How to choose your palette

I've been a big fan of Carson Ellis within a very short amount of time, as I've just stumbled upon her earlier this year. Carson, you are amazing! I love how you balance the simple and detailed in every scene!

One aspect of her art is especially eye-catching - that is, her palette. You can find answers to some FAQs here, concerning her style, tools, etc, but in case that's too time consuming, I'll paraphrase:

"When you create a body of work, one way to put your signature stamp on each piece is to use the same colors again and again."

It's not as boring as it sounds!

In the early stages of my painting, I was getting frustrated with the lack of harmony. I found that my subjects weren't interesting, but what was worse, I couldn't focus on which colors to use! I was constantly mixing and remixing a palette that wasn't jiving. I'm so glad I came across Carson's words of wisdom. Since then, I've pared down my choices to:

ShinHan Watercolor / Holbein Artist's Gouache favorites -

- Vermillion / Flame Red

- Raw Sienna

- Sepia

- Prussian Blue

- Green Pale

- Yellow Ochre

- Indigo

- Raw Umber

- Sap Green

- Olive Green

- Black

Most recently, I've been adding

- Viridian

- Ultramarine Deep

Both of these colors are quite shocking, so I'm either using it to make a statement, or sparingly.

Here's a slideshow to give you an example of my watercolor palette:

For my colored pencil collection, I flip around between Prismacolor and Dong-A Fable.

- Spanish Orange

- Red

- Vermillion

- Black Cherry

- Apple Green

- Olive Green

- Artichoke

- Dark Green

- True Green

- Pale Sage

- Powder Blue

- Blue

- Light Violet

- Indigo

- Yellow Ochre

- Van Dyke Brown

- Sienna Brown

- Black

As you can see from my list, my colored pencil colors are more varied, without a rhyme or reason. I will say that I rarely use pink, purple, or yellow in strong doses. For all of my work, I'm drawn to the sharp contrast of black, white, red, green, and a deep indigo.

Here's a slideshow of my colored pencil palette:

I encourage you to reorganize your toolbox and consider which colors are taking away from your work. Is there something that doesn't fit? It's true that your colors may not stay the same forever, but it is amazing how being severe with your color choices makes for peaceful painting. Happy making!

Marni Manning - Artist

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