Creating a watercolor palette is a highly personal thing. We all have different colors we like and different colors that we use more than others. However, there are a few basic colors that can be mixed to make almost any color.
All color explinations and pictures are from artist Jane Blundell. She writes extensively on choosing colors and watercolor technique, her site is definitely worth checking out.
I am linking to Daniel Smith watercolors to keep consistentcy but feel free to use any brand you like or combine brands to get the exact shades you love.
This is by no means a hard and fast rule for what you need to paint with but a general collection many watercolorists keep as a foundation for their collection of paints. It keeps color choices limited and can always be returned to when brushing up on basics or you can only bring along a few colors.
Colors are divided into warm and cool. We need both types to create balance.
Warm and cool colors are a spectrum within each hue. Hue is a color or shade.
Warm colors are made with orange, red, and yellow. They are said to evoke feelings of heat and sunlight.
Cool colors are colors like blue, green, and gray known for having a calm sense about them.
Looking at the color wheel, warm colors are on one side, cool on the other. Where the colors meet and mix they form hybrids. Hybrid colors can be cool or warm depending on how they are mixed. For example, a bright lime green is considered warm because it has a yellow base while Kelly green tends towards the cool side with blue mixed in it.
Cool Yellows are a brighter yellow like lemon yellow. Cool yellows tend to make green-ish colors when mixed.
Hansa Yellow Medium
Other names for cool yellows:
Cadmium yellow Light
Nickel Azo Yellow
Warm Yellows tend to look more orange.
Other warm yellows:
Hansa Yellow Deep
Cool Red is more purple than yellow.
Other cool reds:
Cadmium red medium
Warm Red leans towards orange-red.
Other Warm Reds:
Transparent pyrrol orange
Cadmium Red Scarlet
Cool Blue has a green bias.
Other cool blues:
Warm Blue appear more purple.
Other warm blues:
Green comes in blue shades and yellow shades because that's how you make green! It is a rather neutral color and becomes warm or cool based on what you mix it with.
Earth Colors round put a palette and are colors you see in nature.
Burnt Sienna & Yellow Ochre
Other Earth Colors:
Do you have a basic watercolor palette? What colors have you included?