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The more I paint, the more I realize I have go-to colors I reach for again and again. Instead of having tons of paints in a palette that don’t ever get touched, I decided to streamline my colors and just add the ones I regularly use.

There are so many different options for watercolor paints at all different price points and I always recommend just starting with either what you already have on hand or picking up the best quality set you can find in your price range. I have a few of my favorite beginner sets picked out for you on the Watercolor Supplies page.

I painted with an inexpensive set of cake watercolors for years before switching to tubes. Tubes of paint are more expensive, but also more saturated, better quality paints that offer truer colors, better translucency, and mix well. I paint pretty much exclusively with tube paints now. I mainly reach for Winsor and Newton and Holbein. I haven’t done a ton of experimenting with different brands and qualities of paints, but I can say I’m really happy with the professional grades of both of these brands.

I thought it would be fun to share with you the exact colors I use and how I set it up!

This gorgeous palette is from Sylvan Clayworks. It is handmade and beautiful in person and I was SO EXCITED when I finally got one! They are restocked every couple of months and sell out in minutes so make sure you join the Sylvan Clayworks email list to be notified first when the restocks happen. I have the medium palette.

I like an assortment of all colors – reds, peach, yellows, browns, greens, blues, and black and have picked my very favorites to put on my palette. With just a few colors, you can mix almost every other color and I really do love the process of mixing so it works well for me to just have a few options.

P.S. The way tube paints work … you just squeeze out a little bit on a palette (a dinner plate works great!) and let it dry overnight. To use, just activate the paint with water, mix directly on your palette and when you’re done painting for the day, just let it all dry. You can reactivate with water or wipe it off with a wet paper towel if you need more room to mix. You can see below what one of my older palettes looks like:

Isn’t it pretty?

Okay, back to the current colors on my palette:

favorite paint colors

Winsor & Newton Alizarin Crimson

Winsor & Newton Winsor Red

Holbein Opera Rose

Holbein Jaune Brilliant No.2

Holbein Yellow Ochre

Holbein Permanent Yellow Light

Holbein Burnt Sienna

Holbein Burnt Umber

Winsor & Newton Olive Green

Winsor & Newton Sap Green

Holbein Viridian Hue

Holbein Prussian Blue

Holbein Cobalt Blue Hue

Winsor & Newton Payne’s Gray

Holbein Ivory Black

On my color sheet, you can see the last one is called Shadow. This is just my little custom mix of very watered-down black + burnt umber.

Out of all of these colors, my VERY favorites are Yellow Ochre, Olive Green and Payne’s Gray.

I hope this is helpful! Any questions about watercolor paints? I’m always happy to answer!

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