Wednesday 3 November 2021

Watercolour Triads

October has been a big month! I completed my third course, the extension watercolour course Special Effects in Watercolour, last Tuesday. My solo exhibition 'Drawn To Nature' ended on Saturday and last Wednesday I published my new book - Watercolour Triads.

My three books - Watercolour Mixing Charts, The Ultimate Mixing Palette: a World of Colours
and Watercolour Triads

My first book, Watercolour Mixing Charts, began when I found a stack of slightly water-damaged watercolour mixing charts in an art shop in Singapore over twenty years ago. They were blank watercolour charts designed by Michal Wilcox, printed on watercolour paper, and I bought the whole stock - hundreds of them.

I began creating charts of my watercolours, exploring the various mixes. I created almost a hundred of them, but started creating extra charts on each one to show variations. I tried mixing every colour I had with every other colour. I found it a really interesting process, and discovered some amazing and surprising two-colour mixes along the way. I put the charts into a cover I had painted - which later became the cover of the book - and kept them in my studio.

Much later, in 2012, I added those charts to my website and created a book so people could have them handy. 

That book has dozens of colours mixed with dozens more colours, so it's interesting for those who have loads of colours, but I wanted to create a more focused reference book using a more limited palette. This was designed for people to be able to replicate.

I did a whole lot of experimenting using two-colour mixes to choose the most versatile colours. Twelve wasn't enough to do all that I wanted and I ended up with my 15 colour Ultimate Mixing Set. I created all the charts, mixing every colour with every other colour, then a large number of interesting three-colour mixes.  I painted all the charts in two A5 Moleskine watercolour notebooks. While convenient to keep them together, it was a laborious task to have each page photographed. Those charts were published as The Ultimate Mixing Palette: a World of Colours in 2015. I created the cover using the 15 colours, to match the style of the previous cover. Later, Daniel Smith released the 15 colours Ultimate Mixing Set, including my custom mixed Jane's Grey, in a plastic travel palette. They are a terrific set to begin a watercolour journey.

I created my first totally online course Mastering Watercolours using the Daniel Smith 15-colour Ultimate Mixing Set, and the book was very helpful. However I knew another was needed.

Watercolour Triads follows from The Ultimate Mixing Palette - it begins with the same 15 colours but this time exploring them in triads. The book includes 34 different watercolour triads painted in colour wheels, including all the bright primary triad combinations, and then a number of interesting earth triads. I've also included some three-colour charts, and wheels showing interesting secondary and other non-primary triads, and some sample paintings and studies to show the triads in action. 

I started work on this book years ago - I've been teaching about working with triads for many years and have had a section on my website with some examples. I had painted many of the wheels in more A5 notebooks but decided to do them all again on full sheets of Fabriano Artistico extra white paper to make them easier to photograph and colour match. I've created my own stencils for the charts and wheels so they were a joy to draw up :-) 

Here are four of those sheets under way. The charts show the three-colours greens, oranges/browns, purples and greys that can be created with each wheel.

Painting the charts and wheels took many months, but getting the book fully written took even longer. I carefully cross-referenced each mix with The Ultimate Mixing Palette to make it easier to use the books together. The cover, designed to follow the theme of the other two, was painted in just three colours - the triad I call a Basic Primary Triad - Hansa Yellow Medium, Quinacridone Rose and Ultramarine.

My books are self-published through There are Blurb sites in Australia, the UK, the US, and Europe so you can compare currency and shipping costs. They are available in hardcover image-wrap or as softcover printed books, or as eBooks for Apple or Kindle devices. I plan to create an index for each book as a separate PDF. 

This book completes this reference series. I have two other art books in mind for the future, but I don't plan on starting work on them for a little while. Eventually I'd like to create another children's book too.

