Single-Brand Watercolor Palette Ideas

I don’t typically limit my palette to one brand – I will use lots of colors from different brands – but I thought it would be a fun exercise to try to come up with the paints I would choose if I could come up with, say, a 12-color palette from any given brand.

My post on My Favorite Watercolor Paints By Brand is a good resource for this exercise, but there, while I listed all the paints that I particularly prefer from each brand, I didn’t make an effort to make them into cohesive palettes. In this post, I’ll try to make palettes you could actually use from a single brand’s catalogue.

⭐ marks paints I particularly like, and would choose in this brand even if I weren’t making a single-brand palette. (not necessarily colors on my current palette)

❓ marks paints I have not actually tried, but chose based on the catalog/assumptions. Take these recommendations with a grain of salt. 

Artist Grade

Da Vinci

This is my most-used brand at the moment! Nearly every color they have is, in my opinion, an extremely solid choice. And some of these colors are ones I only like in Da Vinci (Cobalt, Cerulean, most earth tones). I’ve swatched every color.

  1. Da Vinci Yellow (PY154) – Primary middle yellow. Go for Hansa Yellow Light (PY3) if you want something cooler. 
  2. Permanent Red (PR188) – A bold scarlet. Mixes black with Phthalo Turquoise.
  3. Quinacridone Red (PR209) – I can’t resist adding my favorite pinky sunset coral!
  4. Red Rose Deep (PV19) – A warm, bold quin rose with lots of range. For a more reddish option, I also really like their Alizarin Crimson Quinacridone (PV19).
  5. Ultramarine Blue (PB29) – One of my favorite ultramarines, a very bold masstone. (They have French and GS ultramarines but I just love the middle/basic one.)
  6. Cobalt Blue (PB28) – My favorite Cobalt Blue. Saturated and medium granulating.  Makes lovely skies.
  7. Cerulean Blue Genuine (PB36) – My favorite Cerulean. Also great for skies and interesting granulating mixes. Go for Cobalt Turquoise (also PB36) if you want a more greenish, brighter color. 
  8. Cobalt Turquoise (PB36) – A bold Cobalt Turquoise that I can’t tell apart from PG50.
  9. Phthalo Turquoise (PB16) – A smooth deep turquoise that makes a lovely green mixer.
  10. Raw Sienna (PBr7) – Rich color, great mixer; multi-useful. I think RS is the most useful light earth color, making light browns with blues; if you want a yellower alternative that makes greens, DV also has a great Yellow Ochre (PY43).
  11. Burnt Sienna Deep (PR101) – DV’s transparent red oxide. Very orangey, similar hue to Quin Burnt Orange. Mixes gorgeously with Ultramarine Blue and Cobalt Blue to make a range of grays and browns. DV has a ton of other great earth options, including a natural PR102 Terra Cotta; a more muted/orangey PBr7 Burnt Sienna; and a lovely PBr7 Burnt Umber.
  12. Indian Red (PR101) – Opaque and granulating earth red, mixes gorgeous grays with this Cerulean Blue Genuine. Want something more violet? DV’s Violet Iron Ochre (PR101) is also very interesting, though I personally find typical IR more useful for mixing.

Honorable Mentions: Yellow Ochre (PY43), Burnt Umber (PBr7), Raw Umber, (PBr7), Ultramarine Violet (PV15)

Daniel Smith

This is one of the brands I’m most familiar with. I’ve swatched every color and used some of them quite a bit. However, I’m a bit less enthralled with them lately, so I’m more enthused about using this post’s research to find alternatives in other brands. Still, this is a solid brand with a lot of great colors.

