Which Watercolour Paints / Pigments, & Colours ?

It has taken me years to end up with the choice of watercolour paint pigments i now have in my studio palette.

There is a baffling amount of colours, from different manufactures, often using different names for the same colours, and every artist will have something in their palette you don’t have.

Some colours are fugitive which means they have poor lightfastness and will deteriorate with the light and should be avoided.

The techniques of removing paint from a painting are also important so you may choose to avoid ‘Staining Pigments’.

Some pigments are granulating which you may prefer.

Some are opaque and some are transparent.

‘Artist quality pigments’ are obviously better than ‘student quality’ but also more expensive.

Cheap Paints will produce muddy colours.

Every artist will use diferent colours making it frustrating when trying to copy a demonstration, however you should be able to find a close enough substitute if you have a limited palette.



‘Handprint’ Is an excellent website for anyone wishing to delve deeper into the properties of pigments, offering excellent advice on colour substitutions.

Before you buy a new tube of paint google “handprint Cobalt Blue” for example to see all the different brands and recomendations and avoid buying something you can easily mix with colours you may already have or buy a fugitive paint.


watercolour paints
pigment labeling
my watercolour palette
watercolour palette chart

My Palette of Watercolours:

I decided to use the same colours as the artists whose work i like the most.

The colours in my palette are as follows:

  1. Antwerp Blue – Dark Blue,
  2. French Ultramarine Blue – Medium Warm Blue -Leans to Red.
  3. Cobalt Blue- A medium ‘Pure’ Blue
  4. Cerulean Blue – A light slightly opaque blue,
  5. Cobalt Turquoise,
  6. Cobalt Violet,
  7. Burnt Umber – Dark Brown,
  8. Burnt Sienna – Wonderful reddish brown.
  9. Light Red – opaque – makes good terracotta,
  10. Crimson Alizarin – Wonderfull Bluish Red,
  11. Pyroll Scarlet – Similar to Cadmium Red,
  12. Raw Sienna – Straw Brown,
  13. Hansa Yellow Medium- Warm Yellow,
  14. Hansa Yellow Light- cool yellow,
  15. Naples Yellow – Opaque Yellow good for skies near horizon,
  16. Quinachradone Gold-  bright yellow,
  17. Indigo – Lovely Dark Blackish Blue,
  18. Paynes Grey-  nice ready mixed grey,
  19. White Gouache – not for purists, but great for highlights,
  20. Cadmium Yellow Pale- good for skin tones,
  21. Cadmium Red Light also good for skin tones,
  22. Cadmium Orange hard to mix one as good as this from primaries,
  23. Viridian – good green when mixed with yellows and/or blues,
  24. Neutral Tint,
  25. Windsor Green Blue Shade.
  26. Carmine -pinkish red,
  27. Manganese Blue- caribbean sea blue,
  28. Sepia – brownish
  29. Gamboge warm yellow.

This is obviously a pretty extensive list so i will try to narrow it down .

Limited Palette:

If i had to choose 12 tubes only , they would probably be as follows:

  1. Antwerp Blue – (PB27) – ( A diluted prussian blue) – (Could be Pthalo Blue, Winsor Blue, Prussian Blue)
  2. French Ultramarine Blue – (PB29) – (Could be Ultramine Blue)
  3. Cobalt Blue (PB28),
  4. Burnt Sienna,
  5. Crimson Alizarin,
  6. Pyrrol Scarlet (My Cadmium Red substitute),
  7. Raw Sienna, (Could be Yellow Ochre),
  8.  Hansa Yellow Medium – a mid yellow (PY97), “transparent bright yellow”
  9.  Hansa Yellow Light – (PY3) cooler yellow.
  10. Viridian Green – (Not used on its own, always mixed with blues, yellows for ex.)
  11. Indigo or Paynes grey
  12. White gouache – For adding highlights at the end.
jan hart colour wheel
Here is a nice video showing how paint is made.
watercolour brands

The Best Brands

Some of the best known brands are :

  • Daniel Smith Watercolours,
  • Holbein Watercolours,
  • Schmincke,
  • Horadam Aquarell Artist Watercolours,
  • Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolour Tubes,
Again check Handprints recommendations for brands before you buy: https://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/pigmt2.html
there is a lot of misleading hype from the manufacturers, even the well known ones and even well some well known artist/authours are known to recommend colours that are fugitive (fade)!

On the left there is a great videoexploring Alvaro Castagnet’s Palette of chosen colours.