Jacksons Art Supplies

Watercolour Colour

Watercolour Colour

There are many brands of watercolour paint available on the market today, and we believe at Jackson’s Art Supplies that we have a good variety to cater for beginners and professional watercolour painters alike, as well as niche brands that may cater for more specialised requirements.

 

Professional Watercolour Paint Ranges

There is a lot of choice with regard to ranges of paint that could be described as being the ‘leading professional watercolour available in the world today’, so how does one decide on which brand to choose?  There are a number of factors to consider.

 

1. Colour Range

Colour Ranges do differ between brands, as does colour performance.  A Winsor and Newton French Ultramarine will not be identical to a Jackson’s Artist Watercolour French Ultramarine either; pigments used tend to be the same but binders may differ as well as ratios of pigment to binder, so if you run out of a colour mid work it is best to make sure you are buying a replacement tube in the same brand as you may not achieve the consistency you are looking for.  That said, batches of colour within a range can also differ slightly too!  This is because of the nature of working with natural materials – pigments will vary in accordance to the environmental conditions of where they have been extracted from.  Clearly, there is less chance of there being such noticeable changes in appearance with man-made, modern synthetic pigments such as Manganese blue and Cobalt blue.  If you are a less experienced watercolour painter, it may be easier to select colours for your palette within a brand range as the colours are more likely to be harmonious with one another.  Another tip for less experienced painters is not to buy too many colours at first; select a broad range of colour than spans the entire colour spectrum (or purchase a palette set or watercolour box). A set of 12 will be fine to begin with, and then mix your colours from this basic set.  It is much easier to achieve a harmonious palette with fewer colours to select from.  More experienced painters will be familiar with the characteristics of each individual colour that they enjoy painting with,  and may find that they enjoy painting with specific colours from a number of brands.  This works fine too – all brands can be mixed and blended with one another.  A brand such as Old Holland has a huge range of colours – 168 colours! – many of which are special blends of more than one pigment.  These exotic looking colours save you the time of trying to mix them yourself, however it can be more difficult to mix clean looking colours from tubes of paint with more than one pigment in it, as too many pigments mixed together can create a muddy blend.  If you are a beginner, I strongly recommend you take the time to select single pigment paints with which to work as they are much easier to mix sucessfully.

 

2. What are the characteristics of a colour?

So you would like a blue for your watercolour palette, but which blue do you buy?  You need to think about what other colours you will be mixing your blue with and how much and what kind of an influence you want the colour to have.  Selecting a palette with which to paint a picture is a real balancing act.  All pigments have a number of varying characteristics, and as soon as you familiarise yourself with the characteristics of the colours you are intrigued by, you will be able to work out which colours really work for you and work well with one another.  Eventually this becomes second nature to a lot of painters.  Some painters like to use the same dozen or so colours throughout their whole career, others like to spend their lives discovering all the infinite possibilities with colour!   The main characteristics of colour are down to the nature of the pigment and include the following:

  1. Transparency/Opacity – some pigments can be ground down to very fine particles, which allow light to travel through the spaces between each particle; the colour is illuminated by the white of the surface that the paint is applied to.  This enhances the transparency of a colour.  Transparent colours in their unmixed state are able to achieve the most delicate and luminous glazes to your work.  Other pigments cannot be ground to such a degree and therefore do not allow light to travel through the paint film as much.  This means that a more opaque colour will not allow the white of the watercolour paper to have as much influence, and as a result is thought to have a better degreee of coverage.  Coverage is a good characteristic if you wish to apply a flat uniform wash to an area in your work, or overpower previous delicate applications of colour. In watercolour painting all colours have a degree of transparency formed by the blend of pigment to gum arabic (or other watersoluble gum) binder.  Opacity can be enhanced by mixing Chinese white into your colours, but this will also have a strong effect on the appearance of its hue: the colour will effectively become a tint of the original colour in its transparent state, and appear milkier, almost always lightening its tonal value.  If you like to combine very opaque colours with very transparent colours in order to create a huge range in surface quality you might consider working with gouache and watercolour simultaneously, which works very well in achieving very transparent and very opaque hues all in one picture.
  2. Granulation -  Transparent colours will vary in terms of how much they granulate.  Granulation is when the pigment particles gather into the ‘troughs’ of the texture of watercolour paper, causing a grainy effect where colour is more saturated in some areas.  Granulation is common in the behaviour of traditional watercolours, and many painters like this characteristic because it gives texture and vibrancy. 
  3. Staining Capacity – Strong traditional colours such as Indigo, Alizarin Crimson and Prusssian Blue as well as modern organic pigments (brands will usually patent their own colours, for example ‘Winsor Blue’) tend to have a higher staining capacity.  This means that when they are applied to a surface they are very difficult to lift off again; the pigment is very strong and so a trace is left.  When these colours are mixed with other colours the influence they have on the mix is stronger than most, so if you are unfamiliar with the colour it is best to mix a very little at a time to begin with.  If you do need to lift a colour from your paper the best thing to do is dab the area with a damp clean sea sponge.  Winsor and Newton’s Lifting Preparation is a great investments for beginners – you simply apply the liquid to your paper and allow to dry before painting.  It acts as an extra sizing, and colours will not too deeply penetrate the paper, making it much easier to remove colour if necessary, including high staining colours.
  4. Colour Strength – Colour strength is also known as saturation.  Quite simply it is the ratio of pigment to binder – the greater the pigment the stronger the colour. Professional water colour paint ranges such as Winsor and Newton, Schmincke, Old Holland, Daniel Smith, Lascaux, Blockx, Holbein, Sennelier and Jackson’s all have a superior colour strength in their range than student ranges such as Cotman.
  5. Single Pigments and Mixed Pigment Colours – as touched upon earlier in this article, single pigment colours will appear purer, cleaner, and easier to mix than mixed pigment colours.  If you are intending on mixing your own colours, our suggestion would be to start by only mixing single pigment colours and no more than 2 or 3 tubes at a time.  This will ensure that you do not over complicate your colours mixes and will avoid having too many different sized pigment particles in your colour mix, which leads to colours that do not appear luminous but do appear muddy. All tubes of watercolour will have the pigment content stated on the label, just look out for ones with one code only (e.g. PW1). Multiple pigment colours can be mixed spareingly, but it is that much easier to get it wrong, so our suggestion is to only do this once you are familiar with the behaviour of the colour in question.  Multiple pigment colours are made not only to offer a more exotic colour range but also to replicate traditional colours where the pigment may be too expensive to use at present, or so fugitive that an alternative may offer the brilliance required with no compromise on the lightfastness rating.
  6. Consistency – All watercolour should have a smooth, glutinous consistency when in tube form.  Paint manufacturers will use a range of difference binders and consistency will vary, although professional ranges will always be very smooth and thick.  Sennelier and Jackson’s ranges are known to add honey to their binder to enhance the consistency to its very finest.  If a watercolour paint is good enough quality it can be squeezed into a pan and left to dry and used out of the pan.  Pans are easier to use for beginners, as it is a lot easier to retreive the right amount of pigment on your brush for both mixing and applying to your work.  Thee is also less of a risk of wasting paint.