  1. Hansa Yellow Medium (PY97) – A good primary middle yellow. I prefer this to the PY3 Hansa Light that’s in the starter set.
  2. Hansa Yellow Deep (PY65) – This is my favorite warm yellow but DS’s New Gamboge (PY97, PY110) is almost identical. Their mixed hue Quin Gold (PY150, PO48) is also a great warm yellow option that’s more earthy yet also glowing.
  3. Pyrrol Scarlet (PR255) – Pop scarlet, bold and lightfast. Included in the DS Starter Set.
  4. Quinacridone Rose (PV19) – Primary magenta option. Lovely color. Included in the DS Starter Set. Quinacridone Red (PV19) is a warmer, redder option of the same pigment.
  5. Quinacridone Violet (PV19) – DS’s is my favorite Quin Violet, because it’s not too blue and still has a rosy glow. Their Quin Magenta (PR202) is nearly the same color.
  6. Carbazole Violet (PV23) – Though slightly more muted than other PV23 Dioxazine Violets, DS’s Carbazole is my favorite version of this color because it’s not sticky or streaky. The slight mutedness makes it easier to mix into realistic shadow mixes.
  7. Indanthrone Blue (PB60) – I love the violet tone of DS’s Indanthrone. One of my all-time favorite paints. 
  8. Phthalo Blue GS – DS has such bold phthalo colors, which can make them hard to handle, but I like their wide value range. For a granulating option, consider Cerulean Blue Chromium (PG36).
  9. Phthalo Green BS (PG7) – Bold, very cool Phthalo Green option. Use yellow-orange or gold to mute to a naturalistic leaf green, or replace with Sap Green (combo of PG7 and Quin Gold) for convenience foliage colors.
  10. Rich Green Gold (PY129) – My favorite PY129, mixes nice greens.
  11. Monte Amiata Natural Sienna (PBr7) – Granulating yellow-toned earth color that I find to be the best of all possible worlds between Yellow Ochre and Raw Sienna.
  12. Transparent Red Oxide (PR101) – One of my all-time favorite earth oranges. Incredibly useful. Makes lovely neutral grays and browns with Ultramarine or Indanthrone. That said, it is tough to pick between this and Quinacridone Burnt Orange (PO48), a semi-retired pigment that DS is the only purveyor of, and which is also a lovely, very vibrant earth orange.

Honorable Mentions: Perylene Maroon (PR179) or Naphthamide Maroon (PR171)

Holbein

I find this brand very solid as well! Vibrant colors and some of my favorite mixes. I’ve never found a dot card for this brand, so this is going off the fairly idiosyncratic mix of colors I’ve tried.

  1. Imidazolone Yellow (PY154) – Bold middle yellow. Or try Imidazolone Lemon (PY175) for something cooler.
  2. Isoindolinone Yellow Deep (PY110) – Lovely single-pigment yellow-orange. Nice mixer.
  3. Pyrrol Red (PR254) – Bold middle red. Holbein’s is my favorite version, as it is very bright and lacks the bricky undertone that some can have. If you want something darker, I also love their Pyrrol Rubin (PR264).
  4. Quinacridone Magenta (PR122) – Cool, bold, primary magenta. If you love your neons, their Opera Pink is also one of my favorites.
  5. Ultramarine Deep (PB29) – Deep and subtle with lovely granulation.
  6. ⭐ Phthalo Blue Red Shade (PB15) – I like all of Holbein’s Phthalo colors and there’s no real reason for me to choose this one over their Yellow Shade (PB15:3, aka Green Shade), except that this the one I actually have on my palette at the moment.
  7. Hooker’s Green (PG7, PY150) – I really like this bright, yellow-green which I think is great for foliage. Or you can always go with Viridian Hue for a single-pigment PG7. 
  8. Yellow Ochre (PY42) – Opaque and smooth with deep rich color. I like this one even more than Da Vinci’s, which is saying something for an earth color.
  9. Imidazolone Brown (PBr25) – This is a red-brown, not an earth orange, but I really like it (and don’t love any of Holbein’s earth oranges). I think this palette works well with a redder brown because the turquoise and indigo I chose are very green-toned, so this complements them. 
  10. Indigo (PBk6, PB15, PR122) – Mixed indigo with a very deep, dark, green-toned color.
  11. Payne’s Grey (PBk6, PB15, PR122) – One of my favorite Payne’s Greys; it’s just a lovely balance between greyish and bluish, just the right “step” from indigo toward dark gray without hitting black.
  12. Titanium White (PW6) – Although you can get by without white or by using gouache when you want it, I find that Holbein’s is my favorite watercolor white. It’s bold and opaque, nearly as much as gouache, but rewets very well, unlike gouache, so is suitable for a to-go palette.

