View Full Version : Brilliant Colors??? What's that?

01-15-2001, 04:03 PM
I find that no just about all of my paintings aren't as vibrant as I want.

Colors look nice when wet, but look like a
flat paint when I finish. Do folks out here lacquer their finished works??? Is it something one just has to get used to? Most of my paints are the lower end Winsor/Newton. Are they a bad brand? Do I need to step it up from the $3.00 brand of WN to the $8.00 brand???

I'd like to here some other peoples thoughts.


Always remember, you are unique...just like everybody else.

01-15-2001, 04:54 PM

The first wc paints I got were in a gift set, they were W&N Cotman which is the student quality paints and cheaper. I am now trying to swap over to W&N Artist quality, and will continue, as funds allow, to replace all of my colours with artists quality. They are more expensive, but are more 'concentrated' and therefore last longer and give a better finish.

I'm not wasting my others though, I'm letting my 10yr old son experiment with them.

I think you should buy some of the more expensive, maybe just primary colours initially, and see what you think.

Also, look at what colours you are mixing together, as if you are mixing more than 2 colours, you are more likely to get a muddy, less vibrant colour.

Just my thoughts, hope they are of some help to you.

How about posting some of your work, so that some of the more able watercolourists here could give you advise.

Take care

Karen http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif

01-15-2001, 05:01 PM
Watercolors lose their shine when they dry and they always dry lighter than when wet. I don't know about brands of paint, I use both grades of WN and honestly can't tell the difference in the two, I only know they offer different colors for the WN artist grade versus the WN Cotman grade. It may be what you are looking for is something termed brilliancy? Where the paint seems to radiate after it's dry? Is that what you are looking for?

"There's a time when you have to seperate yourself from what other people expect of you, and do what you love. Because if you find yourself 50 years old and you aren't doing what you love, then what's the point?" Actor Jim Carrey (Side note, substitute any age as appropriate :) )

01-15-2001, 06:05 PM
The more transparent colors seem to glow more than the less transparent. I use MaimeriBlu and try to use only colors with one pigment. When mixing I try to not use more than three pigments (but usually only two). This allows for the least amount of muddy look. To see the finished painting shine put it under glass. Makes quite a difference. I have tried spraying the finished pic with acrilic varnish. Looks fine, but it doesn't appear to be an accepted method.

01-15-2001, 06:30 PM
Connor...when working on watercolor paper, a certain amount of the paint will be absorbed into the paper fibers. This can dull them a bit - but heavier paint (less water) helps. I like to gesso the paper (both sides) first. It creates a less absorbent surface to paint on and the colors seem to retain a little more of their "brilliance". If you try this, be sure to let the gesso dry before painting.
Paint quality, paper quality all make a difference too! http://www.wetcanvas.com/ubb/smile.gif Carol


Lynda Mortensen
01-15-2001, 07:11 PM
Hi Michael,

Cotman paints are OK, but like all student colours are not as concentrated as the artists quality ones. Try MaimeriBlu - they aren't that much more expensive than the Cotman, maybe even cheaper! (you can get them for under $4 a tube via the internet - and that's for twice as big a tube as the Cotman paints!, and they're artist quality!). Having made sure you're using the most transparent pigments in your palette
then it could well be your paper that's letting you down. Try a paper that is more heavily sized, such as Saunders Waterford or Arches. The sizing helps prevent too much paint being absorbed into the fibres, so the paint sits in a thin layer on top, allowing light to pass through it, bounce off the paper, then travel back up through the paint - making it luminous and bright. Have a go at the new quinacridone colours too - they are wonderfully vivid.

01-15-2001, 07:22 PM
Conner, I have both the W&N artist quality and the student ones, and to be honest its hard to tell the difference, I once done the same painting twice, one with the artist quality and the other with the student, and I really preferred the student one, the painting I posted here entitled Another Homer was done with student grade only.
W&N have a watercolour varnish out now, I have never used it, perhaps you could try that if your not happy with your colours.

If we were all geniuses we wouldn't need each other----------would we?

01-15-2001, 07:54 PM
Thanks for the replies.

I don't use the Cotman version of WN. I buy the cheapest artist quality that I can find. They run me about $3.00 for 8ml.

I never mix more than 3 colors. I get the colors that I like, they just dry like a flat paint you put on your walls. I've never tried gesso on my paper. I could give it a shot.

