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Watercolorist's Dream Gift guide | Euorpean & UK Edition

Frugal | Gifts Under €25

1. Faber-Castell 12 Polygrade Pencils (€20/ £18)

What: A set of 12 pencils in the style of the original polygrade pencils. The range is from 5B–5H.

Why: All watercolor artists need a good pencil, whether for sketching or for transferring drawings. These pencils are a fun option and very unique. What makes these special is that they are a limited edition group of pencils from a reputable manufacturer that make you feel like you are using a pencil from 1837.

Where:

About:

2. Finetec/ Coliro Pearlcolors Gold & Silver (€25,95)

What: A set of six gold and silver watercolor paints.

Why: These paint are lightfast, handmade in Germany by a family-owned company, and vegan friendly. If you are looking for an awesome gold paint, you can stop searching. These are the best! I have never seen another gold paint that replicates real gold so well.

Where:

About:

3. Viarco ArtGraf Watersoluble Graphite (£14.70)

What: A tin of water-soluble graphite.

Why: this water-soluble graphite is made by a family-owned company in Portugal. They are one of the oldest pencil manufacturers in Europe, so they know their graphite. I love this water-soluble graphite, and it is really useful for sketching or learning to paint with values. If you only have one pain in your travel kit, this would be it.

Where

About

Mid-Range | Gifts $26–75

1. Daler Rowney Artsphere Easel (€50/ £30)

What: A super adjustable easel.

Why: You need to take care of your neck and your back! It’s very easy to hurt your back bending over a table painting watercolors. This easel is the solution. It can adjust in many different ways and hold both papers and canvas.

Where:

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2. Eventually Everything Mixes Watercolor Sets ($28–30)

What: Sets of vegan Handmade watercolors in half pans.

Why: These paints are super high quality, very pigmented, and a great deal. They are handmade by an artist in Berlin, they are vegan, and some of the funds go to workshops that teach art to a wider audience. So not only are you getting unique paint, but you are supporting a good cause!

Where:

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3. Kolinsky Sable Brushes (€27-€68)

What: Kolinsky Sable brushes made by three different manufacturers at three different price points.

Why:

Da Vinci - there isn’t much to say about this brand, only because everybody knows that they are synonymous with quality. These are some of the best of the best. Every single brush that I have bought from da Vinci has been beautiful and amazing. They are robust and the points remain over time.

Where:

About:

Kolibri - This is probably not a very well-known brand, especially not outside of Germany. However this small family company has been making brushes for a long time. They have a small line of Kolinsky Sable brushes, called their gold line, which is an amazing value for the money. Some even say they are better than the Winsor and Newton Series 7s! Most cheap Kolinsky Sable brushes are not worth your time or mine, but these are excellent and I use them daily.

Where:

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Rosemary & Co. - I don’t personally have experience with this brand, but this small, woman-owned company is the favorite of many watercolorists.

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All Out | Gifts Over $75

1. TALENS Rembrandt Watercolor Set in Wooden Box ($124)

What: A set of 22 Rembrandt artist grade watercolor half pans in a wooden box with a porcelain palette.

Why: This Dutch brand is high quality, and the watercolor paints have a full range of colors. Not only that, but every watercolorist would be happy to have a ceramic palette to paint on.

Where:

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2. SENNELIER Haute Couture Watercolor Set (€79,35 )

What: This is a set of 10 tubes of water colors, one porcelain palette, to brushes, and one towel.

Why: Of course Sennelier is a brand that is renowned for making watercolors that are vibrant with a special ability to glaze effortlessly. But this set is also just extremely convenient. It has everything that you need to paint except for water. I’m actually surprised that they included towel, because this is an aspect that most watercolor kits miss.

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3. SCHMINCKE HORADAM® Watercolor Set in Wooden Box(142,89 €)

What: 24 tcubes of Schmincke watercolors in a wooden box with a porcelain palette.

Why: There isn’t a single watercolorist who would be upset if you gifted them this set of watercolors. You get a full range of Schmincke’s colors plus a huge palette to paint with. What more could you want?

Where:

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Over the Top! – Over $250

Caran d’Ache 80 MUSEUM Aquarelle Watercolor Pencil assortment (360,00€)

What: A set of 80 extremely highly pigmented watercolor pencils

Why: some of the colors in this set are only available through this gift box. You cannot get them in any other set. Since these are definitely the best watercolor pencils around, it is a great gift to get not just the basic set, but the full range of colors!

Where:

About:

The Sketchers Box ($275)

What: A handmade watercolor box with your name on it.

Why: ! Even though there is a long waiting time, it is definitely a special gift to have a watercolor palette made specifically for you. You can get your name on the pallet, and it comes with a free leather pouch, and space for 18 hole pans. It doesn’t get much more luxurious than this!

Where:

About:

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Art Supply Review: Eventually Everything Mixes
amegirl.jpg

I wanted to share with you this amazing handcrafted watercolor brand called Eventually Everything Mixes!

Recently I got to meet Amé on a trip to Berlin. She is a wonderfully sweet and kind person, and she obviously put a lot of thought into the processes she uses to make her watercolor paints.

Her paints are all vegan and cruelty free. That might sound my distance distinction, but the majority of watercolor paints have either honey or ox gall (which comes from the gallbladder of cows) in them, which makes them not vegan. Instead, Amé uses sugar syrup and synthetic ox gall as the humectant and wetting agent in her paints.

