Welcome back to my Artist Palette Profile series, where I try to find the palette an artist actually uses, and try to come up with a similar set of colors using the ones I own (my “library” of paints, some of which are on my current palette and others in the back catalogue). Today, I’ll be coming up with my own version of Jane Blundell’s Ultimate Mixing Palette: a set of 14 colors designed to mix easily so that the colors you want to make for landscapes, portraits, and botanical work can be mixed with only two colors in most cases.
Jane Blundell is an Australian artist whose website contains a huge wealth of information about color, pigment, and palette-building, included swatches from hundreds of paints. Her website was the first place I learned about pigments and I’ve been hugely influenced by her palette choices. So how does my current palette compare?
|Slot||JB Recommends (All Daniel Smith)||Some Alternatives|
|Buff||Buff Titanium (PW6:1)||light value Raw Sienna (for buff color); white gouache (for pastels); Potter’s Pink (for granulating pastels)|
|Yellow||Hansa Yellow Medium (PY97)||Pure Yellow (PY154), Brilliant Hansa Yellow (PY74)|
|Gold||Quinacridone Gold (PO49, RIP)||Rich Green Gold (PY129), earth yellow, or DIY from Nickel Azo Yellow (PY150) + earth orange|
|Scarlet||Pyrrol Scarlet (PR255)||Scarlet Lake (PR188), Cadmium Red (PR108), Deep Scarlet (PR175), Transparent Orange (PO71), Pyrrol Orange (PO73)|
|Crimson||Pyrrol Crimson (PR264)||Alizarin Crimson Quinacridone (PV19)|
|Magenta||Quinacridone Rose (PV19)||Quin Magenta (PR122), Magenta (PV42), Quin Fuchsia (PR202)|
|Violet Blue||Ultramarine Blue (PB29)||Indanthrone Blue (PB60), Cobalt Blue (PB28), Ultramarine Violet (PV15)|
|Granulating Middle Blue||Cerulean Blue Chromium (PB36)||Cobalt Blue (PB28), Cobalt Turquoise (PG50)|
|Cyan||Phthalo Blue Green Shade (PB15:3)||Prussian Blue (PB27), Phthalo Blue Red Shade (PB15:1)|
|Green||Phthalo Green Blue Shade (PG7)||Phthalo Green Yellow Shade (PG36), Viridian (PG18)|
|Earth Yellow||Goethite (PY43)||Monte Amiata Natural Sienna (PBr7), Raw Sienna, Yellow Ochre|
|Earth Orange||Burnt Sienna (PBr7)||Transparent Red Oxide (PR101), Quinacridone Burnt Orange (PO48)|
|Earth Red||Indian Red (PR101)||Violet Iron Oxide (PR101), Perylene Violet (PV29), Perylene Maroon (PR179), Imidazolone Brown (PBr25)|
|Cool Brown||Raw Umber (PBr7)||Van Dyke Brown|
Jane Blundell’s Actual Palette
In Jane Blundell’s post Building Your Palette of Colors, she shows her own palette (at least as of the last update in May 2019), which is quite similar to the Ultimate Mixing Palette with a few tweaks and add-ons. What’s most interesting to me is the way it’s laid out. She has her twenty core colors laid out in a grid with the columns being basic color families (yellows, reds, blues, greens, neutrals), and the rows being color themes (cool, warm, earth, and dark). She also has four “extras” that don’t fit the theme. Here are hers:
|Cool||Hansa Yellow Medium||Quinacridone Rose||Phthalo Blue RS||Phthalo Green BS||Buff Titanium|
|Warm||Quinacridone Gold||Transparent Pyrrol Orange||Ultramarine||Undersea Green||Burnt Sienna|
|Earth||Goethite||Indian Red||Cerulean Blue Chromium||Sap Green||Burnt Umber|
|Dark||Raw Umber||Pyrrol Crimson||Indanthrone Blue||Perylene Green||Jane’s Gray|
Extras: Rich Green Gold, Cobalt Turquoise, Transparent Red Oxide, Moonglow
This set includes the mixing palette, with the Phthalo Blue Green Shade swapped for Red Shade and the Pyrrol Scarlet swapped for Transparent Pyrrol Orange (so they are still a complementary pair). She explains that PBGS and Pyrrol Scarlet are probably more useful in more situations, but the more muted shades work better for her in her landscapes.
