Watercolor Paint

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the advantages of painting with watercolors?

    Watercolors are waterbased, so they dry very quickly. This makes painting at a variety of indoor and outdoor locations more convenient. And because they're watersoluble, watercolors are easy to clean up — you just need soap and water in most cases.

    Blick offers many books and DVDs to help you get started watercolor painting. Visit our Books and Media - Watercolors page to see our selection.

  • What are watercolors made of?

    Watercolors are made of finely ground pigments mixed with a watersoluble binder and sometimes other additives. Common binders are gum arabic or synthetic glycol. Other common additives may include glycerin as a plasticizer, honey as a humectant, and ox gall as a wetting agent.

  • What is the difference between watercolor pans and watercolor tubes?

    Watercolor pans are solid blocks of watercolor paint. Just wet them and they're ready to use. Pans are perfect for location painting, outdoor sketching, and small-scale works — they're very portable.

    Watercolor tubes have a pasty consistency and should be diluted with water on a palette for easy mixing. If watercolor tubes have dried on a palette, they can be rewet with water on a brush or from a spray bottle. Watercolor pans can be made from watercolor tubes by filling a pan and letting it dry. Watercolor tubes are great for large-scale works or big, saturated washes of color.

  • Are watercolor pans for serious painters?

    Absolutely! Just as with watercolor tubes, both student and artist quality are available in watercolor pans. Watercolor pans are very popular with plein air painters and travelers because they're so easy to transport - perfect for painting landscapes.

  • Why do painters thin watercolors?

    Thinning or diluting watercolors is the key to creating the flow and transparency that is characteristic of watercolor painting. Also, because of the weakness of the binder, it's important to thin out watercolors to some extent. They'll crack if applied too thickly.

  • Which white watercolor paint should I choose?

    Traditionally, white paint isn't used in a watercolor work. The white in the painting comes from the white of the paper.

    If you do choose to use white watercolor, Chinese White, made from zinc-oxide pigment, and Titanium White are the two most common colors. Artists use white watercolor to add highlights and to dull bright colors. Chinese White tends to be translucent or semi-opaque, while Titanium White is more opaque.

  • What's the difference between watercolor and gouache?

    Watercolor is transparent and gouache is opaque. Gouache can be applied in solid colors, allowing an artist to paint in layers from dark to light. Like watercolor, gouache can be rehydrated and reworked.

  • What surfaces are suitable for watercolor painting?

    The most common is watercolor paper, but other surfaces such as vellum, parchment, clay mineral panels, sumi rice paper, or thin fabrics such as silk can be used.

  • What brushes should I use for watercolor painting?

    Three characteristics are used to evaluate the performance of a watercolor brush: how much water/color does the brush hold; does the brush have and maintain a sharp point or edge; and does the brush snap back to its original shape.

    Traditionally, the best watercolor brushes are made with Kolinsky Sable. Kolinsky is regarded as the best grade of sable hair. Another option is squirrel, which holds more color than sable but has less snap. Camel hair (which is really pony or goat) is a more economical choice.

    Today, better quality synthetic-hair brushes and synthetic-sable combinations can be as good, if not better, than many natural-hair brushes. Synthetics are a more durable, and sometimes a more affordable, alternative to natural hair and still provide a high-quality performance.

  • What's the difference between professional and student-grade paints?

    Professional-grade paints have a higher pigment concentration and less filler, and generally use a wider variety of pigments, resulting in a larger color range. Usually made with a single pigment, they mix more cleanly and have better tinting strength than lower-grade paints.

    Student-grade paints have working characteristics similar to professional paints but with lower concentrations of pigment and a smaller range of colors. More expensive pigments are generally replicated by hues, which may not have the same mixing characteristics as pure colors. They don't cover as well as artist-grade paints, but they're usually more affordable.