How to Set Up a Watercolor Palette

Written by janice tingum
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How to Set Up a Watercolor Palette
The layout of a watercolour palette depends upon the prefrences of an artist. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Watercolour artists prepare for painting by setting up a palette. Artists often organise their palette to coincide with the colour wheel. Watercolour palettes can be plastic or porcelain. Shapes range from round to rectangular to a flowerlike design. The number of paint wells also varies. If you are a beginner, don't let these options overwhelm you. Start with a basic palette and, after you have used it for a while, experiment with other palette choices.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Watercolour palette
  • Tube watercolour paints
  • Water spritzer
  • Water
  • Watercolour brush

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  1. 1

    Select a round plastic watercolour palette with 10 paint wells and a lid. Set a colour wheel next to your palette with yellow at the top.

  2. 2

    Choose watercolour paints sold in tubes. Select a tube of each of the three primary colours: red, yellow and blue. For secondary colours, which are a blend of two primary colours, select two different greens, two different violets and two different oranges. Select a burnt sienna to complete the colour choices.

  3. 3

    Use the colour wheel as a guide for the placing the three primary colours on the palette. Open the tube of yellow paint and squeeze paint into the top well of the palette, filling it from one-half to three-fourths full. Close the tube. Moving clockwise around the palette, skip two wells and squeeze blue paint into the fourth well. Skip two more wells and squeeze red paint into the seventh well.

  4. 4

    Place secondary colours on the palette. Examine the two tubes of green paint and determine which one has more yellow than blue colouration. Squeeze this paint into the second well and put the other green paint into the third well. Examine the two tubes of violet paint and decide which has more blue than red in it. Place the blue-violet paint into the fifth well and squeeze the other violet paint into the sixth well. Examine the two tubes of orange paint to see which one has more red than yellow colour in it. Squeeze the red-orange colour into the eighth well and the other orange colour into the ninth well.

  5. 5

    Squeeze the burnt sienna paint into the tenth well. Brownish colours such as this are a mix of the three primary colours, so you might not see it on a simple colour wheel. It is a useful colour to have on the palette, though. Label the paint wells with their colour names on the side rim of the palette.

  6. 6

    Spritz the paints with water. Use a brush to mix the water with the paint in each well, cleaning your brush with clean water between colours. Start with just one or two squirts of water, as you don't want to thin the paint too much. Work for a consistency that is creamy. You can always dilute it more as you paint. Your palette is now ready. When not in use, secure the lid to the palette.

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