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you need to know

about my watercolor palette

K r z y s z t o f K o w a l s k i

Facebook: Krzysztof Kowalski watercolors
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Krzysztof Kowalski, Poland 2015

I would like to thank:

Annie Jay
Glenda Walker
Lengel Anderson
Nohely Arany Gomez
Patricia Genever

who proofread my English version of this document and made the necessary corrections.

Thank you!
My watercolor palette K r z y s z t o f K o w a l s k i

I have many colors and there are many more waiting for me to try. There is nothing wrong in trying
out new paints. Some of them will end up in a drawer, waiting there for better times. Others will find their
place on my palette. Trying out new colors is always so enjoyable!
When I choose colors, I take into consideration 3 main characteristics: pigment, transparency and
lightfastness. Before I discuss them, I must emphasize one important thing - brand. A particular brand does
not matter to me. What matters is the particular color, its characteristics and that it is a professional grade.
Professional grade (also called artists quality) paints are all very good. I cant say that Winsor&Newton
(W&N) is better than Daniel Smith (DS), or Schmincke Horadam (SH) is better than another brand. They are
all excellent as long as they are professional grade.


In choosing any paint, pigment is the most important characteristic for me. Knowing which
pigment is in the paint allows you to judge whether you need another red or not because... you may already
have it. Here is the example: I have Winsor&Newton's Perylene Maroon. I go to an art shop and I see
Schmincke's Deep Red. I think "OK, I must have it, it must be beautiful". In fact, it is beautiful; I already know
it because Perylene Maroon is exactly the same color. How do I know? Because both of them have pigment
PR179, which is written on the label.
However, this method doesnt always work. For example: paints with pigment PV19 have dozens of
different hues, but its still worth checking the pigments.
Another reason why I check pigments is that I think the less pigments, the better. Single pigment =
single color. Imagine, for example, Hooker's Green by Schmincke Horadam. It contains 3 pigments: PB15:3,
PG7, PY42. That means it is a mix of 3 colors. If you would like to mix it with Sepia Brown Tone by Schmincke
Horadam, which contains 3 pigments as well (PR166, PBr7 and PBk9) - you are actually mixing 6 different
colors! Mixing 6 colors will not give you a beautiful, clear, vivid color. It would be much better to mix just
two colors, right?
So I tend to buy paints with only 1 pigment if possible. For example, I prefer Daniel Smith's Quinacri-
done Gold rather than Winsor&Newton's because DS's has one pigment, PO49, and W&N's has three
pigments PR206, PV19, PY150.
Dont get me wrong - it doesn't mean that there's something wrong in buying paints with more
than one pigment, but if there was an equivalent with fewer pigments, I woud go for it.
Speaking about the pigments, this is the code:
PW - pigment white PR - pigment red PG - pigment green
PY - pigment yellow PV - pigment violet PBr - pigment brown
PO - pigment orange PB - pigment blue PBk - pigment black

Pigment codes can be found on tube or pan labels and in color charts provided by producers.

Winsor&Newton Daniel Smith Schmincke Horadam

K r z y s z to f Kowa l s k i

There is one more reason why it's good to know something about pigments. Imagine you have Indanthrene
(or Indanthrone) Blue PB60 and Phthalo Green PG7 on your palette. You go to an art shop and you notice Prus-
sian Green by Schmincke Horadam ("I must have it, it's gorgeous" - you think). While your heart is beating
very quickly because of the new, fabulous color, you haven't noticed that you already have this color. Prus-
sian Green is a mix of Indanthrene Blue and Phthalo Green, and we know this by looking at the pigments.
So there's no need to spend money on another tube of paint.


I like transparent or semi-transparent paints. I like to work with glazes, build up shapes, forms and colors
with layers. Working this way with opaque paints is just impossible. Sometimes there are exceptions:
Naples Yellow Deep is opaque and I have to live with it. If I have a choice, I always choose transparent paints.


The more lightfast the paint, the better. You probably know Aureolin Yellow PY40. I remember a craze for
this color, but Jane Blundell's lightfast tests (whether or not a color holds up when exposed to light) show
that this color fades in a wash and goes gray and dull in mass-tone. Its definitely a color to avoid. Luckily
most paints are very lightfast so there's no need to worry. I would only avoid those which are fugitive (i.e.
fade with time and/or light exposure).

