How to Prep a Watercolor Palette the RIGHT Way | Peggy Dean | Skillshare

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How to Prep a Watercolor Palette the RIGHT Way

teacher avatar Peggy Dean, Top Teacher | The Pigeon Letters

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      How to Prep Your Palette


    • 3.

      Choose Colors Wisely


    • 4.

      Properly Add Color to Your Palette


    • 5.

      Create a Swatch Reference Chart


    • 6.



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About This Class

How do I make a watercolor palette correctly? This question comes up way more than you'd think. I remember the first time I was going to prep a palette and I was extremely discouraged because I had no idea how. As far as I knew, watercolors belonged in pre-made cake palettes, while acrylic paints were in tubes, but WATERCOLORS in TUBES?! That was crazy. No way.

This class is going to set you up to create your very own YOU palette of YOUR favorite colors without making crucial mistakes. You know... when you watercolor knocks loose and falls out or when you try to mix colors but your palette makes the water just bead up? Yeah.. this class is going to help you avoid all of that nonsense.

For your reference, I've listed the materials used in this class:

Palette: The Pigeon Letters Palette

Brush: The Pigeon Letters Round Brush

Paper: Legion Cold Press

Watercolors: Daniel Smith (Here's a link to a video on my Instagram of a full swatch chart of every color they make!)

Daniel Smith - DOT CHART

Daniel Smith - Chinese White

Daniel Smith - Lamp Black

Daniel Smith - Buff Titanium

Daniel Smith - Burnt Umber

Daniel Smith - Indian Yellow

Daniel Smith - New Gamboge

Daniel Smith - Cadmium Red Medium Hue

Daniel Smith - Pyrrol Scarlet 

Daniel Smith - Garnet Genuine

Daniel Smith - Rhodonite Genuine

Daniel Smith - Bordeaux

Daniel Smith - Prussian Blue

Daniel Smith - Mayan Blue Genuine

Daniel Smith - Deep Sap Green

Daniel Smith - Sap Green

Daniel Smith - Cascade Green

Daniel Smith - Jadeite Genuine

Daniel Smith - Green Apatite Genuine

Daniel Smith - Perylene Green

Daniel Smith - Green Gold

Meet Your Teacher

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Peggy Dean

Top Teacher | The Pigeon Letters

Top Teacher

Snag your free 50-page workbook right here!

Hey hey! I'm Peggy.

I'm native to the Pacific Northwest and I love all things creative. From a young age I was dipping everything I could into the arts. I've dabbled in quite an abundance of varieties, such as ballet, fire dancing, crafting, graphic design, traditional calligraphy, hand lettering, painting with acrylics and watercolors, illustrating, creative writing, jazz, you name it. If it's something involving being artistic, I've probably cycled through it a time or two (or 700). I'm thrilled to be sharing them with you!

Visit my Instagram for daily inspiration: @thepigeonletters, and head over to my blog for more goodies curated just for youuuu.

