What’s in my palette? (May 2024)

You might be unsurprised to note that I have had some last-minute changes of heart about my palette since last time. Partially this is general regrets after overzealously cutting good colors last time, and partially it’s a result of philosophical thoughts after taking a color class with Katie Woodward! Since I’ve run out of time to dither before my move, and have actually given away the colors from the cut pile now, this is going to have to be the “final final final” version… at least I scope out my next art store situation.

Philosophical Thoughts

Katie’s palette curation advice has nothing to do with recommending or disrecommending specific colors and was all about paying attention to your own likes and dislikes.

  • Which colors do you simply not like/enjoy painting with? [Cut!]
  • Which colors do you find yourself actually reaching for? [Keep!]
  • Which colors do you continually struggle to choose between? [Consider cutting one to save decision fatigue.]

Thinking about things this way helped me to make some of the hard choices in ways that I feel good about, as I’ll describe below.

The Palette

I dismantled the Spring Palette (and Not-Spring Palette) pocket palettes and went back to a system of A-Team (Folio Palette) and B-Team (Pocket Palette). Generally, the A-Team includes my regularly used all-purpose colors which I typically have stocked in 15ml tubes; the B-team includes those that I have in sample sizes or pans only and which are generally used for specific purposes.


May 2024 Palette Map, on Canson XL

Top Row, Brights:

  1. SH Aureolin Modern (PY151) [new!]
  2. DS Permanent Yellow Deep (PY110)
  3. DS Perylene Red (PR178)
  4. DV Quinacridone Red (PR209)
  5. DS Quinacridone Red (PV19) [double]
  6. DS Carbazole Violet (PV23) [Van Palette]
  7. HO Phthalo Blue Yellow Shade (PB15:3) [newly promoted]
  8. DS Phthalo Green Yellow Shade (PG36)
  9. DS Rich Green Gold (PY129)

Middle Row, Darks:

  1. MI Green Gold (PY150)
  2. DS Quinacridone Burnt Orange (PO48) [Van Palette]
  3. DS Transparent Red Oxide (PR101)
  4. DS Indanthrone Blue (PB60) [double]
  5. WN Perylene Green (PBk31) [Van Palette]

Bottom Row, Earths:

  1. WN Naples Yellow Deep (PBr24)
  2. DS Monte Amiata Natural Sienna (PBr7) [restored, double]
  3. DV Cobalt Blue (PB28) [double]
  4. HO Payne’s Gray


May 2024 B-Team, on Canson XL

Top Row:

  1. HO Imidazolone Lemon (PY175)
  2. HO Imidazolone Yellow (PY154)
  3. DS Pyrrol Scarlet (PR255) [Desert Palette]
  4. HO Quinacridone Magenta (PR122)
  5. DV Lavender
  6. HO Phthalo Blue RS (PB15:1)
  7. WN Phthalo Turquoise (PB16)

Bottom row:

  1. HO Yellow Ochre (PY42)
  2. WN Gold Ochre (PY42) [Desert Palette]
  3. DV Indian Red (PR101) [Desert Palette]
  4. DV Perylene Red (PR149)
  5. DV Ultramarine Blue (PB29)
  6. DV Cerulean Blue (PB36) [Desert Palette]
  7. SH Cobalt Turquoise (PG50)

Change Log

Things I was going to cut, but decided to keep

I previously had these in my “pan only” palette but decided at the last moment to pull the tubes back from the giveaway pile.

  • Phthalo Blue Green Shade: Not only did I not give this away, I promoted it to my main palette after realizing it would probably be fabulous in the green PNW. I gave it another try and found that I no longer found it perennially too bright or difficult to use, perhaps because I’ve improved in mixing? It also works well with several of the other colors I have on my palette, and allows me to reduce in that it takes the place of PBRS, PB16 and Cobalt Turquoise [which have all been bumped to the B-team].
  • MANS: Actually I do like this more than HO Raw Sienna. It is a bit weak, but such a lovely color, warmer and yellower than the HO RS, which is a bit more green-brown and boring (and also cracks and flakes). Kept, and gave away the RS instead.
  • Indian Red [B-team]: While I find this annoying on my main palette, because I will accidentally use it when I meant to use TRO, it is actually uniquely super useful for desert scenes, both for its gentle earth-red hue and its granulation.

