let's talk about : my watercolour palette

My watercolour palettes - January 2023

Updated : January 2023

I've been hesitating to write an article listing the colours on my palette, even though folks have been asking for a long time. I didn't want to create a big shopping spree and lots of people out there with colours on their palette that they never use.

I honestly believe that it's possible to work with the paints you already have, provided that you have some good basics like a good choice of red, blue and yellow (a warm and a cool of each) and a couple of earth tones. My feeling is that it's best to experiment for quite a while with your current palette before you make new purchases. I haven't changed my palette too much over the years, and even now I sometimes have wonderful surprises with new shades I can create with paints I thought I knew inside out.

For me artist quality paper is a must. Artist quality paint doesn't make nearly as much difference. Having said that, truly cheap paints will be frustrating. And if you want lovely saturated colours then you'll find that harder to do with cheap paints. Finally, if you are selling your work, then you owe it to your clients to use paints that are not fugitive.

Artist quality paints aren't as expensive as you might think at first glance. Because they are so much more saturated, you use a lot less paint, so they last a lot longer. Some of my tubes are more than 15 years old and I paint a lot. Artist quality paints are expensive to experiment with, though, so one idea is to start with a cheaper set and as you run out of colours replace those you love with an artist quality brand. I'm still doing this.

My current palette has a mix of Winsor & Newton, MaimeriBlu and Daniel Smith paints. The first 2 mentioned are historical. They were the paints available in my little town when I first started painting in watercolours over 15 years ago. Now, as the WN paints run out I'm replacing them with Daniel Smith or MaimeriBlue colours. Why? The main reason is because these paints are vegan and I'm very keen for all my art supplies to now be ethical.

My advice would be to buy tubes paints rather than pans. These wet much easier and you can create big puddle of colour really easily. Squeeze a dollop of colour into each well on your palette, let it dry overnight and you're ready to carry it around. Just before you start painting, spritz your paints with a little water and they're ready to go.

Finally, before we get to the list you're all waiting for, you'll notice I use almost entirely transparent colours. These are the biz, I reckon. The true beauty of painting in watercolour over any other medium is in the transparency. Let the light of the paper shine through, and you'll avoid the muddy look we all shudder at!


The list (updated January 2023)

Top, clockwise
Cobalt blue teal (DS)
Cerulean blue (DS)
Cobalt blue (DS)*
Ultramarine blue (DS)*
Paynes grey (MB)*
Moonglow (DS)
Pthalo blue (WN)
Indigo (MB)*
Permanent violet (MB)*
Green gold (DS)
Sap green (DS)*
Winsor green (WN)
Pyrelene Violet (DS)
Burnt umber (MB)*
Burnt Sienna (DS)*
Sepia (MB)

Bottom, left to right
Permanent rose (WN)
Quinacridone rose (DS)*
Pyroll orange (DS)*
Opera pink (DS)
Cadmium yellow light (MB)*
Hansa yellow medium (DS)*
Cadmium yellow hue (WN)
Hansa yellow deep (DS)*
Monte Amiata natural sienna (DS)*
Quinacridone gold (DS)*
Quinacridone sienna (DS)*
Dragon's blood (MB)*

* - the colours that I use all the time. The others are nice to have, but not essential to me.

And, yes, I have 2 palettes. A little one for hiking and the bigger one for using in my studio or for outside sketching when I don't need to walk too far. Both are filled with dried tube paints.

Of course, the next questions are probably why I chose these hues, how I mix them, how to paint greens (every artist seems to be obsessed with that question), how I make my paintings so bright and saturated and how I avoid mud. Every blog post leads to another! So stay tuned or join me on Patreon or Renee's Studio - www.walden.co.nz/learn

Any questions, please drop them below, or find me on Facebook or Instagram.

Have a super colourful day!


  1. Thank you. Very useful. Warm regards Gil

  2. Very helpful Renee. Thank you.

  3. so beautiful! can i ask what’s in the small travel palette:)

    1. I don't have this with the me at the moment, but if I was to make one now it would be Hansa Yellow Medium, Hansa Yellow Dark, Natural Sienna, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Paynes Grey, Sap Green, Green Gold, Pyrol Orange, Quinacridone Rose


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