I'm the author of the best selling... See full profile

Level: All Levels

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1. Introduction: Hey guys, I'm Peggy and I'm the founder of the Pigeon Learners. This class is going to be a super easy introduction on how to use tube watercolor paints in a palette, more so on how to prep your palettes. This is information that isn't readily available strangely enough. My goal here is to give you the tools to be able to perfectly prepare your palettes. You'll have all of your favorite colors ready to go. There's a few steps to do this, to do it effectively. [inaudible] don't get loose in the wells and so they don't fall out. How to prep the palette itself so that it doesn't beat up on you when you're trying to mix colors. There's little tricks like that. Pretty straight forward though. I'm excited to get you on the right path to do this properly. I'm super excited to share the set up with you so that you can take your palettes into your own hands. 2. How to Prep Your Palette: The first part to prepping your palate is easily the most important part. You need to make sure that the pallets ready to hold the paint. If you've ever seen the issue or have the issue where your paint is falling out of your palate, it is most likely due to the fact that it was not prepped correctly. This part is crucial, crucial. It's really easy to deal with these plastic pallets. They are great to hold a ton of different color, but they're also not very abrasive, so they're not going to hold your paint as well. What we want to do is actually rough that up so that your paint has something to hold onto and instead of just being scooped right out or getting knocked loose and when you mix your paints and the wells here, they usually get beated up where you don't see the color very well and it's mostly just water beads with color in them and then forget it. Easy way to do this, you just need like the rough edge of a sponge. I got this. It's actually a detail cleaner. I bought it initially to clean and I ended up using this because it's small and can fit into each of these wells a lot easier and you don't need to wrap this up so much that you can see a bunch of marks all over the place. It doesn't need to be like a sandpaper type of situation. It's just enough to where the paint has something to hold onto. To do this, I'll just start in the big area and does, sorry about this noise, but and that's it. I'm going to do that to all of my Wells and just get it so that there is something to hold onto. Do that to all of your paint wells. I'm doing it over here also because I want to do it anywhere that there's going to be paints and I often use this area for paints. Once that part is done, you might be able to see a little bit of abrasion on the surface and you also might not, not a good deal as long as you go through the motions, that is all that you need to do. Once that's done, then we can start talking about paints. 3. Choose Colors Wisely: I'm using Daniel Smith watercolors, and I don't know if you guys have ever seen this, but they have a dot chart of all 238 of their colors. This is so convenient when it comes to picking colors that you want to put in your pallet because you can try them all first. You can see and feel their consistency as you use them. You can see exactly what color and tone they're going to be, see if there's any granulation. What I've done is, I have actually swatched all of these colors in one of my watercolor journals, and I've got all of the colors laid out here. I refer to this so much, I can't even tell you. It has saved me in so many times, that I've needed to pick colors to put in pallets, or to use on pieces of art. If you don't have all the colors that Daniel Smith has, it's just a good idea to have the dot chart on hand. Obviously, you can put whatever in your pallet that you want to, but let's say there's a color that's not in your pallet. The dot chart comes in real handy, especially if it's the color you're probably not going to use enough to buy a tool for. That's just about Daniel Smith, but there's great brands out there, I'm just very partial to them. What I'm going to do, if let's say I haven't swatched this yet, and I just have my dot chart here. What I'm going to do is actually just wet the paper itself, and spread the color over itself to see which ones I want to do, because I'm not totally sure. I know that this pallet has 28 wells, and I have some more colors than that. I'm really partially greens, I've got a lot of greens, but I have to figure out exactly what I want to put in this pallet. I'm going to test a few of them here. I have got some greens here that I know I'm going to include, which are cascade green, jadeite genuine, perylene green, green apatite genuine, and green gold. I'll show you what those look like for your reference. Cascade green is a really pretty bluish tone green. As it dries, some of the blue and green, they end up separating. It's a really pretty tone that it drives for that granulation, and it's unpredictable so you don't know where that's going to go. I tend to really like the texture that that creates, and whether that works, so I've spread that out so I can see it. Spreading them out on the dot chart is a good idea for overall look, but I do recommend making a separate swatch so that you can actually see, and feel the way that each of these colors works because some will be more pigmented, and some will need a lot more water. Like this amethyst color, you can tell that it needs a little more water for it to really get going. Also, this color is made from real gemstones, so this is the Primatek line, anything with the 'P' there is real gemstones, which is really cool. The next color that I'm going to definitely include as jadeite genuine, and this is made from real jadeite. Let's see where it is on here, right underneath. What this color is, is this nice, deep, rich green, so I'm definitely including that. Perylene is one of my absolute favorites. It's this really dark, moody, coolish color green, almost looks like black was included in its pigment. Then we've got green apatite genuine, which is going to be right here. This one is like the cascade green in that it has some granulation, so as it dries, it will start to separate a little bit with some brown in there. This is great for nature colors. Then I've got green gold, which I believe is on the next page, which is this really pretty color. The more pigment