Notebook, 1993-

MATERIALS & METHODS - Painting - Aqueous Paints - Transparent Watercolor

The Pigments - The Binder - Diluents - Supports & Grounds - Equipment - Care and Display

Transparent Watercolor
The Pigments

Permanent Palette for Watercolor and Gouache Paints - In the regular or pure watercolor method of painting, almost all pigments are used for transparent or translucent effects, transparency being obtained from the more opaque paints by diluting them to a thin consistency. Paleness or whiteness of tone is obtained by utilizing the brilliant white of the paper showing through the colors instead of by the free, unlimited use of Chinese white mixed with the chromatic pigments to produce pale tints. The use of Chinese white in the pure watercolor technique is either avoided entirely or confined to occasional touches for special effects. The vividness or deep tones of the strong colors in the panting are also enhanced by the underlying brilliant white ground, because they too, are never applied in a thick or pasty manner.

In gouache painting all the pigments are compounded and used in a manner that makes them opaque, and in painting, the pale tints are obtained by mixing them with white paint. The color effects of all the pigments are those of their mass- or top-tones, and many of these pigments that exhibit their undertones when used in transparent oil or watercolor paints [such as burnt sienna or green earth] will therefore display a different color effect when used in the gouache technique.

The list of permanent pigments for watercolor and qouache is exactly the same as that used in oil painting [see page 33 - Pigments/The Permanent Palette] with two exceptions. The lead-bearing pigments that are approved for use in oils--flake white and Naples yellow--are not used in watercolor because of their susceptibility to turning dark on exposure to impure air when not protected by oil or varnish, their likelihood of reacting with other pigments when used in the gum-water mediums, and their poor brushing qualities in water mixtures. [p. 156]

For more information on pigments for Watercolor: Pigments for Watercolor

[Mayer, Ralph. The Painter's Craft. An Introduction to Artist's Methods and Materials. Revised and updated by Steven Sheehan, Director of the Ralph Mayer Center, Yale University School of Art. New York: Penquin Group. 1948. 1991.]

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The gum binder is very thin, and the watercolors often merely "stain" the paper surface rather than forming appreciable independent films. Therefore the pigments are vulnerable to the effects of light, dirt, and atmospheric chemicals to a greater extent than in the oil media, which encase the pigments in a protective film of binder. Thus lead pigments, such as flake white, Naples yellow, the chrome yellows and greens, that might react to sulfurous impurities in the atmosphere, are replaced, where possible with less sensitive pigments. With these exceptions the pigments are rated for permanence in watercolors the same as they are in oils. The following color list contains pigments that are permanent if the necessary conditions for the care and display of watercolors are observed . . . .

[Kay, Reed. The Painter's Guide to Studio Methods and Materials. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1983. pp. 132-133]



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