Personally, I am not vegan, but I do believe in trying to make the products that we use as free from cruelty and as gentle on the environment as possible. This is obviously something that Amé cares about. Not only are her products free of animal byproducts, but she also even notes when the pigment might be dangerous to the water supply and aquatic life. This is something that’s almost never noted and is really important since watercolors are often flushed down the drain.

In addition to all of this, her paints are beautiful, moody, and inspire me to be more creative.

Stats

Quality Where Does it Stand?
Lightfastness depends on the pigment, but the colors are sourced from Kremer Pigments
Where Is It Made? Berlin, Germany
Identification (Color Labeling and Accuracy) Name and pigment number on the pans, but other information only available on the website
Tube size Available in half pans, full pans, and bottle tops
Price around $5 per half pan

Colors Reviewed

  • LAUSITZER OCHRE - PY 43
  • PYRELENE MAROON - PR 179
  • WATER BY THE PIER - PB 71, PR 101
  • FREE- HE WANTED TO BE - PB 71, PBK 11, COPPER BLUE

Amé gave me a full pan of Pyrelene maroon, a bottle top of Lausitzer Ochre, and a dot sheet with Water By The Pier and Free He Wanted To Be. The dot sheets were very generous, and I’ve done several paintings and all of my swatches with these alone!

Swatches

eemswatch.jpg
p>You can see in the slots is that all of these colors are pretty granulating. Even though purely maroon, which is not actually a granulating color, has a more textural quality than in other brands.

The colors are all extremely highly pigmented, and they have a medium level of dispersion.

Even though I am a stickler for single pigment colors, I am absolutely in love with “Water by the Pier” and “Free – He Wanted to Be.” Normally I don’t see any reason to have a great color on my palette, but that granulation and the different colors in ”Free – He Wanted to Be" entrance me every time I use it.

Mixing

This is the part that I was worried about. I have never used handmade watercolors before, but I know that watercolors which are not correctly formulated or not correctly mulled can be very difficult to mix and glaze. But this is not the case with these pains.

They paint and makes just like I would expect them to and it’s easy to get a wide range of colors from just the four paints that I have.

Obviously, this is not a high intensity palette, but I was still able to get some version of basically each color.

Re-wetting

These colors rewet pretty easily, although there is a bit more difficult re-wetting the Lausitzer Ochre. It’s pretty common for first colors across brands to be more difficult to rewet.

“Free – He Wanted to be" was also a bit more difficult to rewet, and clearly had a bit more binders and the other paints. It had a sort of a gummy texture. It’s also more muted in intensity.

The easiest color to work with was the Pyrelene maroon, which is crazily intense as soon as you put a brush into it.

Glazing and Layering

No problems here either. I painted a portrait, which normally includes a lot of layering and glazing. The collars had no trouble staying on the paper and did not lift off inadvertently.

One thing that I did notice is that the colors seem to stay wet on the page longer than with my conventionally made paints.

Vibrancy

These pains are very vibrant and have very deep color. However did notice that, depending on the paper you use, they may be a fairly large color shift. The colors are much darker when they are wet than when they are dry. However the saturation level seems to stay about the same, and the colors do not become pale and washed out after drying.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Cruelty free, vegan, and environmentally friendly paint Large color shift
Unique colors The rewet ability of the paint might vary by pigment
Supports an independent artist
Smells of Cloves
Pigment is sourced from a reputable supplier, and no fillers are added

Who is it for?

If you want to dip your toe into the world of handmade watercolors, I would definitely start with this brand.
I don’t often add new colors to my palette now that I’ve decided on a set of colors, but I find myself often wanting to play with these paints. I’m not sure if it’s the moody colors, the scent of cloves, or the memory of meeting Amé, but using these payments is very freeing. If you like deep, dark, moody paints with a lot of texture and the smell of clothes, then these are the perfect paint for you. If you are looking for a high-quality, vegan watercolor brand, this is absolutely perfect.

Of course we can’t forget that every purchase helps the support an independent artist who also organizes workshops to help get people acquainted with making art!

The Last Word

This is a great first experience with handmade watercolors, I really want to try out some more colors in her line, and see how they compare with other handmade watercolors!

  • Price: ★★★★
  • Quality: ★★★★★
  • Overall: ★★★★★

Official Website

Availability

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Art Supply Review: Old Holland Watercolors
Scanbot Sep 18, 2017 9.17 PM44.jpg

Old Holland is kind of a strange brand. There are not a lot of reviews of it because of its expensive price in many parts of the world. I’m lucky enough that my local art store has a full collection of this brand at fairly reasonable prices.

Handprint.com doesn’t think very much of this brand because of its lightfastness issues and its odd labeling practices. That’s totally understandable. I don’t think I would ever recommend this brand to a beginner.

The pigments are definitely pure. They claimed that they include twice as much pigment as other brands, and that might be true. However, the binder for these paints is what makes it different from all other paints, and calm cause problems for a new or experienced watercolor artist. The binder has been described as gummy and sticky. And the paints lift extremely easily.

Not normally something that you’d associate with a high-grade artist quality watercolor brand.

Despite all of that, I love these paints!

Background

Many artists don’t like Old Holland watercolors. They say that they are too gummy , too thick, and too difficult to rewet. And all of these things are true to a certain extent. The colors do not stay still on the page, and lift extremely easily. All of these things can easily be considered negative points.