it looks more green, and then the less it looks a little more yellow, which is really pretty. I know I have those colors that are going to be included in my pallet. It's pretty much crosses all my checklist when it comes to greens. I may or may not add more, I'm going to see what else I want to do with the rest of my colors, but I know that I'm including these and assign them to the side. Now, I'm going to jump into blues. I feel that I want to choose from, I'm pretty set on using a Mayan blue genuine, which is also made from real gemstones. I know that this one requires a little more water to get going because it is not as pigmented, but it's a beautiful color, and it's super worth putting on a pallet. It's got that dirty undertone to it, which I'm a huge fan of. Then I'm going to use Prussian blue, it goes in every pallet, no matter what, it's my favorite. It's a real rich blue, highly pigmented and creates some really nice depth. Phthalo blue, and they have a green shade and a red shade. This is the green shade, you can see GS, and then the red shade, RS. I have the green shade that I want to maybe put in here. It's really, really bright and got the same kind of pigment as the Prussian blue. But for me, the Prussian blue is the way I want to go because I like that depth, not so much, the bright colors in what I'm doing. If I'm going to set on blue, I have two of them that I'm going to include, so I'm going to move over into yellow. For yellow, I know that I'm going to include the Hansa yellow medium, which is this color here. I'll show you what that looks like. Note to everyone, don't do it when you still have blue on your brush. It's just that nice standard yellow, it's got a nice bright color, it's going to stay true to its yellow tone. Then I've got the New Gamboge, if I'm not pronouncing this right, don't make fun of me. I know what they look like on paper, but I don't say them out loud very much. But I've got Indian yellow, which also looks really similar. It looks on paper like it's going to be a dirtier color, but it is very similar to the Hansa yellow medium. In fact, I might use this instead because it's just slightly richer, and then the New gamboge, which is more of like a light orangey color, like that. I'm going to include both of these. I don't need the Hansa yellow medium because it's so similar, so that goes away. These are definitely going on my pallet, and then I've got my reds. Now, I have Pyrrol scarlet and Cadmium red medium here. I can't tell you how many times I fight with both of these, with which one that I like the most because they're so similar. Also, both of these aside, it's really going to come down to what I have available on my pallet. Then I have some more colors that I want to consider along the red spectrum. I've got some pinks. I know I'm going to use garnet, which is on this page here. I'll show you what that looks like. It's a natural gemstone too, but it's like this undertone of brown. But it's a really pretty reddish brown color. I'm definitely including that. I also have the piemontite genuine. Again, you guys if I'm not pronouncing these right and you know more than I do. Don't tell me, I don't want to hear it. Here it is. This one's more of a dark, brownish undertone violet. One that's definitely going and one that's similar to this that I have over here is the hematite violet genuine. This one is so pretty. It's got some granulation with some violet color and the brown. Because I love these so much and I do a lot of nature types of illustrations, I'll probably end up including both of these. This one's just a lot more brown and this one's a lot more reddish. But there is an undertone of violet and here once it starts dry. Then what's leftover, I've got bordeaux, mayan violet and rhodonite genuine and organic vermilion. I will show you those. The organic vermilion is going to be a lot like that cadmium medium red hue. It's a little pink or I don't know if you guys see these tones on the camera as well as I do, but it's very similar. It's just a little bit lighter overall. I'm going to skip on that one. The rhodonite genuine is my favorite pink color that they have. It's also made from natural gemstones. Takes a little more water to get going, but it's a really pretty pink tone versus being overboard. I'm going to include that one. I've got mayan violet which is right here. This one is a really pretty rich purpley color, but it's also similar to bordeaux, which is a lot more pigmented just underneath here and it doesn't take much. I mean, it really comes down to like this isn't one of those examples of transparency, the pigment that you want in there. If you want more transparency overall, then you probably go with this one since these ones are similar or like bordeaux is instant pop of color. You're not going to be fighting with trying to get that nice and bold. It could do both, could do either or could do none. But these are just here's an option of where something is similar, but it really depends on what you want. I can't decide, I'm just going to probably keep these around and lingering to later decide. Now I'll move into my browns, I have three that I can't decide on. I've got transparent brown oxide, which is right here. This is a nice overall brown, very warm. You can do a lot with that. Then burnt umber very similar. Where is it on here? Right here, but it's not as warm but a nice, easy brown. Then I've got my van dyke brown, which is my favorite. I love these deep colors. Let's see, where is it? Here we go. It's one of those ones that looks like there might be black undertone and it's so good. I'll probably go with burnt umber and van dyke brown just because I won't use a lot of this on. I got some brown undertones in some of my reddish colors. That's what I'm going to choose to do. I will get rid of this one and keep these two. I might even just go with one of these. It just depends. Then my favorite color to include in all of my pallets is the buff titanium. This color, it blends so well with everything, and it just adds a little bit of natural tones. I love it, it's coming in no matter what. Then I got black and white. A lot of people will say, don't ever use white because you can use water to get transparency. But I use white because I like to create like pastel colors sometimes or I want just to wash that's really light and I don't want to use water and that's up to you and I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I have