The Primaries Palette: A Collaboration with Letter Sparrow

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If you’ve spent even a minute thinking about watercoloring, you’ll know that one of the first things you need to do, is to make a decision about what colors to buy.

Not to mention adding in the complexity of figuring out the brand of watercolor, the format (liquid, pans or tubes), and how many colors you’re going to splurge on...for now.

There are a lot of choices out there and more likely than not, you’ll end up with quite a few colors in your collection over time. When you have many paints and limited space in your palette you’ll probably start thinking about narrowing down to a selection of colors.

Some people prefer to have a very limited palette (like just the 3 primaries) and some people have 36 or more. There is no right or wrong answer. It all just depends on the way you like to paint.

So earlier this year, when Kelly at Letter Sparrow asked me if I would like to collaborate with her on a palette of her handmade watercolor paints, I was excited but also immediately thought to myself: “how am I going to choose just a few colors?”

I knew I wanted at least 3 primary colors because I always recommend starting with at those. The primaries are truly the pillars of any good color palette.

But, as you probably know already, depending on what primary colors you choose, the colors that you can mix from them will vary. For example, if you pick 3 warm-colored primaries, you’ll get more muted color mixes and if you pick 3 cool-colored primaries the color mixes will be more vibrant.\

For this reason, I decided that a useful, fun 6-color palette would be one made of all primaries, a set of cool and a set of warm primaries. And after swatching them and painting these colors wheels, I’m so happy with the color selections I made!

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We’re calling this collaboration palette “The Primaries” because it contains all primary colors. I know some of these aren’t what you may traditionally call primary colors. But let me explain the thought process here

The three “traditional” looking primaries in this palette would be:

  • Carmine Red

  • Brilliant Yellow

  • Ultramarine Blue

However, from my experience painting, you don’t really get fresh vibrant greens and blues with Ultramarine. I’ve found that turquoise is a great color to achieve some vibrant, fresh shades.

In the same vein, without a muted earth yellow like Yellow Ochre, it’s difficult to mix natural earth colors that you might want in a landscape painting.

So I decided to add in turquoise and ochre and rounded it out with another red so there is a warm and a cool set of primaries - even if they may not look like “traditional” primary sets. They are grouped like this:

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Cool Primaries:

  • Carmine Red

  • Brilliant Yellow

  • Turquoise Blue

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Warm Primaries:

  • Cinnabar

  • Yellow Ochre

  • Ultramarine Blue

You can see in these color wheels the range of colors you get just from these 6 colors!

While I’m no color expert, I had a lot of fun deciding on this palette and collaborating with Kelly on this set of colors.

You can pick up one of these limited edition palettes starting Saturday, August 17th, 2019! Make sure to follow Kelly @Letter Sparrow on Instagram to be the first to find out when they become available.

Here’s a little more about Kelly and how she got started making watercolors in her own words:

I actually began my business making hand lettering & calligraphy art pieces, and teaching workshops. A year later, I took a watercolor workshop & I was HOOKED. I’ve only ever used terrible supplies, but once I was given nice brushes, paper, & paint (and taught how to use them) I absolutely fell in love. I added watercolor lettering to the artwork I offered & added watercolor lettering to the workshops I offered as well. It was a lot of fun splashing color around & teaching others how to do the same.

Next, we moved to a new state where workshops were “not a thing” so I had to think of a new idea/ passion to make an income. One day, after purchasing some paint, I decided to try making my own watercolors. I’ve been having fun ever since! 

I love sharing my love of watercolors, how to mix colors, make charts & swatches with my Instagram followers & newsletter subscribers. I believe every human has the capacity to create & I have a huge desire to draw that out of as many people as possible. Now, I’m in process of seeing what I can add to paint making this fall and in the year to come. Stay tuned, it’s gonna be fun!

I hope that you found this post informative even though it’s not a nitty-gritty technical color post. Honestly, you’ll probably never find that kind of post here. I understand the basics of color theory and then explore colors based on these basic principles and experiment and using my eyes and my intuition. That’s what keeps it fun for me!

As always, thank you for reading,

Watch the video below for the painting process of these color wheels!