Because watercolors are not standardized in their composition, there are a lot of theories about how many colors you “should” have on your palette. When I started painting, I took a class at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) with a very wonderful watercolorist. I can’t remember his name but he did these amazing scientific watercolors of moths. They were used in textbooks and were incredibly accurate. This painter was what I call a “color nerd.” He was totally into having every tube of every color and literally had a chest of drawers organized for his many tubes of paint. Basically, if a brand came out with a new version of Cadmium Red, he was interested. And he definitely had many tubes of the “same” color by different manufacturers.
At the other end of the spectrum, my wonderful watercolor teacher, Wendy Soneson, tells all of her students to start with only 6 colors. She can make any color using just the super six (French Ultramarine, Alizarin Crimson/Permanent Rose, Cadmium Red, Cadmium Yellow, Lemon Yellow, and Phthalo Blue). I have this list memorized and branded into my brain. I think Wendy will think me a poor student as I now work with more than six. For the most part, I’ve expanded into other Blues and sometimes use more than one brand of a particular color (yes, I can be a color nerd too!) The basic reason for owning more than one of the same color is that different brands react differently when mixed together. Or they can be more granulated from brand to brand. I particularly like the way the Sennelier brand works with other paints but other painters find them harder to control (I don’t really care about control as much as I love watching the paints play an active role in the painting).
Here is a photo of the colors I will be packing. Luckily, these concentrated tubes are quite small and last a long time (I didn’t need to buy any new tubes for the trip). My colors all easily fit into a quart bag for my carryon luggage.
I have ordered a new palette that is smaller and watertight. You can see that I belong to the Messy Palette Club. I like the accidents that can happen in the mixing areas. About 95% of the time, I mix my paints on the paper, but every now and then, I’ll plop some into the well and do a wash or light mix beforehand.
Each day, more and more items are in bags and checked off lists!