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
watercolorpaintingandprojects.com, 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 Handprint.com. 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.

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