But there is one thing that I think is important to realize about these watercolors. They are really gansai.

Pseudo-Gansai

Okay, or at least they are basically gansai or very similar to gansai.

At my local art store, I picked up this pamphlet talking about Old Holland watercolors that comes directly from the company. Here is what it says.

Old Holland Classic watercolour
These watercolours combine the best qualities of the original colours as used by the Chinese masters. All 168 colours are lightfast. The old fashioned Chinese binder accepts more pigment. This binder is based on distilled water, bleeched cristal arable gums, pure glycerine 99.9% with various mixtures of different natural sugar syrups,special selected honey, rabbit skin glue, rosin varnish (made from roots), seaweed extract, mhyr, etc. The colours tend to be considerably stronger than normal artist’s watercolours, while retaining the transparency required to produce the most delicate hues. Due to the higher level of pigmentation the intensity and brilliance is superior, while less quantity of paint is required to make the artwork.

Pamphlet

Okay, so what does that sound like? If you have read my blog post about Gansai, this will all sound very familiar.

And it makes sense. The Dutch were one of the few countries that were able to trade with the Chinese and the Japanese in the 17th century. You have probably heard of the Dutch East India Company, haven’t you?

Gansai is a Japanese art medium, but many of Japanese traditional arts have their roots Chinese culture. I don’t know what the Chinese word for gansai is, but I’m pretty sure that is what is going on here with these Old Holland watercolors.

So the characteristics fit. They lift easily, they are extremely vibrant, and extremely pigmented. The only thing that seems to be different is that the colors also mix with absolutely no problems.

Also, it is important to note that this binder is the main reason why old Holland colors have a bit of a lightfastness problem in some formulations. Some of the binder combinations that Old Holland uses yellow over time.

Stats

Quality Where Does it Stand?
Lightfastness varying lightfastness, I would not trust the lightfastness rating given by Old Holland
Where Is It Made? Holland
Identification (Color Labeling and Accuracy) No pigment number or other information on the tube, also the label does not match the color inside at all
Tube size 6 mL
Price US$6 - US$22

Colors Reviewed

  • GOLDEN BAROK RED – PO 65
  • SCHEVENINGEN YELLOW LIGHT – PY 174
  • ULTRAMARINE BLUE DEEP – PB 29

Swatches

These colors are all extremely vibrant. They are surprisingly transparent, and every single one of them is extremely lifting. I have never seen colors that lifted as easily as this. You could put a drop of water on the paint and it would completely come off the page.

This can actually be really frustrating when you’re painting because you can basically erase the entire thing depending on what paper you are using.

This Ultramarine Blue Deep is my favorite ultramarine. The granulation is absolutely gorgeous and unlike the granulation I have seen in any other brand. I will definitely be buying more of this.

Scheveningen Yellow Light is now my favorite warm yellow. It’s transparent, and just glows.

Mixing

The colors mixed together extremely well. They harmonize and have a lot of movement when used wet in wet. The painting that I did using these colors has a sort of gentle harmony to it.

Re-wetting

This is where these colors fall down. Because of the binder, it’s extremely difficult to rewet these pains in comparison to other artistry paints. You have to add water to them before the pigment will come off of the pan.

Glazing and Layering

I don’t use these paints when I am planning to do a lot of layers. Or at least I don’t use them on the bottom layers, particularly because of that issue with listing. These colors don’t stay down very well. They always want to come off the page if there is any sort of agitation on top.

So I normally only use these paints if I am going to be doing a painting that doesn’t require a lot of layers, or if I want to use them on top of already painted layers.

They glaze well, and are very vibrant.

Vibrancy

Extremely vibrant, obviously full of pigment. Beautiful. There are variations of tone within each color.

Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
Extremely High Pigment Load No pigment information on the tube
The Most Beautiful Granulation Difficult to Rewet
Very Vibrant Lifts easily
Unique Pigments Extremely Expensive
Questionable Lightfastness
Strange Names
The line is full of overly complicated convenience mixes

Who is it for?

Obviously not a reasonable person.

Not for anyone who is a stickler about single pigment paints or lightfastness.

I will probably continue buying these pains, but I will attempt to be aware of the limitations of the paint and careful about the lightfastness.

This brand is definitely a “luxury” brand if you think about the price and the lack of functionality. This isn’t really a brand that you go to for consistency or predictable quality. This is a brand that you go to because there’s just something about it that you love, despite all of the negative aspects.

So this is for somebody who has already tried artist grade watercolors, and is already very comfortable with them, and wants to be a little silly with their paints.

The Last Word

  • Price: ★
  • Quality: ★★★
  • Overall: ★★

Official Website

Availability

In Europe

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How to Test Watercolor Paper

I have had a stack of watercolor paper building up for a few months now. It seemed too intimidating to do the testing that I wanted to do because I wasn't sure how to go about doing it. There are not a lot of examples of watercolor paper tests, so I was kind of in the dark.

Finally, I created this template, and I'm going to slowly start going through each of the papers.

I thought it might be helpful to someone else trying to figure out how to test what a color paper, so I’m going to share with you how I do it.

Watercolor Paper Test Template

Filled Out Watercolor Paper Test

How to Test Watercolor Paper

I have had a stack of watercolor paper building up for a few months now. It seemed too intimidating to do the testing that I wanted to do because I wasn't sure how to go about doing it. There are not a lot of examples of watercolor paper tests, so I was kind of in the dark.

