Monday, March 26, 2012

Watercolor 101 | Paint

watercolor paint
Welcome to watercolor 101! Today is all about watercolor paint
Watercolor is an aqueous medium which means the paint is 
water based and activated by water.
Contrary to what you may think, 
it is fairly easy to work with and very easy to clean up. 
I recommend that you buy the best that you can when 
selecting any of your materialsHaving great materials 
to start with makes all the difference in the world.

watercolor paint II
I like to use tube watercolor paint. 
I buy the smallest tubes because the binder, gum arabic, 
will separate with age. The paint will cake up 
and be impossible to extrude if it's really old,
so I prefer to squeeze as much as I can into the wells 
of my palette where it will be used up. 
A bit of rudimentary advice: squeeze and roll the paint 
from the bottom of the tube. 
If you've gone to the trouble of buying really good paint, 
you won't want to waste a drop. 

watercolor paint III
There are so many great brands of paint to choose from. 
I use good old fashioned Winsor & Newton artist grade 
watercolor paint. My metallic colors are Winsor & Newton 
artist grade gouache, an opaque watercolor. 
Artist grade paints contain a full pigment load and 
therefore produce a rich, brilliant color. 
There is usually a greater palette of colors 
to choose from as well.

pike palette
Which colors to buy? 
My palette is an evolution of color and changes all the time. 
Choose colors that you like to work with and 
remember you can mix and blend many more colors 
and soften or intensify them with more or less water. 
Listed below are some colors I often work with: 
deep yellow, yellow ochre, brown ochre, burnt sienna, 
sepia, burnt umber, cadmium red, alizarin crimson, 
neutral tint, payne's gray, mars black, chinese white, 
olive green, hooker's green, sap green, cerulean blue, 
phthalo turquoise, prussian blue, silver and gold gouache.

pike palette II
My palette is a John Pike palette. 
I've had it for over twenty years and it has served me well. 
It has large paint wells with a slightly beveled edge 
which helps to keep the paint contained. It also features a large mixing area which is perfect for blending colors and creating washes. It comes with a storage lid that also serves a secondary palette. Every once in a while I soak my palette in water and 
thoroughly clean out the wells of old paint.
 For day to day care, I simply wipe the mixing area clean 
with a damp rag,add a big drop of water to each paint well 
to soften the paint and I'm ready to work.

pike palette III
Here are a few places to shop for watercolor supplies:
Do you have any questions about watercolor paints and palettes? 
I really encourage you to experiment and see what works for you! 
Next week 101 is all about brushes.


Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

Thanks for the tips!

Karoeza said...

So lovely, thanks!
I use w&n as well, mostly gouache, and i realy like them.

Carol said...

Thanks! I always love seeing others artists' palettes. I have never used gouache. Think I need to experiment!

MARY said...

Golly,Golly Bard, This is great!
May I add a fun thing? Daniel Smith offers these sample cards of watercolor dots. Right now they seem to be only offering a 66 dot card sampler, but in the past they have offered a set of 4 cards (240+ color samples) You can make a little library of color samples by painting each one onto card stock so you can see what surprises each color holds and which you might want to purchase. The samplers are usually around $5 a piece.

Daniel Smith also makes these tubes of watercolors made from ground minerals and gem stones, which are gorgeous.

holly aka golly said...

Kathryn: my pleasure. Glad it was helpful.

Karoeza: I usually gravitate toward watercolors,
but I do love gouache too!

Carol: You should give it a try!

Mary: I'll have to check out the watercolor dots.
They sound really neat.

tangmolua said...

Thank you for this! I'm really interested in watercolor. :)

humanics said...

I do have a question and it may be a TOTALLY stupid one, but I still have it nonetheless. How much paint to you squeeze into each little square on the palette? Do you add water to the little square? When it dries up, do you add water or do you just use a wet brush? Thanks for opening this up!!

holly aka golly said...

Tangmolua: That's great! Hope this is helpful.

Peacework: I fill each well of my palette with as much paint as I can. It will eventually dry in the palette and when you are ready to paint you can add a big drop or two of water to each well, then dip your brush in water and gently roll/stir through the paint and pull the desired amount into your mixing area. The paint is activated by the water.

Caitlin said...

Great tips! Thanks for sharing :)

humanics said...


EmeraldTree said...

Such a great post, thank you!! I started doing watercolor instead of oil, because I have a little one at home. I recently upgraded to tube paints made by M. Graham. So far, I love them! I really look forward to your posts!!

Sarah Melling said...

Well, I have never really done much watercolor (I work in graphite and colored pencil) but you're inspiring me to revisit it. (I remember a hundred years ago when I was in high school, I was in love with Winsor Newton "Payne's Grey"...glad to see it on your list. Always love visiting your blog, which I do regularly!

artist said...

Hi Golly,
Thank you for posting the list of your colors. I have worked in watercolor for years and have never tried Brown Ochre. Your watercolor paintings are so beautiful. You always inspire me to be better.

holly aka golly said...