MaimeriBlu

Not one of my favorite brands; I have found the paints I have tried to be generally of low tinting strength with some having a sticky/unpleasant texture. What continues to intrigue me, though, is that this is entirely a single-pigment brand, and it has some interesting and unusual pigments!

I used Jenna Rainey’s MaimeriBlu swatch video to see what some of these look like. 

  1. Primary Yellow (PY97) – Looks like the most useful middle yellow. I tried the cool PY175 but found it fairly weak.
  2. Indian Yellow (PY65) – Although they offer some unusual warm yellows (PY139 and PY183), I think the classic hansa yellow deep is likely the most reliable. I also liked their Cadmium Yellow Deep (PY35) when I swatched it out, though I don’t normally go for cadmiums.  
  3. Pyrrole Red (PR255) – Pyrrol Scarlet equivalent.
  4. Permanent Carmine (PR176) – This is said to be a less lightfast pigment than PV19, but Kim Crick finds MMB’s main PV19, Primary Red Magenta, to be less strong than other brands’, so I went for the more unusual pigment. The color is a cool red similar to Alizarin Crimson; DS has it as Carmine. 
  5. Potter’s Pink (PR233) – This is my favorite Potter’s Pink! 
  6. Ultramarine Light (PB29) – Just choosing a staple color here. I found their Ultramarine Deep quite weak, so I’m going with the devil I don’t know, but I’m not sure I have high hopes. 
  7. ❓ Cobalt Turquoise (PB28) – Looks like a nice bold version, similar to DV and SH. Color-separating teals pair well with Potter’s Pink. 
  8. Transparent Mars Red (PR101) – This is a staple color for me, but I’m not sure how MMB’s version holds up. 
  9. Dragon’s Blood (PBr25) – A poetically-named PBr25 red brown. 
  10. Sepia (PY164) – Rare pigment. Very dark, opaque brown. Recommended by Kim Crick. 
  11. Neutral Tint (PBk26) – Rare pigment (Spinel Black). A smooth, flat, transparent black, useful darkening all sorts of mixes and painting silhouettes. My favorite version of this pigment is Rembrandt’s, but this is a good backup if the MaimeriBlu brand is more available to you. 

Mijello Mission Gold

I don’t have a dot card here, and I haven’t tried all these paints, so take this one with a grain of salt as well. I have found all the colors I’ve tried to be very bold and bright, perfect for intense color lovers. They may tend toward melting in moist climates.

  1. Permanent Yellow Light (PY154) – A good solid version of this primary yellow.
  2. Permanent Yellow Deep (PY65) – A strikingly bright version.
  3. Cherry Red (PR209) – A nice bright version of my favorite sunset scarlet. For a more middle red option consider Permanent Red (PR112) or Permanent Red Deep (PR254). 
  4. Permanent Magenta (PR122) – A solid version of this primary magenta, and used in many MI commercial mixes. For rosier options, consider Permanent Rose (PV19) or Rose Madder hue (PR176).
  5. Brilliant Opera (PR122, BV10) – My favorite super-bold Opera Pink. 
  6. Ultramarine Deep (PB29, PV15) – An extremely bold, electric, granulating, complex, violet-toned ultramarine. 
  7. Cerulean Blue (PB15:3) – Actually a Phthalo Blue Green Shade.
  8. Viridian Hue (PG7) – Actually Phthalo Green Blue Shade used in mixing many greens. Also consider Bamboo Green (PG36, aka Phthalo Green Yellow Shade); they should be approximately interchangeable in mixes. 
  9. Green Gold (PY150) – My favorite Nickel Azo Yellow.
  10. Perylene Maroon (PR179) – My favorite Perylene Maroon by hue, though it is very sticky.
  11. Red Brown (PBr25) – A bold reddish brown used in many MI commercial mixes. Use to mute down blues and greens, or mix luscious earth tones. Another option is Perylene Maroon (PR179); this was my favorite Perylene Maroon in the Oto Kano dot card.
  12. Payne’s Gray (PB15, PV19, PBk6) – A very bluish Payne’s Grey, similar to Winsor & Newton’s. 

