The Possibilities of Watercolour Mediums
If you thought watercolour painting was just a very traditional, relatively formulaic painting process, think again. Today the possibilities with watercolour are vast, and many watercolour painters are experimenting with the ways that watercolour can be manipulated through the use of mediums, as well as exploring how watercolour surfaces can be altered, or how the finish of a watercolour painting can be modified to enhance the aesthetic you were hoping for. In this section I will give a quick overview of what mediums for watercolour we offer at Jackson’s Art Supplies.
FOR BINDING PIGMENTS FOR WATERCOLOUR PAINTING, AND INCREASING TRANSPARENCY AND COLOUR BRILLIANCE
What is Gum Arabic and what is it used for?
Gum Arabic is used to bind pigment in watercolour manufacturing processes, as is made of hardened sap extracted from 2 species of the Acacia tree. It is sometimes known as chaar gund, char goond or meska. Gum Arabic dissolves very easily in water, and is used as the binder in watercolour because it also effectively binds the pigment to the paper surface once the water has evaporated. Gum Arabic allows for more precise control over watercolour washes as it limits the amount of flow and/or bleed of the colour. Gum Arabic also allows the evaporation rate of water, which means that it keeps your watercolour wet for longer, allowing for longer working times. Once water has evaporated from watercolour, the colour’s luminosity and transparency, as well as permanence, is enhanced by the gum Arabic. Gum Arabic is sold separately for those who wish to try making their own watercolour paints by combining it with dry pigment, and it can also be used as a medium to mix in with pre-made colour, to further optimise transparency, luminosity and lightfastness.
Other uses for Gum Arabic
As well as in watercolour, gum Arabic is sometimes used in lithography, and can also be used to transfer images from photocopies, photos or magazines (you can also transfer images using acrylic mediums). Simply sponge the gum Arabic on to the image, and then roll oil based ink over the photocopy. Ink can then be easily removed from the white areas by carefully wiping with a damp sponge.
Jackson’s Art Supplies sells gum Arabic as manufactured by Schmincke, Jackson's, Daler Rowney and Winsor and Newton.
Sennelier Watercolour Binding Medium
Sennelier watercolour binding medium replicates the recipe used by Sennelier in the manufacture of their own range of watercolour paint. It is made of Gum Arabic, honey, water and a preservative. This recipe optimises gloss and luminosity of colour as well as providing a lustrous consistency and a stable structure that will optimise the permanence and stability of the paint structure. Sennelier binding medium can also be used as a flow aid or thinning medium during the painting process with ready made colour, optimising transparency and colour brilliance.
Masking Fluids and Liquid Frisket
For a full article on masking fluids visit the masking fluid section. In short, masking fluid is a rubber-like liquid that dries elastic, and can be applied to dry surfaces and left to dry, serving the purpose of masking areas of work off so that you can apply colour knowing it won’t spread on to areas you wish to keep white. You can also apply masking fluid over already dried layers of watercolour work, if you wish to mask off existing colour applications. Once applied and the work you have done is dry, simply peel off using a pointed tool to coax it off, such as the end of your brush, a colour shaper, or a finger! There are a couple of varieties available at Jackson’s – Daler Rowney, Winsor and Newton, Schmincke and Daniel Smith all produce masking fluids that have a slightly yellow tint to them when dry – this can be handy when you need to be able to see where you have applied the masking fluid relatively easily, and Jackson’s Masking Fluid, Schmincke’s blue masking fluid, the Masquepen and Pebeo’s Drawing Gum are coloured blue for the same reason. If you are working on a particularly delicate paper it may be a risk that these tinted masking fluids may leave a stain even once they have been removed and for this reason you may wish to use a colourless masking fluid to avoid this problem. Colourless masking fluid is available by Winsor and Newton and Schmincke (theirs is known as ‘Liquid Frisket’). The Masquepen is great for fine lines of masking fluid application thanks to its fine nib (the super nib is even finer if you need it and is available to purchase separately). Winsor and Newton’s Permanent Masking Fluid is not removable but does resist watercolour and other water based media. It is white, so in a way is a bit like a correction fluid for watercolour – apply it to achieve white opaque marks on your painting where you need them.
