The power of using only two colours

The power of using only two colours

Harbour view painted with 2 colours - Indanthrone Blue and Monte Amiata Natural Sienna

In this post by Liz Steel she mentions two Daniel Smith pigments that were new to me; Indanthrone Blue and Monte Amiata Natural Sienna by Daniel Smith.

Usually French Ultramarine, Indigo, Yellow Ochre and Raw Sienna are my most used colours since I paint a lot of skies, water, beaches and grasslands living in Australia. So I’m always open to explore variations of those blue and yellow base colours.

A quick trip to the shop and soon I had mixed the 2 new additions with all my standard colours in my pallette.

watercolour mixing chart

Next I painted the seascape at the top of this post with only these two new colours. 

As they are yellow and blue they mix a pretty good range of colours needed for simple landscapes and seascapes.

But why stop there?

Here’s an exercise to practice restraining your colour scheme and to explore interesting and unusual colour combinations:

Paint simple motifs using only two pure colours

Consider these combos:

  • complementary colours (blue & orange, yellow & purple)
  • primary colours (e.g. yellow & blue like I did)
  • a dark value and a light value (indigo & lemon yellow)
  • unusual colours (turquoise and sepia)
watercolour of rowing boats on the shore

Left: Quinachridone Gold & Cobalt. Right: Sepia and Cerulean Chromium

Left: Rose of Ultramarine and Australian Turquoise. Right: Pyroll Orange and Indanthrone Blue

What colour combos can you come up with?