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24 Color “Full Spectrum” Paint Box

April 10, 2015

Curent Pallette_Aug17_2015

PLEASE NOTE:  I began playing with this 24 color palette in early 2015, and have made numerous small changes to the color selection. Both from my own test paintings and feedback from other professional artists.

I don’t think color I’ll ever stop testing colors – I already know I want to switch out Fuschite for a warmer yellow green like Rich Green Gold (out of stock in my local shop today).

I’ve edited this post as I make changes – and I’ll keep doing so as I move colors in the set. So you can check back here for the ‘final’ (current) word on my color choices.

I still recommend a traditional split-primary palette to beginners – listed over here on the watercolor materials page. The split-primary was how I learned to mix color and I think it’s easier to understand at first.

I call this 24 color selection a Full Spectrum Palette. It has a warm and cool side, with Blues, Blue/Greens, Greens and ‘Blacks’  on one side, and Yellows, Earth Tones, Reds and Violets down the other.  I’ve arranged the colors in a kind of light/mid/dark philosophy in their rows – (such as the violet row) – sometimes it’s more of a warm-to-cool gradient – such as the Blue/Green row.

This is a 5×8″ (when open) paintbox as compared to 14 in my previous 3×5″ bijoux box. I like the larger mixing area offered by that flip out panel below. I like to pack small, but upsizing to this kit was worth it for the mixing area alone.

Let me know if you’d make any replacements to this mix. I’m always curious what other people are using for pigments!

FURTHER NOTE: I can also say, now that I have tested artist grade tube colors and equally high-quality pan colors side by side – there is a noticeable difference in how they re-wet.

In a typical usage case artist grade pan colors release more pigment faster than most of my tube pigments – IF that is – the tube color has begun to dry out in the tin. This is typical after two or three days in northern climates.

If the paint is fresh from the tube, there is no difference to re-wetting – and in fact, tube colors allow me to pick up juicy gobs of color and let them mix and bloom on the wet paper.

This means, if you don’t paint that often, pans might be the better choice. (The re-wetting is very convenient). However, if you like to paint very wet, or with a lot of blooming color – then tubes will win out – but you have to keep your paint fresh.


51 Comments leave one →
  1. April 10, 2015 10:28 PM

    THanks for sharing your palette colors! I want to try that Holbein Lilac! I would recommend Hansa Yellow Medium (Daniel Smith), my favorite yellow.

    • April 11, 2015 12:25 AM

      I like that lilac as it’s quite opaque. A bit like a lavender cerulean. Give it a try!
      Hansa yellow would probably make great spring greens I bet.

  2. Penny permalink
    April 10, 2015 10:45 PM

    When and where will you be in Ohio?

    • April 11, 2015 12:25 AM

      I’ll be through Cincinnati in May, but unfortunately I’m just in and out for a meeting – so there’s no time for my own sketching :P

  3. Carole Flaherty permalink
    April 10, 2015 11:41 PM

    Yes, the lilac looks yummy. Where do I find a rig like this, looks much more compact than the standard expanded palette?

    • April 11, 2015 12:22 AM

      This one is made by Winsor and Newton. I got it with filled half pans and have subsequently replaced almost all the colors with my own choices. The default kit comes with only I think 16 colors or something? (checked – it was 12). I removed the tin ‘rack’ that holds the half pans, and wedged all these in with blue tack. Which I think is where the term ‘tacky’ comes from, as it looks pretty bad – but works fine! :)

      • Rene Wojcik permalink
        April 11, 2015 1:16 PM

        I have exactly the same box with the removable tray with twelve half-pans. There is a Lucas trademark on the black painted case. I guess I could convert it easily enough to hold 24 half-pans.

  4. Cornelia Emery permalink
    April 11, 2015 12:20 AM

    Whoa! That’s a lot of green! Do you mix any greens?


    • April 11, 2015 12:31 AM

      I find I use them all in foliage – I paint fairly quickly on location, so ‘convenience’ mixes do save time :) I suppose to be honest I hardly use viridian. That’s another one that might be on probation. But sometimes there is a dark but sharp green in tropical foliage or deep water? But for normal northern foliage I usually start with a sap or perlyne then charge into it with a yellow or red for variation. The Terre Verte is new to me, I’m just testing it. And the fuchsite is really just for Montreal’s copper domed churches, but then I found it handy for the ocean and tropical plants.

