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Becoming watercolorist, CHAPTER 3 - Palette

Journal Entry: Tue Jan 30, 2018, 5:24 AM

Winter sleeping time...

Two weeks ago, I started a new series of journal articles called "Becoming watercolorist". You can also still find a POLL where I am trying to figure out the most common troubles people have when trying out watercolor technique. I'd be delighted if you contributed with your own experience :)

I try to begin these tutorials with a personal intro, but there is not much to write about this week. I sleep all the time and draw much less than I do during summer. I tried to feel guilty about not getting done as many things but than I thought of myself as a bear. Like a bear, I need my winter sleep to be productive throughout the rest of the year. So if you are wondering what I am doing right now, I am probably sleeping.

I am still slowly working on a series of animal portraits. I painted a couple of birds so far, using Schmincke watercolor and metalic golden watercolor by Finetech. I also made fried cakes with a sweet raspberry foam on them. For a moment I was wondering what could I paint with the pink foam :)

This week I prepared an article about watercolor palette and how to prepare it. I have written quite long article about paints and watercolor supplies in the past, you can find more in-depth information there. This article links to the previous one, that can be found HERE

Lala by jane-beata


An experienced watercolorist knows their palette very well. He or she takes a good care of it, picks out color carefully and often mix them and experiments with them. It is no fun for them to use one brand or basic colors all the time. Those more experienced ones even make their own palettes for some projects

It doesn't matter if you chose to purchase tubes or pans, when you want to get serious about watercolor, good preparation is necessary if you want to avoid surprises. 


Pan watercolor sets are a very good choice for a beginner. To prepare a palette when you are using a set with watercolor pans, is very easy. All you need to do before painting is to sprinkle a bit of water on top of each pan. Let it sit there for a moment and dissolve some of the pigment.

Paleta 1 u by jane-beata

Paleta 8 u by jane-beata


Watercolor paints packaged in tubes are good choice for more advanced painters but beginners might benefit from the advanced options right from the start as well. A quality paint straight from the tube is more saturated and intense than a pan paint could be. You can also use it for painting larger paintings and washes, which could be very annoying with pans. 

There are two ways of preparing your palette. If you are working large, prepare fresh paint straight into a bigger cup by dissolving it in clean water. Second way allows you to basically make pans out of your tube watercolor. This is helpful if you are painting outside or for travelling, or even if you don't like long preparations and want to start painting right away.

What you need is an empty palette, preferably plastic. If you are a bit like me and hate the dust on top of your palette,  you might want to get one that can be closed once you are finished painting. Fill the palette with tube paints of your choice and let it dry for at least 24-48 hours. You are now a proud owner of a custom palette of your own making.

TIP - customize your palette according to what you use it for. It's good to chose your own colors for a skin tone palette, for example. I use one with skin tones, one for blue and similar cold colors I need and the third one are my favorite warm colors. I own a special third one with Daniel Smith paints that contain granulation medium.

Paleta 18 u by jane-beata


Whether you are using pans or tubes, make a sample sheet of your colors. When paints are dry, their looks are usually a very bad indicator of what the color actually looks like on paper, diluted with water. Sample sheet will give you proper reference.

Begin with diluting your paint with just a few drops of water. Take the most saturated paint possible on your paintbrush and begin with painting a sample mark.

Paleta 19 u by jane-beata
Continue with pulling the paint down on the paper, diluting it with more and more water. At the end of the mark you should be painting with almost pure water. 

What's in front of you now is a whole range of your color tone. At the top, there is the most saturated tone, at the bottom the most diluted tone. In the middle there is a whole range of possibilities for your to paint with. 

It is useful to realize this range to be aware of all the options that each paint / color provides. When you want your watercolor to be transparent, full of light and bright, you want to use the most diluted paint for the most part of your painting, details are usually painted in more saturated tone. 

Paleta 22 u by jane-beata

  • Working habits -  I make my palettes for some time now and I absolutely love it, I combine more than a few brands and pick the ones I love the most. For example, this is a smaller skin tone palette I made and a matching sample sheet. It mostly contains Schmincke, Winsor & Newton and Daniel Smith paints.
Paleta 24 u by jane-beata

Paleta 29 u by jane-beata

Besides this one, I made sample sheets for every palette I own. I also use different kinds of paper, cotton paper usually gets a bit lighter tones than more common student paper (celullose), so I recommend to make a testing sheet for each paper that you use. 

Paleta 36 u by jane-beata

Paleta 32 u by jane-beata

Paleta 35 u by jane-beata

Paleta 38 u by jane-beata

Thank you for reading, next article will be about WET ON WET technique and will be available next week, Tuesday 5th of February :heart:

Chapter 4, WET ON WET  - published on Tuesday, 13.2.2018, as part of Traditional art week of :iconprojecteducate:

Wet On Wet Preview by jane-beata

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Group that focuses on displaying traditional artworks along with resources and tutorials of it's creation with an intention to inspire and encourage creative process.

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Sep 27, 2012


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Add a Comment:
AquaVarin Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2019  Hobbyist General Artist
Noticed people submitting photos and digital pieces to the group:/
jane-beata Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2019  Professional Traditional Artist
Sadly I dont really have time to review it anymore, so I have to leave up to their judgment. I will think about stopping automatic approvals and add the manual approal, which will prevent this from happening, but will cost me time and people will have to wait for their work to be featured in the group for several days.
PilloTheStar Featured By Owner Jan 23, 2019  Professional General Artist
simonpark81 Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2018  Professional Traditional Artist
the only folder is named 2017.... i guess y'all will make another when its full but that left me confused for a moment :giggle:
jane-beata Featured By Owner Mar 23, 2018  Professional Traditional Artist
I am sorry and fixed it, now you should be able to submit twice every week into 2018 folder :)
simonpark81 Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2018  Professional Traditional Artist
thanks my friend! have tried but it only let me submit one....
still, thats something :nod:
jane-beata Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2018  Professional Traditional Artist
it really is set on two. Are you sure you didnt submit anything during past 7 days?
(1 Reply)
Kahniable Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank  you for accepting me, I cannot wait to join this wonderful gallery with some of my own works. These users here have an amazing eye for color, composition, and emotion in their pieces. I'm already inspired!
jane-beata Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2017  Professional Traditional Artist
Thanks for joining us :)
Kahniable Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2017  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I'm glad to be accepted. I haven't been able to choose which piece to submit to the group, I try and then I get inspired >.< It's a great group. I'm so glad I joined.
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