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  • Writer's pictureLisa Fulmer

Palatable palettes

It's no secret that I like food. Even more, I like taking pictures of my food. Sometimes it's because I want to give a shout-out to the restaurant or to my partner who loves to cook, or maybe I just want to tell a story.

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, it's all about the color inspiration. I don't paint anything resembling still life very often, but with this quick shot of produce I bought at the farmer's market last weekend, I thought I'd experiment with a few online color palette apps. You upload your photo, then the app generates a color palette from it. Each of the four apps I tried (listed in the photo above) has slightly different features. Some offer the flexibility of choosing how many colors you want.

I liked the #4 palette the best, because the app actually shows you on the photo where each color came from. Plus you can slide through dozens of different palettes picked from different spots on the photo. Overall I was surprised at how muted the palettes were, especially since I thought the produce had some pretty bright color.

But then I realized how much I appreciated what these free apps did - they saw colors that I didn't see. Looking at #4, I didn't notice the taupe shade of the powdery part of the purple plum's skin. I also missed the lovely peach highlights on the green plum.

So now I have a warm earthy palette that I like - these five colors look really nice together. What do I do with it? First comes the task of mixing these colors, because I probably don't have any of them singularly handy in any of the mediums I enjoy - watercolor, acrylic and gouache. So I challenged myself to try to mix them using only the colors in my DANIEL SMITH Colors of Inspiration Watercolor set.

I have the pans turned around in the opposite direction as the legend - I love that little piece of printed acetate that comes in the set, by the way - it's super helpful. So here's what I came up with - I think I got pretty close! I started with #2, which I'm calling Coral, because for some reason it seemed like it would be the's just red+yellow=orange, right? Nope, not entirely, lol.

1. Wine: #2 mix plus Shadow Violet

2. Coral: Quinacridone Rose, Cadmium Yellow Medium, Quinacridone Gold

3. Peach: Cadmium Yellow Medium, Quinacridone Gold, Wisteria

4. Mustard: Quinacridone Gold, Cadmium Yellow Medium, plus #1 mix

5. Taupe: #4 mix plus Shadow Violet, Serpentine Genuine

I have no idea how to tell you what ratio of colors I used. I just began with what seemed like the most obvious starter shade and then added micro-doses of other colors, bit by bit until the hue I wanted was revealed. I really struggled with #3 - how would I make that distinction in the middle of rust and gold tones? I tried adding Wisteria on a whim because it's the lightest color in the set and BAM! It totally worked.

This palette challenge was super fun and I'm looking forward to using these color blends in some sort of autumnal abstract landscape. And bonus - it's proof that you can do anything with just one basic set of paints - as long as they're super high-quality pigments, of course.

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