Sunday, September 13, 2015

Scanning watercolour paintings

The challenge of scanning watercolour paintings are to get the colours in the digital files as close as possible to those of the paper original. If they are true to the original it is possible to print copies of the painting on watercolour paper, a so called gilcee print.

In order to get the best results it is probably best to send the painting to a printshop who both has professional quality scanners and gilcee printers. The printers are very expensive, and so are the scanners, but it is possible to find at least scanners that give quite good results. Many artists recommend the Epson scanners for water colour paintings. 

I got the Epson Perfection 600V. Its not the priciest option, but probably good enough for me. It cost around  300 USD, while the next step up the ladder cost more than double that. It can scan up to an A4 - again getting one that can scan A3 size paintings would have been quite costly. I read on blogs that there are pretty decent stitching functionality in image editing softwares, so for larger paintings one can scan in parts.  

The new scanner is a huge upgrade from the one I had before, a +10 year-old combined colour-ink printer that also had a scanner. Using that, i needed to make a lot of corrections in the colour calibration. I suppose the main use of it was that it made the paintings lay flat down, an improvement from taking a photo, where they always look somewhat crumpled not being held straight by frames. 

Experimenting with settings on the Epson P 699, I got the (so far) best results by turning OFF all the different options in the software, just letting the scanner do its thing. The scans come out slightly cooler in colour than the originals, but perhaps I can work out better settings given some more time fiddling with it. Its also the matter of seeing the scan on a screen (a retina screen on a MacBook Pro in my case), not knowing how much the screen projection changes the colour.

Kissinger on his fly-fish sub

Seacreatures (in shock, because the just saw Kissinger in his fly-fish sub)

Above are some scans. Especially the parts showing the background wash of raw sienna comes out cooler than the original. On the other hand, that might just be how it looks on my screen. 

This is what the scanner looks like:
Epson Perfection 600V

Some nodes of a SAN and an abstract

I have been toying with the idea to represent computational systems and processes in water colour. I did some sketching while looking at paintings by Kandinsky and Picasso, and jotted down the nodes of the MindModule SAN (Spreading Activation Network).

mind-module-scan 2015-09-11-colorfix-3457 x 2322.jpg abstract no 1 August 2015-1-5196 x 3578.jpg

Friday, June 19, 2015

How to use an iPad as a light table

Transferring sketches or detailed motives such as maps to watercolour paper can be done by using backlight from windows. However,  it can be uncomfortable to do it for a long time standing in an awkward position. If you don't want to buy light table, you can use your iPad instead. Its backlight makes it into a perfect, albeit small, light table!

Using an iPad as a light table

The trick is to make sure that the touch is disabled from the screen so that it doesn't switch applications or do other funny things because of the pressure of your pen on it.

In order to disable touch, you need to go into the settings and use 'Guided access'. It is intended for parents want to let their toddlers use the iPad, but to not touch the screen and by mistake stop a movie   (for example). This feature is perfect for painters too.

Do like this to temporarily disable touch from an iPad :
1. Go to 'Settings'
2. Go to 'Accessibility'
3. Go to 'Guided Access' (under the 'Learning' header)
4. Turn Guided Access on. Enter a passcode.
5. Now, you can go to some application that gives a strong backlight, such as an empty page in an e-reader or an empty note. Or, your could display an image on the iPad that you want to trace.
6. Press the home button three times, quickly.
7. Disable 'Touch'. Press start.
8. Viola! Use the iPad as a light table.
9. Enable Touch again by quickly pressing the home button three times, and entering your passcode.

Because the iPad makes a quite small light table, I taped the background image i wanted to use to the back of my watercolour paper. This way, I can move the paper around the surface, and have a larger painting than the size of the iPad otherwise would admit. The paper in the image is 220 gsm, and allows the light to go through both the printed image and the watercolour paper. Thicker paper would be tricky.

Preparing to use a light-table

Useful link:
- A more detailed instruction, with screenshots, on how to disable touch from the iPad, from

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Colour Wheel with Yellow Deep PY129, Cadmium Red PR108, and Ultramarine PB29

Colour Wheel with Yellow Deep PY129, Cadmium Red PR108, and Ultramarine PB29

Yellow: Permanent Yellow Deep, PY139 - Isiondoline, MaimeriBlu 114.
Red: Cadmium Red Deep, PR108 - Cadmium Sulphoselenide, MaimeriBlu 232.
Blue: French Ultramarine, PB29, Winsor & Newton Prefessional 263.
Paper:  Hahne rough 220 gsm

(A few notes on making a colour wheel are here.)

Colour Wheel with Lemon Yellow, Verizon Violet and Cerulean Blue

Colour Wheel with Lemon Yellow, Verizon Violet and Cerulean Blue

Yellow: Winsor Lemon, PY175 - Benzimidazolone yellow , Winsor&Newton Artist 211.
Red: Verizon Violet, PR122 - Quinacridone, MaimeriBlu 437 (equivalent to Alirazin Crimson of other brands). 
Blue: Cerulean Blue, PB36 - Cobalt Aluminum and Chromium Oxides, MaimeriBlu 368. 
Paper: Hahne rough 220 gsm

For making the tonalities of each colour and mix, first lay on a thin wash, on all four central boxes, then glaze it darker and darker, allow it to dry in between.

