Thursday, February 26, 2009

Watercolor Manufacture's Charts for Color Temp etc

QUESTION: Is there a list of colors(especially Daniel Smith) that show if the color are Warm or Cool, Transparent or opaque, staining or non staining. This would be so helpful. Thank You. Pam

Daniel Smith does have a printed color chart that gives you most of this information including lightfastness. While the chart doesn't list the tube colors as warm or cool it does arrange the little color swatches by their chroma starting with the cooler yellow hues moving to the warmer yellows, then the oranges and warm reds, then to the cool reds and purples, warmer blues hues then to the cooler blues before they show their earth colors.

I spoke with the nice folks at Daniel Smith today and they tell me if you call their customer service they will mail you a copy. You will need to call during business hours so you can talk to a real person. 1-800-426-7923 ( Tell them I said hello!)

The same chart can be found in their 2008-2009 reference catalog on pages 10-11. I'll try to add a link below to take you to it online. If it doesn't work go to and look for the tab for their online catalog. Here is the link: Daniel Smith Paint Chart I hope that link works.

Also....If you go to the Daniel Smith website and click on the watercolor paints you will get a colored list of paints again starting with yellow. You can click on each color and get more information about that individual color that's not included on the printed color swatch chart.

Most manufacturers (Winsor Newton, Holbein, Rembrandt, etc) have printed materials with paint information available for artists. Try doing a search for these by manufacturer's name.

Another great watercolor resource is
It's got so much information it can be overwhelming.
For paints:
At the top of the page is a navigation bar arranged by color names.... have fun exploring!


Split Primary Palette - Warm Reds

QUESTION: I've already asked this in the WCW, but got no response. Need help! I just got my Susie Short Essential 7 set from Daniel Smith. I noticed that there is no Pyrrol Scarlet that you refer to in your article, here. Instead, I got Pyrrol Orange, which is what is in the set as ordered, and also mentioned further down in your article on the website.I'm going to be squeezing these into pans. Is the Orange a substitute for the Scarlet?I just want to make sure I have the right colors first in case I have to return one.That asked - if the Pyrrol Orange is right, what would be a good Daniel Smith color to use as a secondary between it and the warm yellow (besides mixing) as I might be adding the secondaries as straight colors to my 12-pan box later ( I can't stand the site of empty pans staring back at me). Matt

When Daniel Smith put my "Essential 7" Split Primary Palette into a set, I selected the Pyrrol Orange as part of the set. With all the tubes of red to choose from almost all of them are either more of a true red (containing a touch of blue) or bias to purple and did not mix a visually clean clear orange.

Allow me to explain that there is nothing wrong with the Pyrrol Orange in the set, it works as a warm red but it does have more yellow in it making it slightly more orange than it needs to be. Since then I've discovered that the Pyrrol Scarlet and Quinacridone Coral both work for as good substitutes for a warm red in my Split Primary Palette.

I'm in the process of testing some additional colors for a full spectrum 12 (tube) color palette. The testing is to find as close to exact complement tube color as I can for each of the 12 paints. I'm trying to restrict my choices to paint made with single pigments if I can. It's a delicate mixing dance, but it's fun and I'm close to finding the right colors.

Thanks for your question! Good luck with your colorful adventure!

PS. I highly recommend Nita Leland's latest book CONFIDENT COLOR for anyone wanting to learn more about working with a variety of color palettes. You'll find a link to see this book on Amazon in the sidebar. It's worth every penny!

Watercolor Brush Care/Repair

QUESTION: My watercolor brush is loose. The metal ring holding the brush "hairs" wiggles and is no longer tight on the handle. It was expensive. What can I do?

SUSIE'S REPLY: Ouch! Loosing a favorite watercolor brush, expensive or not, is almost like loosing a good friend isn't it?
The most common cause for a loose ferrule (the metal ring that connects the brush hairs to the handle) is leaving the brush submerged in water too long. If the handle is made of wood, the wood swells in the water and when it expands it loosens the ferrule and cracks the protective paint on the handle. Using a pair of pliers you can gently crimp the ferrule close to the handle to stop most of the wiggle.
If that doesn't work, use an awe or nail to puncture the ferrule making a hole in the metal to grip into the wooden handle. I sometime use fingernail polish to fill in the cracks in the paint to keep the handle for absorbing some of the water.
I've also seen some old loose brushes with a wire tightly securing the ferrule to the handle. Not to be confused with the mop brushes that are made this way to begin with. Hey, if it works why not?

