How well do you know your watercolors? The response to that question at a recent workshop for sketchers led me to work with participants on a number of color tests. These experiments are really useful for seeing the full range of values that a single color offers. They also help you figure out simple color combinations (two or three colors) that work well together. Instead of doing a color chart with carefully controlled squares, I like to test colors more fluidly, doing graded one-color and two color washes. You can do this right in your sketchbook so that you have the reference with you, or use separate sheets of watercolor paper. Here are a couple pages to give you a sense of the great range of possibilities from just a few colors.
Test (Top left): raw sienna test with alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, and cobalt blue
Result: I rarely use raw sienna
Test (Bottom left): burnt sienna with phthalo blue and ultramarine blue
Result: great range of possibilities with ultramarine; I use this combination frequently
Test (Top Right): Burnt umber with ultramarine
Result: another winning combination
Test (Middle Right): Alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, yellow ochre
Result: I love the blue leaning combinations, especially for shadows
Test: I just bought two new blues—Indathrone and Indigo (Daniel Smith)—and wanted to try them with colors that I use frequently.
Result (Indigo, left): I was looking for ways to get some rich darks and this seems to do the trick. I suspect I’ll use it sparingly, but it’s nice.
Result (Indathrone, right): I especially like some of the greens and grays—a keeper!