What’s in my palette? (Spring 2023)

I change my palette a lot, and I always fall in love with the current iteration before I dismantle it and switch it up. But I feel especially good about this one!

Since my last palette reveal on my summer 2022 palette, I undid, then redid, some of the changes from Liz Steel’s class; incorporated some lessons from Lisa Spangler’s Nature Spot challenge; and returned to some old favorites from my first palette.

I also went for a more nontoxic, earth-friendly palette this time, so I dropped my Cobalt colors, which made some of the hard decisions for me. I wound up with 18 carefully selected colors, all of which I’m absolutely in love with. 

The Colors

Spring 2023 Palette

Top Row – Bright

  1. Mission Gold – Permanent Yellow Light (PY154) [double size]. Imidazolone Yellow (PY154) is favorite primary yellow pigment: bright, not too cool or warm, a great mixer. I’ve tried several different brands; Mission Gold is one of my favorites, along with Da Vinci Yellow. 
  2. Winsor & Newton – Winsor Yellow Deep (PY65). I go back and forth between some version of Hansa Yellow Deep (PY65), like this one, and Isoindolinone Yellow Deep (PY110). To be honest, they are nearly the same. IYD is in my B-team, so I can swap back and forth as I see fit. 
  3. Da Vinci – Quinacridone Red (PR209). My favorite sunrise/sunset cloud coral! Previously on my palette as DS Quin Coral. I think the DV version grades a little more smoothly.
  4. Da Vinci – Red Rose Deep (PV19). My favorite primary rose/magenta/pink, this is a deep warm version of Quin Rose that nearly borders on a cool red in masstone but dilutes out to a gorgeous bright pink. 
  5. Holbein – Quinacridone Magenta (PR122). A “bonus” magenta, arguably reduplicative with Red Rose Deep, but I prefer it for mixing the most beautiful purples. I have this in my palette in place of a dedicated purple. 
  6. Holbein – Phthalo Blue Red Shade (PB15). I’ve gone back and forth between having Phthalo Blue Red or Green shade. Green is more of a true cyan, but I am really loving having PBRS as a middle-blue sky specialist; it’s more useful than ever now that I’ve dropped Cobalt Blue. I just love the sky blues I get from diluted PBRS.
  7. Winsor & Newton – Phthalo Turquoise (PB16). The other half of my phthalo equation, this very green-toned blue takes care of my cyan use cases. I discovered the value of Phthalo Turquoise as a mixer during the Nature Spot Challenge, when it was my favorite way to mix greens: more naturalistic than Phthalo Green but more juicy and vivid than Prussian Blue. I find both PBRS and Phthalo Turquoise easier to handle than PBGS.
  8. Winsor & Newton – Winsor Green Blue Shade (PG7). Although I prefer Phthalo Turquoise for mixing landscape greens (and would probably choose just that for a limited plein air palette), there are still great uses for PG7, including mixing clean spring greens and dropping glints of emerald sunlight into ocean waves. Anyway, I just love the color. 
  9. Daniel Smith – Rich Green Gold (PY129). I am not sure if this one counts as nontoxic because it contains the heavy metal copper (and my DS version, at least, has cautionary labeling), but PY129 is in the Da Vinci Earth Friendly set, so I’m going with it. This is my favorite mixer (with blues) for natural yet intense & glowing landscape greens. I discovered in the Nature Spot Challenge that it’s the perfect hue for a lot of the lichen in my environment. 

Middle Row – Intense

  1. Daniel Smith – Quinacridone Gold (PY150/PO48). A mix of Nickel Azo Yellow and Quin Burnt Orange. (NAY is maybe not earth-friendly as it contains nickel, but the mix is rated non-toxic on my tube, anyway.) This was one of my first great color loves, and it is truly a glowing, magical deep yellow. I don’t use it as much anymore, in part because I have both of the components, in part because I moved toward earthier options like MANS. Still, I love it because it reminds me of my earliest experiences of finding magic in watercolor. The future of this is color on my palette is uncertain, in part because I’m not sure if it will be available anymore after PO48 runs out. 
  2. Winsor & Newton – Transparent Orange (DPP). This color, with an unnumbered orange pigment, is similar to Daniel Smith’s Transparent Pyrrol Orange (PO71), which I discovered as a mixer during Liz Steel’s class; both mix striking blacks with Indanthrone Blue and luscious middle reds with Quin Rose. Pyrrol Scarlet was a previous palette mainstay because it mutes PBGS, but the more orangey shade is closer to a complement for PBRS.
  3. Holbein – Pyrrole Rubin (PR264). Added to my palette during the Nature Spot Challenge, this is a gorgeous deep crimson that is useful as a convenience middle red, and for muting greens. It is warmer than my previous crimson pick of DV Alizarin Crimson Quinacridone, and therefore less reduplicative with Red Rose Deep. 