If the handle is plastic, you can try to get some "super glue" under the ferrule to reseal and reattach it to the handle. Use a glue that's not water soluble.

As a preventative measure, above all don't leave a brush standing in a water container for an extended period of time.

I hope you can save your brush!

Erasing pencil lines in watercolor paintings

QUESTION: Hi there, this may seem silly...I am teaching myself to paint with oils and watercolor. I love it so much and am teaching my grandson(8) as well. We are learning together . How and when do you get rid of the sketch marks, I use a light pencil touch and then watercolor over it. How do I get the pencil marks to not be there after painting? Thanks, Carol

SUSIE'S REPLY: Hi Carol! How wonderful to have your grandson as a painting partner!
Removing the pencil lines in painting is a common question and not silly at all. For some artists the pencil marks are carefully placed to become an intricate part of the painting. They fit and look great for that particular style of painting!
However for many of us the pencil lines are not intended to be seen after we apply the paint to our paper and we want the lines to "go away!"
Using a light touch will make erasing easier. Unfortunately, some colors seal the graphite or pencil lines so that when we paint over them they cannot be erased. Other colors allow for easy removal. Experimenting will help you learn more about the colors in your palette.
OK, that said here are some tips, not all will work every time but they are worth a try.
  • Do your preliminary sketching on drawing or tracing paper. Make corrections and simplify the drawing before you transfer it to your watercolor paper. The more you erase on the watercolor paper the more your damage the surface.

  • Transfer the simplified basic shapes first. Apply the first layers of the painting then add more details as needed.

  • Use a light touch or a fine pencil line. A soft pencil will leave more graphite to smudge or smear or mix into your paint than a hard pencil.

  • Use the pencil lines as a guide and not an edge. In other words paint up to a line but don't paint over it and it will be easier to erase.

  • Erase as you go. When a passage is dry clean up the excess pencil lines that are no longer needed.

  • Use an eraser that is gentle to your watercolor paper. I recommend the Magic Rub by Sanford/PaperMate. It's a white a vinyl eraser designed to erase cleanly. You can find it in most art stores, office supply stores, at drugstores in the school supplies, or online. I did a search for Magic Rub eraser and got several hits.

Please note: Erasing the lines from using graphite paper to transfer your drawing to your watercolor paper is different than using a pencil. Some brands of transfer papers are slightly waxy which makes them more difficult to remove.

Good luck with your watercolor journey! Be sure to check out my free tips on my website. You may find some lessons you can share with your young artist.

Happy Painting!


Signatures on Watercolors

QUESTION: Susie, how do you suggest we sign our watercolor paintings? I was reading another blog talking about signing their art work they said "if you painted a purely watercolor painting and signed the painting with an ink pen, it was now a mix media painting. What do you think?" CV

SUSIE'S REPLY: My, this is a loaded question!
Obviously, if your painting is to be entered into a competition go by the rules outlined in the prospectus. Many shows have strict regulations against using anything but transparent watercolors in the paintings. Rules are rules and its usually not the juror but the board or show directors who do the regulating.
Outside of the competitions.... I think there could be several legitimate choices.
Let's look at a few choices:
  • Watercolor is preferably the first choice. It can be painted on using a brush, or by using a stylus in a damp area a signature can be "imprinted or scratched" into the paper. This method allows the signature to blend into the painting. It's easily seen but not distracting.
  • Watercolor pencils are dried watercolor in pencil form and are easy to use. If the marks made with the watercolor pencil appears to be sitting on top of the paper,,, try running a damp (not wet) brush over the signature. This will help it integrate with your painting.
  • Ink - is used by many artists. It's convenient and easy to use. Preferably, it should be an archival water based ink. (Avoid petroleum based inks.) Some of the archival gel pens manufactured for scrap booking are recommended even in darker areas.
  • Pencil is also a reasonable choice, especially if any line drawing is used as an important part of your watercolor painting.

