This week in my SketchingNow Watercolour On Location course, I was asked to explain how I use my palette and my dedicated mixing areas. I thought this was a good topic to share with everyone so here is a sketch to explain it.
I always place my palette in the same orientation when I sketch – with the large wells and the earth colours on the left and the primary colours and smaller mixing areas on the right. This is super important as I want to train my muscle memory to know where the various colours are, so that even in dim light I’m able to mix colours because I know exactly where they are.
And then I have dedicated mixing areas for various hues. I don’t always stick to these, but if I accidentally mix a colour in the ‘wrong’ spot I will clean it up before starting the next sketch. Note: As a general rule I do not clean my palette after every sketch as I am often able to re-use the dry paint.
A number of years ago I was using a tin with a three-well lid from Schmincke but when I wore that out, I reluctantly switched to a tin with a two-well lid as it was easier and cheaper to source here in Australia. But this year while I was in Europe I got another Schmincke tin and it has made a huge difference.
You can see from this image that my earth colours get the priority! I like having a grey, brown, black well and then a lighter softer warm grey one.
The other hue for which I like having a good mixing area is green as I’ll have various versions half-mixed in the one area. In the two-well tin I had to mix green on the right side and it got out of control. So it’s fantastic now to have a dedicated well for it in the new tin.
I don’t mix blue in my palette much (often mix it on the page wet-in-wet) so using the right side with the smaller wells is not a problem. In the two-well tin I used to have to clean the top left well if I needed to mix a good amount of blue.
As for other colours – the small mixing areas on the right side work okay for me. There are always compromises when you use a small palette on location, but I have made this tin do the job for me over the years.
Note: this is a left-handed palette. If I was right-handed I would flip everything.
Do you do a similar thing – or do you just mix randomly on your palette?