Rembrandt by Royal Talens

A line I know very little about, so this is mostly conjecture.

  1. Transparent Yellow Medium (PY128) – This is a risk on a pigment I’ve never seen anywhere else, but it looks good, lightfast and nontoxic per artiscreation. For a more tried-and-true primary yellow pigment, I might go for Azo Yellow Light (PY154).
  2. Azo Yellow Deep (PY110) – Isoindolinone Yellow Deep equivalent. They also have a PY83, Azo Yellow Medium, which is less lightfast but I like the orange-yellow color.
  3. Benzimidazolone Orange (PO72) – Another risk on an unusual orange pigment I’ve never tried. Usually Benzimidazolone Orange refers to PO62; this looks like a deeper orange than that. They also have a more typical transparent red-orange PO71 called Pyrrole Orange, and a super-bright Brilliant Orange (PO64), but Kim Crick says this is fugitive.
  4. Permanent Red Medium (PR255) – for a scarlet, or they have multiple options for a middle red like Permanent Red Deep (PR254), Perylene Red (PR149), Perylene Red Deep (PY178)
  5. Quinacridone Rose Reddish (PV19) – Rembrandt has multiple shades of Quin Rose, including QR Rddish, QR magenta (PR122, more bluish) and one just called “Quinacridone Rose” (another PV19). I tend to like the really warm pinky shades so that’s why I went for reddish. They also have a Permanent Red Violet (PV19) which I’ve tried – I thought it would be like a quin violet, but is actually quite bright and looks to me almost identical to PR122 magenta, so that’s another good middle magenta option. If you like the darker magentas, they also have a Benzimidazolone Violet (PV32), equivalent to Daniel Smith’s Bordeaux.
  6. Ultramarine Deep (PB29) – I don’t know why they call this deep since I didn’t see a light.
  7. Indanthrene Blue (PB60)
  8. Phthalo Blue Red Shade (PB15) – I have no reason for choosing this one in this line except that I saw Jay Nathan swatch it out and it looked nice.
  9. Azomethine Green Yellow (PY129)
  10. Yellow Ochre (PY42, PY43) – They also have separate PY42 (Transparent Oxide Yellow) and PY43 (Gold Ochre), as well as a Raw Sienna made from PY43. All of these are listed as transparent. I can’t really tell a basis for deciding between them.
  11. Transparent Oxide Red (PR101)
  12. Spinel Grey (PBk26) – A really nice striking black!

Rockwell Canada

Another brand I’ve not tried, but the Canadians I follow love them. They have various series including Charm (evidently equivalent to supergranulating) and Magic (unusual mixes). I chose my selections from their basic Classic Watercolors line. My initial feeling looking at their catalogue is there’s a lot of fugitive pigments here, but there’s also gems if you look carefully. Here’s my shopping list if I were to buy a complete palette from them.

  1. Yellow Lemon (PY3) – This opaque, marginally lightfast lemon is not my favorite primary yellow, but their middle primary yellow is PY1, which gets a lightfast rating of V on Art Is Creation. Rockwell gives all its paints, including this one, its top lightfast mark of three plus signs (+++); they don’t admit to any variation within their own line, which is useless. Let’s hope it gets better from here.
  2. Permanent Deep Yellow (PY65) – I do like this orange-yellow.
  3. Fire Orange (PO73) – They had some scarlets but they were fugitive pigments, so I chose this reddish orange instead, from which you could mix a scarlet or red with magenta.
  4. Rose Red (PR122) – This looks like a good primary magenta; they also have a PV19 red called Peachblow listed in the Dragon set.
  5. Lake Source Blue (PB10) – I’m adding this purely out of curiosity because I can’t find the pigment even on Art Is Creation. It could very well be fugitive. I just have no idea. It looks like a pleasant violet-blue.
  6. Ultramarine (PB29) – They also have an Ultramarine Deep listed in the Dragon set.
  7. Blue Sky (PB17) – I’ve never seen this pigment, so I’m curious about it. It looks similar to PB16 turquoise. Maria Smirnova uses this in her sky palette.
  8. Cobalt Turquoise (PG36)
  9. Viridian Hue (PG7) – They also have a Spring Green listed as PG7 but looking more yellow. Not sure how that works. Maybe it’s mislabeled PG36.
  10. Gold Ochre (PY43) – This is their yellow ochre. They say it’s transparent.
  11. Burnt Sienna (PR101) – This is their transparent red oxide.
  12. Mars Brown (PBr6) – Slightly unusual granulating deep brown pigment.

