Quick 5 Minute Watercolor Palette Tip
Are you one of those people who cleans out your palette after every watercolor project? Or do you get stressed out when your pristine watercolor pans get contaminated with other colors? Well I’m here to tell you that, by being a neat freak you’ve actually been missing out on something amazing.
While being clean and tidy in day to day life is a great way to live your life, when it comes to watercolor palettes, messy and dirty is the best way to go.
There are many schools of thought as far as color mixing and color technique are involved so this tip might not exactly align with things that you see from other art teacher or other channels and that’s ok! I think that every artist is entitled to their own opinion and their way of doing things so what I’m going to give you is my perspective and recommendations based on my personal experience.
So, pigments and paints that come straight out of the tube are gorgeous in their own right. They’re bright, they’re saturated, they’re just bursting with color! However, despite how pretty they are in their pure form, the more you’re dealing with an unblended color, the more that individual color is going to stick out and fight other colors on your paper.
Allowing your colors to get a little muddied up l can actually make your colors a bit more natural and play nicer with other colors you’re using on your painting. Generally speaking, the more you mix and blend and get away from those pure straight out of the tube colors, the more harmonious your overall color scheme will become.
If you think of your painting as a dish and your pigments as separate ingredients in a yummy recipe, those ingredients have to be combined, cooked and seasoned together for them all to come together as a a final cohesive dish. Otherwise you’re just left with separate ingredients that are all separate and don’t come together as one.
And it’s kind of the same thing for color mixing. Ultimately, you want all of your colors to work hand in hand with each other so you don’t end up with a rainbow effect where everything is all separate and clashing.
In a way, working with a dirty palette forces you to blend your colors with one another, introduce more variations in your tones and let me tell you, the results you get from putting this into practice are like no other. Sometimes I just stare at the mixing area of my palette in awe of all these incredible colors and hues that quite honestly, just came to be by accident.
It really is surprising what wonderful new colors you can discover and utilize if you just let go a bit and try not to micromanage your mixing surface. I think that this is part of the joy of watercolor! It’s the experimentation and adventure of taking a color and experiencing the alchemy that happens when you add an element of unpredictability to it.
Personally, I think it’s also an incredible way to get the most beautiful and complex skin tones. I actually have a section of the mixing area of my palette devoted to variations in skin tones and I love how no two are alike. If there’s some leftover marigold yellow on my palette, maybe my characters that day will have warmer undertones. Or if I happen to mix a skin tone a little too close to my pinks, we’ll get something completely different there too.
Not cleaning your palette forces you in a way to just roll with it and not get too clinical with how you handle color. And lastly, a little added bonus of leaving your palette alone and not cleaning it off is that you have less waste and with quality watercolors being pricy, who doesn’t want to take advantage of a little savings and make their paints stretch further?
Hope this was helpful and let me know in the comments how often you clean you painting palette and if you're tempted to try this little messy trick. I promise you won't be disappointed ;)