Finally, I created this template, and I'm going to slowly start going through each of the papers.

I thought it might be helpful to someone else trying to figure out how to test what a color paper, so I’m going to share with you how I do it.

Watercolor Paper Test Template

Filled Out Watercolor Paper Test

Instructions

  1. Pencil and Erasing
    • Write at least four lines with whatever grade of graphite that you usually use on watercolor paper.
    • Erase part of the lines until you can no longer see them.
  2. Masking Fluid
    • Use masking fluid to create two parallel lines.
  3. Masking Tape
    • Apply masking tape to the paper and smooth it down so that the paint will not seep under.
  4. Backruns
    • Use a very juicy wash of a pigment that is prone to back runs and make a 3 strokes of this across the paper. I use PR122 (Quinacridone magenta), but you could also use Prussian blue (PB 27) or dioxane violet (PV 23).
  5. Lifting Test
    • Paint one horizontal stroke of a strongly staining pigment. I use a pthalo green, PG 7.
    • Below that paint one horizontal stroke of a non-staining pigment. I used green earth, PG 28.
  6. Granulation
    • Using a heavily granulating pigment, fill in a square. The wash should be fairly watery so that the pigment can granulate properly. I used Lunar Black (PBK 11).
  7. Mixing Color
    • Put down a circle of blue pigment. Here I used the same pigment that I will use later to create a wash. This is a watery mixture of Ultramarine Blue (PB 29) and Zirconium Cerulean (PB 71).
    • Next to it, put down a yellow color in the circle. I used PY 151, Azo Yellow.
    • Finally use your brush to allow the colors to merge together. Do not fuss with the colors too much. Allow them to blend naturally.
  8. Detail Strokes
    • Do several small thin detailed strokes. Try varying thickness and the direction as well as quickness of your strokes. I used the same pigment that I used for backruns, PR 122.
  9. Softening
    • Put down some shapes of color (leaf shape, circle, square), and then using a damp, but not wet grass, soften the edge of the shape.
  10. Wait Until The Masking Fluid Is Dry
  11. Wash
    • Mix a very watery mixture of ultramarine blue (PB 29) and Zirconium Cerulean (PP 71), cerulean blue (PB 35), or cobalt Violet (PV 14). Mixing these granulating paints together will allow you to easily see the defects in the paper when creating a wash.
    • Attempt to create as even of a flat wash as possible on the entirety of the right hand side, covering the pencil, masking fluid, and masking tape tests.
  12. Wait for the Wash to Dry
  13. Remove Masking Fluid and Masking Tape
    • When both of these are removed, painted a vertical stripe of PR 122 over both areas.
  14. Erasing on top of watercolor
    • Erase another part of the pencil lines that you drew.
  15. Glazing
    • Paint the same yellow as used in the color mixing in a light glaze over the bottom of the wash. I used PY 151.
  16. Lifting
    • Using a stiff brush, attempt to lift both the staining and non-staining pigment that was painted in the lifting section. Blot with paper to remove the pigment.

All done!

How to Interpret the Results

Pencil & Erasing

This part tests how well the paper takes pencil. It also test how much damage the paper takes with regular erasing both before and after a wash.

If the area where you erased is darker and mottled after the washer strike, that means that you racing damages the paper. Is it up to you to determine how much damage is acceptable.

Also, the paper might be further damaged by the racing after a wash is applied, and pigment might come up. So know whether you see more damage and if the blue of the wash has been lightened by the eraser.

This test is especially important for people who like to view the outline of their drawing in pencil and perhaps erase afterwards.

Masking Fluid and Masking Tape

This section tests how well the paper takes both masking fluid and masking tape. some papers can be damaged by using either of these masking method, so it's better to know ahead of time.

If the paper is damaged by either one of these, you will see that the paper has become rough. Also there will be a change in the stripe of pink pigment that you have placed over them. Ideally, the paper that has been under the masking fluid or tape should be the same as the paper that was not masked.

Wash

Making a large wash allows you to test both how easy it is to make a flat wash on the paper as well as to see whether the sizing on the paper has been applied correctly. On some papers, the sizing is not even and that can create blotches that you can't see until you have painted on them. This way, you can know ahead of time if the paper has even sizing.

What you're looking for is to see if the wash is fairly even and there are no strange mottled spots or speckles. There should be no specific area where a ton of pigment is gathering.

Glazing

The glazing section will show you how well the paper allows you to make glazes.

You can do this section over and over again if you want to see how well it takes subsequent glazes. But even with a single glaze, you can see whether this paper is prone to lifting up the first layers when a second layer is applied.

Ideally, the first layer of the wash should stay put, and a transparent glaze should be able to go on top without getting muddy.

Backruns/cauliflowers

Backgrounds are when the water applied to the surface of the paper is not being absorbed quickly enough and so a blooming or cauliflower pattern can be seen in the paint. This is pleasant when it's done intentionally, but using the wrong paper can cause this to happen more often when you don't want it to.

The backrun test is really a test of absorbency.

Papers that are not very absorbing and to create more background, and papers that are very absorbent should have little to no backruns. It's most likely that a hot press paper, because of the slick surface, will have more backruns than a cold pressed paper.

Ideally the stroke here should appear very even, without cauliflowers or backruns.

