Need suggestions for desert palette!


  • Hi all!

    I’m planning a February road trip out to Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley, and more desert environs — cannot wait! We’ll be driving from Texas out through New Mexico and Arizona. I hope to do lotsa sketching along the way and have been looking at tons of photos on google trying to figure out a good palette but I thought I’d ask here because as we know sometimes photos just don’t cut it!

    So what are your fave colors for the desert southwest?

    I saw where M. Graham and Winsor & Newton have both offered desert collections but they seem to have received mixed reviews…

    Thanks a ton!!

    I am Arizona for the winter and this is what I use:

    raw and burnt sienna

    sap green works well for cacti

    Blue for the sky

    a red and a yellow because you may have some blooms in February

    and a few of your favorite colors.

    Dont be fooled when people talk about the ‘dull colored’ desert, it’s not. It’s beautiful and I love it.

    Hope this helps a little.

    That helps! I’ve never tried raw sienna, thinking of getting one for the trip!

    Do you have any favorite blues? My standard palette has ultramarine, cerulean and phthalo — thinking of adding in some manganese blue hue…

    Forgot to add, I’m bringing my Daniel Smith Sedona genuine — got it a few years ago and haven’t used it much yet, but thinking it would be so cool to use it in Arizona! 🙂 (yeah I’m geeking out haha!)

    I haven’t had much experience with desert landscapes, but Winsor Newton’s Raw Sienna is great for both sunsets/sunrises and as a light underpainting.

    I think the lovely soft Verona Gold (DS), and/or
    Goethite (DS) or Yavapei (DS), both primateks (just one, not both, because they can be maniupulated)

    IF you are working in a sketchbook versus paintings for walls then Opera Pink… If not go for  Quin Pink

    I have seen desert blooms @ Joshua in pink, orange, yellows, purple, soft greens (I have a Gamblin Oil Paint named Terre that I see Joshua Trees in whenever I use it!)and while I am not a fan of QoR they have a good Terre for this purpose.  I am going to try DS or Da Vinci but ha ven’t yet so I can’t recommend either for this.

    and also a blue green like a Phthalo Green but only if you handle it lightly –and indigo mixed with Phth Grn might tone it nicely or DS Paynes Blue Grey for agaves and other cactus.

    BTW, My dyslexic mind kept reading dessert colors… Chocolate, raspberry, vanilla….

    Hi Kate! Dessert colors — love it!! I think desert colors are yummy like a dessert anyhow 🙂

    I looked up the DS Yavapai genuine and fell in love with the description — had to paste it here — gonna have to get this color for sure! Plus it’s made from Arizona rocks! So cool.

    Apache legend speaks of a single dove that left the edge of the original well and saw the world. When the great floods came, this dove led the first woman to the safety of the Yavapai. Today, the enfolding security of the Yavapai stone provides a sentimental glimpse through time. The endurance of the stone symbolizes the endurance of the human spirit. The warm, reddish, yellow-brown color, similar to a seinna, remains unchanged. Made from Arizona rock, Yavapai Genuine is transparent with a surprisingly smooth texture in washes. This legendary pigment can link your palette to the indomitable past and the bright possibilities of the future. We’ve captured the strength of the Yavapai in an historic mineral pigment that exemplifies the perpetual energy of art.

    I’ve tried mixing agave colors before and I haven’t had much luck — do you have a rough ratio of colors? I keep wanting to add white paint to phthalo green but then I can hear the purists yelling at me ha! Gonna have to try phthalo + indigo now…

    I have Quinn rose in my normal palette so will be bringing that for sure. Opera pink always seems kinda unnatural to me, although I do work in a sketchbook. Hmmmm maybe I should bring it along too 🙂

    Good advice. I’ve learned a few things also 😄. I agree that opera pink is kind of u natural.

    When I went to Hawaii, I brought so much art stuff with big plans to paint everything. What a learning experience that was!  When I looked back to see what I used, it was maybe ¼ of all the supplies.

    Now when I travel I pack everything I think I might need and then toss out about 3;4 of it.

    We use what we have and if we don’t have it, we still manage and become creative and resourceful.

    Happy travels!

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