[ Mixing Well Break ]

  1. Daniel Smith – Indanthrone Blue (PB60) [double size]. A longtime staple, my favorite dark violet blue. Great for shadows. 
  2. Winsor & Newton – Payne’s Grey (PBk6, PB15, PV19). I’ve wavered between this and Indigo (another premix of the same colors, basically, but more blue). The general role here is a green-toned, very dark blue that could also work as a black substitute. 

Bottom Row – Earth

  1. Daniel Smith – Monte Amiata Natural Sienna (PBr7). My favorite earth yellow. 
  2. Da Vinci – Burnt Sienna Deep (PR101) [double size]. A version of Transparent Red Oxide, my favorite earth orange, and a crucial mixer for browns/grays with Indanthrone or Ultramarine blue. I go back and forth between brands (this or Daniel Smith’s Transparent Red Oxide).

[Mixing Well Break]

  1. Winsor & Newton – Smalt (PV15). A current obsession and one that I might replace with a rotating guest star. It’s a similar hue to Ultramarine Blue, but it’s made from Ultramarine Violet pigment. Bluer and more pigmented than most PV15s, I find it easier to use than a typical Ultramarine Violet. I love it in clouds and purple mixes, where it gives an ethereal magic-mist look. 
  2. Winsor & Newton – Ultramarine Blue Green Shade (PB29). Ultramarine Blue is a mainstay color, especially in the absence of Cobalt Blue; used with TRO to mix grays and browns, mixed with rose or magenta for purples, dropped into the zenith of skies for a violet tone, and tons of other uses. I like the Green Shade because it’s a bit closer to a middle blue, and I find it a bit more flexible and mixable than a French/deep tone. You lose some of the granulation, but that’s what Smalt is for. 

Differences From Previous Palettes

Compared to Summer 2022

Summer 2022 palette

I’ve actually gone through a lot of iterations since my summer 2022 palette update, so I had to laugh when I saw how similar this eighteen-color palette ended up being to my sixteen-color Summer 2022 palette. Not counting minor changes (e.g. to brand), all I really did was:

  • Add a straight-ahead warm yellow (PY65). I admit this is not a crucial color; I like the oranges it mixes with PR209, but yellow + Transparent Orange can also do that. I also like its Hooker’s Green mixes with PG7, but Quin Gold can mix a nice one as well.
  • Add back in a PV19 quin rose, which I’d previously cut because it’s too similar to PR122 magenta and a hue can be mixed from PR122 + PR209. But I love it…
  • Middle blue replacement: Replace Cobalt Blue with Phthalo Blue Red Shade, largely due to earth-friendliness reasons.
  • Cyan replacement: Replace Cobalt Turquoise with Indigo, ditto.
  • Deep red replacement: Replace Deep Scarlet with Pyrrole Rubin.
  • Natural green mixer replacement: Replace Serpentine with Quin Gold.
  • Violet replacement: Replace Perylene Violet with Smalt.

I kept 11 colors the same: a PY154 yellow; a transparent orange; a PR209 quin red; a PR122 quin magenta; DS Indanthrone Blue (PB60); a PB16 phthalo turquoise; a PG7 phthalo green; DS Rich Green Gold (PY129); DS MANS (PBr7); DS Transparent Red Oxide (PR101); a PB29 ultramarine blue.

Compared to My First Palette

Surprisingly close to my first palette, as well! Here it is arranged in a circle, compared to my first 19-well Etchr mini-palette. Other than rearranging and brand changes, major color changes are:

  • Swapped a cool yellow, Hansa Yellow Light (PY3), for an earth yellow, MANS (PBr7).
  • Swapped Pyrrol Scarlet (PR255) for Transparent Orange (DPP). 
  • Laterally swapped DS New Gamboge (PY110, PY97) for Winsor Yellow Deep (PY65), nearly the same color. 
  • Swapped Prussian Blue (PB27) for a darker blue (Indigo here, but Payne’s Gray above – I told you I kept changing my mind.) 
  • Dropped two green-blues (Phthalo Blue GS and DV Cerulean Hue) and two greens (Phthalo Green YS (PG36) and Amazonite Genuine). 
  • Added two reds (Quin Red (PR209) and Pyrrol Rubine (PR264)) and a blue-violet (WN Smalt (PV15)).