      Here’s one that uses all the greens!

      and another:

  5. April 11, 2015 12:43 AM

    I’m from central Ohio. When will you be in Ohio and where in Ohio?

    • April 11, 2015 10:38 AM

      Hey Darlene – unfortunately it’s just an in-and-out overnighter for a meeting, Sorry! If you’re ever in Montreal let us know :)

      • April 11, 2015 1:16 PM

        Ah, yes I should certainly try to get to Montreal! Until then I appreciate all you share with us on-line. Cheers-Darlene

  6. RSchaffer permalink
    April 11, 2015 3:01 AM

    Kremer makes those empty boxes and they are available at Amazon for excellent prices..$17 for that small one. They have two more larger boxes also that are nice for those of us who find 24 paints a tad on the low side.

    Shadow Violet is my current favorite violet…perfect for…shadows. Black Tourmaline is a wonderous granulating grey to black too.

    • April 11, 2015 10:56 AM

      I want to try that DS Luna black sometime, which is supposed to be super duper granulating. That might be a neat thing. When I remove all these greens that everyone is on my case about, I can have some space for that! Hehe.

  7. April 11, 2015 3:54 AM

    Thanks for sharing, Marc! I found some good old friends =) Moonglow has certainly been my favorite for the last year or so. I noticed that I can perfectly go without viridian although it´s still in my box. French Ultramarine and quin gold (I use the normal, not the deep) make for quick mixes and wonderful greens. More livelier greens I get easily mixing quit gold with prussian blue that I otherwise only (and rarely) use for some spectacular water scenes … Quin gold is so versatile I won´t miss it! I also substituted burnt siena with quin burnt orange half a year ago and I still like it very much.
    I often use cerulean (w&n) and smalt genuine for skies but I´m not very happy with the cerulean. It kind of turns out more “turqoise” then I like. Any suggestion for a softer, clear blue? A warm hug from Spain =)

    • April 11, 2015 10:55 AM

      I swear cerulean has changed in the last year. I am not a chemist, but the behavior of the granulation and the turquoise tint seems different. I would swear it used to be warmer. So – anything is possible. They may be mining a different location in the world? Or we may have run out of one strain of the mineral? I don’t know. If I find a blue alternate I’ll let you know! (Or anyone else chime in please :)

      • Rene Wojcik permalink
        April 11, 2015 1:06 PM

        You might try Verditer blue as a nice alternative to Cerulean….

        • April 11, 2015 1:22 PM

          I’ll check that out. Also maybe your Manganese blue also.

          • Rene Wojcik permalink
            April 11, 2015 1:36 PM

            Yes, I use that blue as well, it mixes well with most of the yellows to make various greens.

  8. April 11, 2015 8:33 AM

    Cadmium red and yellow. Lemon yellow. I mix all my greens from Windsor blue (green shade) with various yellows.

  9. April 11, 2015 9:47 AM

    I love my Perylene Green and I have a comparable purple to your Winsor Violet, mine’s DS Carbazole V. Together they make an incredible black. Give it a go and see how you like it!

    • Chris Drage permalink
      April 11, 2015 5:35 PM

      I tried this and was amazed at the deep black I got – thanks so much!

      • April 11, 2015 9:34 PM

        I just learned this a few weeks ago… I’m so glad you like it!

  10. Rene Wojcik permalink
    April 11, 2015 11:17 AM

    My travel kit is made up of fewer paints….Quinacradone Gold, Burnt Sienna, Alizarin Crimson, Scarlet Lake, Cadmium Red Light, Lemon Yellow, New Gamboge, Raw Sienna, Raw Umber, Burnt Umber, Ultramarine Blue, Cobalt Blue, Manganese Blue and Dioxine Purple. I am going to southern Utah in a few weeks so this palette is for that trip. You probably notice that I don’t have any greens. I mix my own but will sometimes take a tube of Sap green. Most of my paints are W/N.

