There’s an old adage that you should be able to cut down to six colors if you had to. You know what? There’s no way I can. I need seven.
So I’m going to break the rules and cut down to a seven color watercolor palette. What’s in my watercolor palette? Keep reading and I’ll not only explain my colors; I’ll also explain my reasoning.
Now, if your subjects are different than mine, you’re going to use different colors. That’s just how it is. For instance, if you like painting flowers or birds, you’re not going to obsess over your human model’s skin and hair coloring. Likewise, if you’re painting deserts, you’re going to have desert colors.
Nobody is right or wrong. Colors depend on your subject. And also your style.
Watercolor palette for this pinup artist
I paint fantasy pinups. My main model is a blonde. My secondary model is a brunette.
I love painting them both. I just happen to paint Allie a lot more than Roxy since I see Allie a lot more.
So now let’s do colors. I wrote an article on how I paint skin colors awhile back. I use Titanium White and Burnt Sienna as my primary two colors. For my secondary two colors, I use Hansa Yellow Medium and Perylene Red. All Daniel Smith. That’s because Daniel Smith is what I’m used to. I also like how big and vibrant that brand’s colors are.
That’s four colors right there. I need all four of them for skin colors alone.
If you look closely at your model’s skin, it’s not one color. You have everything from shading to bruises/scars to veins to birthmarks to moles, and everything else. But, I don’t go into super detail. I’m aiming more for beauty. I’m a pinup artist after all, not a super duper realist.
That shade of yellow also doubles as Allie’s hair color.
Speaking of hair, Roxy’s a brunette. I won’t include a brown in my seven color watercolor palette, but more on that in a bit.
I paint a lot of mermaids, so I’ll need some kind of underwater blue. My favorite blue I’ve found for water so far? French Ultramarine. I absolutely love that color!
I use that color both for water and also for eye color. For blue eyes, it’s the best.
That’s now five. Two more to go.
Yes, you can get a green from mixing yellow and blue. But, I really like Hooker’s Green. It looks fabulous for green eyes when slightly watered down. It also makes brown when mixed 50/50 with Perylene Red. I use that brown for Roxy’s hair. She’s got gorgeous long dark brown hair in real life. I hope she keeps her hair long forever. I have a thing for long hair.
And for number seven – Rose of Ultramarine. Yes, you can get a purple from mixing blue and red. But, this is a special purple. A more rose purple, except it looks like something you’ll see underwater.
For black, you can make a real nice watercolor black with yellow, blue, and red. You use a pinch of yellow with a healthy mix of both blue and red, and you’ll end up with a deep black. It’s like a purple black. Real nice looking color.
If I had more colors to work with
I use gold in most of my paintings. Long story short, I bought gold watercolor ground, having no idea what watercolor ground was at the time. So here I am with this big jar of gold. So I decided, I needed to use it.
Then and there, I decided that Allie’s characters will always get a double golden bracelet on her left arm and Roxy will get a gold necklace. In real life, Roxy wears a lot more jewelry. But I wanted to use that gold, so that’s what I decided I’d do.
When I get a third model, I’ll probably give her gold somewhere else. Like maybe a gold headband or golden rings. I haven’t decided yet. Whatever it is, it will have to fit her personality. But that’s in the future.
I’d also get a real black. I hate mixing black. It’s actually hard to replicate. Although yes, that black I mix is nice, it’s never the same twice.
I don’t need a pink since I get my nipple pink from watering down the Perylene Red. That’s one of the magics with watercolors. Water itself actually changes the colors.
What would you use?
If you had an evil witch who broke into your home and had a wand to your head, and said that she’d turn you into frog if you didn’t get rid of everything but seven colors, which seven would you cut down to? And, could you do six? I’d really, really have a problem cutting down to six. But since she has a wand to my head, goodbye Rose of Ultramarine.