A fresh start for the new year should include some clean, fresh color in the palette, and that got me thinking… I don’t think I’ve ever posted about my choice of colors or my actual palette before.

I’ve migrated between several different watercolor palettes, including the Robert Wood palette that my first instructor started me on. One thing I really loved about the Robert  Wood was the 24 wells for color. That seems to be a nice number of pigments to work with, though being a color addict, I could use more! I’ve tried the Stephen Quiller Palette (more color choices but hard to clean) and the Piggy Back Palette from Cheap Joe’s (harder to access the colors). I’ve even made my own palette out of plexiglass, cementing the wells together from tabs of plexi cut to size, but it was eventually damaged when I was shipping it to a workshop.

Now I’m using the Skip Lawrence palette, sold through Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff, augmented with the addition of a porcelain flower type palette. What I love about the Skip Lawrence Palette is the ease of cleaning it. One (or two) swipes down the center and you’re done! I wish it had more wells – hence the addition of the porcelain petal dish. But ease of cleaning and access to the colors are the reasons I stick with this palette. It also fits my French Easel and seems pretty resilient to travel.  If they ever come up with an expanded version though, I’m all over it!

That said, my pigment choices have settled somewhat over the years. I’m always interested in trying new things, but I seem to consistently use my handful of basic standbys most often. Here is how I have them laid out.

I’ve used abbreviations to indicate my preferred manufacturers when applicable. C.J.’s stands for Cheap Joe’s American Journey, H. stands for Holbein, D.S. for Daniel Smith, G. for M. Graham, W.N. stands for Winsor & Newton. I notice that I need to buy more Brown Madder Quinacridone. I find DaVinci’s is almost as good as Winsor & Newton for this pigment, and I go through a lot of it! I’m also low on Andrew’s Turquoise from Cheap Joe’s. Maybe it’s time to place an order! The pigments in my porcelain flower palette tend to be more opaque, or things I’m just trying out or use less frequently. It’s easier to switch something out of the little palette than the bigger one.

I would say the dozen pigments I can’t live without are Holbein’s Indian Yellow, Daniel Smith Quinacridone Gold, Cadmium Orange, Cadmium Red, Brown Madder Quinacridone, Cheap Joe’s Skip’s Green, Holbein Blue Grey (or Cheap Joe’s Sky Blue), Ultramarine Blue, Holbein’s Cobalt Violet Light, Quinacridone Violet, Pthalo Green and Winsor & Newton Permanent White Designer’s Gouache. Of course there are quite a few that I use that I don’t keep on my palette all the time, but this is my regular set-up.

Recently I took a mini-workshop with Portland artist William Park in acrylic. That has influenced me to limit my acrylic palette to a very few colors. He uses just Pthalo blue, Quinacridone Red, Cadmium Yellow and Black & White. I have added Quiacridone Violet and Quinacridone Gold, two of my favorite pigments from the watercolor palette that I just couldn’t live without. In general the quinacridone-based colors are very vivid and transparent. They make beautiful mixes and glazes.

Here are some recent paintings done with the limited acrylic palette. It is amazing the range of colors one can mix with just a few pigments on the palette. I’m curious, which of these paintings do you prefer? It seems I get a different answer from each of my family members. Leave me a comment; I love hearing from you! And Happy New Year!

“Wiinter Forest” copyright Ruth Armitage, Acrylic on Paper 10″x10″  SOLD


“Winter Warmth” copyright Ruth Armitage, Acrylic on Paper 10″x10″


Forest Sentinels copyright Ruth Armitage, Acrylic on Paper 11″x10″

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