A 16 colour palette selection to help you paint all about everything

A lot of people have asked me what are the colours that I chose to include in my basic colour palette. Here is a answer to this controversial question…

My opinion is that a 12 colour palette setup is not enough if someone doesn’t want to include in these colours the two most common phthalos. The Phthalo blue and the Phthalo green. These two are great mixing colours but they are also extremely strong, staining and hard to control. They are in other words the best way to stain, dirty up and mess up your paletter particularly your portable one.
Not to mention that Phthalos have a characteristic brightness, that it is visible to whatever hue you mix with these two colours. These are two colours that you either going to love them or dislike them completely. There is no middle ground on that.

I belong to that group of watercolourists that don’t like the phthalos and as a consequence a 12 or less colours palette would be impossible to work for me. As I consider myself a colourist and not a tonalist, my colour selection has to have colours that are mixing well with each other, they are not particularly staining and they can give me full gamut mixing options.

So after a lot of study I ended up with a 16 colour palette selection that is suitable for painting almost everything. Landscapes, botanicals, portraits, animals and everything in between.

Here is the list of the colours with the reasons why I selected them for my palette:

16 Colour Palette selection

1. Lemon Yellow ( PY184):
Because I like cool yellows. At the end of the day you can make always a cool yellow warmer with the proper mixing but never a warm yellow cooler.


2. Transparent Yellow Ochre ( PY 42): A great mixing colour nice for landscapes and urban sketches but perfect for portraits and animal paintings too.

3.Raw Umber (PBr7): Raw Umber is one of the best neautralizer. It can give some great grays when is mixed with blues but it can also mute the very bright colours.

4.  Burnt Umber ( PBr7): A nice cool brown for mixing strong darks or for use in botanicals and landscapes.

5. Sepia: The ultimate darkener mixed with blues it gives great dark/blacks.

I don’t think that convenience greens are so versatile as monopigmented ones, with the condition of course that someone gets the right ones. So here is my selection of greens.

6. Green Gold (PY129): because it is the best pigment for mixing greens. It is actually officially categorized as a yellow but it is so greenish in its hue that I consider it more of a green than of a yellow.

7. Viridian (PG18): The ultimate cool green that when it is mixed with yellows, blues and earths gives all kind of green hues.


8. First goes the Prussian blue that is the perfect match for Viridian. Not that staining and so bright as Phthalo blue it is warm and great for mixing greens but also warm blue hues.

9. Utramarine in all its variations OR Smalt. Another warm-ish blue, ( not that warm as Prussian) with great mixing characteristics.

10. Cobalt Blue. Fantastic for creating shadows on portraits or cooling any hue. It gives you beautiful blue skies too.

11. Indigo. That is the ultimate blue darkener.

Red rose/ pinks

12. Lets start with a pure warm red a lightfast and more permanent alternative of the fugitive original Alizarin Crimson ( the notorious PR83) I use the PR264 that is a Pyrrole Red because I like its strength and brightness.

13. Magenta (PV19): I prefer those that are made by PV19 because I like Quinacridones’ transparency brightness and light fastness.

14. Q. Rose ( PV19): another PV 19. Great for botanical and floral paintings.

15. Cobalt Violet ( PV14): because it is very useful for mixing skin tones.

16. and finally Pyrrole Orange. PO71, or PO73 or any of that group.

So to conclude. In this colour selection you can see two pyrroles, two cobals and two quinacridones.

It has four earth colours ( one of them as neutralizer and one as a darkener), four blues ( one of them as darkener), one primary yellow, two greens, two pink/ roses  one cool red, one warm red and one warm orange.

And you can paint with that selection all about everything as you can see on the mixing swatch below.

16 Colour Palette Selection Mixing Chart
16 Colour Palette Selection Mixing Chart

You can download the mixing swatches scan in HR and in a .zip file from HERE.

If you have any questions about this 16 colour palette selection don’t hesitate to ask them on the comments below.
The comments are moderated in advance to avoid spamming but never censored. So feel free to say your opinion and ask whatever you want.

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