Things I was going to A-team, but decided bump to B-team [pan only]

  • Ultramarine Blue (PB29) is bumped. After commiserating with another participant in the class about how we struggle to like it because of its texture and/or show-stealing qualities, Katie encouraged us to just cut it already! I do still have it in my B-team because it does a few things really well (like certain types of clouds), but I am no longer trying to use it as a standard workhorse color.
  • Quinacridone Magenta (PR122) is bumped, shockingly. This is a true primary magenta that has everything going for it and makes stunning purples. But in actual practice, especially plein air, I almost always reach for PV19 rose instead, and having both leads to frequent decision fatigue.
  • Cerulean Blue is bumped because I find myself using it interchangeably with Cobalt Blue. But I like its more cyan hue sometimes, and it’s a good partner to Indian Red and a good entry on the Desert Palette.
  • Cobalt Turquoise is bumped. This is a color that I do not typically reach for. It’s more like palette decoration. I like the unmixed color but not the mixes.
  • Gold Ochre is bumped because it is too similar to Naples Yellow Deep and MANS. I temporarily tried cutting NYD instead and using Gold Ochre + yellow to mix sunsets, but found myself continually reaching back into the B-team for Naples Yellow Deep which is just so convenient. On the principle of keeping the colors you reach for, and valuing convenience, I opted for the NYD.

And even lower than the B-team, the pan-only team:

  • Venetian Red was previously a keeper but I demoted it to pan-only as I find it actually not as useful as Indian Red except in the context of the Blue & Brown palette, something I do not think I will do again.
  • All other colors previously marked as pan-only are still pan-only.

Zany last-minute swaps

Here are some of my weirder last-minute choices. These involve colors that I rescued from the giveaways and added to my main palette despite them not even being on the map in my previous post. Not even saved as pan only. Just fully at the bottom of the drawer, in the “never think about again” pile.

Azo Yellow

Rewind to last week, after the Katie Woodward class. In order to eliminate a common source of decision fatigue, I was trying to narrow down whether I wanted Imidazolone Yellow (PY154) or Imidazolone Lemon (PY175). In the past I have found the warmer Yellow more useful than the cooler Lemon. Lemon mixes electric greens that many call “artificial looking.” But in the spring, these mixes look accurate! And the PNW is known for its saturated greens. Still, I found that I preferred the unmixed hue of the more classic yellow.

“If only there was a color that looked like a middle yellow but mixed like a lemon,” I thought, and then realized there is: this was what I initially found disconcerting about Azo Yellow (PY151). So Schmincke’s version of Azo Yellow, which is called Aureolin Hue, has bumped both of them.

Schmincke Horadam – Aureolin Hue (PY151)

Perylene Red

As with Azo Yellow, I had a last-minute inspiration after thinking to myself, “Gosh, Pyrrol Red was kind of useful in Vancouver last year, but I actually find it too bright for most use cases and it can make muddy mixes. If only there were a middle red that is a bit more muted than Pyrrol Red but mixes cleaner.” And I realized I had tried exactly that color, and it was Perylene Red (PR178).

Hue aside, I have always really enjoyed the brushfeel of this paint, which is smooth and easy. It feels good to be adding a color back onto my palette because I like the way it feels, instead of keeping a paint I believe to be important due to its hue, even though I don’t like how it feels.