    • Mary McCarty permalink
      April 11, 2015 1:27 PM

      I would add Thalo Blue. I know it is very strong but just a small amount added to sap green makes a range of natural looking greens. I mix my greens also but this is quick for sketching. Mary

      • Rene Wojcik permalink
        April 12, 2015 6:43 AM

        Mary, I’ve used Thalo Blue in the past but because of it’s staining nature it is almost impossible to lift. Prussian Blue (Antwerp Blue) works just as well as Thalo Blue for making green. Does not stain as much.

  11. Chris Drage permalink
    April 11, 2015 4:48 PM

    I love your colours Marc but have a question. Did you paint sand at all? I am in Bermuda and can’t get the colour of the sand right. I have lemon yellow, cadmium yellow and orange, Quinn gold, burnt sienna, Crimson Aliz, cad red, ultramarine and turquoise. I loved your water painting.

    • April 11, 2015 8:56 PM

      Sounds like all your warms are quite strong. I don’t use Cads for that reason. I like weaker yellows, Naples yellow, and Raw Sienna might work. And I’m just trying out Buff Titanium. Would have to try one to say – but I’m not much for the beach – that is the one place I am shy about drawing. Well that and little kids in playgrounds. Seems like a good way to get arrested :)

      • Chris Drage permalink
        April 11, 2015 9:43 PM

        Thanks for the comment. I will look at my colour balance when I get home! For now I will try my lemon yellow and the burnt sienna. Tomorrow is another beach sketching day!!

  12. Rene Wojcik permalink
    April 11, 2015 9:38 PM

    I’ve looked a little closer at your 24 pigments but I have always thought that Burnt Sienna was closer to red than a yellow. On my larger watercolor palette I put it with the red’s because when Burnt Sieena is mixed with say a Hookers green you get a nice dark that can almost be black. This happens when you mix most red’s and green compliments. I don’t own or have any black on any palette (except in my Lamy fountain pen).

    • April 11, 2015 10:46 PM

      Good point Rene – I have it down there because the bottom row is kind of my ‘colored greys’ – Burnt Sienna, Bloodstone and Moonglow being Dark Red, Dark Brown and Dark Purple in my mind. If I re-arranged I supposed I could make the warms 4 across – and put them at the end of the red, purple and yellow rows – if that make any sense. I could drop Viridian and one of the blues to make 2 columns of cool and 4 columns of warm. Sorry! Talking out loud here. But this was the point :) to see what people suggested :)

      • Rene Wojcik permalink
        April 12, 2015 7:07 AM

        I see your reasoning Marc…. Using pigments as being cool vs warm can be difficult to comprehend at times. Natural light is made up of all colors yet those same colors as pigments make black. The red’s, orange’s and yellow’s in artist lingo are called warm whereas those same colors mixed with blue are called cool. I have not used Bloodstone or Moon-glow yet but will consider them in my next purchases.

  13. April 12, 2015 5:27 PM

    Wow. This was a super fun post w/ great comments for a watercolor experimenter. I want to go out and buy a bunch of colors. I was advised by my instructor to keep it simple and work on mixes for a while, but I’ve noted some of the colors I’d like to try! Thanks!

  14. April 12, 2015 9:54 PM

    Why no Yellow Ochre?

    • April 13, 2015 8:01 PM

      I used to use just yellow ocher as my only yellow – I think I just got bored :) I wanted to try the sharper oranger Quin Gold, and the Naples for quieter stuff – for a while anyway :)

  15. cathytyler permalink
    April 13, 2015 7:16 AM

    I’m so excited that you’re coming to Richmond! Unfortunately I’ll be out of town that weekend, but I look forward to seeing some of your sketches. It’s a lovely city!

  16. RSchaffer permalink
    April 13, 2015 4:14 PM

    Lunch Trip to Daniel Smith with my friend…now I have added Terra Verte, Perylene Maroon and Fuchsite Genuine to my already too full box :)

    I can see why you like the Terra Verte..along with Perylene Green and Sap Green I think my greens are covered. The Perylene Maroon, the moment I gave it a test I knew it was the red for which I have been looking. Straight from the tube, the Fuchsite looked to be not very useful to me as oxidized copper roofs are rare around here, but we just happened to have it on paper right beside Quin Gold…mixed together they made a wonderful glowing lemon-green that once again offered up a color I have not been able to so easily make,

    I am so glad you posted this box of 24…it makes my box of 44 just right–now I have to stop looking at others palettes as I have no more room in my tin.

