How to Make a Watercolor Color Chart

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Today, I'm going to show you how to create your own watercolor color chart.

Even though I find painting in watercolor not one of the easiest mediums to work with, I still like to dabble. Perhaps it's the free movements and relaxed fluid washes of color I can't master. Firstly, I don't think it's possible for me to be that laid back and secondly, my heart truly lies in capturing fine detail with colored pencil. Anyway, like I said, I like to occasionally give it a go.

Whereas colored pencil blends with other colors more subtly on the paper, paint does have the huge advantage of being mixed and blended into a huge array of bold, strong hues to whispery pastels. That, I like a lot!

I have a set of Reeves watercolor tubes and some Koi watercolor pans. They're not top of the range, I know, but for experimenting with small projects, they do fine for a modest set.

Back to colors... Whenever I buy a new set of supplies, I like to create a reference color chart. I do this because often the shade of the actual pencil shaft or the paint tube are way off compared to what's actually inside. It also gives me a feel for how that color behaves.
  • Is it translucent?
  • Is it dull?
  • Is it too bright and unnatural?
  • Is it going to be one of my popular go to's?
I feel like getting to grips with each color also makes me familiar with my entire palette, ready for when I get to work. It's like making friends! Ha! ☺️

For watercolor though, I decided to record a little more detail to show the results of each color when it was mixed with another. Here I came up with my pretty color chart.

Ooooh! I just love the colors!

I can't tell you how helpful it has been in trying to get a more, natural, more accurate color match.

Here's how you can make your own...
1. Sort out all of your watercolors - I organized mine in the roygbiv rainbow style and when satisfied, listed each name in a horizontal row and a vertical row. Like this...

2. Using watercolor paper you always work on (to endure consistent results), draw a column down the left side of the page (about 1.5" wide) and one the same width, going horizontally across the page at the top. Allow enough length in your 'columns' to allow you to write the name of each color paint.
3. Next, from there, draw out a grid with horizontal and vertical lines. Each square of mine is about 1/2x1/2". If you run out of paper (mine was from a 9x12 pad, cut another piece and tape it on the back so the lines match up.
4. Then take each color (watered down) and paint inside each center square going downwards, from top left corner of the paper to the bottom right, like so...

5. Now comes the color mixing part. My first shade on the vertical column here in the example below is Magenta. Going across and up is Crimson, therefore you need to mix the tiniest amount (a 50:50 blend) of the two. Paint it above the square of pure crimson and also underneath the square of pure magenta.

6. Then, in the vertical column, going downwards, focus on the next color (here it's Rose Madder) and line that up with the next one horizontally (Magenta). Repeat the process for all squares - remembering to always aim for a 50:50 paint and water mix.

A Few Notes:
  • Now, this project is very time consuming but I did mine a little at a time over several days. Just play your favorite show on Netflix. Before long you'll been done, having completed all squares and ending up with a gorgeous looking color chart.
  • I was amazed at the beautiful shades of teal and turquoise (some of my favorites) that I could achieve. As I love to draw and paint botanicals, I was also impress with the range of natural looking leafy greens - the reddish green of ... and ... Is perfect for Rose stems and leaves.
  • To keep the paper clean, it's a good idea to have your chart laminated at your nearby copy shop - I plan to do this but haven't got around to it just yet. 
So there you go. I know, it's a long process but the results are so nice and incredibly helpful for referring to when color mixing in the future.

Has this helped you create your own watercolor chart?
What mixes did you come up with that surprised you?
Let me know in the comments below.
3 comments on "How to Make a Watercolor Color Chart"
  1. I don't really know how to use water colors perfectly. I actually don't like using water colors but this post is so useful. Thank you for sharing this post with us.

  2. I also like painting flowers, etc. I've already gotten my grid drawn out. I originally wasn't going to mix every single color I own because I seem to have a craft and art supply buying problem and feel the need to try them all. But since you said you just added a sheet of paper to it, I figured that's what I would do too! Do you think it matters if they all aren't in color order? Please say no because I will have to do some erasing and redoing. �� Getting started now!

  3. My mind is blown by this! This is some amazing work and i'm completely impressed sold. This makes me want to change professions and become an artist instead. Great post.


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