Organized Color System


I often get asked how I keep track of the product and colors I have on hand. You should see my studio! It is a small room with a never ending job of organizing and maintaining and stashing and storing. One day I’ll give you a real tour, but for today let’s talk about an easy way to remember what colors you have. You know, so you don’t double purchase.

Yesterday I showed you this photo. It is the stash I purchased at Hobby Lobby on our anniversary day trip! Those colors needed to be documented somewhere so I don’t double purchase when I could spend my cash on new colors. You know – ones I do not already have!

This is an example of two of the pages in my color book. Years ago, I was taking a class on Twinkling H2O’s with Dion Dior and these pages were made for the class. Yes, those pages are rippled and I will address that at the end of the post.

Here is an example for the Daniel Smith watercolors. And no, I do not have all those colors. Daniel Smith sells dot cards that give you a small dot of color for each of the colors they sell. I made a color chart using those dots so I could see what the colors actually look like. You know, the color swatches you see online may or may not be accurate, but this method works for me. Once I purchase a color, I put a black dot in the corner to indicate I have this one already. It works for me. And I can daydream a wish list for later purchase.

For the Twinkling H2O section in my book, I went to their website and got a list of all the colors they make. I set up my boxes and went ahead and wrote the names in underneath. Then I made color swatches of the ones I actually have. They are prettier and shinier than this photo gives them credit for. When I am making a piece of art I can flip through my book and get some help in figuring out what colors I want to use for the project.

For my current new supplies – I began with the Brea Reese Liquid Watercolors and painted them into my book. I don’t have a lot of them. But I swatched what I have. And speaking of swatches . . .

. . . Christine was interested in the colors so I made swatches for her. First time I’ve done it this way but it works. I used watercolor paper and punched a one inch circle for each of the colors I have. Please excuse my hurried scribbles of the names, I didn’t want to get them mixed up. I just wet the circle, then dropped a bit of color onto the circle and let it spread out. When they were dry, I wrote the color name on the back of each circle and put them in a bag to mail to Christine.

If you are interested in the Brea Reese Liquid Watercolors – I do want you to notice this. These are four different colors and although they shouldn’t look the same, they are pretty similar in appearance. Want to know what colors they are?

Here you go. Hopefully you can get both photos on your screen at the same time. I am not happy with these four colors. At all. The orange is the only one that look like it should – at least to me. That pink is clearly not pink. The medium magenta is clearly not magenta at all. And the red – well it is red but a kind of washed out red. Just be aware of this if you purchase these colors.

Then I grabbed all the Brea Reese Alcohol Inks I had and I actually made two sets of these swatches. One for Christine and for me. These inks work best on paper designed for them. Yupo Paper or Alcohol Ink Card Stock or the new Craft Plastic. Not the pages in my book, but I wanted them to be in my book. So this was the next best thing! I punched circles of alcohol ink card stock and dropped one little dot of color onto each circle. Some spread further than others but they all worked great.

Here is a good photo to give you a pretty accurate representation of the colors. Now let me show you how I used my set.

I used a little bit of tape runner on the back of each circle and adhered them to a page. All I had to do then was write down their names. And I have alcohol ink in my color book on the right kind of paper. Boom!

I mentioned my studio is a never ending organizational nightmare. Well, maybe I didn’t go that far in describing it. But it is never ending. Hahahaha! I have these little baskets I purchased at Walmart. I think they are meant to be used for silverware in your kitchen.

They work great in the closet here in the art room and they both hold a decent amount of color. I wanted one to be alcohol ink and one to be liquid watercolor, but I have more of one than the other. BUT they do all fit within these two baskets and they fit nicely on a shelf in my closet. I am really loving the Brea Reese colors for the most part. Definitely the alcohol inks. I do think she needs to work on differentiating her colors in the liquid watercolor set some more. But overall very happy. What’s that you ask? What about my book? Let me show you what I use. It works for me. It may work for you.

I currently use the Stillman & Birn Alpha Series wire bound sketchbook. The paper is 150 gsm, or 100 lbs. That isn’t very heavy for wet media. I didn’t know much about that kind of thing when I started this. It works but the pages do ripple a bit in places. Even after being closed and stuffed on a bookshelf for several years. Hahahaha! So that trick doesn’t always work!

If I was doing this over again, I would stay with Stillman & Birn, but change to their Zeta Series wire bound sketchbook. Its pages are 270 gsm, which according to Google is a little over 170 lbs. Much better weight paper for wet media. And the Stillman & Birn website shows the Zeta can handle dry and wet media, watercolor and ink. Perfect for a color system of your very own!

Stillman & Bin Zeta Series Wirebound
Brea Reese Liquid Watercolors
Brea Reese Alcohol Inks

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10 thoughts on “Organized Color System

    • Dion Dior was the one who told me about this and it made sense. if I hadn’t started way back when, it would be hard to do now.

  1. Thank you, both for the way you organize your colors and the comments on the colors. Can’t imagine how you keep up with all you do!
    Thank you for all your hard work

    • I don’t know how either. I’m thinking about slowing down. hahahahaha! and you are certainly welcome <3

    • it really helps prevent duplicate spending. I know from experience. and I take this book with me when I go to Dick Blick’s or Hobby Lobby

  2. Thank you for sharing that! I liked iow you did the dots for the alcohol ink, then put them in your book! Pretty colors!

    • not sure why I hadn’t thought of that before. I may have to do it with all my alcohol inks. I’m going to need a bigger desktop

  3. Fascinating post & a brilliant idea to use punched circles of appropriate substrate for the medium being swatched. I’m just working through all my pencils making charts so I can choose what I want to use on a project. Found a Bruynzeel large tin of pencils for a silly price & thought I could use them as a travel set where I don’t have to worry about dropping them or the tin getting knocked off a table where two year olds are running about sometimes (!) – church craft coffee morning.

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