What Colors to Choose for a Minimalist Watercolor Palette + White Nights Review

Since White Nights (a.k.a. St. Petersburg) Watercolors from Russia became available here in Manila via Deovir, I’ve read a lot of reviews online and have even heard from art-friends that they are easy to re-wet and are highly pigmented. So, being low on EQ I decided to get a few pans for myself. You might already know that I’m not a fan of buying sets (though I have some but they’re either gifts and/or were purchased when I hadn’t the slightest clue about pigments and lightfastness) so I made sure to do my research before buying the paints. My self-imposed rules:

  1. I must be able to use the colors and their combinations in what I love to draw the most — faces, food, and felines (okay, animals in general :))
  2. The colors must consist of single pigments — this is to ensure lightfastness and also reduce the incidence of mud when layering.
  3. They have to fit into my handy DIY mint tin palette, meaning a maximum of 9 pans was in order.
  4. I can’t spend over P1,000.00 because do I really need another set of paints? Umm, no  (see previous post), but then need is sometimes < want. Fortunately White Nights, like ShinHan, isn’t as expensive as the other brands so I was able to stay below my limit.

White Nights Watercolors customized palette

So taking all that into account, here are the colors I ended up with along with their pigment info & light fastness ratings:
— 2 reds (1 cool, 1 warm): Madder Lake Red Light (PR 187 / LF ***) and Cadmium Red Light (PR 108 / LF ***)
— 1 warm yellow: Cadmium Yellow Medium (PY 35 / LF ***)
— 1 green: Emerald Green (PG7 / LF ***)
— 2 earth hues: Raw Sienna (PBr 7 / LF ***) and Burnt Sienna (PBr 7 / LF ***)
— 2 blues (1 warm, 1 cool): Ultramarine (PB29 / LF ***) and Prussian Blue (PB27 / LF ***)
— 1 neutral: Payne’s Grey (PBk7, PB15, PV3 / LF **)
[source]

The last one, Payne’s Grey is not a single-pigment color (it’s made up of 3 pigments) and is something I could’ve gone without since I can mix greys using some of the colors so it’s really just a handy “convenience hue” for days when I can’t be bothered to do extra mixing. 😀

Just to show you the range of colors that are possible using just these 9 pans, here are a couple of watercolor charts I made:

White Nights Watercolor Chart

This one (above) shows the range of color combinations and tonal ranges that can be achieved from mixing the brights with the darks. And just because I always paint portraits and people, I made a separate color chart mainly for the reds and yellows (below). I just added the column for green since there was extra space.

white nights watercolor chart skintones

Here’s something I painted using just the colors in the palette (you can view the work-in-progress video on my Instagram). I used them on Khadi Paper purchased a while back from ArtWhale.

white nights watercolor palette

My capsule review for White Nights Watercolors:
1. Indeed they are easy to re-wet, pick up with the brush and are highly pigmented (some colors more than others though)
2. They are also highly transparent — except for the Cadmiums which are opaque — so they are great for layering.
3. At only P87.00 per pan (except for the Cadmiums which are I think P120 / pan), they are quite affordable. My customized set amounted to around P849.00 and it consists of colors that I will actually use. (Sets usually have 3 or more pans that I always end up never using.) Also, these are FULL pans, not half pans, so you get a lot of paint for your hard-earned cash. 😛

And here is something else I painted using White Nights, a simple maguro sushi for my Youtube Channel (hah! If you’re one of my whopping 3 regular viewers, thank you for not laughing at my attempts to make these home videos <3)

Other observations:
1. ShinHan, Holbein, and Daniel Smith are still my favorites in terms of color intensity and flow but I’m happy to have this inexpensive set of vivid paints for drawings that will be scanned and for practice work. Van Gogh, my student-grade set that was a birthday gift from Arnold last year, is my other go-to for practice work but they are strangely more expensive than White Nights.
2. The pans remain moist for a while so I can’t close the lid of the tin until they dry completely because they might stick in the lid when I store them sideways.