The colors
When it comes to choosing particular colors,
I always start with 6 basic colors: a warm and
a cool yellow, a warm and a cool blue, a
warm and a cool red. Then I add earth tones:
one slightly yellowish, one slightly reddish
and one dark brown. My next step is adding
colors I use frequently and which often come
in handy. The last stage is adding colors
which I just like and maybe they will come in
handy one day (I keep these in a separate
palette and in a drawer). So in general, I can
say that I dont have one and only one palette. My palette changes with time because I test new colors once
in a while. But I can distinguish some stages of completing my colors. For some people stage 2 may be the
final stage. That would be a limited palette for me. For others its not enough, so they would add more colors.
Thats just a personal preference.
STEP 1 - choosing six basic colors
STEP 2 - adding the earth tones
STEP 3 - adding useful colors, used frequently
STEP 4 - additional colors kept in a drawer, just in case

K r z y s z to f Kowa l s k i


My six basic colors are always two yellows, two blues and two reds (each warm and cool). There are many
equivalents for each of these colors in other brands (and even within the same brand). I will mention just a
few examples. This is a matter of personal choice, so its good to do your own research. Most of my colors
are Winsor&Newton (W&N), and the other brands are indicated as follows: DS stands for Daniel Smith and
SH stands for Schmincke Horadam.

Cool yellow - Winsor Yellow PY154

Yellows (other colors too, actually) can be divided into cool, medium and warm tones. Yellow tones that are
really cool are closer to green. I like to use medium yellow as my cool yellow and I leave cooler yellows for
special occasions. Winsor Yellow PY154 is a wonderful cool yellow. Another good example is Hansa Yellow
Medium PY97 (DS), which is also a medium tone, but I treat it as a cool yellow. If you like something really
cool then you should look for something like Winsor Lemon PY175 (W&N), Bismuth Yellow PY184 (W&N) or
Hansa Yellow Light PY3 (DS).

Warm yellow - Winsor Yellow Deep PY65

My favourite warm yellow has always been New Gamboge made by Winsor&Newton with a single pigment
PY153. Unfortunately, this pigment is not used anymore and the new
New Gamboge now consists of two pigments. I was forced to look
for an alternative and now my warm yellow is Winsor
Yellow Deep PY65 (W&N) (DSs Hansa Yellow Deep uses the
same pigment). There is also a beautiful Indian Yellow by
W&N, consists of two pigments PO62 and PY139.

Cool red - Quinacridone Magenta PR122

Its not really red, its a magenta. Some could say
its pink, and it is. Its always been my basic
cool red. Purple Magenta PR122 by
Schmincke Horadam is the equivalent.

Warm red - Winsor Red PR254

Pigment PR254 is a wonderful red.
DSs Pyrrol Red and SHs Scarlet Red
are the same pigment PR254. Scarlet
Lake PR188 (W&N) is warmer, more
orangy alternative. Quinacridone Red
PR209 (W&N) is more pinkish (DSs Quina-
cridone Coral uses the same pigment). They
all can work as a warm red.

The Big Brother Lily and Swallowtail

(caterpillar and adult)
41 x 31 cm (16 x 12)
K r z y s z to f Kowa l s k i

Cool blue - Winsor Blue (Green Shade) PB15

There is a little issue with blues. People see colors differently. Thats nothing new. There are those who say
that Winsor Blue (Green Shade) is warm, not cool, while the cool one is Ultramarine Blue. This seems to be
a personal point of view. For me, Winsor Blue (Green Shade) is cool. DSs Phthalo Blue (Green Shade) and SHs
Helio Cerulean are the same colors.

