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Old 01-10-2006, 04:01 PM
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Rich Rich is offline
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Watercolor Handbook- -Watercolor Paint


Watercolor is a waterbased media. Waterbased media can include acrylic, gouache, ink, and tempera among others. It is a general description of any medium that uses water as its base. Waterbased media typically uses paper as its substrate (or surface). Papers vary greatly in composition, weight, texture and size. Original watermedia works created on paper require framing with a mat and glazing (glass or plexiglass) to protect its vulnerability to the elements.

About Transparent Watercolor Paints

All paints are pigment plus binder (medium) plus solvent.

All paints use the same pigments for color.

Watercolor uses gum arabic as the binder and water as the solvent.

Pigments used for watercolor paints are very finely ground; and each has its own characteristics.

Watercolor paints are rated according to their lightfastness, usually receiving a I, II, III, IV, or V; I being excellent and V meaning it is very unstable and will bleach out in a short period of time.

Not all watercolour are transparent, take the cadmiums, they are all powdery, permanent, opaque and quite staining, as are some of the earth colours like yellow ochre..

There are approximately twenty major manufacturers of artist quality watercolors from USA, UK, England, Australia, Holland, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, and Japan.

Watercolor paints are made by grinding pigments very fine in a gum-arabic binding medium, together with certain necessary modifying ingredients. These ingredients usually are:

(1) Glycerin and honey [or sugar syrup], which are plasticizers added in order to keep the colors moist and to improve their working properties.
(2) Preservative usually oil of clove is added to keep them from becoming mouldy.
(3) A wetting agent such as oxgall or a synthetic one to make them take well and spread uniformly on the paper.

The proportion of binder and pigment are very carefully balanced in order to give the paints exactly the correct properties. The tiny grains of pigment become enmeshed in the relatively coarse fibres of the paper, and this action is of much importance in holding the color to the paper, as is the adhesive action of the gum binder. Watercolor painting consists therefore of a very thin layer of pigment particles held just sufficiently to be a permanent coating; it is not a real paint film like the layer of gouache and therefore is not subject to some of oil paint's defects, such as cracking, peeling, or blistering.

A careful balance of the modifying ingredients in watercolor paints is necessary to give the correct working properties and to insure the proper balance of solubility; that is, the dried layer of a good watercolor paint is sufficiently resistant so that it is possible to apply subsequent brushstrokes without picking it up entirely.
On the other hand, the paint will not be so insoluble that it cannot be softened or run into when the painter so desires.

Opaque Watercolor

Also known by the French term, gouache, opaque watercolor is a water-based paint composed of ground pigments and a plant binder, traditionally gum arabic, much like transparent watercolor. Unlike its translucent counterpart, however, opaque watercolor is a dense paint that fully covers the underlying surface in one coat and characteristically renders a flat matte surface. This is due to a greater proportion of pigment to binder and, in some colors, the addition of inert white clays or opaque pigments, such as Chinese white (zinc oxide). The small amount of binder creates a lean, brittle paint layer and the development of minute cracks is a common occurrence.

Artist grade Versus Student Grade Paints..

Many Artists believe that there are clear differences between artists quality versus student.

Artists must choose their paints carefully and as with any investment, read the label and compare ingredients.

You must also learn to tell when the labeling is misleading. This is true for all artists quality paints, not just watercolour.



Artists quality paints should contain genuine pigments. If a label lists a colour name (Colour Index Name and number), check the ingredients to make sure it lists the appropriate pigment.


Student grade paints will often contain more filler than necessary. This will affect the quality of colour mixes you can create.


Excess binder can lead to a darkening of colour and make handling difficult.

Pigments in student quality paints are chosen for their low manufacturing cost and ability to imitate genuine pigment. Colours can be quite dull and weakened because of the extra filler.

Keep in mind that certain student quality paints can actually be quite superior to their artist quality counterpart in the line but this depends on the manufacturer.

When you purchase paints, make intelligent buying decisions and remember that each tube of artist quality paints is an investment. Your primary goal is to purchase paints that will last long after the work is done.
The last thing you want is to discover is that a painting you completed ten years ago is now not only changing in colour, is also completely fading in places.

Student quality paints should be used by students or on work where its longevity is not important.


Cotman (Winsor & Newton) - 50 colours available

Grumbacher Academy - This is an upgraded range and many of its colours are very reliable. 45 colours available.

Rowney Georgian (England) - This range cannot be fully relied on for lightfastness in the reds and yellows. 37 colours available.

Hunt/Speedball (USA) - Only 12 colours available.

Impellist (Japan) - 28 colours available

Koi (Japan) - 18 colours. Sold as a set. Several colours are fugitive.

Pentel (Japan) - 18 colours.

Yarka (Russia) - A set of 24 pans. Some colours not lightfast.


Art Spectrum
Daniel Smith
M. Graham & Co.
Old Holland
Robert Doak & Associates
Winsor & Newton
Yarka / St. Petersburg


Pans and tubes are both readily available in artists quality paint although some manufacturers only offer tubes.

Pans are very convenient to use, extremely portable and are ideal for colour-sketching on location. They can also be used very successfully in the studio for smaller works which don't require large rich washes. If using pans, moisten them with a water-mister before use and you'll save the life of your brushes. Some brands 'wet up' much more easily than others. Schmincke and Winsor & Newton are examples of quality pan paints which are very easy on the brush and provide rich strong colours.

The good thing about tubes is that they provide quantities of moist rich colour which is ideal for mixing big strong washes. They have their little pitfalls, such as drying out in very hot climates, having caps that stick or won't screw on properly. Tubes can also split and burst - some brands are worse than others. Despite these problems tubes are universally popular.

Some artists squeeze good quantities of tube paint into the wells of their palette. They leave the paint to dry, then re-wet it when they need to use it. Others purchase pan sets and when a pan is empty they squeeze tube paint into the pan and leave it to dry. Some brands, depending on their composition, respond more favourably than others to this treatment.


Now that is the Million Dollar Question. We all have our own favourites for different reasons, and a lot is trial and error, so I shall let you peruse these links below and see what others have to say.

Student or Artists?

Our own Wetcanvas PRODUCT REVIEWS Page ONE and Page TWO

Tell me-What's your brand!!

Need some advice on wc paints

W&N or M. Graham paints; basic W&N palette

Cotman colors?

Da Vinci Watercolors

What brand of WC paints do you use?

Trays or liquid watercolors?

Holbein Watercolors

Got my M. Graham WC. There great!

transparent watercolor paints


Iridescent Watercolor Medium

What brand of paint do you use? DaVinci, W&N, M.Graham, Daniel Smith, Holbein, etc?

Is it ok to mix student-grade with artist's grade?

Watercolour Paint Questions?


Some beginner questions

Newbie looking for some ideas on sketchbooks, paints and paper!

Watercolor in it's many forms

Total Newbie

Do tube paints dull when allowed to dry

Wanting to start in watercolors...

What paints do you use?

Do you make color charts?

watercolor beginner needs some help

What brand paints best?

Tube "v" Pan

Watercolour Paint Questions?

watercolour websites

Paints & Paper

beginner-want to paint

Choosing Watercolors

Changing paint brands

Permanency for the Watercolorist

staining, nonstaining transparent, opaque etc...?



The Wilcox Guide To The Best Watercolor Paints

Hilary Page's Guide to Watercolor Paints

Blue and Yellow Don't Make Green

I wish to thank Christie for her help in finding some of the threads..

Last edited by painterbear : 01-12-2008 at 04:56 PM.

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