The Spring Palette

Spring is the final season I haven’t paletted! I put together my first seasonal palettes at the end of summer 2022, doing both Summer and Autumn around the same time. I followed it up with Winter in December.


Spring Nature Spots

I kicked off April by doing a series of nature spots in my neighborhood, mostly of newly-blooming flowers! I hadn’t built the spring palette yet, so I used my main palette for this.

Spring Nature Spots, April 10-19 2023

Da Vinci’s Spring Palette

For winter, I was inspired by Da Vinci’s winter palette, and this spring, I’m inspired by Da Vinci’s Bright Spring Palette!

The colors are:

  • Hansa Yellow Deep (PY65)
  • Benzimida Orange (PO62)
  • Opus (a version of Opera Pink; PR122 + dye)
  • Permanent Red (PR188)
  • Phthalo Green Yellow Shade (PG36)
  • Phthalo Turquoise (PB16)

Most of these made it into my palette!

The Colors

With all that in mind, here are the colors that I chose for the spring palette.

Spring Palette

DV Hansa Yellow Light (PY3)

Bright, cool, candy yellows, perfect for mixing bright spring greens, and for greenish-tinted yellow flowers like forsythias. Too greenish for middle yellow daffodils, but a warmer middle yellow can be mixed with the light and deep Hansa Yellows. 

Alternatives: Lemon Yellow (PY175) or Azo Yellow (PY151) are extremely similar in hue. If you don’t mind slightly more toned-down spring greens, a middle yellow can be a more convenient mixer, e.g. Hansa Yellow Medium (PY97) or Imidazolone Yellow (PY154). 

Tulips, using the Spring Palette. April 14, 2023.

DV Hansa Yellow Deep (PY65)

From the DV palette. Useful for the warmer yellow tones (e.g. a two-tone daffodil), mixing peaches and oranges (like for poppies and tulips), and mixing up a classic Hooker’s Green with Phthalo Green.

Alternatives: Although the DV palette has both, I consider Benzimida Orange an alternative in this slot. A bit more orange than yellow, it mixes in a similar way, but tends toward gray when mixed with green.Isoindolinone Yellow Deep (PY110) or New Gamboge (PY110, PY97) are very similar colors to Hansa Yellow Deep.

DV Permanent Red (PR188)

From the DV palette. This bright scarlet is useful for bold orange-red flowers, for mixing middle reds (with magenta), and for muting blues. With Phthalo Turquoise, it makes a striking black! 

Alternatives: My sunrise/sunset fave Quin Red (PR209) is a great option, and makes wonderful rosy cherry-blossom pastels, but I went for a bolder option. Pyrrol Scarlet (PR255) and Geranium Red (PR242) are extremely similar to PR188. 

DV Quin Rose (PV19)

A classic floral color, and warm-leaning primary magenta option. 

Alternatives: Really you only need one of Quin Rose and Quin Magenta (and Opera!), but it being spring I decided to lean into pinks. Cut one of these if you need room for your own favorite colors. 

Rhododendrons with Quin Rose, Quin Magenta, Rich Green Gold, Ultramarine Blue, and Phthalo Turquoise. April 2, 2023.

HO Quin Magenta (PR122)

A cool-leaning primary magenta. The perfect color for pink magnolias, or even the pinkish parts of white magnolias in a pale wash. A great mixer for a wide variety of purples. 

Alternatives: Quin Purple (PV55) is a more purpley option that’s also springlike. 

DV Phthalo Turquoise (PB16)

From the DV palette. A lovely mixer for skies (with Ultramarine Blue and optional white). Add green and white to mix a Robin’s Egg Blue hue. 

Alternatives: Tons of alternatives in the green-blue space: Phthalo Blue GS or RS; Prussian Blue; Cerulean Blue; Horizon Blue. 

DV Phthalo Green YS (PG36)

From the DV palette. Mixes wonderfully springy bud/new shoot greens with yellow – sure they’re bright, but that’s good for spring! Plus, they can be toned down with the addition of an orange-yellow, Raw Sienna, or Rich Green Gold. Also really useful to add to blue to make bright turquoise. 

