How to Choose Paint Colors for a Basic Spring Palette

Spring Color Palette

One of the reasons I love using a seasonal palette for art work is the way the colors naturally sing when they’re placed together.  I love, love, love when the colors harmonize in a happy, light hearted way, fully of playfulness and inviting energy.

Take cues from nature when you create your palette.  It’s easier to see what colors work well together- the yellow greens, the bright flowers, the crisp blue sky. You don’t have to know why they go well together, although knowing the reason why is very helpful as you grow.

I use a large palette, place the colors I like with plenty of room for mixing.  I’ll keep this palette going until I decide to paint in a summer palette. I think I bought this white plastic one at Michael’s craft store.

Spring colors are naturally exuberant, light, full of movement. Spring compositions don’t have hard edges or shocking color combinations. The colors of spring should lend themselves to feelings of happiness, cheerful energy, a bouncy or buoyant feel, playfulness, laughter and so forth.

Watercolor is a wonderful medium for spring because it’s easy to leave lots of light. It’s not a heavy medium like acrylic or oils. One can create the sensation of light by leaving as much little or white space by leaving areas without paint. I had one teacher who emphasized leaving a lot of white space in the composition to create scenes that are light and spacious.

When preparing your palette, stick with primary colors and don’t mix them with grays, blacks or titanium white.  Be aware there are different pigments in different brands of paints. Your colors won’t look exactly like mine because of that variable.  Depending on the quality of the paint, either professional, artist or student labeling, there is a different quality and intensity of pigment in the paint among other variables. There’s no need to start with expensive paints. I use a lot of the student paints because much of my work is experimental and practice, especially when I’m experimenting with colors.

Once the process of mixing colors start, I can go down a rabbit hole! I’ve learned to limit my colors and decide on a focal color as a paint so I decrease the possibility of turning my painting into a muddy mess!

Having a pre-set of palette of colors helps us to avoid the dreaded muddy mess and create scenes that are pleasing to the eye.

The general rule I use for a spring palette is this: use colors that are as close to the original pigment and color as possible with a robust saturation.

On my palette now:

Alizarin Crimson, Cadmium Yellow Deep, Hooker’s Green, Permanent Rose and Cobalt Blue.

Spring Watercolor Palette

Not pictured are Burnt Sienna and Raw Umber which I use for the browns in the work. For a spring palette these are not the focal colors, which is why I don’t list them with the colors above.

Permanent Rose and Alizarin Crimson look similar. If I played with the Alizarin Crimson enough, I could get a satisfying pink. However, I’m still working on this myself and I LOVE permanent rose- it is such a beautiful rose and it makes a lovely purple. I’ve included examples below of the difference between alizarin crimson and permanent rose when blended with cobalt blue.

Spring Palette

And below is what occurs when Alizarin Crimson and Cadmium Yellow against Permanent Rose with Cadmium Yellow. Interesting, isn’t?

spring palette


Remember, using a limited palette is a way of freeing the artist to create harmonious paintings. It’s not supposed to feel like you’re boxed in. If you love a certain color, add it in. Play with different combinations.

Spring Palette DO’s

Do use bright colors.

Do add a drop of a primary color to another color create a softer (but still spring-ish) color.

(For example, use a touch of cadmium yellow in the green to create a softer spring green. This green will create depth in the foilage, but not create a contradictory look.)

Do use the complementary color of the primary to create shadows (adding a drop of indigo to yellow creates the ideal color for shadows and crevices on a yellow jacket).

Do leave lots of white space as you paint to create the sensation of light and flow.

Do play with combining colors. In the bottom right corner, I added cobalt blue to the permanent rose to create a lovely spring purple.


Spring Palette Don’ts

Don’t mute colors with white.

Don’t mute colors with black.

Don’t use muted colors such as yellow ochre (much more becoming to the summer and fall palettes).

Most of all, have fun and experiment. Remember, we all get better with practice, even incremental improvements, over time produce a level of mastery as the days, weeks and months multiply.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.