The Summer Palette!

The colors of the Summer Palette arranged in front of an image of a beach ball on a shore
Top row: Winsor Yellow (PY154); Holbein Isoindolinone Yellow Deep (PY110); DS Quinacridone Coral (PR209); Holbein Quinacridone Magenta (PR122); Da Vinci Violet (PV23); SH Cobalt Turquoise (PG50); DV Phthalo Green (PG7)

Bottom row: Letter Sparrow Titan Buff; DS MANS (PBr7); DV Burnt Sienna Deep (PR101); Holbein Ultramarine Deep (PB29); DV Prussian Blue (PB27); DV Phthalo Turquoise (PB16); DS Rich Green Gold (PY129)

The Autumn Palette was so much fun to put together that I decided to go back in time and do one for summer. Even though the weather’s getting colder where I am, the Summer Palette captures the warmth and fun of summer!

To be honest, summer is my least favorite season in reality because I hate being hot, but I love the aesthetic of summer: the beach, the boardwalk, bright colors, sunny skies, nostalgic/steamy tan-toned blue skies.

In this palette, the top row represents a rainbow of brights, while the bottom row is the colors of nature.


1. Winsor Yellow (PY154) – Same primary yellow as the autumn palette! It’s just a super-balanced yellow, and is on the warm side (compared to Lemon Yellow which is greener) so it gives the entire painting a warm feel.

2. Holbein Isoindolinone Yellow Deep (PY110) – Also in the autumn palette, this deep orange-yellow/light yellow-orange is wonderful for a strip of orange in the horizon of a sunset, or for blazingly orange-toned paintings.

3, DS Quinacridone Coral (PR209) – I skipped a deeper orange and went right to Quin Coral, a wonderfully bright orange-toned red that mixes glorious oranges with IYD, shockingly mixes lovely purples with blue, and also creates blazing/glowing sunset colors.

Summer nightscape with the Summer Palette, on Saunders Waterford 300gsm/140lb Rough Press High White paper. Quin Coral on the horizon. Night sky with Prussian Blue and MANS to make it more hazy and tan-toned. Purple clouds with a mix of all three colors. I did use an extra color, MaimeriBlu Neutral Tint, for the ink-black silhouettes.

4. Holbein Quinacridone Magenta (PR122) – Bold, bright primary magenta. A modern mixing primary, also great for bright pink beachwear and blooming summer roses.

5. Da Vinci Violet (PV23) – A perfect rainbow purple, as well as a dark color for mixing night skies and botanicals.

6. SH Cobalt Turquoise (PG50) – The color of chlorinated pool water and a high-chroma mixer for turquoise seas and neon greens.

7. DV Phthalo Green (PG7) – Super-bold cool green that’s great as part of my “hi chroma rainbow”, mixes bold foliage greens, and adds green tones to seas.

8. Letter Sparrow Titan Buff – I got this from the Art Toolkit Grow Untamed palette filled with Letter Sparrow paints. It’s the equivalent of Daniel Smith’s Buff Titanium or Da Vinci’s new Titan Buff; an opaque beige made from an unbleached version of titanium white (PW6:1). It’s wonderful for sand, making it a beach palette must! Jane Blundell mixes Buff Titanium with Goethite (PY3) for sand, but I prefer a grayer look for Massachusetts beaches. I find it’s great with Jane’s Grey (a mix of burnt sienna or PR101 with Ultramarine – both of which are also in this palette!)

Beach from overhead with the Summer Palette, on Fabriano Artistico CP Extra White 140lb/300gsm paper. Water with all the blues: Phthalo Turquoise, Prussian Blue, Cobalt Turquoise, Ultramarine Deep. Sand with Titan Buff, Burnt Sienna Deep, Ultramarine Deep. No white gouache – I left the whites!

9. DS Monte Amiata Natural Sienna (PBr7) – My favorite raw sienna/yellow ochre equivalent, a cheerful granulating earth yellow. Great for dry grass and mixing a range of earth tones that’s a bit more naturalistic but still warm and sunshiney.

10. DV Burnt Sienna Deep (PR101) – I usually use Daniel Smith’s TransparenGreet Red Oxide but I went for the brighter/lighter non-granulating PR101 from Da Vinci. It’s just a wonderful Burnt Sienna-equivalent mixer that’s a bit more perky and less moody than the DS PR101 oxide. Great for red rocks and warm sunshine, and mixing earth tones. Makes a nice granulating gray with Ultramarine (Jane’s Gray).

11. Holbein Ultramarine Deep (PB29) – Granulating violet blue is a lovely electric color in its own right and also mixes a range of textured grays, muted greens, and bold purples. I frequently use this at the zenith of skies, or in tropical seas with Cobalt Turquoise (a wonderful pairing). As with the Neon Palette, Ultramarine is one of this palette’s anchoring darks.

12. DV Prussian Blue (PB27) – Here’s another anchoring dark, the same one used in the Autumn Palette. Dark, warm, nostalgic night sky blues (made even more hazy and warm with MANS). Also a wonderful mixer for greens, especially dark pine greens.

13. DV Phthalo Turquoise (PB16) – This bold, non-granulating blue-green is a primary cyan mixer as well as an exaggeratedly warm sky or sea color. Bring it into the middle blue range with a touch of Ultramarine or DV Violet, or use it to mix wonderfully juicy greens.

14. DS Rich Green Gold (PY129) – I was torn between including RGG or Nickel Azo Yellow (both highly dispersive, juicy golds that cover some of the same palette territory), and I decided to go with the slightly cooler/greener RGG because it’s the perfect color for the highlights of sunny foliage. Greenery defines summer for me, and RGG mixes absolutely juicy and summery greens with a number of the other colors in this palette (Phthalo Green, Prussian Blue, Phthalo Turquoise). It can also be used like a gold, especially in dilute, drenching subjects in sunshine.

Trees, painted with the Summer Palette on Arches Hot Press. Various greens made from different combinations of Rich Green Gold, MANS, or Winsor Yellow with Phthalo Green, Phthalo Turquoise, Prussian Blue, or Ultramarine. Darks and shadows with Ultramarine. Trunks with Burnt Sienna Deep and Ultramarine. Sky with Ultramarine and Phthalo Turquoise.

Minimum Essential Colors

This palette contains a natural Modern Primary trio: Winsor Yellow, Quinacridone Magenta, and Phthalo Turquoise. Summer subjects do well with these cheerful brights. I would simply add one of the dark colors for value contrast; any of Da Vinci Violet, Ultramarine, or Prussian Blue would work. I lean toward Ultramarine as the best all-around choice since it also makes wonderful texture and can practically be used on its own for stark summer shadows.

If you have room for seven colors, I would quickly add Rich Green Gold for its capacity to mix gorgeous juicy summer greens, and I think the earth tones MANS and Burnt Sienna Deep also give you a lot of options.

Palette Comparison

Compared to the Autumn Palette, the Summer Palette predictably has fewer reddish colors and a lot more blues. In this way, it’s similar to my main palette, which also piles on the blues. Nine out of the fourteen colors are directly from my main palette. There are also some cool summer specialists such as Buff Titanium, Dioxazine Violet, and Prussian Blue.

I love the juicy colors of the Summer Palette so much that I’m considering adapting my main palette to be more like it! I’m finding Prussian Blue even more useful than Cobalt Blue, for example, especially because it’s more distinct from Ultramarine.

That’s the exciting thing about these situational palettes: I feel empowered to try colors outside my “best of” because I’m not “stuck with” them (or “stuck without” other colors – they just didn’t make it to this particular situation, that’s all!) And sometimes I find new stars.