the complete palette
This page is a complete listing of the over one hundred distinct pigments currently used in watercolors and serves as an index to the pigments listed in the guide to watercolor pigments.
Excluding iridescent or pearlescent pigments, fluorescent pigments or dyes, and the unique mineral complexes used in the Daniel Smith PrimaTek paints, nearly every watercolor manufactured in 2010 was made with pigments in this list, and their importance in all areas of drawing and painting has not changed.
Pigments are organized into 27 color categories around artist's color wheel. Each category includes the currently used watercolor pigments for that color, and suggests a single pigment watercolor paint (by name and manufacturer) that represents the pigment's unique attributes.
When a pigment under a single color index name is available as one or more distinct colors, two paints are listed that illustrate the pigment's range. If the color range is extremely large (cadmium yellow, iron oxide), it is listed in all the color categories that describe it.
Different typefaces are used for the pigment or paint names, as follows:
All the highly recommended pigments are lightfast, versatile, and handle well in watercolors. They include (but are not limited to) the paints most often chosen by most watercolor painters, and most of them are available in most watercolor paint lines. Note that this group includes several exceptional pigments that have not yet become widely popular or are only offered by a single watercolor paint manufacturer.
Pigments fall into four basic categories: natural inorganic, synthetic inorganic, natural organic, and synthetic organic. Nearly all pigments in common use today are synthetic, and the majority of those are organic. Typically all pigments within a chemical category such as "quinacridone" or "naphthol" have similar lightfastness and color characteristics.
Manufacturer and paint catalog numbers indicate paints that were actually tested in the guide to watercolor pigments. Many paints have been discontinued or reformulated since this guide was compiled, and many new pigments, especially in mineral compounds and ceramic colorants, have been devised since 2008. Despite that, most of the pigments listed here define pigment categories of high quality. In the future, environmental costs of production are likely to make some pigments, including the cadmiums, less popular.
The location of the 27 color categories is summarized as a color wheel diagram called a palette scheme. The palette scheme below shows the hue and chroma positions of the 27 color categories on the artist's color wheel. High chroma colors are located on the rim of the circle, unsaturated or "earth" colors are located inside it. The denser spacing of color categories within the magenta to yellow or "warm" section of the circle indicates a larger number of pigments and finer color differences in that part of the hue range.
palette scheme for the complete palette
click on a palette scheme anywhere it appears to see a key identifying the color categories symbolized by each diamond
1. Click on the palette scheme anywhere it appears (including here) to see a key identifying the color category symbolized by each colored diamond.
2. Click on a color diamond in that key to go to that color category in the table below.
3. Click on the color index name of any pigment in the table, and you will jump to the analysis of that pigment in the guide to watercolor pigments.
4. Click on the hue description for a pigment in the guide to watercolor pigments, and you will return to this table, where you can find other pigments available in the same hue range.