If you like supergranulating/color-separating mixes, there are lots to choose from here as bonus colors. Palaiba Diamond Blue is really nice for example (but you could mix it from colors I included here, Ultramarine and Viridian Hue).

Roman Szmal

Very well-regarded, I personally have not tried them as they only come in pans and use honey, two things I tend not to like. Still, they have some unusual pigments, so I’ve got my “wish list.”

  1. Aquarius Yellow (PY168) – Unusual pigment. Their flagship yellow. Bold and cool. Another interesting option in their line is Isoindolinone Yellow Light (PY109).
  2. Isoindolinone Yellow Deep (PY110) – I went for a pigment I know and love but they have a lot of intriguing deep yellows such as Indian Yellow Hue (PY108), Permanent Yellow (PY139, same pigment as MaimeriBlu Gamboge Hue), Golden Yellow (PY181), and of course good ol’ Hansa Yellow Deep (PY65).
  3. Aquarius Orange (PO N/A) – So hard to research an unnumbered ahead of time, but gosh, this looks fiery in Jane Blundell’s swatches.
  4. Pyrrol Scarlet (PR255) – As usual I’m going for a tried-and-true scarlet. I was tempted by mysterious Quinacridone Scarlet (PR N/A), but it looks a bit dull in Jane Blundell’s swatches. If you prefer middle red options, they have plenty, like Pyrrole Red (PR254) and unusual Aquarius Red (PR114), which looks a bit more crimson.
  5. Cherry Quinacridone Red (PR209) – They offer my fave! This looks like a lovely version.
  6. Quinacridone Pink (PR122) – A cool primary magenta, my choice for a purple mixer. Quinacridone Red (PV19) is a more typical-to-me warm rose option, but in this case it looks fairly similar to the Cherry Quin Red so I skipped it.
  7. Perylene Violet (PV29) – Not my favorite pigment but in Denise Soden’s Color Spotlight on Perylene Violet, she shows how gorgeous the Roman Szmal version is.
  8. Ultramarine Intense (PB29) – I’m not sure how to choose between their many ultramarines, but who can pass up intense?
  9. Phthalo Turquoise (PB16) – Looks like a very turquoise version.
  10. Natural Sienna Monte Amiata (PBr7) – This is my favorite DS color and it’s made from PBr7 too! There are a lot of earth yellows, including a nice-looking transparent version of Yellow Ochre.
  11. Transparent Brown (PBr23) – Couldn’t resist going for a unique pigment (it looks similar to PBr25 Red Brown), though they also have a nice looking Transparent Oxide Red (PR101) and you might go for Quinacridone Burnt Sienna (PO48) while it is still here.
  12. Perylene Green Deep (PBk32) – My choice for a dark color because I’ve never seen it; a warmer, richer version of Perylene Green. For a more traditional choice, their Neutral Tint or Shadow Grey options look nice.

Schmincke Horadam

Another line I have fully swatched. Many people swear by Schmincke; I find the transparent colors tend to cauliflower a lot for me, but I have to acknowledge they’re vibrant and lovely. I tend to like their opaque colors.

