April 21, 2020
I started out with my plastic watercolor palette filled with various colors a few years ago. As time went on and my collection grew, I found myself adding them in sort of haphazardly. Last week, I decided to restock the colors I was running out of and order a few new ones. But that left me with a dilemma – how to arrange a new watercolor palette. And how to salvage the paint from the old palette so that I didn’t feel like I was wasting it!
So here’s how to arrange a new watercolor palette and move your old paints to the new empty one!
Step 1 – Freeze It!
I placed my plastic palette into the freezer at night and pulled it out the next day. I imagine you could leave it for a few hours as opposed to an entire night, but the idea is to get it frozen so that the pigments and liquid condense.
Step 2 – Carefully pop out the old colors after they have thawed for a few minutes.
After you pull it out of the freezer, you can let it thaw out for a few minutes. This will help the paint loosen a bit from the palette before you try to dig it out.
You’ll notice in the video, I used a small pair of scissors to dig around the edges. You could use a sturdy palette knife, a butter knife, really anything your comfortable using to pop out the paints! The idea is just to have as much of the old paint available to “press in” when you arrange a new watercolor palette. (More on that in Step 4!)
Step 3 – Arrange your new and old tubes by color, and then by color temperature.
You’ll see in the video that I place my tubes on the palette, but don’t squeeze them out yet. That’s because I want to make sure they’re in the right order before I commit to putting them in my palette. They’re a mix of my old color tubes and the new ones that I’ve ordered.
I want to arrange a new watercolor palette by color, and then within the color, by temperature. I want to arrange them from cool to warm (bottom to top) so that each color temperature is easily ID’d while I’m painting.
Cool colors have a blue undertone to them, while warm colors have more yellows and oranges. Think cool = water/sea undertones, and warm = hot/fire undertones for an easy analogy!
I initially arranged them based on what the manufacturers classify their color temperatures as. After I’ve arranged the tubes on the palette, I decide to make a preliminary color “map” of my palette so that I can see how they look on paper.
However, in my opinion, color temperature is relative when you’re comparing colors to one another. So for instance, in the video, you’ll see my preliminary color map has a red on the bottom which should be the coolest tone of the reds, but it actually looks a bit warmer than the one above it. Even though the manufacturer classified this bottom red as a cool tone, it wasn’t as cool as the red above it.
I decided that meant I needed to rearrange my reds before committing to the colors on my palette! I wanted my coolest reds on the bottom, moving up to the warmer reds at the top. The same goes for every other color group as I arrange a new watercolor palette.
Step 4 – Squeeze out your new tubes, add the old, dried paints, and make a Color Map of your palette! Viola – you’ve arranged your new watercolor palette!
Once I decided that my colors were in a better order, I decided it was time to commit!
For my older colors, I squeezed a bit of fresh paint from the old tubes into the corners of the well. I then put the dried, old paint into the same well and pushed it down. That way, when the fresh paint dried, it would combine with the old paint.
For my new colors, I simply squeezed the new tubes into their respective wells!
Afterward, I let it dry overnight. The next morning, I made my final color map so that I could always have a quick reference of what the colors look like after they’re on paper.
You’ll notice I did accidentally skip Viridian Green as I was doing my color map, so I had to “add it in” in the middle! Oh well, I still know what it means and it’s useful to me!
I hope that helps. Below I’ll list links to every color in my palette in case you’re interested! And if you’d like a Watercolor Supply guide, I’ve put one together that can help artists at any stage of there journey, here!
The Colors and Brands In My Palette:
From bottom left to bottom right (clockwise)
- Winsor and Newton Cadmium Free Red
- Winsor and Newton Sanguine Red
- Winsor and Newton Opera Rose
- Winsor and Newton Winsor Red
- Winsor and Newton Quinacridone Red
- Winsor and Newton Rose Dore
- Daniel Smith Potter’s Pink
- Winsor and Newton Caput Mortuum Violet
- Winsor and Newton Van Dyke Brown
- Winsor and Newton Burnt Umber
- Winsor and Newton Burnt Sienna
- Winsor and Newton Brown Ochre
- Grumbaucher Naples Yellow
- Winsor and Newton Transparent Yellow
- Winsor and Newton Lemon Yellow Deep
- Winsor and Newton Cadmium Free Yellow Pale
- Winsor and Newton New Gamboge
- Winsor and Newton Olive Green
Winsor and Newton Sap Green
- Winsor and Newton Oxide of Chromium
- Winsor and Newton Perylene Green
- Winsor and Newton Viridian Green
- Winsor and Newton Indanthrene Blue
- Winsor and Newton Cobalt Blue
- Winsor and Newton French Ultramarine
- Winsor and Newton Smalt Dumont’s Blue
- Grumbaucher Payne’s Gray (I also use Winsor and Newton typically, but was out!)
- Winsor and Newton Neutral Tint
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