Palette Profile: Lisa Spangler

I discovered the artist Lisa Spangler (@sideoats) through Art Toolkit, where she sometimes teaches classes. Lisa recently posted a “What’s on my palette?” post, which as you know, is my cue to explore a palette!

Main Palette

6 Core Colors

Lisa talks about often rotating colors but keeping her core six, which I definitely relate to! Because these are so carefully chosen for specific properties, I found it challenging to suggest alternatives that keep to the spirit of them, but I did my best. I really appreciate how much Lisa wrote about why she chose each color.

SlotLS HasSome Alternatives
Primary YellowDS Azo Yellow (PY151)Hansa Yellow Medium (PY97) is Lisa’s suggested alternative, but less transparent. Pure Yellow (PY154) is similar to PY97. Nickel Azo Yellow (PY150) is equally transparent, but less cleanly primary.
Earth YellowDS Raw Sienna (PBr7)Yellow Ochre (PY42 or PY43) or MANS (PBr7) would serve similar use cases (e.g. muted greens, sunrise skies), but are more yellow-toned.
Primary MagentaDS Quin Rose (PV19)SH Magenta (PV42) has a very similar hue. Quin Magenta (PR122) is more blue-toned and may be more challenging to mix clean red from. Alizarin Crimson hue is more red and may be more challenging to mix clean purples from.
Violet-BlueWN Ultramarine Blue (PB29)Cobalt Blue (PB28) is my typical pick for several of Lisa’s use cases (summer skies, mixing greens & purples). DS Indanthrone Blue (PB60) is also violet-toned, but darker/more muted.
TurquoiseWN Cobalt Turquoise Light (PG50)A core color for Lisa because it’s a favorite. Cerulean Blue is also opaque and granulating cyan (but bluer). Manganese Blue Hue is kind of between them in hue. Also consider smooth blue-greens, such as Phthalo Blue GS or RS; Phthalo Turquoise; Prussian Blue. For mixing bold greens, Phthalo Green BS is also a contender.
Earth OrangeDS Transparent Red Oxide (PR101)Also one of my favorites! Other earth oranges include Burnt Sienna (PBr7) and Quin Burnt Orange (PO48).

I love this as a core set – it’s bright and happy, happens to contain some of my favorite colors, and works as a complete palette! I’ve never tried Azo Yellow but now I’m intrigued. I would probably swap Raw Sienna for MANS (it’s worth noting that Lisa paints desert scenes and Raw Sienna is a better match for those colors). Possibly also Ultramarine for Cobalt. Then it’s looking quite a bit like my dream palette!

I’m surprised to see Cobalt Turquoise as a core color because I think of it as one of my “nice to haves” and have never considered it as a load-bearing palette staple, but why not have it as your main cyan? Lisa shows how you can make a sage green from it by mixing with Raw Sienna.

Here’s a version of this core set from my collection. Checkmarks indicate that I use the same hue/pigment (but not necessarily brand) as Lisa.

Lisa Spangler-inspired core colors

I substituted Winsor Lemon (PY175) for Azo Yellow (PY151), and Phthalo Turquoise (PB16) for Cobalt Turquoise (PG50) – a very different type of color, but one I can also use to mix up greens, etc.

6 More Colors

While the above are on all of Lisa’s palettes, these are on most of them.

SlotLS HasSome Alternatives
Transparent Warm RedDS Quin Coral (PR209)QC is my fave, tbh. Scarlet Lake (PR188) has similar properties and the WN version is transparent, but it doesn’t make vivid purples as QC does.
Opaque Warm RedDS Organic Vermilion (PR188)I didn’t realize the DS PR188 is opaque! In that case, Pyrrol Scarlet (PR255) should be pretty similar.
GoldDS Quin Gold (PY150/PO48)DIY mix with Nickel Azo Yellow (PY150) + earth orange; NAY can often be swapped in unmixed. Rich Green Gold (PY129) has similar glow/transparency. Or use an earth yellow.
Middle BlueCobalt Blue (PB28)Ultramarine Blue (PB29) has similar properties but is more violet-toned (WN’s ‘Green Shade’ is a pretty similar hue). Phthalo Blue Red Shade is a similar hue but less granulating/more smooth and strong.
Green-BluePhthalo Blue GS (PB15:3)This is what I would consider a more typical choice for a primary cyan (vs Cobalt Turquoise). See list of alternatives for Cobalt Turquoise.
Dark BlueDS Indigo (PB60+PBk6) or DS Indanthrone Blue (PB60)For adding dark values. I would also consider other brands’ Indigo (which may not have the drying-too-light problem Lisa notes) and also WN Payne’s Gray or other brands’ Payne’s Blue-Gray.

This set contains some of my favorite nice-to-haves, including Quin Coral.


These colors are used exclusively for mixing greens.