  1. Aureolin Hue (PY151) – A cool-leaning transparent yellow that handles gorgeously. Pure Yellow (PY154) is my pick if you want a more middle yellow.
  2. Transparent Orange (PO71) – Bright and clear orange. Lovely to look at.
  3. Vermilion (PR255) – A transparent version of Pyrrol Scarlet with a pleasant effervescent quality. Geranium Red (PR242) is very similar. 
  4. Magenta (PV42) – Bright rose-colored magenta that to me looks like the same hue as DS Quin Rose, but smoother-grading. Purple Magenta (PR122) is another option, slightly purpler.
  5. Delft Blue (PB60) – They offer two PB60 indanthrone blues; this is the most violet-toned, which I prefer and which I think fills a gap better in this palette. 
  6. Ultramarine Finest (PB29) – Notable for being low-granulating. Great for skies. If you want one of the most granulating ultramarines around, though, try their French Ultramarine.
  7. Phthalo Blue (PB15:1) – Somewhere between a red-shade and cyan phthalo blue.
  8. Helio Turquoise (PB16) – A nice mixing turquoise.
  9. Cobalt Turquoise (PG50) – My favorite SH color and my favorite PG50 of all time! Opaque, bold, bright, granulating, seafoam turquoise. 
  10. Titanium Gold Ochre (PBr24) – I don’t normally like opaque Naples Yellow, but Schmincke’s has a very warm, pleasant hue. If you prefer transparent colors, Transparent Yellow Ochre is an unusual option. 
  11. English Venetian Red (PR101) – A semi-opaque, granulating, earthy red-orange. Again, I’m avoiding transparents here due to my Schmincke problems, but they do offer a Transparent Sienna (PR101) which is closer to my typical TRO pick. 
  12. Schmincke’s Payne’s Gray (PR101, PB29, PBk7) – Not so much a Payne’s Gray as a neutral tint, great for silhouettes and monochrome. 

Sennelier

Easy to rewet honey-based brand that I find unpleasantly sticky, but to each his own. The colors really are gorgeous.

  1. Yellow Sophie (PY93) – A lovely cool yellow with an unusual pigment.
  2. Primary Yellow (PY74) – A bold dandelion yellow just on the warm side.
  3. French Vermilion (PR242) – A gorgeous pop scarlet. Rose Dore Madder Lake (PR255) is said to be more lightfast but I didn’t find it as magical. Opt instead for Sennelier Red (PR254) if you prefer a more middle red.
  4. Quinacridone Red (PR209) – Quin Coral equivalent
  5. Rose Madder Lake (PV19) – Sennelier’s take on a quin rose.
  6. ❓Ultramarine Light (PB29) – I have no reason to choose one Ultramarine over another; I haven’t tried any of Sennelier’s. But I tend to like the versatility of light ultramarine.
  7. Blue Indanthrone (PB60) – Oto Kano’s favorite indanthrone, just an all-around good version that’s a middle neither-cold-nor-warm dark blue hue with nice handling.
  8. Prussian Blue (PB27) – First came to my attention as Kolbie Blume’s favorite Prussian Blue, and now it’s mine too. It is dark but has a lovely intense cyan undertone that makes it more versatile as a primary blue than the more muted Prussian Blues I’ve tried.
  9. Hooker’s Green (PG36) – A pretty convenience leaf mix, the right color for summer foliage. Choose Sennelier Green (PG36) for a single-pigment option. (Oddly enough they only offer a Yellow Shade and not a Green Shade of Phthalo Green.)
  10. ❓Forest Green (PY42, PG7, PBk7) – This convenience dark green looks very lovely in the photos and I could see it being extremely handy for dark foliage. 
  11. Raw Sienna (PBr7) – You know I like a transparent PBr7 Raw Sienna. 
  12. Burnt Sienna (PBr7) – As Sennelier don’t offer a PR101 Transparent Red Oxide, their classic PBr7 Burnt Sienna would have to meet my Earth Orange needs.

Winsor & Newton

WN’s dot card is not complete, but forms my basis for understanding their line. And, of course, some of these are colors I use a lot. The ‘Winsor’ colors are usually very solid basics. WN paints tend to dry hard, so they may need to be carefully activated, but they’re useful for moist climates.