Caitlin: My pleasure!

Emerald tree: That's super.

Sarah: It's worth a revisit for sure. Of course I am slightly biased. ;) Can't live without payne's gray and neutral tint.

Artist: You are too kind. Try the brown ochre, I think you'll like it.

Deanna said...

Thank you for sharing! I bought a few tubes of paint to see if I liked this medium and did, so I bought a BUNCH of paint. I didn't realize it got old. I better get painting!

holly aka golly said...

Deanna: Don't worry, I'm sure your paint will be fine. It will keep for a while depending on where you live, temperature, humidity, etc. I just recommend buying as little as possible and using it as soon as possible.

Marjolaine said...

Hi Golly,

Just trying to understand: you squeeze paint in square and add a drop or two of water. When you're done, the paint in that square dries up and is used for next time? Does the water you added alter the paint in anyway? In that I mean, does it change the value of the tone for next time's use?

holly aka golly said...

Marjolaine: Simply squeeze the tube paint onto your palette. When you are ready to paint, you can add a little water. Eventually everything is going to dry on your palette. To reactivate it you can add more water. A little water isn't going to change the value that much.

Karen said...

What a great post. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience!

holly aka golly said...

My pleasure Karen!

lamina @ do a bit said...

Great watercolour paint tips... It makes me wanto get my paints out right now :)

phoebe said...

thank you for the lesson!

Clair said...

Thanks Holly! The tip on buying the smallest tube available is a great one, i just found half of my tubes have dried up. Do you think I could take out the dried block and use it like a cake paint? I hate wasting art supplies.

holly aka golly said...

Lamina: Yes, get your paints out!

Pheobe: My pleasure, always!

Clair: If your paints are really old then I would pitch them. If they are not too old you can very carefully take a sharp utility knife and slice off the very top and bottom of the tube and then slice through the tube lengthwise. Splay open the tube to remove the caked up paint and transfer it all to your palette, add a little water and paint!

Tammie Lee said...

I loved reading your post and hearing about your palette and the paint you like to use.

You are a good teacher. thank you.

emma said...

Dear Golly,

I see that your paints in the paint wells on your palette are mixed with bits of other colour. I am so new to watercolour and I anxiously wash my brush before dipping it into a colour to put in the mixing area.

Am I being too precious? Don't the colours mix up and get murky?

Thank you,


holly aka golly said...

Emma: throw caution to the wind! You can always add a little water and gently remove residue from the surface of the colors. Sometimes I have two colors in one one well because I've run out of wells. Honestly I don't worry about colors mixing. That said, every once in a while if the paint is getting low and is nearly all gone and it looks like it's time to replenish it, I soak the whole palette or just one well in water, loosen and chip out the old paint, clean the wells and start fresh again.

Vesper said...

Are you aware of staining pigments vs. earth pigments? I've been studying with another illustrator here in NJ and she opened up a world for me. Maybe your readers would be interested. I had so many issues in the past with the cadmiums, especially, being pushed around the paper like dirt. That's until my teacher taught me about this. She uses almost exclusively a palette of aureolin yellow, rose madder and cobalt blue, which stain the page rather than sitting on top of it. She uses almost no pre-mixed colors, but mixes most of her colors using this trio. It is ASTOUNDING how many colors you can achieve from those three. Then toward the end, instead of black or payne's, greys and blacks are achieved through mixing ratios of alizarin and pthalo (winsor) green. I'm telling you, it's a miracle. A whole new world of color and vibrancy has been opened up for me since I started using that technique.

I do use other pigments when I want pure, unmixable color (cobalt turquoise being my absolute hedonistic pleasure), but I thought I'd share this approach. It's changed the way I work and helped me not fight against the pigments anymore!

An invaluable book about this approach is Jean Dobie's "Making Color Sing".


holly aka golly said...

Vesper: thank you for the information and the book. I have never delved into the alchemy of creating paint, though it sounds fascinating and I'd love to learn more about it. I've always mixed my own pigment for pulp painting and papermaking and if it's anything like that, I know it will be heavenly! Something to try this year.

Anonymous said...

Holly this is so kind of you to offer your knowledge and advice.

I like your palette, and I might try it as it has a large mixing basin which would be ideal for my watercolors.

I love your etsy shop and your blog.

Do stop b y my blog and say hello sometime! :)

All the best to you,

Wild adventures said...

Hi. Can anyone tell me why my paint in my palette that I use every day- I've mixed colour up that I use a lot of - is suddenly getting little dark bits in it. I've tied cleaning out and remixing but after a couple of hours it does it again? ?? I use winsor and newton paint. Thanks. Jackie

holly aka golly said...

My best guess…watercolor paint is made from finely ground dry pigment mixed with a binder. Some pigments are more prone to forming granules. I don't think it can be avoided, however, someone correct me if I'm wrong.