As you can see from my latest Art Bag: Time Saving Tips and Tricks video, (or, scroll to the bottom of this post), I’ve been feeling pretty excited about my Fan Watercolor Set. However, in my excitement about the vast color choices available in the palette, I strayed a bit from what works for me – that is, sticking with limited color palettes.

Limited Color Palettes…

Don’t have to be boring. And working from a limited color palette doesn’t mean that you use just 3 or 4 colors. Rather, you stick with 3 or 4 colors as your base and then mix all of the shades for your illustration from a combination of those (limited) base colors.

A Case of…

Do what I say, not what I do!

As much as I’d always love to produce masterpieces, it just isn’t realistic. Sometimes my initial freehand drawing isn’t that great. Other times, the drawing is really good, but I mess up the coloring process. And, in this case, I should have followed the limited color palette lesson I learned months ago.

Here’s the initial drawing:

Inked PoodleOohs drawing by Joana Miranda

To be honest, I think the illustration would have been stronger if I’d left out the top portion – the cityscape – of the drawing. The figures on their own had a lot of life and charm; however, I was afraid of leaving so much white space on the top and bottom of the page. As I moved on to coloring, I was after a playful, carefree vibe.

I Could Should Have Stopped Here…

Working with a limited color palette.  An example of less being more.

Even so, I knew when I colored the olive green and teal “PoodleOohs” on the right side of the page that I had already strayed too far from a color palette that made sense.

Throwing Caution to the Wind…

I decided to continue by adding a rainbow of colors.

Photo of my "PoodleOoh" illustration in my Moleskine notebook

Unfortunately, there was no pot of gold for me at the end of this rainbow!

(Here’s a look at the illustration after I scanned it.)

What happens when you don't stick to a limited color palette...sometimes more is really less!

That said…

The in-my-face reminder of the benefits of sticking with a limited color palette (not to mention trusting my instincts when I feel like a drawing is complete) are golden lessons!

What’s next?

Why, more experiments with my Fan Watercolor Set, of course. But I plan to exercise a lot more restraint in my color choices.


To make no mistakes is not in the power of man; but from their errors and mistakes the wise and good learn wisdom for the future.



  1. Helen Reich says:

    Boy, that water pen thang sure works well. And I don’t mind your colorfulness at all! I also like the city background. It seems like a very optimistic drawing, where the city dwellers don’t need to wear masks, because there are no viruses threatening their species.

    • Joana says:

      Hi Helen,

      For some reason I’m not getting notifications from my site when people leave comments, so my apologies for not responding sooner. I’m glad you like the colorfulness and the city background. 🙂 I’m still not convinced, but I know that there were good things in that illustration.

      I was so hoping that we’d be done with all this virus/mask wearing/social distancing, etc. by now, but obviously we’re going to have to continue to be VERY patient. Sigh. Meanwhile, Andy and I are looking forward to escaping the city (finally) for some time with my mom and the cats in NH. The weather is definitely more fall-like up there, which will be a lovely change.

      What do you have blooming/growing in your garden now? Any new “blooms” coming off your work table?

      xox – Joana

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