For making the black in the middle, use a lot of blue, some red, and add a dash of yellow.

The outer circle is showing the shadow colours. For making these, add a dash of the the complimentary color on the opposite side of the circle of the colour you are working with. 

Useful URL: has a great a video tutorial on how to make a colour wheel.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Upgraded Palette of single pigment watercolour paints (MaimeriBlu)

It was time to upgrade my palette. I invested in a larger set of artist grade watercolour paints.
In selecting colours, I had great help from the advice by Bruce McEvoy on the Handprint site in selecting which colours to get. I used the ‘artist’s colour wheel’ to make sure that i have most of the spectrum covered in terms of hues and chroma. My selection is mostly
  • single pigment paints,
  • of the list of ‘top 40’ pigments, and
  • of price group one.
The exceptions to the single-pigment is one blend, Payne’s Grey. I like to use for making dark red-violet clouds by blending it with alizarin crimson or verizon violet (Quinacridone PR122) or mix with earth yellows to make muted dark greens for pines and such.

For brand I chose MaimeriBlu, as they are carried by the artist store in my block on Malta in Sliema, and as they are recommended by Handprint. They come in 15 ml tubes, and are, at least in my local shop, less pricey than Schmincke, which is the other brand they carry. The exception for the more pricey pigments are cerulean (PB36) which I got myself, and then my aunt bought me the cadmium reds (PR108), and my friend Lena gifted me the Viridian (PG18) and the Tizian Red (PR209).

I made a color chart with notations of components, lightfastness, opacity/transparency, and granularity. The granularity was not noted on the packaging, so again, I had help from information about granulating pigments at Handprint (links below).

Here are the colours:

watercolour paint selection from MaimeriBlu

Useful links:
The artist’s colour wheel
Granularity (scroll down to the texture section)
List of top 40 pigments
MaimeriBlu Colour Chart

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Brush pen for sketching

I tried making a notan sketch using a sort of pen that is a brush with built in black ink. I liked it! Motive is some guys on pier in Sliema, by the Exiles, in Malta. I used the brush pen on the 100 black bits, and then some watery paynes gray with a watercolor brush. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Water colour tube colours, and developing one's own palette

A few days ago I started to prototype a game by painting interfaces in watercolour. I couldn't find my pan of Cerulean, and realised it was probably in a small water colour set that I gifted to my aunt in the autumn. I needed to go get a new one from the art store.

This led straight down the rabbit hole.
I've geeked out for days on pigments for paints, different brands, how to compose a palette that suits how I want to paint, and how to mix colours.

Mixing darks

When I first started painting about two years ago I read up on color theory, and found good introductions at,, and
Back then I ordered a large set of student quality paints (Cotmans from W&N) in order to get to know the different colours. The set of swatches by my desk in the middle of the the picture above is the one I have been referring to while painting at home.

Since then, I have been successively replacing my student quality pans - first with artist quality pans, and now with tubes of artist quality watercolour paint. These are expensive, so one needs to do the homework before cashing out.
For more in depth information about watercolour pigments I found the amazing It is a treasure trove of data about the pigments. After reading up on cerulean I got inspired to revisit color theory, and to start thinking about what palette of my own have - i.e., which tubes to get in addition to the cerulean.

The amount of information that Bruce MacEvoy gives on his site is massive, detailed and well structured. I have been engrossed in it for days. I'm thinking of sending him flowers.

This is what i learned:
1. Focus on the pigment - not the name the colour is given by the manufacturer.

2. For each colour one need to get, refer to MacEvoys tests on lightfastness and other criteria before buying something. Here is an amazingly useful [chart]. First pick the color, and on the next page, pick the pigment. This leads to a list of test data for using the different paints.

3. Brand - it seems like the safe options to pick when one does not have time to do research is to get Winsor&Newton or Daniel Smith, but they are expensive. If MaimeriBlu has the needed pigment they are less costly, and still of excellent quality according to BMs tests.

4. BM recommends a minimal and [basic palette] - for me, this seems a great way to start. I was about to get a medium red pan (winsor red) in tube, but I learned that if one only is to have one, its better to choose a [magenta] one, because they mix better with other colours, and its still possible to make warm reds with the yellow.

Yesterday morning I went to the art store as soon as they opened, and found that they indeed had MaimeriBlu, and I got the Cerulean despite it was expensive (14 €), and the Verison Violet (4.5 €), which Bruce MacEvoy recommends to get instead of Alirazin Crimson, (the pigment in Verison Violet doesn't fade as quickly).

Now I have the pleasure of revisiting making a colour wheel and trying out different mixes of dark, but now with better quality paint, and also, with more sense of purpose. Since the last time around I've realised that painting in water colour isn't just something I'm exploring a little bit - life would be less fun without it. The potential for geekery and skill development can last a lifetime, and I just got started.

Here is my first tiny choice of artist quality tubes:
Palette 1 Artist Quality mixed tubes

This is what the swatches looks like. To the left of the watches are the IDs of the pigments, to the right I note the brand and name of the color.