As an urban sketcher you might not want to carry around a large and heavy palette with a lot of colors. Three primary colors often suffice to apply color to your sketch. By mixing in different ratios you can create a wide variety of colors.

 

 

A good set of primary colors (triad) may include the following primary pigments:

 

  • Yellow: PY154, PY175, PY35, PY3, PY97, PY74, PY150 (depending on brand)
  • Red/Magenta: PV19
  • Ultramarine: PB29

 

Why pigment numbers?

 

Each brand might use different names for equal colors. That’s why it is recommended to check the pigment numbers on the tubes, pans or packaging of your brand. These pigment codes indicate the pigments that are used to produce the paint. Manufacturers do not always have paints with the above pigments in their watercolor sets.

 

If you do not have these exact watercolors in your palette, you can use a color that is close to the colors/pigments mentioned here. However, most of below suggestions are included in watercolour sets by these brands. I recommend to first test brands and colors before you buy them as your preference for different characteristics of paints is very personal.

 

Next to all kinds of different brands I use my own handmade watercolours. I have included my own primary colors in the list below.

 

Those of you who follow the free online lectures of The Never Ending Workshop already have seen how much you can do with just a few colors.

 

 

Here are some suggestions for primary triads of different brands:

 

WINSOR & NEWTON PROFESSIONAL

  • Winsor Yellow PY154
  • Permanent Rose PV19
  • French Ultramarine PB29

COTMAN (WINSOR & NEWTON)

  • Lemon Yellow PY175
  • Permanent Rose PV19
  • Ultramarine PB29

REMBRANDT (ROYAL TALENS)

  • Azo Yellow Light PY154
  • Quinacridone Rose PV19
  • French Ultramarine PB29

VAN GOGH (ROYAL TALENS)

  • Azo Yellow Light PY154
  • Quinacridone Rose PV19
  • Ultramarine Dark PB29

WHITE NIGHTS (NEVSKAYA PALITRA)

  • Cadmium Yellow Medium PY35
  • Carmine PR170:1
  • Ultramarine PB29

SCHMINCKE HORADAM

  • Lemon Yellow PY3
  • Permanent Carmine PV19
  • Ultramarine Finest PB29

DANIEL SMITH EXTRA FINE WATERCOLOR

  • Hansa Yellow Medium PY97
  • Quinacridone Rose PV19
  • Ultramarine PB29

SENNELIER

  • Primary Yellow PY74
  • French Vermillion PR242
  • French Ultramarine Blue PB29, PV15

INKTENSE (DERWENT) – behaves differently: permanent when dry (pigments unknown)

  • Sun Yellow
  • Poppy Red
  • Mid Ultramarine

QOR (GOLDEN)

  • Nickel Azo Yellow PY150
  • Quinacridone Magenta PR122
  • Ultramarine Blue PB29

AQUARIUS (ROMAN SZMAL)

  • Hansa Yellow Light PY3
  • Aquarius Red PR214
  • French Ultramarine PB29

GANSAI TAMBI (KURETAKE) – behaves differently: more opaque (pigments unknown)

  • Lemon Yellow
  • Rose Madder
  • Ultramarine

RUUD’S HANDMADE WATERCOLOURS

  • Permanent Yellow PY154
  • Quinacridone Rose PV19
  • Ultramarine Dark PB29

 

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