Changes to my 'extras' palette

July 29, 2021 | 20 Comments

Last year when I did my ‘Colours in my palette‘ series I shared that I had a small box with a few extra colours in it (4 x half pans and 1 x full pans). The idea behind this box was to contain a few colours that I occasionally want to use (or want to test) and to act as an emergency palette if I happen to leave the house without my normal palette in my bag.

Recently I made a few changes to this palette and was intending to create a second version of it in my Art Toolkit Demi palette. But… going into lockdown meant that my Extras Palette was sitting on my desk and as a result, I started considering other options.

The six colours that I currently had in it made two triads but neither of them really had a blue.

Question 1:  Should I change some of the colours to create more usable triads?

I sent the selection to my great friend Jane Blundell for her comments as I love nothing more than discussing colours with her. (BTW She is currently working on a book called Watercolour Triads and I’ve seen some of the original colour charts. I know that she will be including very interesting selections in her book.)

Her advice included using Quin Lilac rather than Quin Magenta (a better mixer) and to consider some blue such as Blue Apatite, Phthalo Blue or Sodalite.

And well, that just got me thinking even more …

Question 2: Why do I need to limit myself to only 6 colours?

An Extras Palette at home could be housed in a bigger box and the Demi palette can fit up to 12 small square pans.

So… what did I end up doing?

I filled up a TSWBI Eco box with 20 half pans!

It’s now called my ‘Extras/Testing Palette’ and I’ve collected a lot of paints that have been in my palette at some stage over the past 14 years! 

I’ve had some experience with all of these paints (except for the Sennelier Burnt Sienna which was given to me by my friend Laurie in SF) and I’m really excited to start using them again. It’s amazing how just seeing a specific paint in a palette brings back memories of the times when I used it regularly.

BTW I’ve used a very low-tech solution to create a usable mixing lid – it’s simply some white paper taped to the outside of the box!

I’m particularly happy about two aspects:

  • having Schmincke Transparent Orange (used to be called Translucent Orange) in a palette. I adore this colour but could never justify it in my everyday palette
  • rediscovering Daniel Smith Quin Burnt Scarlet. Wow! this is a beautiful earth red.

Please don’t think that any of these colours are locked in. It’s likely that I will make changes to them really soon but I just wanted to document the starting point here on my blog. I’ve added a few extra ‘old colours’ on the side of the page, that I’m considering testing as well.

It feels really exciting to be using some different colours (but ones that I already have some working knowledge of) and I’m already enjoying seeing new colour combos in my sketchbook pages.  At this point, I have no idea how I will eventually fill up my Demi palette! But with another 4 weeks to the Sydney lockdown, I won’t be needing my Demi for a while!

Do you have any of these colours in your palette? Are there any colours that you think I should test?

Please let me know in the comment section below (rather than via email) so that it will be easy for me to find your suggestions in the future. (If you are reading this via email, please click on the link below and add a comment on my blog – thanks!)



  • Elysia Haight says:

    What a lovely collection! These colors all look beautiful together. I see you have some of my favorites! I like to use Serpentine Green instead of Sap Green, and loooove to use Quin. Burnt Scarlet (or WN Brown Madder) as a shadow mixer.

    In your chart, which colors did you mix with Yellow Ochre? I use that one quite frequently, but I love these rich mixes you’ve assembled!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Elysia, Yes, Quin Burnt Scarlet is SOOOO beautiful. I’m shocked that I’ve forgotten about it for years!
      YO is mainly for mixing Australian greens. I’ll share more about this in a separate article.

  • Mercedes Walton says:

    On your recent road trip you mentioned that you were going to try WN Yellow Ochre again to get variation in your greens. Could you show us what you mean by that? I am currently using DS Monte Amiata Sienna Naturale for my YO.

  • Kristine Martens says:

    When I look at the triad pages, I can guess at the mixtures, but I am confused as to how this is set up. What is the pattern for mixing the colors in 2’s or 3’s. You are so methodical and logical, I know there is something I am not getting. I did a search on Color Triad Mixing Charts and did not find anything. Thanks for any clarification

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Kristine,
      These triad mixing pages are organic… I wasn’t trying to systematically mix different combinations, but rather just randomly mix them together!
      This was more useful for me in this instance as I’m using a small mixing area and out on location this will be the way I’m mixing.
      So in this instance, it was not methodical at all 🙂

  • Emily Claire Stevens says:

    Your blog is always such a treat to look at! I’m so excited when I get an email notification about a new post.

    Just like the other commenter, I am curious to hear more about your thoughts on Winsor & Newton’s Yellow Ochre. How does it compare to Daniel Smith’s Monte Amiata Natural Sienna? Which is the better mixer? Would you ever consider replacing MANS with YO in your main palette?

    I’ve always had W&N’s Yellow Ochre in my palette and love it, but wonder if MANS or even Quinacridone Gold (new formula) would be a better choice if I could only have one. Would love to hear your thoughts!

    Thank you for all that you do, Liz. Your excitement over paints is contagious! 🙂

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Emily
      Will never replace MANS – its the number one colour for me 🙂
      YO is mainly for mixing Australian greens. And I’m using WN because that was all I could buy when on my road trip. I’ll share more about this in a separate article.
      You can read about why I prefer MANS to YO generally here

      • Mercedes Walton says:

        Thank you Liz, your article explained everything clearly. I too love MANS, not only because i went up that beautifil mountain a few tears ago and have great memories, but the colour is so rich and pure.

      • Emily Claire Stevens says:

        Thank you so much for taking the time to respond, Liz. I really enjoyed reading the other post that you linked. You have inspired me to finally try out MANS! 🙂

  • Mary Catharine McDonnell says:

    Hi Liz. Thanks for the wonderful article, it really is exciting. What I did for a low tech mixing area in a small box that didn’t have one was to laminate a piece of white paper and then cut it up to fit the lids I needed. As had them inside the lid that had a lip I didn’t need to worry about the “juicy” paint getting away from me.

  • Jamie C says:

    Using a TWSBI Eco box for half pans is genius! I have so many Eco boxes and always need more palettes. Okay, “need” may be stretching it. You’ve got some lovely colors in your extras, some of my favorites!

  • Suzanne McVetty says:

    Liz: Quin Burnt Scarlet and Quin Burnt Orange are regulars in my everyday palette as they mix with DS Cascade Green to make the most beautiful gray greens. I use them for very far away trees that create great depth.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Suzanne – ah! yes, QBO… that was a regular in my palette years ago. I need to include it in a testing palette!

  • Linda Hackett says:

    Hi Liz:
    Before SN I used M Graham Sap Green which isn’t as rambunctious as DS Sap Green. It is gooey as I think they use honey in the formula but the colors seems very close,
    Another suggestion re mixing material for ones Eco box palette. I have used Grafix Stencil Film, Medium which comes in a pad as well as Denril Multi Media vellum. Mixes don’t dry too fast and wipe off within reason so they can be re-used. The ultimate accessory for this purpose is Caran D’Ache mixing palette: 5″X10″, smooth on one side for watercolor, rough on the other for mixing colored pencil. It has a hole for ones thumb and I tuck one my kit for use with my mini Art Toolkit palettes. I sketched this tool in my current SD kit in the intro section of the current run-through!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Linda – sadly M Graham is too gooey to use in the humidity of Sydney (ie. in my everyday palette) but thanks for sharing about their sap green. I have one of those CdA palettes… never thought about using it for watercolour – thanks for the idea!!!!

  • Beverley Clark White says:

    Liz, is this the same palette you are using now….almost, 2023???

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