So what do I think about a painting being classified as Mixed Media when you use ink for a signature? For what it's worth, I do not believe using ink just for the signature should turn a watercolor into mixed media.

However, if there is a question, or becomes an issue why push your luck?

More than anything paint it and sign it! Then move on to the next one!


Monday, February 23, 2009

Phthalo Blue GS and RS

QUESTION: What's the difference between Phthalo Blue (GS) and Phthalo (RS)? Thanks!


Phthalo Blue (GS) green shade PB 15 A cool blue slightly bias toward green
ASTM Lightfastness Rating: Excellent
Transparency: Transparent
Granulating: No
Staining: Staining

Phthalo Blue (RS) red shade is also made with PB 15 but has been altered to lean more toward purple than green. Compare this color to French Ultramarine Blue. You get the same look without the sedimetary properties.
ASTM Lightfastness Rating: Excellent
Transparency: Transparent
Granulating: No
Staining: Staining


Gum Arabic in Watercolor Paint

Great website - thank you for all the great tips. Please tell us the proper use of gum arabic. When do you use it and how much do you use. Thank you. Greg

Gum arabic is a water soluble binder made from the sap of the acacia trees. It's most commonly used in the manufacturing of artist's quality watercolor and gouache paints as well as pastels.
As a binder it helps the watercolor pigments stick to the watercolor paper. However it can be dissolved again in water, even after it has completely dried. This is why watercolors can be rewet after they have dried on the palette, or can be lifted from the paper when they are rewet.

Some artists add extra gum arabic to their watercolor paint to increase the body and flow of the paint. It is also used to add a glossy look to the paint, but you must be careful not to add too much as the paint may become brittle and may flake off.
In my watercolor experience I've found if I stick with professional quality brands of watercolor paints I don't need to make any adjustments to their formulas. The saying "if it ain't broke don't fix it!" applies.
I have added a few drops of gum arabic along with several drops of distilled water to rejuvenate the contents of a tube of rock hard dried watercolor paint. How much gum arabic do you use? I've read 3:1 or 4:1 ratio is a good formula. (Three or four drops of water to one drop of gum arabic.)

I hope that answers your question! Thanks for asking!

Beading problems with New Watercolor Palettes

QUESTION: Hi Susie, There must be a 'trick' to preparing the wells in my watercolor palette. I'm new to watercoloring and I've bought three different palettes and each one causes the paint to 'bead' up into a tiny little puddle that almost disappears before I start. What do I need to do to keep this from happening? Some tell me to clean the wells with Comet. It didn't help at all. MJ

SUSIE'S REPLY: Welcome to watercolor MJ! You have so much fun ahead of you!
Beading is definitely a common problem with new plastic palettes especially in the center of the palette where the all mixing takes place. They are so slick and smooth that the wet watercolor just beads up instead of making a nice puddle for you to work with.
What do you need to do to keep this from happening? The solution is simple.....just paint! It is an annoyance at first, especially when you are new to watercolor anyway, but I promise the more you mix and blend and use your palette the faster the mixing area will get "seasoned" and the beading will stop.
As for the wells, I always fill the wells with an generous amount of paint. I like to work with dry paint so I actually fill the wells and allow the paint to dry before I paint with it. Even if you prefer to use fresh paint, a generous squeeze of paint is better than a tiny dab. The lid will help the paint stay moist for quite a while, and if it does dry out you can rejuvenate it with a fresh dab of paint or a damp brush.
I don't recommend using a scouring powder on the plastic surface of your watercolor palette. They just scratch it and cause the surface to stain easier.
Another tip for watercolor palettes is to always use a damp paper towel or rag to wipe up your paint puddles. If you wipe them with a dry towel or rag you run the risk of pushing the paint into the plastic surface and staining your palette. All plastic palettes will be a little stained as you use them, but not enough to cause any problems.

I hope that helps! Have fun!