  1. Winsor Yellow (PY154) – A bold primary yellow, neither cool nor warm. For something cooler, try Winsor Lemon (PY175).
  2. Winsor Yellow Deep (PY65) – A very nice version of PY65 Hansa Yellow Deep.
  3. Transparent Orange (DPP) – Deep, bold orange.
  4. Scarlet Lake (PR188) – Similar hue to Pyrrol Scarlet, but transparent.
  5. Permanent Rose (PV19) – Warmer than most; a very bright, lovely PV19 rose.
  6. Smalt (PV15) – A gorgeous granulating violet-blue, more violet than Ultramarine Blue but more blue than a typical PV15 Ultramarine Violet. I love it for clouds.
  7. Indanthrene Blue (PB60) – This is one of the greenish ones. Solid performer.
  8. Phthalo Turquoise (PB16) – My second-favorite version of PB16 (after Da Vinci); a bit more muted than Phthalo Blue, and gets super dark and mixes gorgeous greens.
  9. Perylene Green (PBk31) – This can be a tricky color because it tends to be weak. Winsor’s version is relatively bold and easy to rewet.
  10. Naples Yellow Deep (PBr24) – A wonderful opaque warm yellow that’s very vivid for an earth color or muted for a bold color; in dilute makes perfect sunset yellows and mixes wonderful sunset corals with PR209. Another earth yellow option I like is Gold Ochre (PY43), a very orange-toned version of yellow ochre.
  11. Venetian Red (PR101) – A nice version of this opaque earth orange-red, warmer than Indian Red with a lovely richness.
  12. Payne’s Gray (PB15, PBk6, PV19) – A very blue-toned dark gray. 

Student Grade

Cotman by Winsor & Newton

Winsor & Newton Cotman is the student-grade brand I started with! I still think they’re a great student brand and a cost-effective way to try many colors. Some intense colors, such as Phthalos and Quinacridones, are pretty much just as good in a high-quality student grade like this. I’m not as big a fan of their earths, though this is true of WN in general. If you’re choosing student-grade paints for kids, they may prefer brighter shades anyway. I looked for relatively fun, lightfast, mostly single-pigment colors. Note that Cotman can be hard to rewet, but works great wet from the tube.

  1. Lemon Yellow Hue (PY175) – this was my favorite yellow in the WN 18-color set, even before I learned that it is also the only single-pigment yellow they offer. It’s very cool, suitable for mixing very bright greens. In retrospect it’s pretty pale (I found artist grade versions such as Holbein’s much more intense), but it’s still very pretty for sunrises, florals, and spring green mixes.
  2. Cadmium Yellow Hue (PY65, PY97) – A deep yellow with strong contrast from the cool lemon yellow. Note that all Cotman colors are nontoxic, this does not actually contain cadmium.
  3. Cadmium Red Pale Hue (PR255, PY65) – I don’t have a strong opinion about which of their three cadmium red hues to choose. I think a scarlet is a useful thing to have, and this orangey one has good lightfast components.
  4. Permanent Rose (PV19) – Equivalent hue to artist-grade Perm Rose. I found this very beautiful and useful in my Cotman set.
  5. Purple Lake (PV19) – This actually remains my favorite PV19 violet across brands.
  6. Dioxazine Purple (PV23) – If buying for children, be aware this is VERY staining. It doesn’t really need to be more intense so it’s also one that it worth getting in student grade if you’re mixing and matching.
  7. Ultramarine (PV29) – A very useful color to have though one I seem to recall being fairly weak in Cotman.
  8. Prussian Blue (PB27) – I know this color isn’t really lightfast but it was my favorite blue in the 18-color set. It gets really dark.
  9. Intense Blue (PB15) – Phthalo/Winsor Blue Green Shade equivalent. As an intense pigment, this is a good candidate to get in student grade.
  10. Viridian Hue (PG7) – Phthalo/Winsor Green Blue Shade equivalent. As far as I can tell this is hard to distinguish from the artist-grade version. They also have a PG36, Intense Green, but I haven’t tried it, and my concern is that as it’s a more expensive pigment sold for the same price it may be weaker.
  11. Burnt Sienna (PR101)- Although I’m not enamored with Cotman’s earth tones generally, an earth orange is SUCH a useful thing to have. This is actually a single-pigment transparent red oxide, so it’s not as weak as a student-grade PBr7 would be.
  12. Payne’s Gray (PB15, PB29, PBk7) – Note this is a color-separating version using Ultramarine Blue, more like Daniel Smith’s than like WN Professional’s.

Van Gogh by Royal Talens

Van Gogh is also a nice student grade with bold colors and some rare single pigments. Like Cotman, they are all nontoxic. Compared to Cotman, they are easier to rewet, and better suited to working from dry pans. I’ve painted the colors from a dot card but not worked with them extensively.

