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  • Steve Padden (Portable Painter Designer & Founder)

Just Six Colors Can Be Plenty!

Updated: Dec 9, 2020

When we first experimented with watercolors as children, it’s likely that the palette below from the 1960’s might have looked very attractive. Yet in practice, the sheer number of colors that are available can be completely overwhelming. Experienced watercolorists often limit their color choices as a way to better understand the medium. It can also be easier to create a harmonious painting when using a smaller range of colors.

This is where the benefits of a tiny palette (otherwise known as a “limited palette”) become clear: As you can see in the swatching chart above, it’s possible to mix a complete color wheel from just six colors. The chart is by Jane Blundell, a prolific artist and writer from Australia. Her blog is one of the most authoritative sources of information, on both color theory and hands-on results with all the major brands of pigments. Jane explains that getting the most out of a limited palette requires learning how to blend colors. So plenty of mixing space is vital and deep mixing wells are particularly useful for washes. It takes some experimentation and practice, but the process can teach volumes about color: warm and cool shades of primaries, secondaries and tertiaries and how they interact with each other.

Besides the six-color selection shown here, Jane’s blog explores a wide range of limited palette strategies; from three to eight colors. We highly recommend it. The resources section of our website has links to several of Jane's posts:

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