Warm blue - French Ultramarine PB29

This is a very popular color, a favourite of many people. Its equivalents are: DSs Ultramarine Blue and SHs
Ultramarine Finest.

cool warm cool warm cool warm

yellow yellow red red blue blue
Winsor Winsor Quinacridone Winsor Winsor Blue French
Yellow Yellow Deep Magenta Red (Green Shade) Ultramarine
PY154 PY65 PR122 PR254 PB15 PB29


On my palette I like to have one yellowish earth tone, one reddish and one really dark brown. Gold Ochre
may be a surpise as my alternative for Raw Sienna. Gold Ochre is much stronger, maybe more yellowish
and definitely brighter. I think its better to choose the brightest colors because we can always neutralize
them, subdue them a bit. Its easier than making a bright color from something dull. So my three earth
tones are:

These 9 colors listed here make up my essen-

tial palette. If I had to limit my palette, I would
limit it to these nine colors. But, as I mentio-
ned at the beginning, I dont have a limited
palette and there are many other colors I
couldnt live without. So here comes STEP 3 -
yellowish reddish dark adding useful colors which are used frequen-
earth tone earth tone brown tly.
Gold Burnt Burnt
Ochre Sienna Umber (DS)
PY42 PR101 PBr7

K r z y s z to f Kowa l s k i


I like this step because I can pick out more colors and create a wide variety of colors on my palette. I like to
think this way: I have two yellows now. Which other yellows do I need? Which of them do I use frequently?
Which are really helpful? Then I go to reds and blues and do the same. Later I consider other colors like
violets, greens and oranges. Here is the list of colors which I usually add to my 9 basic colors from previous
step. All of these make up my extended essential palette.

Winsor Quinacridone Transparent Quinacridone Winsor Permanent

Lemon Gold Orange Red Red Deep Rose
PY175 PO49 (DS) PO107 PR209 PR264 PV19

Winsor Green Indanthrene Cobalt Ultramarine Quinacridone Perylene

(Blue Shade) Blue Blue Violet Purple Maroon
PG7 PB60 PB28 PV14 PV55 (DS) PR179

Winsor Lemon is another yellow useful when mixing greens. Quinacridone Gold is very versatile. It makes
beautiful rich greens. When mixed with Winsor Blue (Green Shade) makes a beautiful Sap Green. Its a very
handy color in many cases. I prefer DSs Quinacridone Gold because W&Ns equivalent has three pigments.
Transparent Orange is not really necessary, because we can mix a wide range of oranges with yellows and
reds, but I just like to have one orange already prepared. It is very similar to SHs Translucent Orange PO71.
Quinacridone Red is more transparent and more pink than Winsor Red. DSs Quinacridone Coral is the
same color. Winsor Red Deep is a beautiful dark, blood-like red. DSs Pyrrol Crimson is the same color.
Permanent Rose is my main rose color, which I often use to paint pink flower petals. Winsor Green (Blue
Shade) is a great basic green though not good to use alone as it looks too artificial, but its a a great base for
mixing other greens. It also makes muted violets with Magenta. DSs Phthalo Green (Blue Shade) is the same
color. Indanthrene Blue is a dark blue, good for darkening other blues and sometimes other colors too. Its
also good for making greens. Cobalt Blue is a beautiful light blue, also useful when making greens. Ultra-
marine Violet is similar to Winsor Violet (Dioxazine) PV23, but its not as strong and is more lightfast.
Quinacridone Purple is a deep, dark purple which makes beautiful mixes with reds. Perylene Maroon is a
lovely dark brown-red, makes beautiful oranges and is very versatile.

K r z y s z to f Kowa l s k i

According to my list so far, my palette consists of these 21 main colors:

Winsor Winsor Winsor Quinacridone Gold Burnt Transparent

Lemon Yellow Yellow Deep Gold Ochre Sienna Orange
PY175 PY154 PY65 PO49 (DS) PY42 PR101 PO107

Winsor Quinacridone Winsor Quinacridone Permanent Perylene Burnt

Red Red Red Deep Magenta Rose Maroon Umber (DS)
PR254 PR209 PR264 PR122 PV19 PR179 PBr7

Winsor Green Indanthrene French Cobalt Winsor Blue Ultramarine Quinacridone

(Blue Shade) Blue Ultramarine Blue (Green Shade) Violet Purple
PG7 PB60 PB29 PB28 PB15 PV15z PV55 (DS)

These are the colors I use the most and I always have them on my

Orchid Tree and the Great Mormon butterfly

(chrysalis, caterpillar and two adults), fragment
41 x 31 cm (16 x 12)

K r z y s z to f Kowa l s k i


Other colors are just additional and I keep them in my drawer just in case. I dont use them frequently,
some of them I have used maybe once or twice. Some of them I used just for a particular painting,
others were helpful for creating particular colors. I will list some of them below. Depending on what
Im currently painting, I take some pans and include them to my main box. You are not limited in any
way. You can have any color you want.

