Autumn Palette Problem-Solving

As I’ve used my Fall Foliage Palette outside, I’ve run into some challenges that made me want to swap a color. I thought I’d go through my problem-solving thought process and then show you the revised palette.

Problems I Am Trying To Solve

Brilliant Hansa Yellow

The Good

Brilliant Hansa Yellow (PY74) is a gorgeously bright, slightly warm yellow, especially the Letter Sparrow version I’ve been using out of the Grow Untamed palette.

The Bad

The main problem is that I am running out (and it was a limited edition so I can’t get another, at least not in an Art Toolkit pan). I can get other PY74s, but I’m not sure I want to as the color is not the most lightfast, and is pretty similar to other colors. Finally, while I love the warmth of the sunflower yellow color, it’s not as versatile as a cooler, more middle yellow. Most autumn leaf yellows are on the warm side, but some – especially those early in their transition to yellow from green – are cooler.

Quin Red

The Good

I really liked Quin Red (PV19) when I first swatched it out – kind of no wonder, since I’ve noticed as I continue to use it that it’s very similar to Quin Rose, especially warmer formulations like DV Red Rose Deep or WN Permanent Rose!

Having a pink has been helpful for the typical pink reasons (e.g. making pink and violet). Also, you can make red with orange.

I intentionally kept all my colors transparent to make deep mixes and this mixes lusciously.

The Bad

I like pink, but I was going for red, and since I thought this was red I didn’t put another red in the palette. True, in deep masstone this color does look crimson, but in practice, when using it dry from a palette outdoors, it’s hard to get that deep masstone and it usually looks more or less like a warm Quin Rose.

A downside to having transparent colors for foliage is that it’s hard to keep them bright when introducing shadows and dark colors. Once they get smudgy, they can’t be rescued. A more opaque color could act more like gouache with brights layered on top.

Autumn Leaves at Franconia Notch Park, based on a photo by @connors_perceptions. I didn’t mean to let that red tree get so muted.


The Good

Bordeaux is useful for:

  • Deepening red foliage colors
  • Mixing violet flower colors

In a world where I didn’t have a pink Quin Red, it would be especially useful to have a near-magenta.

New England Asters. October 8, 2023.

The Bad

Bordeaux is up for removal from my overall color library because it’s rarely useful and LF2. I’ve only used it in autumn palettes.

I’m running into some limitations here too. Notably, it doesn’t really get dark enough for very deep crimson leaves and shadows.

Another nitpick: since I don’t have a violet-blue, I’d like to use the violet slot to make violet-blue sky zeniths, but Bordeaux is too strong and reddish and dulls them too much.

Blue sky, Oct 9 2023. Bordeaux was too reddish to make good violet blues with PBRS.

Both of these point toward including a more bluey violet. However, this might be less useful for making deeper reds and/or pinker tones in magenta flowers.

Deep Scarlet

The Good

On its face Deep Scarlet (PR175) seems like a good balance of a bright scarlet and deep, earth red. I like the unmixed color which feels very fall. It’s nice in “background” foliage.

Fall foliage. October 6, 2023.

The Bad

It’s not useful at all as a bright scarlet (I certainly wouldn’t use it to make bright foliage colors – in this palette I use Quin Coral + Hansa Yellow Deep). But it’s also not optimized as a dark red or shadow color because it doesn’t get dark enough.

Sweetgum leaf, October 9 2023. Deep Scarlet, Gold Ochre, Indanthrone Blue. A brighter scarlet would have captured the pop color better, while a darker red could have helped get more subtle edges without Indanthrone Blue mixes.

Overall Problem Statement

I am looking for a new primary yellow, as well as a set of 3 red-to-violet shades that do the following:

  • Paint bright reds (with or without Quin Coral, TPO)
  • Deepen and darken reds (in a crimson and/or scarlet direction)
  • Mix purple shades for flowers (with PBRS)

New Color Trials

Imidazolone Yellow

The yellow is the easiest one to substitute because I just moved to my typical primary yellow, Imidazolone Yellow (PY154).

Pyrrol Red

Pyrrol Red (PR254) is a middle red that’s more opaque and robust than Quin Red (and less pink). It mixes differently and doesn’t make purples so much.

This is one that I specifically rejected at first because I like the way that Quin Red mixed better. “Stuff in autumn isn’t really RED red,” I posited in early October, though by late October there was a lot more red! I have to grudgingly admit that it’s actually very convenient to have in your field palette since it’s a super-quick shortcut to those bold middle reds without winding up too pink or orange.

Quinacridone Violet

Especially if I’m considering nixing Quin Red and/or Bordeaux, I need something in the violet range. Although I have repeatedly rejected Quin Violet (PV19) from various palettes, considering it “too dull,” I found myself enjoying it a lot in mixes with Pyrrol Red, where it mixes a gorgeous range of Pyrrol Crimson and Bordeaux hues.

HO Quin Violet (PV19) + HO Pyrrol Red (PR254) on Canson XL

Quin Violet just feels like a nice feed-two-birds-with-one-scone solution that lets me replace Bordeaux; make up for the lost violet tones if Quin Red when switching to Pyrrol Red; and add Pyrrol Crimson hue without adding a new color. I even like it better than Bordeaux in sky zeniths.

Fall foliage at dusk, with deep blue sky. October 24, 2023.

My only problem is that it doesn’t get dark enough for truly dark crimsons.

Plein air sketch of crimson ash. Quin Violet plus Transparent Orange and Pyrrol Red make a nice intense scarlet but it doesn’t get violet-crimson. October 22, 2023.

Perylene Maroon

I tried Perylene Maroon (PR179) as an option for a Deep Scarlet replacer. It does get darker. (I think the DS version gets even darker though I only tried Holbein.) But it also mixes in an odd, grayish way that I don’t love, and creates odd cauliflowers that I found difficult to control. Sometimes they randomly look great and very foliage-y, but I can’t count on it.

Naphthamide Maroon

Then I tried Naphthamide Maroon (PR171), which is more violet (between Perylene Maroon and Perylene Violet but closer to the latter). I initially introduced this to the Summer Palette for botanicals and warm shadows, and I found it was solid as a crimson leaf color as well, and became more important as the season progressed and leaf colors got deeper.

Crimson ash (fall foliage plein air sketch.) October 24, 2023. Naphthamide Maroon, Transparent Orange, Hansa Yellow Deep.


I decided to switch as follows:

  • Brilliant Hansa Yellow to Imidazolone Yellow
  • Quin Red to Pyrrol Red
  • Bordeaux to Quin Violet
  • Deep Scarlet to Naphthamide Maroon

Here’s the final palette:

Autumn Palette Redux 2023

It’s interesting because Pyrrol Red and Quin Violet are both colors that I don’t like as much in a vacuum and had previously ejected from my palette, but in the context of the autumn palette, they’re great! None of them mix super brightly, but that’s fine: I already had bright mixers (e.g. Quin Coral, Hansa Yellow Deep, Nickel Azo Yellow) and what I needed for contrast was colors that mix dark, intense, and/or muted shades.

Since making these switches, I’ve generally found my palette quite complete and usable for many types of foliage. I rarely feel the need to go outside my autumn to-go palette, though I do sometimes reach for a specialty color when I’m in “the studio” (i.e. indoors).

For example, for cooler yellows, I like to have springy Imidazolone Lemon (PY175) on hand.

Stay tuned: as foliage season ends, I’ll be switching to a review and revamp of last year’s winter palette!