Getting to know Daniel Smith Watercolors: Essentials set

Note: this is the second in my earliest foray into Daniel Smith watercolors. Much has been learned since 2016! So I have edited this post in 2021 with updated info.

The set of 6 colors in the Essentials packs a lot of bang for the buck. There 9s a warm red, yellow, and blue, and a cool red, yellow, and blue; You can mix a nearly infinite variety of colors using just these 6, and in the video I show you how I made two charts.

Crafters seem to just buy ALL the colors in any medium. And yes, that can help to paint a lot of stuff — you’ll have the purple you want or the right green if you have 20 of them. But….that’ll cost you a fortune! In this tutorial I’ll prove to you that with just the 6 essentials, you can make all SORTS of colors. My charts have particular hues but there are an infinite variety in between any color mixed – so you have a rainbow at your fingertips!

And I need to let you know I made a little booboo in this video. The cool and warm blues are swapped by accident. All over the internet you’ll find different websites that list one blue as cool and the other as warm, and when doing this I believed one site, not realizing it wasn’t the majority opinion.

However the good news in that: It still WORKS. No need to be 100% certain to keep track of cools and warms; there are no laws that you can only mix cools with cools or warms with warms. Each mix will just give you different hues! And if you don’t know if a color is cool or warm – just play with it and whatever colors you DO have!

In this video, I’ll be using one way to make a gridded chart – there are TONS of different ways to do this all over the web, so I didn’t invent anything here.

(Download both the color wheel and box chart instructions HERE.)

The basics of the color wheel are at the heart of color theory – and while that may sound like a fancy term, it’s what I remember learning in school as a little kid. Primary colors are red yellow and blue. Yellow and red make orange, blue and red make purple, yellow and blue make green. Those are the Secondary colors, and Tertiary colors are in between each of those. (Granted I don’t know that I learned the tertiary colors as a little girl!

The more interesting part for me is seeing how different reds, yelllows, and blues interact with each other. Those same basic colors make an infinite variety of hues as the amount of each pigment as well as the amount of water changes. A chart like this one can be done with more than primary colors, too – and it’s a good way to learn what colors you can create with whatever is in your palette.

In the Watercolor Jumpstart class, there’s a lot deeper learning about the color wheel, so if this interests you, it’s a great class to take a deeper dive!

Another Glazing chart

Kelly Eddington’s Glazing Chart is another way to do this same kind of color comparison – paint a strip of each color one direction, then a strip the other, and see the resulting glazed color that is made when you see through to the lower layers.

What do you learn from these charts?

While many love to swatch just to make a rainbow – there’s really much to learn from this exercise. When testing out how each pair of colors in your palette create, you’ll learn what colors you want to paint with later! A chart will help you have “notes” on that process, so you can keep notebooks of these or put them on the wall in your studio, whatever works for you.


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