Naples Yellow Raw Permanent Perylene Cobalt Turquoise

Deep Sienna Sap Green Green Light
PBr24 PY42, PR101 PG36, PY110 PBk31 PG50

Indigo Winsor Cobalt Opera Scarlet

PBk6, PV19, Violet Violet Rose Lake
PB15 PV23 PV14 PR122, BV10 PR188

I used Naples Yellow Deep to paint the butterfly wings on page 3. It can be also useful to paint a mor-
ning or evening skies if you like to paint landscapes, or the walls of ancient cities if you are more into
architecture. Raw Sienna is useful for landscapes; its much more natural than Gold Ochre. Perma-
nent Sap Green on its own is too strong, but in mixes its very beautiful. Perylene Green is a very dark
green. I tend to use it to darken my greens. I also mix it with Winsor Red Deep to make black. Cobalt
Turquoise Light is beautiful. It may be used to paint water or sometimes might be used in landscapes.
I sometimes use this color for leaves. Its a very distinct color. I also used it in some parts of my butter-
flies. Indigo is a dark blue, versatile, good for darkening other colors. Winsor Violet is a standard
violet but some tests show its not very lightfast. Cobalt Violet is a very strong, light, granulating violet.
It may be used on more than just flower petals. Opera Rose is very intense fluorescent pink. Its not
good to use on its own but can make beautiful mixes. Keep in mind that its also a fugitive color. Scar-
let Lake is a beautiful orange-red, a poppy color.

K r z y s z to f Kowa l s k i


I use both. I use two palettes. One is a big porcelain

palette that I use when I paint bigger paintigs. Its much easier
to make a big puddle of paint and to use bigger brushes. Porcela-
in/ceramic is the best surface for watercolors. You can always
clean it perfectly. I also use dinner plates, saucers, nesting
porcelain bowls - anything that is made of porcelain/ceramic is
perfect. I squeeze paint from the tubes into the wells on my
palette. Ive been frequently asked whether my paints become
dry or not. Yes, they dry out and its totally natural. Watercolors
are reusable, I just spray them with my spray bottle of water
and they are ready to use again and again.
My second palette is a metal box for 24 pans. Its much smaller than the porcelain palette and
I use it for smaller paintings, mostly for botanical paintings. I treat it as my travel palette as well. I
squeeze my selected colors from tubes into the empty pans. In my opinion tubes are more versatile - I
can use them in my big palette and in pans. When I need a big puddle of paint its much easier to make
it with paint from a tube than with paint from a pan.

Yellow Winsor Winsor Winsor Quin. Transparent Winsor Quin. Winsor Permanent Quin. Perylene
Deep Lemon Yellow Yellow Deep Gold Orange Red Red Red Deep Rose Magenta Maroon
PBr24 PY175 PY154 PY65 PO49 (DS) PO107 PR254 PR209 PR264 PV19 PR122 PR179

Gold Burnt Burnt Winsor Green Perm. Cobalt Cobalt Winsor Blue Indan. French Ultramarine Quin.
Ochre Sienna Umber (DS) (BS) Sap Green Turquoise Blue (GS) Blue Ultramarine Violet Purple
PY42 PR101 PBr7 PG7 PG36, PY110 Light PB28 PB15 PB60 PB29 PV15 PV55 (DS)

K r z y s z to f Kowa l s k i

In conclusion, I would like to thank you for taking your time to read this. Please, remember
that color choices are yours to make. Every color in our watercolor palettes is a matter of
personal preference.
I wrote this text in order to answer frequently asked question about the colors on my palette.
I hope this answer is satisfying :)

Thank you once again and good luck with your journey through the jungle of colors! :)

Krzysztof Kowalski