I had abandoned it early on in the Liz Steel class palette audit exercises, largely because I was super into the brightest colors imaginable, but now I find its partway-between-red-and-crimson color prettier than super-bright Pyrrol Red, and it is an especially useful mixer for a color family I have since come to really appreciate: muted mauves and violets. Where magenta, rose, and even Alizarin Crimson mix violets that are too vibrant, and scarlets simply mix gray, Perylene Red is a quick way into those more subtle sunset-cloud violets. When I gave it another test drive in my to-go palette over this last week or so, I also found it useful for mixing dark reds (that I like better than Perylene Maroon or Violet), and for muting greens.

Japanese maple sketch, Somerville, MA. May 3, 2024. Dark reds from Perylene Red and Indanthrone Blue.

So this is an experimental re-add, in place of similar (but more scarlet) DV Perylene Red (PR149), which has been bumped down to B-team.

Pyrrol Scarlet [B Team]

In a previous palette audit I almost defiantly opted for Naphthol Scarlet (PR188) instead of the more usually recommended Pyrrol Scarlet (PR255) because I prefer more transparent colors. But I have found interestingly that I rarely reach for scarlet at all when PR188 is my option; it has too much mixing overlap with PR209. Due to its opacity, it also offers some useful functions that PR188 does not do as well. One of my favorite uses is dropping it into sun-backlit silhouettes. Another is pop details, such as a woodpecker’s cockade. Even if I don’t like opaque colors as a rule, I think there is a use for having the occasional opaque color.

Golden Hour from live tutorial by Kolbie Blume. November 19, 2022. Pyrrol Red dropped into silhouettes makes for spots of sunlight.


I had hoped that at this point of my process I’d be narrowing down to a “best of” the colors I know I like the best, not doing last-minute experiments still, but oh well! Classic me.

Currently, the A-team is 18 colors, which I think is my sweet spot size: I tend to feel limited by my smaller palettes (e.g. 14 or fewer colors), and overwhelmed by my larger palettes (e.g. 22 or more colors). There is still some room for expansion, especially by shrinking the double-sizes, each of which could be logically split to include more B-team colors (e.g. Quin Rose to Quin Rose + Quin Magenta, Indanthrone Blue to IB + UMB). However, I feel fairly sanguine about my choices to pick one from similar-use-case pairs, and reduce decision fatigue in the moment. I also like having double-size colors to help me navigate my palette quickly.

Maybe at some point I will narrow it further. I can already see some possible avenues:

  • QBO, Carbazole Violet, and Perylene Green all have some texture/property nitpicks (too weak, too strong, too much drying shift, respectively), but they’re my special Vancouver colors so it will all come down to whether I actually find them especially valuable there.
  • Nickel Azo Yellow and Rich Green Gold hold similar palette roles and, if I were truly committed to the “pick one of a pair” lifestyle, I’d probably choose between them. Nickel Azo Yellow is more flexible, mixing well with warm colors (e.g. Quin Gold from QBO) as well as cool (e.g. greens from Phthalo Blue/Green). I prefer RGG for mixing greens only. Yet, even if I had two slots for NAY, I’d probably still keep it in two pans to prevent from cross-contaminating my warm and cool mixes, so I might as well have RGG as a green mixing specialist.
  • I am always on the fence about whether Payne’s Gray is actually useful or if I’d prefer to mix grays. But gray comes up a lot in Vancouver, so again, maybe a good convenience mix.
Fall in Vancouver Palette

On the other hand, perhaps I’ve given away some colors I will regret. In most cases I can get them back again pretty easily. Vancouver art supply stores seem to stock WN, DS, Holbein, and Schmincke (limited stock). It seems that Da Vinci is weirdly hard to get in Canada, so I’ve tried to hang onto those where possible.

As I enter a new environment, I will inevitably gain new perspective or opinions on what colors look best or most “natural.” Stay tuned!

2 thoughts on “What’s in my palette? (May 2024)”

  1. I can’t believe I stumbled upon this. It’s me–the other ultramarine commiserator from Katie’s class. I am also checking out life without ultramarine and welcoming DS Indanthrone Blue and trying out cobalt blue violet. Good luck!

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