SlotLS HasSome Alternatives
Granulating Muted Green (Desert Green)DS Chromium Green Oxide (PG17)Mixed muted greens like Sap Green, Hooker’s Green, Undersea Green, Olive Green; granulating DS Primatek greens like Jadeite, Serpentine, or Green Apatite; granulating but bluer and weaker Viridian (PG18)
Blue-GreenDS Phthalo Green Blue Shade (PG7)Phthalo Green Yellow Shade (PG36) has similar properties but is more yellowy; Viridian (PG18) has the same hue as PG7 but is granulating and much weaker
Cool YellowDS Hansa Yellow Light (PY3)Lemon Yellow (PY175), Cadmium Yellow Lemon (PY35)

Before you buy Jadeite as an alternative here, note that Lisa has a great tip for making a Jadeite hue with Chromium Green Oxide and Phthalo Green BS!

Lisa Spangler-inspired “six more” colors (and mixing green colors)

Specialty Colors

Some fun extras:

SlotLS HasSome Alternatives
OrangeSH Transparent Orange (PO71)There are other single-pigment oranges such as Pyrrol Orange (PO73), Perinone, Benzimida etc. but I agree this one is pretty unique.
Middle RedDS Perylene Red (PR178)Pyrrol Red (PR254), Permanent Red (PR170), Alizarin Crimson hue, Pyrrol Crimson (PR264)
Blue VioletWN Smalt (PV15)This is a blue form of Ultramarine Violet (PV15). DIY: mix Ultramarine Blue (PB29) with a lot of Ultramarine Violet (PV15) or a teensy bit of Dioxazine Violet (PV23).
Earth ScarletDS Venetian Red (PR101)Indian Red (PR101) is most similar (opaque, granulating, earth red). Tranpsarent alternatives: Light Red (PR102), Deep Scarlet (PR175), Quin Burnt Scarlet (PR206), Perylene Maroon (PR179), Imidazolone Brown (PBr25). Really I mostly usually just use an Earth Orange here.
Granulating Earth OrangeDS Lunar Earth (PBr11)Magnesium Brown (PY119) is extremely similar. Quin Burnt Orange (PO48) is another granulating earth orange. Or for a granulation agent in another hue, consider Goethite, Potter’s Pink, or Buff Titanium.
Granulating Earth MaroonDS Piemontite GenuineGranulating maroon browns include Violet Iron Oxide (PR101), Indian Red (PR101), Venetian Red (PR101), SH Mahogany Brown (PBr33). Non-granulating maroons include Perylene Violet (PV29) and Imidazolone Brown (PBr25). Granulating browns include Burnt and Raw Umber (PBr7).

Also a fun slate of colors, with lots of granulation. This set is especially suited for the desert.

Lisa Spangler-inspired extra colors

Winter Palette

I was also inspired by Lisa’s earlier post on putting together a winter palette, and as I’m working on my winter palette at the moment, I thought I could use hers as inspiration! After doing this post, I realize that the winter palette contains basically all the colors described above, plus a few extras Lisa was trying out at the time.

What I love about Lisa’s palette, especially as a winter palette, is that it feels fun and happy! It is in no way dreary. She specifically describes choosing winter colors “so that I could play with lots of reds, oranges and yellows plus have some moody darks and easy ways to mix snow.” I never thought of reds, oranges and yellows as being wintry, but I too feel motivated to include a lot of them – warm, cheerful colors to keep my spirits up! Although I typically think of cool colors for winter, I suppose bold holly red also does strike me as being a winter color.

Another cool thing about Lisa’s palette is that is contains several colors I added to my palette last season specifically for the desert, such as Raw Sienna and Oxide of Chromium. Thinking of these as “winter colors” totally recontextualizes them colors! It will be interesting to see if I find them flexible enough to be stars in the desert as well as in urban winter sketching.

Addendum: Nature Spot Challenge Palette

I’m editing this post to add that I’m participating in Lisa Spangler’s Nature Spot Challenge on Instagram right now, and Lisa has posted the 8-color mini-palette she is using for this challenge. It is incredibly inspiring for its compactness! It inspired me to make a smaller palette for this challenge, as it is certainly easier to use a small one in the field.

SlotLS HasI Have
YellowDS Hansa Yellow Medium (PY97)SH Aureolin Hue (PY151)
Earth YellowDS Raw Sienna (PBr7)DV Raw Sienna (PBr7)
Earth OrangeDS Transparent Red Oxide (PR101)DV Burnt Sienna Deep (PR101)
ScarletDS Organic Vermilion (PR188)DS Quin Coral (PR209)
MagentaDS Quinacridone Rose (PV19)DV Red Rose Deep (PV19)
Violet-BlueWN Ultramarine Blue (PB29)DV Ultramarine Blue (PB29)
Green-BlueDS Phthalo Blue GS (PB15:3)WN Winsor Blue GS (PB15:3)
Turquoise (or Green)WN Cobalt Turquoise Light (PG50)WN Winsor Green BS (PG7)

These are roughly 1:1 except for the last slot; as much as I enjoy PG50, I find Phthalo Green more useful for mixing greens. Also, my palette is larger by a handful of colors: I’m also including Nickel Azo Yellow and Indanthrone Blue, as well as Schmincke white gouache which I’ve already used in the field several times to make pastels. Still, 11 colors is much smaller than my normal palette, and it feels good to be working so light!

EDIT: I ended up swapping out some of these colors, notably Aureolin for Winsor Yellow (PY154), and the Winsor Blue and Green for WN Phthalo Turquoise. See more in Reflections on Lisa Spangler’s Nature Spot Challenge!