Lifting Tests

In this part of the test I use a staining and a non-staining pigment. Normally a staining pigment is very difficult to get out of the paper, while it is very easy to get a non-staining pigment back to white on a paper. Testing both of these allows you to see very easily whether it is difficult or easy to lift pigment from the paper.

If the staining section only lifts a little, and the non-staining section basically becomes white, then the paper has normal lifting ability.

If the staining section lifts a lot, and the non-staining section becomes white, then the paper has higher than normal lifting ability.

If the staining section does not list, and even the non-staining section has difficulty lifting, then the paper has very low lifting ability.

Granulation

Depending on how you paint, you might want more or less granulation. This test allows you to see what a very granulating pigment looks like on this paper.

If the pigment granulates a lot, then the paper encourages granulation.

If the pigment is not granulate, then the paper discourages it.

Mixing Color

By allowing these pigments to the mix on the paper, we can see how the paper encourages paint to mix.

As with anything, it depends on your painting style, but generally you want to see a pleasing texture where the blue and yellow needs. The pigment should turn into green, and the two colors should flow into one another.

If the colors do not mix together well, make an unpleasant texture, or remain separate, there may be some problem with the paper.

Detail Strokes

These thin strokes are meant to show you how well the paper takes detail.

Look at the strokes very carefully.

Are the lines solid or broken? Is the color even, or is there a darker outline on the outside? Are you able to make very thin lines as well as very thick lines?

Generally, you’ll be able to get more detail on a hot press paper than a cold press paper.

Softening

The final section tell you how easily you can soft and the edges of the stroke that you have already put down. This is a technique that's often used by botanical illustrators, and one of my favorite techniques, so it's very important to me for a paper to be able to take softening very well.

Does the paper make a hard edge, or a soft gradient?

Ideally, the edge should be very soft and bleed into the lightness of the paper.

What Do You Want Out Of a Watercolor Paper?

In looking at all of these results, it's really important to remember that there is no "perfect paper.” Everything really depends on your painting style.

Some people want more detail, some people don't want any. Some people don't care whether a paper glazes well or not. Some people want paper that allows for easy lifting so that they can correct mistakes. Other people want paper with no lifting abilities so that their pigment stays where they put it.

So think about what you want!

Personally, I want both my cold and hot press paper to be able to take a good flat wash. I there could be little to no backgrounds, and normal lifting ability. I want my coldpressed paper to granulate and house off the mixing abilities. It's really important for me that my hot press paper takes very sharp detail and can be used to make very gentle softening gradations.

It's a good idea to keep track of all of the watercolor papers that you have tested so that you can refer back to them later.

So now, I have a question for you. What’s your favorite watercolor paper?

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Watercolor Exchange / Art Supply Haul with Luna Howell

My friend Luna Howell sent me the most adorable package as part of a watercolor exchange that we did together. She is just a super generous and nice person and I was so excited when I got the package in my mailbox.

She sent me some green tea candy from Japan and the cutest Totoro themed note in addition to all the watercolors she sent along!

So here are the colors that she sent:

Name Pigment Brand
Jaune Brilliant #2 PR 108, PO 20, PW6 Holbein
Shell Pink PO 73, PW6 Holbein
Vermilion Hue PO 73, PR 254, PY 110 Holbein
Quinacridone Opera BV 10, PR 122 Holbein
Monte Amiata Sienna PBR 7 Daniel Smith
Potter’s Pink PR 233 Daniel Smith
Kyanite Genuine Daniel Smith Primatek
Serpentine Genuine Daniel Smith Primatek
Fuchsite Genuine Daniel Smith Primatek
Imperial Purple PB 29, PV 19 Daniel Smith watercolor stick
Sap Green PO 48, PY 150, PG 7 Daniel Smith watercolor stick
Quinacridone Burnt Orange PO 48 Daniel Smith watercolor stick
Burnt Sienna PBR 7 Daniel Smith watercolor stick

Holbein Watercolors

These are the colors I was really most interested in checking out. I have never worked with Holbein watercolors before and they are not exactly easy for me to access. There are also not a lot of very detailed reviews of these paints.

The first thing I noticed is that these paints arrived melted. Luna packed the watercolor half pans into a small plastic baggie, and these had melted and gotten all over the other watercolors.

I thought this was kind of weird especially considering that it is only early spring and still very cool where I live.

That made me wonder if there is honey inside. There is no honey in these pains, but they use, gum arabic as the binder, and glycerin as a moisturizer. I can only assume that they use a lot of glycerin!

The pans rewet very easily (probably because of all of that glycerin) and they have this extremely smooth and creamy feel.

I had expected the colors that contain white to be very chalky and all, but they are actually surprisingly vibrant. Of course, they are still opaque that is something that can't be avoided.

Something that shocked me about Holbein paints is that they seemed to dry even more vibrant than how they appeared when wet. That's the opposite of how watercolors normally work!

Not only that, but the whole buying the Quinacridone Opera is much more vibrant than Winsor and Newton's Opera, which is saying something since that is already such a saturated color. Also, the color seems to be holding up a lot better than the Winsor and Newton version.

You can, however tell that they definitely don't use very much dispersants like ox gall, because the colors do not move very much in water.

Because of all of these things, I’m really really interested in trying out more colors from buying. The colors seem to be very smooth, very finely ground, and extremely vibrant and pigmented.

