I love Jeanne Dobie’s book Making Color Sing, which helps me think about color in new ways and has taught me lots of mind-bending lessons about using color effectively in watercolor. She shares her most commonly used palette colors in the book, so let’s dive into this color expert’s colors!
Jeanne Dobie’s Palette
According to Making Color Sing, Dobie divides her palette into different sections depending on their properties.
- Rose Madder
- Alizarin Crimson
- Winsor Blue
- Winsor Green
- Cadmium Yellow
- Cadmium Orange
- Cadmium Red
- Raw Sienna
- Burnt Sienna
- Light Red
- Indian Red
- French Ultramarine
This is an interesting method of organizing and it shows how much Dobie thinks about not only the hue, but the properties of her paints and how that changes their purpose. There are only 15 colors here but they span every conceivable property!
Here’s a version of a similar palette I would make with colors I already have.
- Winsor Yellow (PY154) in place of Aureolin
- Red Rose Deep (PV19) in place of Rose Madder (is this high staining? consider bumping to next category)
- Cobalt Blue (PB28) – same
- Viridian (PG18) – same
- Alizarin Crimson Quinacridone (PV19) in place of genuine Alizarin Crimson
- Winsor Blue (PB15:3) – same
- Winsor Green Yellow Shade (PG36) – also a Winsor Green, but I shifted from PG7 to PG36 to make it more distinct from Viridian
Skipping this category since I don’t use opaque colors much, and cadmiums at all. In order to fill in the red/orange hues, I might want to add Scarlet Lake (PR188) and Transparent Orange (PO71) to the Transparent categories above.
- MANS in place of Raw Sienna
- Transparent Red Oxide (PR101) in place of Burnt Sienna
- Deep Scarlet in place of Light Red (though it’s not granulating…)
- Perylene Violet in place of Indian Red
- French Ultramarine – same
My “Dobie-inspired” palette is certainly usable, and covers all my bases pretty well! The color I’d be most eager to add is Indanthrone Blue. To me, it is essential in making dark values. Jeanne Dobie makes striking blacks with Winsor Green and Alizarin Crimson, but I find it to get dark darks from these colors from dry paint.
Dobie encourages the artist to choose their own colors and not copy hers, so I really didn’t need to do this. But the purpose of this series isn’t to simply ape other artists, but to open my mind to different ways of organizing a palette, and to explore the sorts of trade-offs that other artists consider in their palette-building. I find it interesting to stack my choices against other artists’ because it reminds me that none of my colors are sacred or indispensible, and that different people find different things important.