Tuesday, 27 October 2015

My smallest palette - great for urban sketching

I have posted all sorts of interesting limited palette ideas, but I thought I'd share the limited palette I actually use at times. These are set up in a miniature keyring palette - shown here about life-size - that I made from a lip balm tin. You can see a photo of it here. I sprayed the lid with enamel to act as a mixing area. If I had room for one more colour it would probably be Cerulean as I tend to use Ultramarine + Cerulean Chromium for skies. In this little plein air palette I could probably use cerulean instead of Quinacridone Rose as I use so little red of any form in landscape/urban sketching, but that is too limiting for me. I always like to keep my options open, and want to be able to paint an orange or purple flower if the occasion arises :-)

Here are the colours painted out in a couple of colour wheels. There are so many earthy colours that can be mixed with this palette, along with lovely purples, oranges and greens. I really like the slightly neutral greens that are created with Quinacridone Gold and Ultramarine. Hansa yellow medium is a more pure mixing yellow, and was my original yellow in this palette, but I use Quin Gold more when I am urban sketching and the earthy greens can be mixed very quickly from just two colours. 

So many building materials can be painted with the earthy Buff Titanium, Goethite and Burnt Sienna colours mixed with some Jane's Grey.               These are less than half the colours from my Ultimate Mixing Palette set, but they generally represent the colours I actually use up fastest in my palettes when urban sketching, apart from Quin Rose which is only occasionally used. I was out with the San Francisco Urban Sketchers in September and one of the group arrived with a huge bunch of purple orchids. I painted one of them. I couldn't have done that without Quinacridone Rose in my palette. Creating a limited palette without limiting your subject choices is the key I think.


  1. Hi Jane,
    I love all the color chart work you've done. I have a question: I would like your opinion on how to set one up. What I'd like is a main place to see all my colors. However, I don't yet have a palette of favorites. I have many sets. W&N 4 sets of 12 & 14; Sennelier one set of 24; Van Gogh 14; QOR open stock 42; Daniel Smith open stock 24; Koi a set of 24; Holbein 8; M Graham 1; Ultrecht 1; Schmincke 10. I'm not concerned at this point about mixing them (not until I decide my favorites...) BUT I do want to include all the pigment info (to catch the duplicates) How would you begin? Sort by color (ROYGBIV); sort by manufacturer? Sort by whatever... The most important factor is i still (and probably will ALWAYS be) acquiring new product so there needs to be room for additions. I so appreciate any help with this. Note: each set already has its own chart. I always do that immediately.
    Thanks again, Lauri C.

    1. Lauri it really depends what and where you are painting. If you only paint at home, size doesn't matter too much and you can set up a larger palette and have a number of colours available. If you are doing travel sketching you will probably want to use one the the palette sets you have, though you may want to switch a few colours around. It's a case of testing the colours against each other - compare the blues, the reds, the yellows and see how they paint out and how they mix. Start painting with them. Choose your favourite warm and cool or each, perhaps, and work with those. Add convenience colours that you find useful. Use my Ultimate Mixing Palette set as a guide and add to that perhaps. I do suggest you try to find a palette of 15 - 20 that will give you a great colour range. It might include a warm, and cool and an earth of each of your red, yellow and blues, a couple of good mixing greens and some earths, for example. If you want specific help in getting set up, I offer a full palette consultation as it does depend what you are trying to achieve.