Alternatives: Phthalo Green BS (PG7) is really similar as a mixer, but I like the Yellow Shade for that extra springy zing. Cobalt Turquoise (PG50) is another great option that mixes super-bright greens. It would also work to use a mixed Hooker’s or Sap Green, which typically use Phthalo Green along with yellow. 

Plein air early spring willow. April 12, 2023. The camera made the willow look more yellow than it was, and I painted it more green than it was; but it FELT this green.

SH Titanium White gouache (PW6)

Makes any color into a pastel! I guess I don’t really need pastels (like Lavender and Horizon Blue) when I have white. I just like the springy way they look in my palette. (And while mixing Lavender and Horizon Blue with other colors also produces pastels, e.g. pastel pinky-purple lilac colors with Opus, they don’t replace white because some of my favorite spring white mixes are clear pinks with Opus or Permanent Red.) 

Alternatives: Any white watercolor. Buff Titanium if you prefer warm, granulating pastels.

HO Yellow Ochre (PY42)

A cheerful yellow earth color, good for mixing shadows of yellow flowers, and yellow-brown twigs (such as for birds’ nests). 

Alternatives: Monte Amiata Natural Sienna (PBr7) is a good alternative because it’s equally cheerful and yellowy, but more transparent and granulating. DS Goethite for even more granulating mixes in the yellow ochre space. 

DS Quin Burnt Orange (PO48)

A light, transparent, granulating earth orange with a bright, cheerful color. Mixes nice muted greens with Phthalo Green or Turquoise. The earth orange slot is a favorite of mine; it’s so useful for mixing browns with Ultramarine Blue.

Alternatives: Transparent Red Oxide (PR101) is my typical earth orange; the classic option is Burnt Sienna (PBr7). I considered Raw Umber as a convenience brown, but found that QBO + Ultramarine consistently makes browns that look more like tree bark to me. 

DV Opus (PR122, fluorescent dye)

This is sort of a “bonus slot.” I already have a lot of pinks in this palette, but this one is just so bright. It’s not the brightest opera ever (that would be Mission Gold’s), but the slightly more toned-down color of DV’s makes it easier to work into a painting, while still popping with bold color! 

Alternatives: Pick your favorite color for this slot, really. If you use cobalts, Cobalt Turquoise or Cerulean Blue would be great for a spring palette. A muted dark violet could be useful for botanical shadows, such as Perylene Violet or Naphthamide Maroon. 

Rhododendrons with a limited palette of Opus, Phthalo Turquoise, Permanent Red, Rich Green Gold. April 3, 2023.

WN Smalt (PV15)

A blue-leaning granulating violet that’s great for mixing up gorgeous purple flower colors, such as for scilla, crocus, and hyacinth. Mix with white for a Lavender. 

Alternatives: A pre-mixed Lavender (typically PV15, PB29, PW6) is very springy and some artists swear by it.  

DV Ultramarine Blue (PB29)

Crucial mixer! Makes bold violet with magenta, sky blue with turquoise, and gray or brown with earth orange. 

Alternatives: Cobalt Blue (PB28) would be a great alternative, a bit brighter and livelier, and making ethereal granulating purples. 

Lavender, from Sushma Hegde’s “Watercolor Wildflowers.” April 11, 2023.

DS Rich Green Gold (PY129)

A glowing greeny yellow. Lovely green mixer with any blue. Can be a yellow-green bud color all on its own. Also great for moss. 

Alternatives: Nickel Azo Yellow (PY150) is its main competitor. Mixed Green Golds with PY150 and Phthalo Green have a similar color space. Mixed yellow-greens (such as DV Leaf Green or SH May Green) may be desired convenience colors for springiness, but they can be mixed from Phthalo Green and primary yellow. 


Although I tried a few unusual colors in this palette initially, I wound up generally going back to my tried and true ones, until I wound up with a set pretty much like my main palette. I guess I know what I like!