Happy painting :-)


  1. When I started painting in watercolor I had already been painting in acrylic for decades. It's so different when you are working with transparent color in such simple form. I became fascinated by the paint.. the pigments in all of their individual characteristics and how they interact with each other. Tons of research and experimentation. I discovered the "old masters triads" along the way.. and learned a ton not only regarding color and mixing but temperature, value, etc. I was able to set up two twelve pan palettes that not only included four of the triads each, but never replicated a pigment and kept each triad in its own separate brand.. and each function as a palette of it's own, or as one large one. let me know if anyone wants a list. I've since moved them into little tins for each triad, and find myself reaching for them often.. it's very fun to simply be able to grab one that has the feel I'm looking for overall and have the right shades to be able to paint a full painting along with the challenge of using just those three colors.. all in a tin that fits in your pocket. It led me to revamp my entire collection with an emphasis on limited palettes.. you just get such a unified feel to the work when every color is a child of only a few.

    1. Yes do add a list of your two palettes. It's always great to share our discoveries :-)

  2. Thank you for all you do to make the world of watercolour accessible and understandable to so many. You are an inspiration.

  3. Sorry for the delay. Here is a list of my choices for the eight old masters trios, with the cravat that they do not repeat a color, each trio is a different brand, and they work on their own, in two 12 pans, or one 24 pan. #1 Roman Szmal (Bold High Impact Trio) Nickel Azo yellow, Pyrrule, Phthalo blue. #2 Mission Gold (High Key High Impact Trio) Aureolin (hue), Compose Rose, Cobalt 2. #3 Schmincke (Bright Earth Low Impact Trio) Raw Sienna, Brown Madder, Indigo. #4 White Nights (Earth Low Impact) Napels Yellow, Venetian Red, Cerulean Blue. #5 Winsor Newton (Traditional High Impact) New Gamboge, Alizarin (permanent), Ultramarine. #6 Rembrandt (Modern High Impact) Azo yellow Lt, Quin Rose, Turquoise Blue. #7 Sennelier (Old Masters Low Impact) Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Paynes grey. #8 M. Graham (Modern Low Impact) Quin gold, Perrylene Maroon, Anth Blue.

  4. Here is the master list of options for each trio in case someone wants to put together their own from whatever brand or preferences they have (you pick one of each primary). Traditional High Impact: New Gamboge/Cad Yellow Deep/Indian Yellow + Cad Red Deep/Perm Alizarin + Ultramarine.
    High Key High Impact: Transparent Yellow/Aureolin (hue) + Permanent rose/Rose dore/Scarlet Lake + Cobalt Blue/Antwerp Blue.
    Bold High Impact: Azo yellow/Hansa yellow LT/Lemon yellow + Pyrrole red/Carmine/Alizarin/Permanent red + Phthalo Blue/Turquoise.
    Modern High Impact: Hansa yellow/Azo Yellow/Transparent yellow + Quin magenta/quin red/permanent rose + Phthalo blue/cyan/turquoise.
    Earth Low Impact: Yellow ochre/naples yellow + Indian Red/Venetian/Caput mortem + Cerulean.
    Old Masters Low Impact: Yellow ochre/raw sienna + Burnt sienna/Quin burnt orange + Paynes grey.
    Bright Earth Low Impact: Raw sienna/gold ochre/quin gold + Brown madder + indigo/Prussian blue.
    Modern Low Impact: Quin gold/raw sienna + Quin burnt sienna/Perylene Maroon + Indanthrone.

  5. I have been trying to purchase your new book all morning, but I keep getting an error message.... any ideas?

  6. This is really great information. I have visited so many blogs however, I found the most relevant info here.

  7. Jane - you are so AMAZING!! Just wanted to say thank you for the incredible waterCOLOR references and information that you have put out here for us to soak in. I am so very appreciative of all your work. I use your Mixing Book quite often and sometimes just look at it because it's so cool!!

  8. dear jane,

    your blog is so wonderful. been here quite often, and today i decided to put you into my favorite bookmarks, hoping the bookmark reminds me to check out your blog. i also want to send you some warm greetings from berlin today. i am four years into painting, and i have quite an impressive gouache and watercolor palette now. i love to get my hands on anything fancy, so your blog is always useful. i just love your work! much love!