 

 

A Note about Series – You will find that in professional watercolour paint ranges there is a range in the price of individual colours.  This is a reflection of the cost of the pigment used in each colour. 

 

Name of Paint Quality No. of Colours in Range Available in USP? Other notes
Winsor and Newton Artist's Water Colour Professional 96 5ml and 14ml tubes, half pans and full pans The 1st moist watercolours ever (since 1832) Regarded very highly, gum Kodorfan is used to bind pigments
Jackson's Professional Watercolours Professional 49 21ml tubes and full pans Our own brand watercolour offer a ghigh quality professional colour at an unbeatable price Honey added to give lustre and vivacity to colour
Holbein Artist's Watercolour Professional 118 5ml and 15ml tubes creamy texture paint with excellent handling Manufactured in Japan and is  designed with European and Japanese painting styles in mind
Schmincke Horadam Watercolour Professional 110 5ml and 15ml tubes, half pans and full pans 69 single pigment colours Pans are made by pouring thin layers of paint into the pan and allowing drying time between each layer to optimise performance and consistency.
Daniel Smith Watercolour Professional 230 15ml tubes Considered by many to be the best paint in the world!  
Maimeri Blu Artist's Watercolour Professional 72 15ml tubes and half pans Smaller range of colours only uses most transparent and most lightfast colours 52 of the colours are single pigment
Sennelier l'Aquarelle Professional 98 10ml tubes, 21ml tubes, half pans and full pans Produced in the same way for more than a century, l'Aquarelle paints were initially developed with the Impressionist School of painters specifically in mind Also uses honey with gum Kodorfan for the best possible consistency
Old Holland Classic Watercolours Professional 168 6ml and 18ml tubes, half pans  unparallelled colour strength labels on the tubes have a screen printed version of the colour in the tubes as it would appear if applied to paper in a watercolour painting (its undertone)
Shin Han Artist's Watercolour Professional 83 15ml tubes Prices start at £4 a tube which is very good value for a paint of this quality Made in Korea, highly regarded by experienced painters
Daler Rowney Artist's Watercolour Professional 80 5ml and 15ml tubes, half pans Carry the famous Daler Rowney name! -
Blockx Watercolour Professional 72 15ml tubes and giant pans Giant pans are very useful when creating large watercolour paintings and when applying broad washes Also uses honey like Sennelier and Jackson's brands to enhance the consistency of the paint
Rembrandt Professional Watercolour Professional 80 5ml tubes and half pans Maximum transparency for ease of use and refined colour  
Lascaux Sirius Primary Watercolours Student 7 85ml squeezy plastic bottles with nozzle top A very limited primary palette especially developed to encourage colour mixing (all colours are single pigment to aid this) Can also be used from screenprinting techniques.  Also an excellent means of exploring colour theory
St. Petersburg White Nights Watercolour Student 54 full pans Very good value for money, low price Production regulations are not as stringent and as a result there are some inconsistencies in the texture of colours.  That said paints have excellent colour strength and many loyal customers
Dr. Ph. Martin's Hydrus Watercolour Student 24 15ml glass bottle with dropper lids Liquid watercolour in a dropper bottle that is wel suited to be used in airbrush techniques as well as calligraphy, technical and fountain pens Archival and Lightfast, it is generally considered to be user friendly to graphic designers and illustrators but can also be used for fine art applications
Dr. Ph. Martin's Radiant Watercolour Dyes Student 56 15ml and 60ml glass bottles with dropper lids Brilliant colour but not lightfast.  These dyes are designed primarily to be reproduced e.g. for illustrations Can also be used to decorate fabrics by adding salt and vinegar or soda ash
Winsor and Newton Cotman Watercolour Student 40 8ml and 21 ml tubes, half pans Winsor and Newton are able to keep their costs down by replicating expensive pigments with mixes of alternative pigments (these have the word 'hue' after the name)  
Reeves Watercolour Sets Student / Children   Sets Popular range of first basic watercolour palette sets to inspire young people interested in trying art for the first time. They are good gift ideas for young people.  

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