WATERCOLOUR SURFACE PREPARATION
Schmincke Aqua Primer
Schmincke Aqua Primer is absorbent enough to enable watercolour paint to adhere to surfaces such as canvas, and wooden painting panels that might normally be used for oil or acrylic painting. 3 layers (that have been allowed to sufficiently dry between each layer) will optimise the absorbency and allow you to achieve the same watercolour effects possible on regular watercolour paper. Schmincke Aqua Primer is available with a coarse or fine tooth. Similar products available at Jackson’s include Daniel Smith’s watercolour ground and Golden Paints’ absorbent ground.
MEDIUMS TO MIX WITH WATERCOLOUR WHILE YOU WORK
Winsor and Newton Granulation Medium
When granulation medium is mixed with watercolour paint it gives it a mottled appearance when the colour would normally appear as a smooth wash. Some colours naturally do have a mottled or granulated appearance, such as French Ultramarine. Granulation medium would serve the purpose of increasing this characteristic in such pigments.
Schmincke Aqua Gloss
Schmincke Aqua gloss remains watersoluble, and can be applied on to dry watercolour to enhance its gloss, or mixed in with wet watercolour as a medium. It also slows the drying time. It is advised not to mix aqua gloss in a watercolour pan as it may affect the paint for future use.
Schmincke Aqua Shine and Winsor and Newton Iridescent Medium
Aqua Shine and Iridescent medium are both pearlescent watercolour mediums that add a shimmer effect to your colours. They can also be applied to work pure. Both Aqua Shine and Iridescent Medium retard drying and stay watersoluble.
Ox Gall – available by Schmincke Ox Gall and Winsor and Newton Ox Gall
Ox Gall for watercolour is made of the gall from cows mixed with alcohol. It is a natural wetting agent for the degreasing of undercoats – i.e. it allows for greater adhesion on to already dried layers of watercolour paint. Ox Gall can also be used in gouache painting. Used sparingly, ox gall can also be used as a watercolour levelling agent.
Winsor and Newton Blending Medium
Winsor and Newton Blending Medium slows the drying time of watercolours which enables a longer amount of time for blending. Winsor and Newton Blending Medium is therefore particularly useful when painting in a hot climate.
FOR EXPERIMENTAL WATERCOLOUR TECHNIQUES
Schmincke Aqua Collage
Schmincke Aqua Collage is formulated for artists who wish to use watercolour in mixed media works. Aqua Collage dries water-resistant. It is an adhesive that can be applied on its own (in which case it will dry clear and invisible) , or it can be tinted with watercolour. You may wish to use it to glue photos or coloured paper to your watercolour paper, and then work over the top once dry. When dry aqua collage can be painted over without resisting the paint in the way that PVA glue might.
Schmincke Aqua Effect Spray
Schmincke’s Aqua Effect Spray is for the very experimental watercolour painter! Spray into wet watercolour work to create what Schmincke refer to as ‘bizarre surface effects’ on watercolour paintings – basically, it causes the pigment to gather up into pools, to create something a little like flocculation, but also a little like a marbling effect – the colour gathers in pools of saturated colour and leaves area of transparent thin layers of less saturated colour – the surface is broken and undulates. It is worth trying it out on a separate piece of paper to fully understand what it does and whether it is what you want to use on your work. Because Schmincke Aqua Effect spray is in a pump spray bottle, be sure to mask off any areas that you do not wish to apply the effect to.
Schmincke Aqua Pasto and Winsor and Newton Aqua Pasto
Aqua Pasto watercolour medium is manufactured by both Schmincke and Winsor and Newton. I see Aqua Pasto bridging the gap between watercolour painting and the kinds of impasto techniques you’d be more familiar with in oils or acrylics, and it really does open up the possibilities with watercolour. This is a transparent thickening medium which can be applied pure on to paper, or mixed with colour prior to application, and allows a paste-like texture. You can even start to apply your watercolour paint with a spatula! Aqua Pasto reduces flow, and increases gloss. It slows the drying time and stays watersoluble, so can be re-worked over time.
VARNISHES FOR WATERCOLOUR
Poster and Watercolour Varnish
Poster and Watercolour varnish is manufactured by Daler Rowney, and provides a glossy surface on to finished and dry watercolour works as well as posters, gouaches and designs.
Schmincke Aqua Fix
Schmincke Aqua Fix is to watercolour what retouching varnish is to oil painting. It is a varnish that can be applied at any stage during the watercolour painting process to protect the work that has already been completed. Once the varnish has been applied the paint underneath cannot be reworked. Aqua Fix can also be applied as a picture varnish on to finished works to help maintain lightfastness and protect the work from other environmental elements that may damage it such as dust or dirt.