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My Watercolor Palette + Live Portrait Session at Hey Kessy Photos

Choosing colors for a watercolor palette is tricky. I’m a little OC so up ’til a few weeks ago, my palettes were sorted by brand — one for ShinHan, one for Holbein, etc. The downside is that I had to lug both palettes around when I paint outdoors. Very impractical, especially since I acquired tubes from other brands (Daniel Smith & Sennelier) which meant I’ll have to add more palettes for each additional brand. Eek. To avoid that bothersome scenario, I devoted an afternoon to testing all the colors and hand-picking ones I’ll have the most use out of and then I combined those into a single palette. Thought I’d share it here since a lot of folks have been asking me about the paints I use. 🙂

watercolor palette

Since I paint mostly people with the occasional landscape or urban background, I decided on a rainbow spectrum of colors — their warm and cool iterations — plus a few neutrals. This way I’ll get to mix a large variety of the other hues I might need.

Top row, left to right: Cobalt Blue Light (Holbein), Marine Blue (Shin Han PWC), Viridian (Shin Han PWC), Hooker’s Green (Sennelier), Leaf Green (Holbein), Hansa Yellow Light (Daniel Smith), New Gamboge (Daniel Smith), Pyrrol Scarlet (Daniel Smith), Quinacridone Rose (Daniel Smith), Permanent Red (Shin Han PWC).
Bottom row, left to right: Vandyke Brown (ShinHan PWC), Helios Purple (Sennelier), Quinacridone Gold (Sennelier), Davy’s Grey (Holbein), Payne’s Grey (Holbein), Permanent Violet (Holbein), Mineral Violet (ShinHan PWC), French Ultramarine (Daniel Smith), and Pthalo Blue (Daniel Smith).  [info on where to shop these brands are below]

Below is an illustration I made using only the paints from this palette.

A photo posted by Cynthia Bauzon-Arre (@arncyn) on


(If you think the characters look familiar, that’s because they’re based on Augustus and Hazel from “The Fault in Our Stars.” I’m currently working on illustrations inspired by YA films, a wonderful idea suggested to me by talented artist & letterer Abbey Sy. So excited to make more. :D)

I’m very happy with this combination because it has everything I need — just look at the colors that can be mixed from this selection on the charts I placed beside the palette. If you’re looking into getting into watercolors and are panicking over what pricey set to buy, try determining the colors you need first and then purchase individual tubes & pans and make your own set 🙂

ShinHan PWC and Sennelier tubes are from ArtWhale (can be ordered online)
Daniel Smith tubes are from DE’s ArtRoom (they’re based in Cebu but you can also order online)
Holbein tubes are from Deovir Arts (SM North Edsa, Quezon City)

***
Last Saturday I had a live portrait session for Hey Kessy’s Father’s Day Celebration. When Dinny (of Hey Kessy) asked a few weeks ago if I ‘d be willing to do it, I hesitated but, as expected, dear husband said that I’ll never know that I can if I don’t try. I practiced using Arnold, random faces on Pinterest, and my cat (:D) as the models, grit my teeth and finally messaged back in the affirmative.

A photo posted by Cynthia Bauzon-Arre (@arncyn) on

I sat in the store for 3 hours, from 10 am to 1 pm and was able to draw three friendly faces.  I’m thinking that if I had chosen an afternoon schedule, there’d probably be more walk-ins but I was thankful for the relaxed pace.

live portraits by cynthia bauzon arre

Each portrait took about 20-30 minutes to make. I was worried about not capturing resemblance exactly but I relaxed once I set my mind that given the setup, all I could do were caricatures at the most…

live portraits cynthia bauzon arre

On hindsight, I’m glad I accepted the gig because painting from life with the models actually knowing that I’m painting them — as opposed to sneakily painting people in a coffee shop — is a great experience. We had to do it for art class in college but the subjects were either classmates or hired models. This time, my subjects really had the intention of having me draw them, which gave me a boost of confidence. Save for Danry who I already know from comic-related events, I got to know really nice people beyond just “hi’s and hello’s” and that was wonderful.

***

Speaking of Hey Kessy, I have a Shrink Art Workshop there on July 2! I resurrected my Youtube Channel and made a How-to Make-Shrink-Art video so you’ll have a taste of what we’ll be doing there,

Please sign up via this form if you’d like to learn how to make shrink art out of your doodles too! Class fee is P1500, inclusive of materials and light snacks.
*More details here.

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I'm Cynthia Bauzon-Arre, a Filipino watercolor artist & graphic designer. I live in QC with my graphic novelist husband Arnold and our friendly marmalade tabby Abbas. This blog has been chronicling my life, likes, and loves since 2001. [ more ]

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