know that Holbein (H) does not use any wetting (dispersing) agent such as ox gall in their paint? (Even without this dispersing agent Holbein paint makes wonderful washes.)  

Please don’t feel limited by a palette with a foundation of colors. Color can always be added as necessary. 

Starting with the yellow with a green bias and working my way around I choose the following: yellows – Daniel Smith’s (DS) PY3 Hansa Yellow Lt, PY97 Hansa Yellow Medium, and PY65 Hansa Yellow Deep; oranges – M. Graham’s (MG) PY151+PO62 Gamboge, DS’s PO62 Permanent Orange, and PO73 Pyrrol Orange; reds – Winsor & Newton’s (WN) PR188 Scarlet Lake, MG’s PR209 Quinacridone Red, and DS’s PR176 Carmine; violet/purple – MG’s PV19 Quinacridone Violet, H PV15 Mineral Violet, and MG’s PV37 Dioxazine Purple; blues – DS’s PB29 French Ultramarine Blue and MG’s PB28 Cobalt Blue. I changed my blue with a green bias to turquoise and I choose H’s PB16 Marine Blue for this position. I cannot express how important it is for you to include Holbein’s PB16 Marine Blue on your palette – it can create most every green you can conjure up.  

After you choose your palette you then need to go the extra step of creating your Personal Color Diary (Splotch Book). Creating this diary is time consuming and sometimes boring… but look at the photo to imagine hours of time saved when starting your next painting. Don’t forget, if you add a color to your palette you need to include it in your Personal Color Diary.