Daniel Smith

All the other colors that Luna sent me were Daniel Smith colors.

Potter’s Pink

Potters pink is a dusky, granulating, desaturated pinkish color.

It's one of those colors that is really overlooked by the majority of watercolorists. That's probably because it's not really the most useful color on its own. But in mixtures is really where it shines.

I played around with this color for a bit and found that it makes an interesting beachy than color when mixed with raw sienna. When mixed with quinacridone magenta, you get a sort of rose madder hue, and when added to greens, it causes them to granulate with darker, desaturated flecks. It also mixes well with cerulean blue to form grays and dull lavender colors.

Monte Amiata Sienna

You should know that I have an obsession with yellows by now. I am also particularly picky about my earth yellows.

Monte Amiata Sienna could probably be considered a type of raw sienna or yellow ocher, but it is much clearer and more transparent than either of these colors. If you wanted a raw sienna with little granulatioand much more saturation, this would be it.

Primatek

I've never tried the Primatek series before. Most of what I've heard about them is that some painters buy them for the glitter that some of the colors have, which was never particularly interesting to me. I've also heard some people simply call them curiosity colors that are not useful in real painting.

So when I got to try these and realized how useful they can be, I was very surprised!

Kyanite Genuine is a beautiful, dark, granulating color that is perfectly suited for dark skies, or stormy water.

Fuchsite Genuine is this color that seems very saturated and sits somewhere in between pthalo blue and phthalo green on the turquoise/teal side of the color wheel. If you are obsessed withthese colors, it's very easy to make a vibrant turquoise or teal starting with this color.

Serpentine Genuine is the best out of this bunch, and it's a granulating single pigment green that has flecks of Brown in its undertone.This collar made me want to get all of the single pigment greens in the Primatek line! It's perfect for landscapes!

Watercolor Sticks

I had also never tried the Daniel Smith watercolor sticks before, and it was a very interesting experience working with them.

You can't really call these crayons, because they are too soft to really draw with. At least in my climate. I have read that softness of the sticks varies a lot depending on the humidity of your climate.

They feel closer to something like an oil pastel or an oil state, but even then, I would say that in stick form these are only useful for adding texture to a painting. For most watercolors these would be much more useful when cut into pieces and put into half pans, which is just what I'm going to do.

Thank You Luna!

I learned a ton from this watercolor exchange, and I'm so happy that Luna and I got to know each other through it! Thank you so much for your generous package Luna!

Links

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Zirconium Cerulean Blue PB71

Normally I'm not too excited about specific pigments, but I’m really excited about this one!

Cerulean is a really beautiful color to paint with. It has nice granulation, a light blue color that is perfect for skies, and it’s cool and non-staining.

It's not really a color that you can replicate with any other pigment, although some manufacturers make a cerulean blue cube by mixing phthalo blue with white. I really try to avoid white in my watercolors because it adds a chalky look that I don't really like.

I used to have Caribbean in my palate, but once I realized that it includes cobalt, which is a toxic chemical, I removed it from my palette.

Then one day, I learned about zirconium cerulean blue!

As far as I'm aware that this pigment is only available from Kremer pigments. They sell it in a powder form as well as watercolor half and full pans. I got a full pan of the watercolor and I’m so happy that I did!

cerulean

Versus Cerulean Blue PB 35

The color is not exactly a match for traditional cerulean blue which is made out of PB35 or PB36, but it's a close. It's slightly cooler, and it granulates a bit more.

In terms of granulation, zirconium cerulean actually seems pretty close to manganese blue genuine, which is the very toxic pigment. You could add a little bit of phthalo blue or phthalo turquoise to get an almost exact match. Also, adding a little bit of phthalo green gives you something close to cobalt blue turquoise or cobalt teal.

Also, it's a lot heavier, and doesn't move in water as freely as cerulean blue does. I think that you could probably add ox gall to this color to make it flow a bit more.

Despite these differences, I think that it's a very good substitute and has most of the characteristics that I loved about cerulean blue without the toxicity.

Mixing

mixing zirconium

I did a couple of tests mixing PP 71 with other colors.

With Potter's pink, it makes a series of beautiful grays and the old granulating purples. With PY 175, it makes amazingly vibrant granulating spring greens. With PR 122 makes saturated purples as well as lavenders, which is something that is difficult to achieve with other blues. Finally, with Indian or Venetian red, it makes deep dark browns and cool grays, similar to the way that burnt sienna mixes with ultramarine blue.

Check it out!

If you're interesting in trying out an unusual pigment, or you're looking to substitute the really improve on your palette, order one of these from Kremer pigments and I think you won't be disappointed !

Links

Kremer Watercolor - Zirconium Cerulean Blue

Zirconium Blue and Cerulean Comparison | Too Much White Paper

Artist AEE Miller - unSpooky Laughter Studio

#Mixing

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A Look Inside My Palette

I have been wanting to make a sort of watercolor resource including swatches of all the colors I have been able to get my hands on. Since that would mean watching all of the colors in my palate, I decided to take this as an opportunity to talk about the colors that I paint with regularly.

At the moment there are 42 colors in my main palette, although that’s probably way more than I need. My palette is in a state of transition, and I’m really trying to figure out what yellows and oranges are important to my painting.

In addition to those 42 colors, I also have 38 other colors that are not in my main palette. They are either redundant, not exactly fitting my needs, or waiting their turn to be put into the pallet.

