Watercolor Paints – My Basic Color Palette for Watercolor Paper Jewelry & Painting

color chart2

I receive many questions regarding the colors that I use for my watercolor paper jewelry and watercolor painting. In this article I will discuss the basic color palette that I employ for both jewelry and paintings.

Over the many years that I have been painting, my palette has evolved, and the amount individual tubes of colors that I use has become smaller and smaller. Even though I have always understood the need for mixing colors rather than using paints straight out of their tubes, in my early days of serious painting (early 1970’s), I would purchase almost every tube of color available. But over time I eliminated colors, and my palette gradually evolved into a spectrum of primary colors that I mix to achieve what seems to be an unlimited range of color possibilities. Gradually eliminating all secondary and tertiary tube colors, I relied exclusively on mixing primary colors to achieve all the colors that you see in my paintings and jewelry. Even most of my browns and blacks are mixed from primary colors, and, yes, there can be many rich variations on black!

Successful color mixing requires more than just using the three primary colors: Red, Yellow & Blue. Although using just the three primary colors that are as close as possible to the the spectrum primaries -in theory- should work, it does not in a practical sense. To create my watercolor painting and jewelry, I use Winsor & Newton paints exclusively, and I consider Winsor Red, Winsor Yellow and Cobalt Blue to be very close to spectrum colors. If I use these alone, however, they are not enough for me to mix all the colors that I need. By employing a variety of Reds, Yellows and Blues, l can mix any color seen in nature. Technological advancements in the formulation of modern pigments has made  many variations on primary colors available to artists.

For example, Red is a primary color, and the color red cannot be mixed by combining two different colors. What red does one purchase to use in color mixing?  There are a few reds available with very different color properties.  I recommend purchasing a range of reds. The different color properties of the reds available as tubed pigments result in great flexibility in color mixing.

The same principle that applies to red is also true for Blue. As a primary color, I keep a variety of blues on my palette – all with uniquely different color properties. The same approach also applies to Yellow, and the yellows that I most often use are Winsor Yellow and Aureolin Yellow.

color chart1

A good example of the advantages in using different blues can be seen in mixing greens. The color chart above indicates a small range of greens possible just by mixing Winsor Yellow with different blues.

The following color chart shows the colors that I use most frequently.

color chart2

1. Winsor Yellow   2. Aureolin Yellow   3. Winsor Red   4. Permanent Rose

5. Scarlet Lake     6. Alizarin Crimson    7. Quinacridone Magenta

8. Winsor Blue    9. Cobalt Blue    10. French Ultramarine Blue

11. Cerulean Blue    12. Antwerp Blue   13. Quinacridone Gold

14. Burnt Sienna    15. Brown Madder

16. Mixed Green: Winsor Yellow + Cobalt Blue

17. Mixed Green: Winsor Yellow + Antwerp Blue

18. Neutral Tint   19. Mixed Gray: Antwerp Blue + Brown Madder


The greens that you see in the color chart are mixed greens.  I never use premixed, tube greens. They are almost always too “chemical looking” for my work. #16 on the chart represents a combination of  Winsor Yellow + Cobalt Blue, and #17 results from a combination of Winsor Yellow + Antwerp Blue.

I also use primary colors to mix most of my browns and grays, and, additionally, I do use Burnt Sienna and Brown Madder in my palette of colors. For gray, I use Neutral Tint and Paynes Gray, but also rely on mixing for most grays. In the chart above, #19 is a Mixed Gray resulting from Antwerp Blue + Brown Madder. Another very useful color you might want to add to your palette is Quinacridone Gold.

In  summary, although my primary palette consists of Red, Yellow and Blue,  each individual primary color is represented by a range of variations.

More coming …

I will be posting a series of articles about color mixing and working with watercolors as they apply to the creation of both jewelry and painting.


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More You Tube videos you might like:

Watercolor Paper Bracelet – Part 1
Watercolor Paper Bracelet – Part 2

The jewelry objects that you see created in these videos are original designs by Ross Barbera. These designs may be copied for your personal use only, and may not be offered for sale or exhibition without written permission from Ross Barbera.

©2013 Ross Barbera Realisticart, Inc.

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9 Responses to Watercolor Paints – My Basic Color Palette for Watercolor Paper Jewelry & Painting

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  2. Janet Warren says:

    I would like to purchase a water applicator bottle like the one you used in your YouTube tutorials. Do you know who makes them or where I can purchase one? I just found you on YouTube and am in love with your art. Thanks for the generosity in sharing your techniques. Can’t wait to paint!

  3. Elizabeth Kaplan says:

    Huge thank you. :-)

    • Ross Barbera says:

      Hi Elizabeth – You’re welcome!
      Best wishes,

  4. Alina Padilla says:

    Awesome! I’ve been making paper beads and experimenting with my watercolors to create different designs and patterns on my paper. This was very helpful information!

    • Ross Barbera says:

      Hi Alina,

      Thanks for your comment! I was hoping that a list would help people get started with a working collection of useful colors.

      Best wishes!
      -Ross Barbera

  5. Dag Ross,

    Het is een feest van her-kenning op de wijze waarop je je passie-kleuren en technieken
    aan iedereen die het wil uitdeelt

    Bedankt daarvoor

    • Ross Barbera says:

      Hallo Syta,
      Heel erg bedankt voor uw zeer vriendelijke reactie. Mijn excuses als deze vertaling is niet goed. Ik wil gewoon dat je weet dat ik je vriendelijkheid waarderen.

      Met vriendelijke groet,
      -Ross Barbera

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