Additionally, because there are 24 slots, she has added ten additional colors: two mixed greens (Undersea Green and Sap Green); a green gold (Rich Green Gold); a dark green (Perylene Green); a turquoise (Cobalt Turquoise); a dark blue (Indanthrone Blue); another brown (Burnt Umber); a granulating Burnt Sienna equivalent (Transparent Red Oxide); a two mixed grays (Moonglow and her own Jane’s Gray, made from Burnt Sienna + Ultramarine).
Here’s my version with my colors. For now, I won’t do any “extras,” we’ll see where we are the end.
|Cool||MI Green Gold (PY150)||DV Red Rose Deep (PV19)||WN Winsor Blue (PB15:3)||DV Phthalo Green (PG7)||DV – Titan Buff (PW6:1)|
|Warm||WN Winsor Yellow (PY154)||DS Transparent Pyrrol Orange (PO71)||HO Ultramarine Deep (PB29)||WN Winsor Green YS (PG36)||DS Transparent Red Oxide (PR101)|
|Earth||DS Monte Amiata Natural Sienna (PBr7)||DS Perylene Violet (PV29)||DV Cerulean Blue Genuine (PB35)||DS Serpentine Genuine||DS Transparent Brown Oxide (PR101)|
|Dark||DS Van Dyke Brown (PBr7)||DV Alizarin Crimson Quinacridone (PV19)||DS Indanthrone Blue (PB60)||WN Perylene Green (PBk31)||MMB Neutral Tint (PBk26)|
Okay, that got the obvious colors out of the way, can I do this exercise again with other colors in my library?
|Cool||WN – Winsor Lemon (PY175)||HO – Quin Magenta (PR122)||WN – Phthalo Turquoise (PB16)||WN – Viridian (PG18)||HO Titanium White Gouache|
|Warm||HO – Isoindolinone Yellow Deep (PY110)||DS – Quin Coral (PR209)||DS – Phthalo Blue Red Shade (PB15:1)||DV – Burnt Sienna Deep (PR101)|
|Earth||Holbein – Yellow Ochre (PY42)||MMB – Potter’s Pink (PR233)||DV – Cobalt Blue (PB28)||SH – Cobalt Turquoise (PG50)|
|Dark||DS – Bordeaux (PV32)||DV Prussian Blue (PB27)|
Answer: no! They didn’t all fit in the right slots. I guess I should have expected that. Still, I’m surprised by how much ground I covered with only leftovers! Leftover doesn’t necessarily to mean worse.
The really interesting part about Palette B is that I feel like it works really well together.
For example, there’s my entire Sunset Sky primary trio of Lemon Yellow, Quin Magenta, and Phthalo Blue (Red Shade). Cobalt Blue is also a classic sky color, and Yellow Ochre is a great sky color too because it doesn’t go green as readily as a plain yellow (though MANS from the first palette might be even better in that regard). I’ve also used Prussian Blue, Cobalt Turquoise, and Bordeaux in dark night skies! And white gouache is perfect for skies. This is shaping up to be a “sky palette.”
Is Palette B better than Palette A??
This was a fun an enlightening exercise! Even though Jane Blundell doesn’t necessarily recommend this system for anyone else (she simply described how she uses it), I found it really helpful. Any system for limiting or organizing your palette is going to be a bit arbitrary, but I really liked the organization of this and its emphasis on primary trios and greens. It suits the way I like to choose limited palettes of 3-5 paints for each painting. If I had to come up with a formula for a limited palette for a given painting, I would say the most typically useful is usually a primary trio, a green, and a neutral. Any row in the grid provides a ready-made limited palette, or you can mix-and-match.
And while I didn’t set out to make a whole second palette, I ended up really liking Palette B! I thought it would be a motley crew of leftovers, but it turned out to have shocking synergy. In a new context without some of my usual paints, some of my joy-sparking but less-used colors took on new interest and usefulness.