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Best Plein Air Watercolor Palette for Painting Colorful Skies

Plein air watercolor palette for painting colorful skies St George Sunset Red Mountains

Best Plein Air Watercolor Palette for Painting Colorful Skies

When creating beautiful, vibrant skies in watercolor paintings, choosing the right color palette is crucial. I actually use the same palette for all of my paintings, it offers so many options. The best plein air watercolor palette will depend on the specific colors and effects you want to achieve, but there are a few general tips you can follow to help you make your selection.

Choosing a Limited Palette

One of the best ways to create a sense of unity and coherence in your painting is by using a limited color palette. This means you will only use a few select colors rather than an entire spectrum of hues. The advantage of using a limited palette is that it forces you to make the most of your colors, which can lead to more creative and thoughtful color choices.

When selecting a limited palette for your plein air painting project, you can choose a basic set of just a few colors, such as Cobalt Blue, Permanent Brown, and Naples Yellow mixed with Pyrolle Orange for a Peach mix. Or you can choose a more expansive palette with a range of colors. The important thing is to stick to a limited set of hues so your painting harmonizes.

CB Desert Quick Sketch Plein air watercolor palette for painting colorful skies

Consider the Time of Day

Another important factor to consider when choosing your best plein air watercolor palette of colors is the time of day. The colors of the sky can vary dramatically depending on whether it’s sunrise or sunset, midday or nighttime. For example, a sunrise or sunset may feature warm, golden tones, while a midday sky may be a bright, clear blue.

When selecting your colors, think about the mood and lighting of the scene you are painting. Where is the sun? The direction of light will make a difference. This will help you choose colors that accurately reflect the time of day and give your painting the desired mood.

Experiment with Different Colors

Feel free to experiment with different colors and combinations. Watercolor painting is a forgiving medium, so you can easily adjust and try new things without starting over from scratch. The key is to get in and get out without fussing over it too much. I’ve even washed off my sky immediately after laying down colors – a nearby sink is handy.

It’s a good idea to paint your foreground first so the colors in the sky can harmonize with your foreground. The more you experiment with different color combinations in all of your paintings, the better you will become at selecting the best palette of colors for your specific painting.

Poppies in Provence Plein air watercolor palette for painting colorful skies

Use a Color Wheel

A color wheel can be a useful tool for selecting colors that work well together in your painting. Complementary colors, those opposite each other on the color wheel, can create vibrant contrasts. In contrast, analogous colors, those next to each other on the wheel, can create a more harmonious effect.

By understanding the relationships between different colors, you can make more informed decisions about which hues will work best together in your painting. This can help you choose a palette that is both harmonious and visually interesting. For instance I often use Cobalt Blue in my skies, then mix a bit of Permanent Brown for gray shadows in my clouds.

In Conclusion

The best plein air watercolor palette for creating colorful skies depends on your subject matter, preferences and the specific effects you want to achieve. By following these tips and experimenting with different color combinations, you can select colors that work best for you. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced painter, using the colors that harmonize with your painting can help you create stunning, dynamic skies in your watercolor paintings.

Cumulous Clouds Plein air watercolor palette for painting colorful skies

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