    • April 13, 2015 4:15 PM

      44! Post a pic of yours! That sounds tremendous ;)

      • RSchaffer permalink
        April 13, 2015 6:06 PM

        I am not 100% sure how to post a photo here…but let me try this.


        You may have been ribbed for all your greens…I can take it for all my earths and all my blues…All DS except for “G” for Graham.

        Hansa Yellow med, Azo Yellow-G, New Gamboge, Nickel Azo Yellow, Pyrrol Orange, Quin Pink, Quin Rose, Quin Burnt Scarlet, Pyrrol Red, Cad Red med hue, Perm Alizarin Crinson-G

        Phthalo Blue GS, French Ultramarine, Ultramarine Blue-G, Cobalt Blue, Cerulean Blue, Indanthrone Blue, Sodalite Gen, Indigo, Sap Green-G, Prussian Blue, Perylene Green

        Buff Titanium, Transparent Yellow Oxide, Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna, Amiata Nat Sienna, Goethite Brown, Burnt Sienna-G, Sepia, Quin Gold, Terre Verte

        Quin Burnt Orange, Burnt Unber, Shadow Violet, Payne’s Grey, Bloodstone Gen, Moonglow, Black Tourmaline, Cobalt Violet, Perylene Maroon, Fuchsite Gen, Titanium White Gouache-G

  17. April 14, 2015 11:58 AM

    Marc, how do you use your Pyrrol orange? I’ve stopped carrying it because I only used it unmixed – the paint on an old Piper airplane, for example. Where do you use it in mixes?

    • April 15, 2015 1:16 PM

      I’m mainly using it in fleshtone and brick buildings – barring something like a jacket or sign.

  18. April 15, 2015 11:15 PM

    Thanks for hosting a great discussion here Marc. This palette is quite different from the one you list in watercolor gear here, and also on your fantastic Craftsy class. Are you finding yourself using this palette for people sketching also?

    • April 16, 2015 8:25 AM

      I do yes – I haven’t had a chance to try it life drawing. But I did use it for St. Patrick’s. I think I’ll try a different setup for Italy, just for fun – but this is intended to be my “everyday carry”.

  19. tmikeporter permalink
    April 19, 2015 10:10 PM

    Interesting palette, Marc. For Italy, I recommend Naples Yellow. Not only is the name right, but it’s milky color worked well for me there and in Provence. Last year I purchased the Schminke metal palette as recommended by James Gurney and like it a lot. Looks similar to yours, just larger.

  20. May 20, 2015 7:02 PM

    I did something similar with twelve colors I had on hand, most of them favorites I still use all the time. Mine is a full spectrum using a warm and a cool of each color.

  21. August 12, 2015 11:13 AM

    I got a free tube of M Graham Turquoise that is lovely but cannot go in my travel palette since moving to the UK that brand seems to fall into the never dry and makes a giant mess in my palette category! Thankfully I paint a fair amount at home and have a palette that I use there and tend not to tip over too much! It had been my second favorite brand of paint following Daniel Smith.

    • August 12, 2015 1:35 PM

      I’ve heard a lot of people saying M Graham colors give them trouble – running in the palette. I do is two things to help here: fill colors at night before I go to bed and leave the palette open to the air overnight. That helps colors ‘skin over’. And then, place the palette in the bottom of my gear bag laying flat, and keep everything else on top – essentially keeping it as horizontal as possible to the ground as I walk around. Doesn’t stop all color running all the time, but works well enough.

  22. tk8888 permalink
    January 13, 2016 2:32 AM

    I bought a Koi field sketch box, with 24 colors. I removed all the colors and replaced them with 22 Winsor & Newton colors, and 2 Daniel Smith colors. I just love the box

  23. ContagionKat permalink
    September 2, 2019 11:05 PM

    Hi Marc, I first found you through a Pinterest post of your limited palette you used for the 2014 Urban Sketchers Brazil Workshop. I was wondering if you ever picked up that Rich Green Gold? I’ve just started playing with it for a limited palette for Fall and opted for the stick version. I’m mostly a Studio painter, but I’d love to branch into some urban sketching in Philadelphia :) Long story short, I’d be glad to mail out a chunk of that Rich Green Gold for you to try.

    Thanks for posting palettes and progress. You’re a huge inspiration!



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