My Selection Criteria

The way I choose colors is pretty simple. I want high quality, single pigment colors, that are fairly non-toxic. I stay away from cadmium, cobalt, cerulean, manganese, and viridian paints.

(Even though I really love cerulean and viridian, and miss them very much. I have heard that Kremer Pigments sells a non-toxic Zirconium Cerulean that I just can’t wait to get my hands on!)

I also want my colors to mix well and try to avoid repeating the same hue unless there is something very different in the characteristic of the watercolor.

The brands I choose are often determined by whether the pigment I want is available in the brand, the quality of the pigment in that brand, and the price.

Main Palette

Yellows

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  • PY 53 – Nickel Titanate Yellow – Daler Rowney
  • PY 175 – Lemon Yellow Hue – Winsor & Newton (discontinued)
  • PY3 – Lemon Yellow – Schmincke
  • PY 97 – Transparent Yellow – Winsor and Newton (discontinued)
  • PY 153 – Sennelier Yellow Light – Sennelier
  • PY 97 – Hansa Yellow Medium – Daniel Smith
  • PY 74 –Schveningen Yellow Light – Old Holland
  • PY 153 – Indian yellow – Daler Rowney
  • PBR 7 – Raw Umber – M Graham
  • PBR 7 – Burnt Umber – Daler Rowney
  • PY 43 –Goethite – Daniel Smith
  • PBR 24 – Naples Yellow – M Graham
  • PO 49 – Quinacridone Gold – Daniel Smith

As you can probably tell from this list, I have some kind of yellow obsession. For a while I was on the hunt for the coolest yellow possible, and I think that I have finally found it with Nickel Titanate Yellow. Still I am tinkering around to figure out the best combination of cool, warm, and middle yellows, so my palette is kind of a mess.

PY 53 – Nickel Titanate Yellow – Daler Rowney

This is the coolest yellow that I have been able to find. Unfortunately, it’s a bit opaque, but it makes the most vibrant greens with phthalo blue or phthalo green that I have ever seen!
Note: You can mix this with nearly any color to make a pastel or milky version.

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PY 175 – Lemon Yellow Hue – Winsor & Newton (discontinued) & PY 97 – Transparent Yellow – Winsor and Newton (discontinued)

I was lucky to find beef to discontinued yellow colors from Winsor and Newton on the sales rack at my local art store. They are both beautiful colors, and very lovely and transparent. Unfortunately, I don’t think that I will be able to find a replacement once they are out because the same pigments and other brands seem to have a different hue.

PY 153 – Sennelier Yellow Light – Sennelier

My favorite middle yellow. Sennelier makes the best yellows, they just all glow.

PY 74 –Schveningen Yellow Light – Old Holland

This warm yellow is a unique pigment to Old Holland. It’s also different because it is very transparent, but also very lifting. That is a rare trait for yellow paint. Most are very staining.

PY 43 –Goethite – Daniel Smith

I use this pigment instead of yellow ocher. It’s not quite as opaque, and has a nicer texture and some granulation.

PBR 24 – Naples Yellow – M Graham

Naples Yellow is a very opaque paint, and not normally something that I would have imagined keeping on my palette. However I have found that it is really nice and glowing when extremely diluted. It’s useful for natural colors, beaches, and mixing into skin tones to give a little more weight to transparent colors.

PO 49 – Quinacridone Gold – Daniel Smith

Do I even need to say anything about this color? It’s super famous. I actually changed how I painted once I got this color, that’s how useful it is.

Oranges

  • PY 110 – Indian Yellow – M Graham
  • PO 62 – Chrome Orange – Schmincke
  • PO 71 – Translucent Orange – Schmincke
  • PO 48 – Quinacridone Burnt Orange – Daniel Smith
  • PO 65 – Golden Barok Red – Old Holland
  • PBR 41 – Translucent Brown – Schmincke
  • PR 101 – English Venetian Red – Schmincke
  • PO 73 – Scarlett Pyrrole – M Graham

PO 62 – Chrome Orange – Schmincke & PO 71 – Translucent Orange – Schmincke

Schmincke definitely make some of the best oranges. These colors are pretty unique to them. They are transparent unlike most orange colors, single pigment, and extremely vibrant. Wonderful colors for botanical painting

PO 48 – Quinacridone Burnt Orange – Daniel Smith

I love all of the Quinacridone colors. This is color that I use very often for portrait painting.

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PO 65 – Golden Barok Red – Old Holland

A gorgeous brick red, this is a unique color to the Old Holland line. I use it sometimes as a substitute for burnt sienna that doesn’t granulate.

PBR 41 – Translucent Brown – Schmincke

I use a ton of this color for painting portraits, particularly of people with darker skin. I don’t like to use burnt or raw umber because they granulate. If you mix this color with Indanthrene or ultramarine blue, you get a super nice dark brown color.

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PO 73 – Scarlett Pyrrole – M Graham

Probably the brightest and most saturated color on my palette. It just pops off the paper. Crazy dispersion. Crazy saturation. Just crazy.

Reds

  • PR 254 – Permanent Red Light – Van Gogh
  • PR 206 – Madder Brown – Schmincke
  • PR 254 – Winsor Red – Winsor and Newton
  • PR 179 – Deep Red – Schmincke
  • PR 209 – Quinacridone Red – Daler Rowney
  • PV 19 – Quinacridone Rose – M Graham
  • PR 122 – Purple Magenta – Schmincke

PR 206 – Madder Brown – Schmincke

Another color that I use a lot for portraits. I just really love how soft and warm it is. Nice for a warm brown skin tones, or blush.

