Artists’ Palette Profiles: John Muir Laws

John Muir Laws wrote the book on nature journaling, literally; I really enjoyed The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling. While I’m not sure what colors Laws is actually using these days, I thought I’d take a look at the colors he suggests in his book.

John Muir Laws’ Suggested Colors

SlotJML HasSome Alternatives
Light YellowHansa Yellow Light (PY3)Lemon Yellow (PY175), Cadmium Yellow Lemon (PY35)
Medium YellowHansa Yellow Medium (PY97)Pure Yellow (PY154), Brilliant Hansa Yellow (PY74), Cadmium Yellow (PY35)
Deep YellowNew Gamboge (PY110 + PY97)Isoindolinone Yellow Deep (PY110), Hansa Yellow Deep (PY65)
GoldQuinacridone Gold (PO49)Rich Green Gold (PY129); any deep yellow or earth yellow; DIY from Nickel Azo Yellow (PY150) + earth orange
OrangePermanent Orange (PO62)Transparent Pyrrol Orange (PO71), Pyrrol Orange (PO73)
Bright SiennaQuinacridone Sienna (PR209 + PY150 + PO48)Earth orange; a scarlet such as Pyrrol Scarlet or Scarlet Lake; DIY from Quin Gold + Quinacridone Coral (PR209)
RedPyrrol Red (PR254)Perylene Red, Alizarin Crimson hue
PinkQuinacridone Pink (PV42)Quinacridone Rose (PV19), Quinacridone Magenta (PR122)
PurpleDioxazine Violet (PV23)Imperial Violet, Rose of Ultramarine, Ultramarine Violet, Quin Violet, Perylene Violet
Dark BlueIndanthrone Blue (PB60)Indigo, WN Payne’s Gray, Ultramarine Blue (PB29)
Mid BlueCobalt Blue (PB28)Phthalo Blue Red Shade (PB15:1), Cerulean Blue (PB35),Ultramarine Blue (esp. green shade)
Light BlueManganese Blue Hue (PB15)Cobalt Turquoise (PG50), Cerulean Blue (PB35), your cyan (next row)
CyanPhthalo Blue Green Shade (PB15:3)Phthalo Blue Red Shade (PB15:1), Prussian Blue (PB27)
Yellow-GreenPhthalo Yellow Green (PG36, PY3)DIY from any yellow + Phthalo Green Yellow Shade (PG36) or Phthalo Green Blue Shade (PG7)
Green GoldRich Green Gold (PY129)Quin Gold
Granulating GreenSerpentine GenuineOther granulating greens include Viridian (PG18) – more blue; Chromium Oxide Green (PG17) – more muted; other DS Primateks including Jadeite and Green Apatite. You could also mix a granulating green by adding a Phthalo Green to a granulating earth tone such as yellow ochre, raw or burnt sienna. Kim Crick’s recommendation to mix up a Serpentine clone is Phthalo Green (PG7) + Magnesium Brown (PY119) or Lunar Earth (PBr11).
Muted GreenChromium Oxide Green (PG17)Any of the above would work here too. FWIW, I personally find Chromium Oxide Green more useful than Serpentine. You could also try muted green mixes such as Sap Green.
Mixing GreenHooker’s Green (PG7, PY150, PO48)Choose any mixed green that resembles your natural landscape, or DIY from Phthalo Green + Quin Gold or any other yellow/earth yellow.
Gray-GreenUndersea Green (PB29, PY150, PO48)Olive Green, or DIY mix from Ultramarine + Quin Gold
Dark Shadow GreenPerylene Green (PBk31)Sennelier Forest Green, Qor Hooker’s Green, DS Jadeite, or DIY mix from dark blue + gold
BuffBuff Titanium (PW6:1)I like light value Raw Sienna for a buff color or Potter’s Pink to mix granulating pastels
Raw SiennaMonte Amiata Natural Sienna (PBr7)Raw Sienna, Yellow Ochre, Quin Gold
Earth OrangeItalian Burnt Sienna (PBr7)Burnt Sienna (PBr7), Transparent Red Oxide (PR101), Quin Burnt Orange (PO48)
BrownBurnt Umber (PBr7)Transparent Brown Oxide (PR101)
Dark/Cool BrownRaw Umber (PBr7)Van Dyck Brown
Warm GraysBloodstone Genuine, Black Tourmaline GenuineFrench Gray, DIY palette mix
Shadow GrayShadow VioletDS Moonglow, DIY palette mix
Cool GrayPayne’s GrayIndigo, DIY mix (blue + black)
BlackNeutral Tintany black

As I examine these colors, I noticed that I tend to gravitate toward single-pigment brights and mixers, whereas Laws suggests colors that are closer to the more muted nature colors you’d actually want to use on the page. Laws is designing a palette for use in the field, where you might not have the time or space to be mixing a lot of colors. I’m sure that as I do more nature journaling, I will see a lot more value in these premixed and premuted colors.

4 thoughts on “Artists’ Palette Profiles: John Muir Laws”

  1. Which version book are you using? The 2016 ed by heyday books on page 83 he says it’s Pthalo Blue (Green Shade) PB15… right after the Pthalo Yellow Green that blew my mind!

    I am curious about the art toolkit folio palette BUT can’t justify it. (I instead have a hacked magnetic empty Derwent pencil tin with removable tray, with full sized paint pans and my paint selection. Best way to manage my larger brushes and still travel. Holds a ridiculous number of pans or pans/brushes or pans/pens/pencils or whatever layout my Lego-minded brain desires…!)

  2. Phthalo Yellow Green is a convenience mix I probably should’ve started with first! Ah well. (Several green paint tubes to use up before I can justify buying another XD )

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