I can post one that I've done from some exercises - just look at them on an empty stomach please :-)


Always remember, you are unique...just like everybody else.

01-20-2001, 09:35 AM
I suggest you read the Michael Wilcox guide to watercolor paints (I think that's what it's called)you learn that earth tones are excellent quality even if they are cheap to buy and also what are the transparent colors,semi-transparent, semi-opaque and opaque colors.That book taught me so much about watercolors;most pigments have been tested and are printed with a description of it's faults and qualities.It appears to me,that all brands have their strong points and their weaknesses.So I suggest you take a look...and buy whatever pigment suits your needs...and your budget!
Also,in my area,we get 20%off everything when we're a member of a local art association. Good luck!

01-20-2001, 11:40 AM
Everyone has had some good things to share, Michael...

Oil paint being thick, can literally gather light, and within its self, bounce around on micro suspended particles and leave to find its way to the viewer's eye...and give its sense of brilliance easily. Acrylics used thick dry flat and opaque, and the color is what it is. It can be dilluted to the point of watercolor, and brilliance is a bit easier than even watercolors because acrylics will not lift up when dry and muddy things.

Watercolor takes a bit more planning. For such reasons among many professionals, I've heard that for every one watercolor that turns out a success, there are six that did not. Some starting out painting turn to watercolor because (and I don't know where they got it from), they think they are easier than the other paint mediums. A good watercolorist is quite the technician and craftsman indeed!

It is the white of the paper from which watercolor derives its illusion of brilliance. Oh sure...one color or pigment may be stronger than another..but its degree of transparency allowing light to pass thru to the white surface and bounce back to the viewer's eye is what vibrates good and pure color. If the paper is highly absorbant as many here have articulated, it does not sit on the surface so much as sink in, and you lose part of that element you need to create brilliance, namely..the "white" of the paper beneath for which that color needs to sing out. One uses gesso...another buys more expensive heavier paper...but the result is the same in that the pigment needs to transparently sit upon the surface.

Lastly...one must begin to think like a colorist. I've never been comfortable with that term...as I've been called that a number of times and my striving to be such never quite sat well with me...however, I've been color's pupil for a long time.

A color tries to cast its complementary on its adjacent neighbor. The color "blue" will try and make other colors around it appear more "orange" by comparison. A bit of red placed near a green you wish to be quite green helps cast an impression of that green being greener. Of course the larger area of green wishes the red to appear greener and could cancel it out, but because the red is smaller by comparison..its effect wins out.

Now..hee hee hee....go back to that last paragraph all, and re-read it about 3 or 4 times, as I'm sure some are going, "huh?"

I'm working on a painting of Castle Rock, (you'd love it Gis!) up on the National Lake Shore of Michigan's UP of Lake Superior. The viewer looks down about 500 feet to a crystal jewel-like green water over white sands and a jutting cliff shaped like castle walls, hence its name.

I'm working on the piece in my room, in oils, and my students having just finished a term of painting are noticing things. Like, "Mr Seiler...you painted pink and violets around some of these pine boughs? Who'd ever think that would work?" Then I say, back up and look at the painting until it does!

The violets and pinks, just a hint...lures the viewer's eye to think the yellow in the green mixture more intense, such that it appears as though the sun were striking the branches.

The watercolorist must experiment, and a lot of that experimentation is somewhat like psychology. You have to begin to understand how the viewer's eye works...how composition can direct the eye to particular points of interest in the painting...and you become a master manipulating in this grand scheme. You learn where to be bold in color...and where in the composition to allow color to fall off and not compete. The result is, the eye goes where YOU want it to, and they leave thinking the painting's color brilliant!

If brilliance is attempted to be put in throughout the whole of the painting, the effect is lost. Remember the addage, "if everyone is shouting, nobody gets heard!" What NOT to paint...is as important as to what to paint.

Thus, to save yourself time...hoard art magazines that display a great deal of the work of your genre and medium and constantly analyze what you like and don't like, and ask "why?" See how others have been clever, and then incorporate some of that into your work. In such a way you make great strides not having to re-invent the wheel! Good luck...


"Painting is easy when you don't know how, but very difficult when you do!" Edgar Degas

[This message has been edited by lseiler (edited January 20, 2001).]

01-21-2001, 03:10 PM
muchas gracias, mis amigos!

Always remember, you are unique...just like everybody else.