  1. Transparent Yellow Medium (PY128) – An unusual pigment, also known as Azo Condensation Yellow. A transparent middle yellow.
  2. Indian Yellow (PY83): Though not the most lightfast, it’s a beautiful traditionally deep yellow-orange color, and Van Gogh is the only brand I know of that sells it in a single pigment at present.
  3. Vermilion (PR255/PO73) – While VG offers both a PO73 Pyrrol Orange and PR255 Pyrrol Scarlet equivalent, both of which are lovely, I prefer this mix which to me is the perfect balance of orange to red in a scarlet.
  4. Carmine (PR176) – Somewhere between red and rose, similar to Alizarin Crimson. This is just a very pretty paint and handles gorgeously in VG. Like Indian Yellow, it may not be as lightfast as some other paints. (I don’t recommend VG’s Quin Rose; it’s very weak.)
  5. Permanent Red Violet (PV19) – A violet-toned magenta somewhere between a traditional Quin Rose and Quin Violet; similar in hue to DS Quin Fuchsia (PR202). I’d pick this up for mixing purples.
  6. Permanent Blue Violet (PV23): A deep cool purple, also known as Dioxazine Violet. In student grade, this is not as wildly untameable as it can be in pro grade.
  7. Lavender (PB29, PV15, PW6): I really like VG’s Lavender, which is gorgeously granulating and not too chalky. (I am not as much a fan of their Ultramarine Blue, despite usually finding that a more useful color.)
  8. Phthalo Blue (PB15): A lovely royal blue with a lot of range; like Diox Violet, it’s a bit easier to handle in student grade than in pro grade. Their Cerulean hue, a mix of PB15 and white, is also nice if you prefer a sky specialist, but I think Phthalo Blue is more versatile.
  9. Phthalo Green (PG7): A standard Phthalo Green Blue Shade, useful for mixing greens. (Avoid Viridian, the same pigment but weakened.)
  10. Azo Green (PY129): Equivalent to DS Rich Green Gold, a favorite pigment of mine and great for mixing naturalistic greens with PG7. (Indeed, VG’s Sap Green is a PG7/PY129 mix – I’d recommend it if I weren’t already recommending the parts.)
  11. Light Oxide Red (PR101) – A semi-opaque earth red, similar to Venetian Red. My usual earth color option would be more like their Burnt Sienna (actually Transparent Red Oxide, an earth orange), but since this palette does not contain a violet blue to neutralize it, I think the redder shade would be more useful to mute the green-toned cyan blues.
  12. Payne’s Gray (PBk6, PV19) – Equivalent to my favorite artist grade Payne’s Grays, nice and juicy. They say this is a mix of black and PV19, but I am sure there is also Phthalo Blue in there, as it’s rather blue-toned. Indigo is another option if you want it to be more of a straightforward dark blue.

Conclusion

There’s no reason to stick with one brand when shopping for paints; I like to mix and match. But if, for whatever reason, you find yourself shopping a single brand – like if you’re at an art store with only one brand or you’re taking advantage of a massive sale – I hope this list has helped you craft a balanced palette that’s usable on its own and also hits each brand’s “best of.” 

What great brands and/or colors did I miss? 

5 thoughts on “Single-Brand Watercolor Palette Ideas”

  1. Fun exercise! Because of my huge paint ‘library’ I have palettes in many brands myself, but they’re not usually selected out of the complete catalogue. (Ones you missed are the rarer European brands of Isaro, Rosa, and A Gallo. And Blockx, ugh.)

    Szmal comments:

    Going by brushfeel, I like py109 more then aquarius yellow. And I don’t love py108. Feels like a Sennelier paint to me. (I have used all three a fair bit.)

    Ultramarine blue intense is the low-granulating version! But I like all their UBs.

    There are about five orange earth options I have not tried, but intend to poke through slowly. I find the earths do not have the Sennelier-like-feel problem.

    In Schmincke, I am intrigued by Maroon Brown as a Siena stand in. And I have the discontinued Walnut Brown, which is quite cool (literally, it’s like Mahogany, same pigment, but cool and dark) but I don’t use it too much since it’s discontinued…

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