Setting Up Your Palette for the First Time

Setting up your palette is something it pays to do right the first time so you can put the same color in the same well again and again without having to think about it. This section offers tips on making your palette artist-friendly.

If you have a new plastic palette, take a minute to scrub it gently with a scouring pad and a little scouring compound. This removes the shiny surface and prevents the paint and water from beading up when you try to mix them.

Most palettes have wells around the outside edge to hold pure pigments and a mixing area in the center. You use the mixing area to add water to paint to make it flow better or to mix paint colors to create a new color.

To set up your palette, follow these steps:

1. Get out all the tubes of paint you want to put on your palette.

2. Imagine your palette as a color wheel, as shown in Figure 2-3, and set each tube next to the well that it may occupy.

If your palette is square, start on one side and arrange the colors by ROYGBV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet). If you want, you can include your browns between the reds and oranges because browns are a form of orange and red.

Oranges

Yellows

Greens

Figure 2-3:

The palette as color wheel.

Oranges

Yellows

Greens

Figure 2-3:

The palette as color wheel.

Setting Your Palette

Reds and pinks

Violets and purples

Reds and pinks

Violets and purples

By setting all the tubes out before you fill the wells, it's easy to change your mind, and you can rearrange the colors until they're in their best positions.

If you have more wells than paint tubes, leave a well between the colors to allow some expansion later. Anticipate where you might want to expand your paint colors.

3. Squirt half a tube of paint in each well.

If the paint is dry enough to hold the shape of the hole when it comes out of the tube (like toothpaste does), add some water and mix it until the paint relaxes and fills the bottom of the well.

Use a permanent marker to label each paint color on the outside of the well it's in. When paint is dry and dark, it's hard to remember which color is which without a name. If you change colors later, you can remove the name with a scrubber sponge or steel wool.

4. Replace the caps on the tubes and start painting.

Make sure paint tube lids and the threads on the tubes are free of paint before replacing the cap. Paint can act like glue when it sets on the threads of the tube, and the next time you try to loosen the cap, it'll twist the metal tube, possibly breaking it open.

Arthritic hands will enjoy smoothly turning lids if you smear a little petroleum jelly on the threads before resealing.

There's no waste in watercolor pigment. If paint dries out, just add water to rehydrate it. So don't be afraid to put a generous amount of pigment in the well. A tiny pea size will just be inadequate.

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