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Old 09-11-2019, 04:42 PM
lori14 lori14 is offline
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Mixing watercolor for value scales

HELP!!!
I'm working on values, I can't believe how difficult it is to mix a good value scale with just black watercolor! Should I be layering to achieve my scale or concentrating on a paint/water ratio?

Lori
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Old 09-11-2019, 05:36 PM
briantmeyer briantmeyer is offline
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Re: Mixing watercolor for value scales

Both...

Layering is best with staining pigments. Your issue is probably related to using I am assuming a carbon/ivory black, which is kind of a poor pigment in general.

Dilution is something you should really learn, that is a key lesson in watercolor. I suspect you are using pans. Those using pans have no idea how wet the pans should be, they should be soft all the way thru, not hard, so it confuses beginners who think all you can do is tints. They don't understand that activating a pans full color requires quite a bit of work and patience. You should learn this via using tube paint as you start thick, instead of starting with a tint, start with it at nearly full tube strength, just pure paint with a teeny bit of water. Make a swatch.

Then dilute it with a set amount of water - a little bit - measure it out. Make another swatch. Keep track of how much water is added.

Repeat, you will get a value scale of paint diluted from pure paint to just tinted water as you go. This is a great tool to look at later while you are trying to do actual paintings.

Things to ask - where does it actually stop being a solid value and start being lighter.

Look at it at an angle in the light, notice how when its in tints its almost like a satin finish, but the solid color is dull - almost bronzing. The sweet spot is right when it stops being dull, but is as dark as that pigment can be, that is your full value color.

Repeat this for each color you own, the amount of dilution varies, some need more water, some less. You have to learn each color.

Take a value scale to these swatches, and ask, what value is my solid yellow, solid blue, solid whatever. Value varies by color. You might want to scan them in black and white, or as a photo, and turn them into gray scale.

Black watercolor is just about the worst thing to use in general. But if you do the above with your black, you can see what you need to do. The resulting chart, as long as you are consistent in how you add water ( eye dropper perhaps ), will give you a road map for how to handle value.

Try using neutral tint, its not pure black but a mixture of that and other colors, and this is staining which helps you handle layering.

Or doing your values with Phthalo Blue or Phthalo Green.

My black is a custom mix, i take Phthalo Green, mix with Perelene Marroon until its neither green nor red. As I add more Maroon or Green, I dilute it on a white sheet in very white light, looking for where it stops being one or the other. Then I add in some Phthalo Blue, this shifts that color from brown, to a true gray, guess a cool gray, but its literally a neutral color. This is staining so you can layer it, and is dark enough to be darker than any value scale. Other colors can be used, as long as they are very dark in mass tone, and are similar - any maroon that is staining.

Last edited by briantmeyer : 09-11-2019 at 05:40 PM.
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Old 09-11-2019, 07:32 PM
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Ted Bunker Ted Bunker is offline
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Re: Mixing watercolor for value scales

My personal opinion is premixing using a multi-well palatte or dish is best. As with ink washes and Sumi-E start with your darkest and premix in sequence towards the lightest using the same amount of water in each well. Place the water in the wells first, then prep the darkest mix. Try first just adding a loaded-brush of "dark" to the water in the next well, ...then a loaded-brush from that well to the next working towards the light gray in-sequence.

Starting with tube-strength paint individually is much harder to control. Once mixed, consider each as a separate "color" and don't over-blend on the paper...only dilute with water to lighten the wash. Are you using Ivory Black or a blended chromatic black?

Layering is too unpredictable.
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Old 09-11-2019, 07:55 PM
briantmeyer briantmeyer is offline
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Re: Mixing watercolor for value scales

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ted Bunker
My personal opinion is premixing using a multi-well palatte or dish is best. As with ink washes and Sumi-E start with your darkest and premix in sequence towards the lightest using the same amount of water in each well. Place the water in the wells first, then prep the darkest mix. Try first just adding a loaded-brush of "dark" to the water in the next well, ...then a loaded-brush from that well to the next working towards the light gray in-sequence.

Starting with tube-strength paint individually is much harder to control. Once mixed, consider each as a separate "color" and don't over-blend on the paper...only dilute with water to lighten the wash. Are you using Ivory Black or a blended chromatic black?

Layering is too unpredictable.

The point of that isn't a working method, its to get a practical understanding of dilution proportions. As such finding the point where it goes from dull finish to velvety satin is they key. Just seeing this is happening once, that is usually enough for an ahah moment, but by sidestepping this for an easier method will miss the point. This solely to get a sense of dilution, which actually varies with each color, and to make swatches, not something you do after this excercise.

This is described on handprint
https://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/tech16.html#procedure

Note that article is on glowing color, a key thing to learn in watercolor.

What you are describing is a way to manage values while you are painting, but is far more tinted in that first dish. And yes that is far more common approach in ink and sumi-e, but the dilution is further affected by the water in the brush, water in the paper, water in the well, not to mention that the color will dry back lighter as well, you really have to develop a sense for it.

If its pan color, its either too hard or too diluted, very hard to explain - here a teacher really comes in handy, but short of that using tube paint is a way to see the desired dilution.

Further your goal should be a satin finish, if its too thick its dull which is an unpleasing appearance, and any carbon black tends to do this regardless unless its mixed with other colors.

Working with tube colors seems harder than tints, that is because if you get it wrong its too strong, which is obvious. If you get it too weak, that isn't as obvious. The goal here is to get a sense of what the proper dilution is, once that is intuitive to you, you don't really need wells of each value being premixed.

Once you get familar with the correct dilution for each value, and get some practice, it is just as easy to use pans as tubes.
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Old 09-12-2019, 09:30 AM
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claude j greengrass claude j greengrass is offline
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Re: Mixing watercolor for value scales

Consider J. Zbukvic's 'watercolor clock' (google is your friend). He used just 5 "different" values: Butter, Cream, Milk, Coffee, Tea
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Old 09-12-2019, 07:25 PM
oldey oldey is offline
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Re: Mixing watercolor for value scales

You can find his complete book if you search here. The real deal is out of print.
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Old 09-12-2019, 08:50 PM
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CharM CharM is offline
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Re: Mixing watercolor for value scales

Hi Lori! Kudos to you for working on your colour values. It is a worthwhile exercise and will stay with you throughout your watercolour journey.

This Values Tutorial right here on WC is a good place to start reading about the subject.

What is your intent in making up your charts? I have not charted all my colours for their values, but do that each time I begin a new painting. I begin with a mass tone colour, dip my brush in clean water and swish it well, then tap it on my paper towel and begin pulling the colour out until it becomes almost white paper. This takes a little practice, but it's really a good indicator for the values that I'll be using.



The other thing I teach my Students is that each colour on our palettes has a mass tone value along a 0-10 scale.



That simple chart, while not perfect, is a clear indicator that some colours can never achieve the darkest darks you need for some elements in creating form and shadow.

I hope this helps.
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Old 09-13-2019, 07:55 PM
lori14 lori14 is offline
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Re: Mixing watercolor for value scales

Thank you all for the help. A few aha moments!
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