lamp black. This is what it looks like. I already know I'm including it, but just so you see, it's a nice rich black. Then I've got Chinese white, which is just your typical easy pigmented white, you're not really going to see much coming up here. Then that is it for this guys. I might be over the amount that my palette is going to take. Well, let's see, my colors I have. I actually only have 21 colors, which is great because that gives me room for more. Now I can experiment with these greens and see these extra greens. I know I have a lot of greens already, but then I can see if I want to include them. I've got deep sap green, which is a really pretty color. Where is it? Right here. The reason why I may not included that before is because it is similar to jadeite genuine. Jadeite, it's a little cooler than deep sap, but because I have room, I'm totally including that, and I use a lot of greens. Then terre verte, is a beautiful color. It uses a little more water to get going. That was the reason for me to hesitate. Although since I have room, I'll probably include it. You can see it has a lot more transparency, but I'm going to put it in there. Sap green. Also a really pretty color. It's like a step darker than the green gold. Then one other color that I like to include is actually not one of the watercolors. It is a gouache. Think about that too. You can always add gouache in your palate as long as it's one that can be rewetted and there's a lot of them that can't be. Pay attention to that. They're like acrylic, more like gouache acrylics so they don't get rewetted. But my favorite is fresh tent by Winsor Newton. It's a really nice, it's this color. Then you can always include more of those in there as well. Now that I've picked my colors, I want to figure out where I want them to lay on my palette, which is a strategic move. I can't tell you how many times I've been mad about my choices on where I've set things, so we'll do that together. 4. Properly Add Color to Your Palette: I am just putting my paints in the order that I had them placed so I make sure that I do them exactly how I want to. I'm just going to start here and work my way around. Something to pay attention to, as you're filling your palate, when you put your paint in, you first want to line the edges before you fill it in. The reason for this is because it's going to grip to the sides that way, and to the bottom. When watercolor dries, it starts to shrink up a little bit. To avoid doing that, when you edge the sides, then it really gives it something to hold onto and it'll shrink down instead of in. We're also not going to fill it all the way to the top or all the way to the end. We're going to leave about a quarter-inch so that we have some space for water to actually glide on the top without spilling over into the next color. These paints are really pigmented so there's no need to actually fill them that full. I'm starting with buff titanium and I'm taking it directly to the sides here. I'm going to get one side in, just squeezing till I get to about here, and then I'm going to get the bottom real good, and then the other side. Then once that's done, I can fill in the rest of it. I'm using a paint that is almost empty so it's not really the best example but I do have other ones to show you so I'm okay. Then my next color, I'm going to do the same thing. This can get messy too. If you don't trust yourself, then what I would do is put a piece of paper underneath. See how I fill the edges and then fill in the rest of it? I'm just going to do that with all of these colors. Once my watercolor is in here, what I usually do is keep my palette open near a window for 24 hours or so. I've made a mess. Then I will come back the next day and I just take my fingertip and I just press on each of the colors to create just a very small crater. Your watercolor will still be soft but it will be mostly dry, especially on the surface. It'll be soft toward the middle. So when you press gently, it's going to create a little crater so that as you use your watercolor, it'll keep that water on the colors that you're using a little bit better so that you don't have to keep re-wetting and re-wetting as much. It's just a little trick to help you. In the next video, I'm just going to show you a quick way that I do my swatches for each palette that I create so that it's a little quick reference point for me so that I know exactly what color is where. 5. Create a Swatch Reference Chart: I want to make sure that my reference chart will fit inside of my palate. I can either mark that location off or I can just cut it right away. You can take scissors or a paper cutter. I'm going to cut this first so that I don't accidentally make it too large. When I cut it down, I don't chop off any of the colors. I say that because it's totally happened before. This just helps me know that I'm staying in my guide. I say this because yes, it's easy to swatch, but I like to draw my color just for fancies. I'm going to do that real quick with the amount of wells that it has. [MUSIC] As you can see, it's very sloppy and it is not totally proportionate, but I don't care about that. I just think that it's a fine little swatch chart to create. Now I'm going to write all the colors down and then I will fill it with the actual color. [MUSIC] Once that is done, I can start putting my colors in here. Real quick note, I used the Pigeon Letters Monoline Studio pen. This is a waterproof archival ink pen so if I put water over this, it's not going to bleed. That's something to note too. If you do this with a pen that is not permanent or archival ink, then if you get any water on your ink, it will bleed. Be careful of that. Otherwise, use one of the pens that will be a little more forgiving. Now I'm just going to fill in all of my swatches. [MUSIC] Once this dries, I am just going to put it in my palette and it will always be there as the quickest reference. I know exactly what I'm using and I know that it's going to for sure be the tone that I want it to be. 6. Conclusion: All right guys. Pretty simple. That's it. Upload your beautiful palettes in the project gallery so we can see them all, and if you did end up doing a swatch chart, I mean, who does not want to see your color palette? Just saying. Please upload that if you feel so inclined. Otherwise, I hope you enjoyed the class. Be sure to check out my other classes and for more inspiration, follow me on Instagram and I will see you later.