Artist Palette Profiles: Barbara Luel’s Pink and Spring Palettes

Cherry Blossom tree from Barbara Luel’s Spring Colors class, April 23, 2022.

Just as I took inspiration from Lisa Spangler’s winter palette in winter, I’m taking a look at Barbara Luel’s spring palette as I transition to spring! Belgian artist Barbara Luel is the queen of spring florals, and I really enjoyed taking a cherry blossoms class with her last April.

What I love about Barbara Luel’s spring palette is that it captures the pops of joyous, bold color but contrasts them against more muted colors which I think is the essence of spring: the earth is drab and gray and then there’s just these sparks of green, pink, and gold! Barbara uses a lot of granulating colors with have an earthy, yet sparkling look.

In her blog, Barbara actually shows off two palettes set up for spring: one with all her shades of pink and pink mixers, and a second palette with the rest of the colors!

Pink Palette

Barbara Luel has a lot of joy-sparking colors in her pink palette, including several Holbein pastel pinks (convenience mixes with white), Opera Pink, Cobalt Violet, Rhodonite Genuine, and a couple of mixed violets with Ultramarine Blue. There is also a white in this palette for mixing pastels.

Since there’s no specific slot-based system for the pinks, I won’t compare alternatives for each one.

I didn’t have all that many pinks to hand specifically, so in my own “pink palette,” I included reds, purples, and even violet blues for mixing purple-pinks. Plus white, for making pastels.

My Pink Palette (inspired by Barbara Luel)

Main Palette

With pinks and purples out of the way, here’s the rest of the palette. Because this palette does contain some pinks (Potter’s Pink and Quin Rose), as well as Ultramarine, you could use this as a complete palette even without the separate pink palette (though I think the pink palette is fun).

SlotBL HasSome Alternatives
GrayCustom mix of WN Ultramarine (PB29) + WN Transparent Orange (DPP)Payne’s Gray, Neutral Tint, mix-your-own with any complementary color pair
Earth OrangeDS Quin Burnt Orange (PO48)Burnt Sienna, Transparent Red Oxide
Earth Red/Terra CottaWN Light Red (PR102)Any earth scarlet such as Quin Burnt Scarlet, Deep Scarlet, Indian Red
Granulator/PastellizerWN Potter’s Pink (PR233)This is a pretty unique color and an important one if you want to paint like Barbara. Other options for making pastels are white and Buff Titanium. Other options for adding granulation are Ultramarine Blue, Ultramarine Violet, Violet Iron Oxide, Cerulean, Burnt Umber, Goethite, or any other highly granulating color, depending on what hue you want.
Primary MagentaWN Permanent Rose (PV19)Quin Magenta (PR122), Quin Fuchsia (PR202), Magenta (PV42), Opera Pink
Red-OrangeDS Mayan OrangeScarlet Lake (PR188), Pyrrol Scarlet (PR255), Pyrrol Orange (PO73), Transparent Orange (PO71)
GoldWN Naples YellowDS Quin Gold (PY150/PO48), DS MANS (PBr7), Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna
Yellow-OrangeDS New GambogeDS Hansa Yellow Deep (PY65), Isoindolinone Yellow Deep (PY110), Indian Yellow, Turner’s Yellow
BuffDS Buff Titanium (PW6:1)white, light value Raw Sienna
Violet-BlueFrench Ultramarine (PB29)This is another one that I think is pretty central to Barbara’s granulation-heavy style.
Sky BlueDS Cerulean Blue (PB35)light value Cobalt Blue, Cobalt Turquoise
TurquoiseDS Cobalt Teal Blue (PG50)Another crucial one, I think, for this style and for the joyous spring feel. You can approximate the hue with a mix of Phthalo Blue and Phthalo Green, but it won’t be granulating.
Muted GreenDS Rare Green EarthBarbara is the only person I’ve seen use this color (also known as Terre Verte)! My choice for a replacement is Oxide of Chromium (PG17), which is also a muted granulating green but stronger (and opaque). Various DS Primatek greens, such as Green Apatite etc., might also work.
Foliage GreenDS Sap GreenSame replacements as Rare Green Earth; Hooker’s Green; mix your own (Phthalo Green + yellow ochre or yellow-orange or Quin Gold)
Dark GreenDS Undersea GreenSame replacements as Rare Green Earth; Olive Green; Perylene Green (PBk31); mix your own (Ultramarine + yellow ochre or yellow-orange or Quin Gold)
BrownWN Raw UmberVan Dyck Brown, Burnt Umber, mixed dark brown with earth orange + blue

Although I typically paint with bolder, smoother colors, there is just something about spring that makes me excited for these relatively paler pastels and subtle, granulating shades! The combination of muted greens/browns and bold pinks makes this wonderful for the joyful juxtapoisiton of blooms against thaw.

Here’s my attempt to build a similar palette from my library. Checkmarks indicate that I used the same color or mix (same hue and pigment(s), not necessarily the same brand).

Barbara Luel inspired watercolor palette

Like Barbara, I mixed WN Transparent Orange with Ultramarine to make my gray. In some cases, I substituted similar colors due to availability (I just didn’t have the exact color): Indian Red for Light Red, Quin Coral (PR209) for Mayan Orange, Yellow Ochre for Naples Yellow, Hansa Yellow Deep (PY65) for New Gamboge. Some colors I replaced due to not liking the one in the original palette: Titanium White for Buff Titanium, and Oxide of Chromium for Green Earth. Some subsitutions make the palette nontoxic: Manganese Blue Hue instead of Cerulean Blue, Phthalo Turquoise instead of Cobalt Turquoise (though these colors have quite different feelings). Some convenience mixes I self-mixed: Phthalo Green + Quin Gold for Sap Green, Ultramarine + Quin Gold for Undersea Green.

This is a great basis for me as I refine my own personal spring palette. Some other colors I might consider for a spring palette:

  • Primary or cool yellow (e.g. PY175, PY154): Barbara gets by without a light/middle yellow, but I think it’s required for spring daffodils.
  • Green Gold (PY129) – To mix those spring bud colors (though Phthalo or Sap Green + primary yellow could also work).

I’d also consider items from my pink palette, such as:

  • Lavender: Mixes more gorgeous pastels in the violet and blue space.
  • Smalt: Similar use case to lavender, granulating violets and sky zeniths.
  • Quin Magenta (PR122 or PR202) – violet mixer, “dark magenta”

Hopefully I’ll narrow down my choices soon. Stay tuned!