Again, my current palette has 11 colors in common with this palette, and 8 of these (starred *) are also in common with the intermediate palette: PY154 yellow*; DS Quin Gold; DS Transparent Red Oxide (PR101)*; Quin Rose (PV19); Quin Magenta (PR122)*; Ultramarine Blue (PB29)*; Indanthrone Blue (PB60)*; Phthalo Blue Red Shade (PB15); Phthalo Turquoise (PB16*, though I think originally I used a mix of PG7/PB15); Phthalo Green BS (PG7)*; DS Rich Green Gold (PY129)*.


This palette is full of primary colors (versions of yellow, red, and blue), so it’s great for mixing. It can be rearranged as a series of six harmonious triads:

  • Modern Primaries: Permanent Yellow Light (PY154), Red Rose Deep (PV19), Phthalo Blue RS (PB15)
  • Warm Sunset: Winsor Yellow Deep (PY65), Quin Red (PR209), Ultramarine Blue (PB29)
  • Cool Glade: Rich Green Gold (PY129), Phthalo Turquoise (PB16), Quin Magenta (PR122)
  • Dark: Quin Gold (PY150/PO48), Pyrrole Rubin (PR264), Indigo (PBk6, PB15, PR122)
  • Earth: MANS (PBr7), Burnt Sienna Deep (PR101), Indanthrone Blue (PB60)
  • Secondaries: Transparent Orange (DPP), Winsor Green BS (PG7), Smalt (PV15)

From this palette, I can mix most of the watercolor triads I color-wheeled last week. Take a look at that post to see all the color wheels!

Favorite Mixes

Bold Orange: Quin Red + Hansa Yellow Deep

DV Quin Red (PR209) + WN Winsor Yellow Deep (PY65) on Canson XL

I love every spot on this sunsetty spectrum. The oranges are super-bold (I think just as bold as those with Transparent Orange, plus they make deeper scarlets). This combo makes wonderful fall leaf colors!

Fire Engine Red: Red Rose Deep + Transparent Orange

DV Red Rose Deep (PV19) + WN Transparent Orange (DPP) on Canson XL

The balanced mix of PV19 rose and transparent orange is the bright red, to me, the only problem being that it’s limited in range since adding either more TO or more RRD tends to make it oranger or pinker rather than darker. To get a darker red, use or add Pyrrol Rubine.

Gray Cloud Mix: Smalt + MANS

WN Smalt (PV15) + DS MANS (PBr7)

I like this granulating mix which is great for clouds.

Magical Granulating Purple: Smalt + Quin Magenta

WN Smalt (PV15) + Holbein Quin Magenta (PR122) on Canson XL

Deep Purple: Indanthrone Blue + Quin Magenta

DS Indanthrone Blue (PB60) + Holbein Quin Magenta (PR122) on Canson XL

Brown & Black: Indanthrone Blue + Burnt Sienna Deep

DS Indanthrone Blue (PB60) + DV Burnt Sienna Deep (PR101) on Canson XL

My favorite range of dark blues and browns, and a nice even gray/black. This is my favorite way to make brown!

Sky Blue: Ultramarine Blue + Phthalo Turquoise

DV Ultramarine (PB29) + WN Phthalo Turquoise (PB16) on Canson XL

Phthalo Blue RS also makes a nice single-paint blue sky; in dilute, it’s a gentle powder blue. However, the combination of two (or more) blues can make much more convincing skies, because you can grade them from more violet to more turquoise, zenith to horizon.  

Summer Leaf Green: Rich Green Gold + Phthalo Turquoise

DS Rich Green Gold (PY129) + WN Phthalo Turquoise (PB16) on Canson XL

To me, these are the perfect bold summer foliage greens. (You can also get similar, and nice, combinations by swapping RGG for Imidazalone Yellow; or for a slightly more muted combination, swapping Phthalo Turquoise for Phthalo Blue RS.) Some artists (especially in dryer climates) choose more violet shades such as Ultramarine for much more muted greens, but in my neck of the woods, summer leaves really are this green.

Dark Pine Green (Perylene Green Hue): Indanthrone Blue + Rich Green Gold

DS Indanthrone Blue (PB60) + DS Rich Green Gold (PY129) on Canson XL

Spring Bud Yellow-Green: Phthalo Green + Rich Green Gold

Winsor Green Blue Shade (PG7) + DS Rich Green Gold (PY129) on Canson XL

Very bright greens that can get super-bold and yellowy but are not as unnaturally neon as plain yellow + PG7. The mixes tilted more toward PY129 truly look like maple buds to me.

Hooker’s Green: Phthalo Green + Hansa Yellow Deep

WN Winsor Green Blue Shade (PG7) + WN Winsor Yellow Deep (PY65) on Canson XL

This is only scratching the surface of the hundreds of combinations that can be made with these 18 colors. I’m looking forward to discovering many more wonderful mixes!