Around the Colour Wheel in Eighty Shades: Part One

I've been asked quite a bit lately about my colour choices in my paintings. I have been reluctant to write about it, as I am a self taught artist and assume I have huge holes in my knowledge, but as there seems to be some interest, and I started to tell people I would blog about it, here we go.

Cadmium Scarlet and Phthalo Blue (Red Shade)

When I am starting a painting, I pick two colours which are opposite each other on the colour wheel, so when they are combined in the right amounts, they create a neutral greyish colour. As you mix these two colours, they create a range of colours, some of which can be matched with other paints, which may have different and useful properties.

With my Firth of Forth series, I mostly use Cadmium Scarlet and Winsor Blue (Red Shade). 

Bass Rock, November 2018, Watercolur, Moti Black
Available on RedBubble here

Isle of May, August 2018, Watercolour, Moti Black
Available on RedBubble here

Berwick Law and Craig Leith, November 2018
Available on RedBubble here

The paints that fit in with this colour scheme are

  • Phthalo Blue, Red Shade - Holbein Artists' Watercolour. Lovely and bright blue. Useful when you want to give the sky an extra oomph. However, it does leave a darker blue line around where you apply the wet paint.
  • Phthalo Sapphire - Winsor and Newton Professional Watercolour. Very similar to the Holbein, Phthalo Blue Red Shade, but a limited edition, so may be hard to get your hands on.
  • Winsor Blue, Red Shade - Winsor and Newton Professional Watercolour. My go to paint for paintings in these colours, but it doesn't work very well if you want to do effects with clingfilm, and like the Hobein, leaves a darker blue line at the edge of the wet paint when it dries.
  • Prussian Blue - Winsor and Newton Professional Watercolour. I haven't used this much.
  • Indigo - Winsor and Newton Professional Watercolour. I love the properties of this paint. It works really well with clingfilm. However, I find it is best used with plenty of water as can develop a coppery sheen.
  • Venetian Red - Winsor and Newton Professional Watercolour. I haven't used this much
  • Light Red - Winsor and Newton Professional Watercolour, again, I haven't used this much.

With the Firth of Forth Scenes Range, I only use Phthalo Blue, Red Shade (Holbein Artists' Watercolour), Winsor Blue, Red Shade (Winsor and Newton Professional Watercolour), Indigo (Winsor and Newton Professional Watercolour) and Cadmium Scarlet (Winsor and Newton Professional Watercolour). (Sometimes I have used Chinese White to pick out the white areas, but I do try to leave the paper blank where I can.)

I have also found these colours useful in other paintings, where I first paint the image using Winsor Blue Red Shade and Cadmium Scarlet, then add minimal colours from elsewhere in the colour wheel.

For example, the colours are perfect for house sparrows. Here I added a bit of Raw Umber (Winsor and Newton Professional) on the feathers and Permanent Green Light (Daniel Smith) for the background.

House Sparrow, Watercolour, Moti Black
This image is on RedBubble here

I used the colour scheme again in my 'Dragon Attack on Pittenweem', with just a bit of Viridian (Winsor and Newton Professional) for the green doors, plants and reflections and Permanent Carmine (Winsor and Newton Professional) for the pink house.

Dragon Attack on Pittenweem, Moti Black, Watercolour
Available on RedBubble here

Happy Painting!


  1. I can hardly believe that you get all these amazing shades from just two colours. That's my new goal - two colours for a painting!

    1. Hi Alison :-) Thank you. I look forward to seeing your paintings!


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