Schmincke Aqua Drop liquid watercolour uses lightfast, artist-quality pigments in a fluid, watercolour binder. The range includes 24 transparent colours, 13 of which are single pigments, and an opaque white.
When using traditional watercolours, water is used to either re-wet the colour in the pan, or extend tubed watercolour to reach a usable consistency. The more water is added to the paint, the more dilute the pigment. Aqua Drop, on the other hand, can be used straight from the bottle, with minimal dilution with water, for maximum pigment concentration.
I want to explore what these new paints offer from the perspective of a watercolourist. How can they be used alongside traditional watercolours, and do they provide possibilities for techniques and effects that can enrich watercolour painting? I put brush to paper to find out.
They are intermixable with traditional watercolours
Aqua Drop liquid watercolours can be used alongside, and combined with, traditional watercolour paints to create pigment-rich mixtures. The pipette in the bottle is useful for dropping the liquid watercolour directly into a palette and the fluid consistency of Aqua Drop helps loosen tubed watercolour without the need to add much water. I tried three mixes, starting with a pea-sized amount of tubed watercolour in a palette and adding Aqua Drop, one drop at a time. Aqua Drop was integrated seamlessly into the watercolour, and the mixtures produced smooth washes.
They are transparent and non-granulating
For many artists, watercolour painting relies on the interplay between the properties of different pigments, and so most watercolour ranges use a variety of pigments with different characteristics; from opaque to transparent, staining to non-staining and granulating to non-granulating pigments. The Aqua Drop range is designed to have more consistent handling qualities and all of the colours, except the opaque white, are formulated to be transparent and non-granulating.
In the above swatches, which were made on cold pressed Canson Moulin du Roy watercolour paper, each colour produces a smooth, non-textural wash. I also tested their lifting ability by allowing the colours to dry completely and then using a firm, wet brush to rework part of the colour before blotting it away with a cloth. All of the colours I tried were difficult to lift away, and the paper began to pill before I could take up much colour. From looking at the pigments used in the Aqua Drop range, which include phthalo, dioxazine and quinacridone pigments, resistance to lifting is to be expected. Pigments that are transparent and non-granulating tend to have small pigment particles, and these kinds of pigments are usually difficult to lift because they penetrate the paper fibres more easily than those with larger pigment particles. This property makes Aqua Drop ideal for underpainting and glazing techniques, because they will not move easily under new layers of paint.
It is important to note, however, that how easily a colour lifts depends not only on the pigment, but on how absorbent the surface is. A lifting preparation, such as Schmincke’s Lift-Off Medium, can be applied to paper before the paint is applied to make it easier for the pigment to be lifted away if needed.
Aqua Drop produces interesting effects when used wet-in-wet
Wet-in-wet painting is one of the most effective and popular techniques in watercolour. The paper is wetted, either with water or with a dilute wash of colour, and paint is applied to the wet surface where it diffuses, creating feather-like textures. Aqua Drop liquid watercolours come into their own when they are dropped, straight from the bottle, onto wet paint. The colours don’t mix immediately, and Aqua Drop immediately seems to ‘push’ the paint away, creating a halo effect around the Aqua Drop as it blossoms outwards, as seen below where Burnt Sienna is dropped into Ink Blue:
The halo effect is caused by diffusion: thicker concentrations of paint try to diffuse into more dilute concentrations. As the pure Aqua Drop colour, which is more highly pigmented than the dilute wash on the paper, diffuses outwards it pushes the dilute paint away. If this effect is unwanted it can be easily blended out, but for some artists these unexpected outcomes are part of the excitement of wet-in-wet painting.
Another discovery was that the pipette makes an excellent tool for drawing with the paint straight from the bottle onto wet or dry paper, just like using ink.
With their bright colours, non-granulating washes and ability to be used undiluted, Aqua Drop liquid watercolours seem to have a lot in common with drawing inks. The key difference is that many drawing inks are dye-based. Dyes produce vibrant, luminous colour but they are likely to fade or change colour upon exposure to light. Aqua Drop liquid watercolours use pigments with high lightfastness ratings. Because the pigment is suspended in the solution, Aqua Drop colours must be shaken before use. Each bottle contains a ball bearing to help move any settled pigment and ensure that it is distributed evenly throughout the binder.
The colours glow when they are wet but, of the colours I tried, some lost their saturation after drying. This is due to the pigments used, which tend to undergo a drying shift when used in watercolour. The drying shift was much more noticeable when used on absorbent paper and, for this reason, I recommend that they are used on watercolour paper or other relatively non-absorbent surfaces.
Their ability to be used undiluted gives Aqua Drop colours a high concentration of pigment that is difficult to achieve with traditional watercolours. Whether embracing the unpredictability of wet-in-wet painting, or using transparent glazes to build up layers in a painting, they can be incorporated seamlessly into a watercolour painting practice.
As well as watercolour painting, their ink-like consistency makes them suitable for a range of techniques, including calligraphy, hand lettering and airbrush.
More articles about Schmincke watercolours and inks:
- Why Schmincke Horadam have 20 Different Green Watercolours
- Schmincke Aero Colour: Properties and Applications
- Schmincke Granulation Medium: A Special Effect