Collection: WATERCOLOUR PAINTS AND MEDIUMS

WHAT IS WATERCOLOUR?

So, what is watercolour? Watercolour paint is made up of finely ground pigment suspended in a binder made of distilled water and gum Arabic (a gum that is extracted from 2 species of the acacia tree). The acacia gum, or gum Arabic, acts as the glue that binds the pigment to the substrate it is applied to once the water has evaporated during the drying process. It slows the movement of the watercolour when applied as a wash, and many artists add more gum Arabic to their watercolour to gain control over their colour, i.e. stop it from bleeding or spreading too quickly over a surface (more on this in the watercolour mediums section). Generally, the character of each watercolour colour tends to rely more heavily on the characteristic of the pigments used, and certainly more so that found in oils of acrylics, where the character of the binder itself plays a more significant role in contributing to the character of the paint overall. This is also true because colour is applied much more thinly, which allows for the characteristic of the pigment to be more apparent in the very thin paint film that is applied.

The 3 main properties of watercolour - transparency/opacity, staining capacity and granulation

Watercolourists tend to consider 3 key characteristics when choosing the pigments that they wish to work with:

  • Transparency/opacity
  • The Staining capacity
  • Granulation/texture

Because watercolour is supposed to be applied in a relatively diluted state, it is rare to find watercolour applied so that it appears fully opaque, however, all pigments have their own degree of transparency/opacity which will have some bearing over how they mix with other pigments, and how they appear on the surface when painted with. Staining refers to how much of the pigment will not lift from the paper after being blotted with a damp sponge; more modern pigments as well as some of the stronger traditional watercolour paints such as Prussian Blue and Alizarin Crimson tend to have a greater staining capacity whereas the older, more traditional pigments tend to lift with relative ease. Granulation refers to when the pigment particles do not dry with even spacing, and instead they form pools of darker shades of colour when applied to a surface (be it paper or a canvas that has been primed with absorbent ground) – in other words it dries with a grainy appearance. This is caused by the characteristics of the pigments used – some are heavier and cannot be ground to as fine or as uniform a state as others can, and this causes the effect. There can also be a difference between the manner that pigments granulate – a fine pigment such as French Ultramarine will show flocculation – this is when the pigments rush together in huddles. A heavier pigment such as the ones used to make permanent mauve will simply fall into the hollows of the paper surface. The general rule to bear in mind is that while traditional pigments such as the earths, cobalts and ultramarines granulate, the modern colours tend not to. 

What is Permanence?

You will find in some watercolour ranges that there will be some pigments that are not classified as lightfast – this means that they will fade if continuously exposed to sunlight. Not all watercolourists make paintings that are intended to be framed and hung on a wall, and because some pigments have a wonderful vibrancy and brilliance despite their poor lightfastness ratings, they are included in some ranges due to the demand. An example of this would be Opera Rose – this vibrant pink is extremely popular among botanical painters in particular, and because some botanical painters keep their work in books and portfolios, its permanence is of lesser importance, and this is why manufacturers such as Winsor & Newton include it in their ranges. If lightfastness is of great importance to you and your work, always consult the manufacturer’s colour chart to make sure the pigments you choose will not fade.

What's So Good About Single Pigment Colours?

Single pigment colours are easier to mix bright and vibrant colours with as a combination of too many pigments will only ever achieve muddy or dull hues. Some colours can only be made with a combination of pigments – popular colours such as Quinacridone Gold have to be mixed as the original pigment is no longer available, and Permanent Alizarin Crimson is mixed so that there is a lightfast alternative to the traditional single pigment colour. It is a good idea for beginners of watercolour painting to try to avoid using more than 2 or 3 pigments in mixes. It is a really good habit to get into in order to achieve vibrant and colourful looking paintings.

Artist and Professional grade watercolours will have a larger proportion of single pigment colours in their ranges. Student Watercolour ranges are more affordable because there are less expensive pigments used in the colours, and ‘hue’ colours (mixtures of other pigments) are used to replace expensive cobalt and cadmium colours. Student watercolours are cheaper, and suitable for beginners as well as students and professionals on a budget. Student watercolour ranges are more likely to have lower permanence ratings, but if this is of importance to you it is always worth consulting the colour chart. Student watercolours can be mixed with Artist Watercolours. The ranges of student watercolour that we sell include St. Petersburg White Nights Artists' Watercolour, Winsor and Newton Cotman Watercolour and Reeves.

 

The Difference Between Artist Quality and Student; Choosing A Range

The highest quality watercolour paints are known as Professional colour, and these will have the highest ratio of pigment to binder. The colour will be very intense in the pan or squeezed from the tube, and you will need less of it.

The quality of the binder will also influence the quality of the paint. The binder can also be a question of preference. – our suggestion is to try and see which brand works for you.

The blending of the pigment tends to be better in professional colours. Pigments will be more finely ground and mixed into the gum Arabic, however over time it is inevitable that all colours, regardless of their quality, will experience the pigments settling into the tube and separating from the binder. If this happens it can be fixed by stirring the paint around in the tube using the end of a paperclip. The structure of the pigment particles has an influence over the degree to which they can be ground, and this in turn affects whether a colour granulates or not. This is not really a reflection of the quality of the paint, just a characteristic of granulating colours. However if a colour appears grainy when it is not supposed to be, such as Neutral Tint, then it is probably because the paint is of a lesser quality and may not be as stable.

17 products
  • WINSOR & NEWTON DRAWING INK
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    R 95.00
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  • WINSOR AND NEWTON BLENDING AND GLAZING MEDIUM
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    R 265.00
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  • WINSOR & NEWTON COLOURLESS ART MASKING FLUID
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    R 270.00
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  • WINSOR & NEWTON OX GALL LIQUID
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    R 190.00
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  • WINSOR & NEWTON TEXTURE MEDIUM
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  • WINSOR & NEWTON BRUSH CLEANER
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  • WINSOR & NEWTON PERMANENT MASKING MEDIUM
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    R 250.00
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  • WINSOR & NEWTON BLENDING MEDIUM
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    R 250.00
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  • WINSOR & NEWTON GUM ARABIC
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    R 240.00
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  • WINSOR & NEWTON WATER-MIXABLE FAST DRYING MEDIUM
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  • WINSOR & NEWTON WATER-MIXABLE PAINTING MEDIUM
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  • Winsor & Newton Water Colour Markers
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  • WINSOR & NEWTON WATER COLUR STICKS
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  • LIQUITEX METALLIC INK SET 6 X 30ML
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    R 580.00
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  • DALA ART MASKING FLUID
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    R 60.00
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  • LIQUITEX PROFESSIONAL ACRYLIC INK
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    R 138.00
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  • WINSOR & NEWTON COTMAN
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