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PR 179 – Deep Red – Schmincke

If I were to narrow my palette down to a few key colors, this would definitely be on it. I mix this with pyrelene green to make the deepest darkest blacks.

PR 209 – Quinacridone Red – Daler Rowney

So I discovered this by accident. I had so many Quinacridone red colors, that I figured there wasn’t a reason to get another one. But I wanted to try a different pigment. And as soon as I decided to use Quinacridone read, I fell in love. This is just a wonderful, staining, transparent, mostly middle red. It’s lightly on the blue side, but I like my reds slightly cool anyway.

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PV 19 – Quinacridone Rose – M Graham & PR 122 – Purple Magenta – Schmincke

Some people use these colors basically interchangeably. They both make wonderful purples when mixed with ultramarine blue. PR 122 is slightly better for this, but PV 19 is less of a finicky color when mixing with the right range of other colors.

Purples

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  • PV 15 – Ultramarine Violet Deep – M Graham
  • PV 55 – Quinacridone Violet – Winsor and Newton

PV 55 – Quinacridone Violet – Winsor and Newton

I don’t have a lot of purples because I like single pigment colors, and many purples are convenience colors or non-lightfast. Dioxazine Violet is often a fugitive color in many brands, so I stay on the safe side and go with my trusty Quinacridone.

Blues

  • PB 29 – Ultramarine Blue Deep – Old Holland
  • PP 29 – Ultramarine Finest – Schmincke
  • PB 60 – Indanthrene Blue – Winsor and Newton
  • PB 27 – Prussian Blue – Schmincke
  • PB 15:1 – Phthalo Blue – Schmincke
  • PB 15:3 – Phthalocyanine Blue – M Graham

PB 29 – Ultramarine Blue Deep – Old Holland & PB 29 – Ultramarine Finest – Schmincke

Normally I don’t have doubles of colors on my palate, but these two have very different characteristics. I often like to mix a warm blue that is not granulating, so Schmincke’s Ultramarine Finest is great for that. But when I want really lovely granulation, I go for the Old Holland.

PB 60 – Indanthrene Blue – Winsor and Newton

Probably my favorite blue. I use it to darken everything.

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PB 27 – Prussian Blue – Schmincke

This is my mixing blue. I find that it mixes nicer and gentler colors and ultramarine does, so it’s an essential color on my palette. Also the blue that I use when painting portraits.

PB 15:1 – Phthalo Blue – Schmincke & PB 15:3 – Phthalocyanine Blue – M Graham

Phthalo blue comes in a red and a green shade, however if this pair is not far enough apart for it to be noticeable. I will probably replace the M. Graham phthalo blue with the new Rembrandt phthalo blue red shade that I have gotten.

Greens

  • PG 7 – Phthalo Green – Schmincke
  • PG 36 – Phthalo Green Yellow Shade – M Graham
  • PBK 31 – Pyrelene Green – Winsor and Newton
  • PBr 7, PB 15 – Cascade Green – Daniel Smith
  • PY 129 – Brown Green –Sennelier

PG 7 – Phthalo Green – Schmincke & PG 36 – Phthalo Green Yellow Shade – M Graham

I didn’t think that it was necessary to have both phthalo greens, but having been a green yellow shade makes a really big difference in mixing greens. This pair is sufficiently far enough apart that they can be really useful and versatile.

PBK 31 – Pyrelene Green – Winsor and Newton

This is the last in the series of dark colors that I love. I use this, Deep Red, and Indanthrene Blue to add deep values to nearly every painting.

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PBr 7, PB 15 – Cascade Green – Daniel Smith

This is the only convenience color on my palette. I just love the granulation and how the color separate. Even though I can mix myself, this is much more convenient. I use the color rarely, but when I do I’m very happy to have it.

PY 129 – Brown Green –Sennelier

Another kind of odd color, that is really great because of its duotone nature. Mixes with purples and with yellows to make interesting browns and greens.

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Other

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PBk 11 – Lunar Black – Daniel Smith

Normally I don’t believe in using black in watercolor, but the granulation of this pigment is insane. I love using it just to play around, or to get texture in rocks.

Supplementary Palettes/Other Colors

  • PBk 9 – Ivory Black – Schmincke
  • Po 62, Pg 7 – Permanent Green Olive – Schmincke
  • Py 151 – Azo Yellow – M Graham
  • Py 184 – Permanent Lemon Yellow – Van Gogh
  • Pbr 7 – Burnt Sienna – White Nights
  • PY 43, PR 102, PY 83 – Raw Sienna – White Nights
  • Nr 9 – Rose Madder Genuine – Winsor And Newton
  • Per 7 – Burnt Umber – Schmincke
  • PY 42 – Yellow Ocher – Schmincke
  • PB 29 – Ultramarine Blue – M Graham
  • PB 27 – Prussian Blue – Daler Rowney
  • PP 29 – Ultramarine Deep – Van Gogh
  • PR 122 – Opera Rose – Winsor and Newton
  • Gold (90) – Kuretake Gansai Tambi
  • Persian Blue (63) – Kuretake Gansai Tambi
  • Dark Pink (34) – Kuretake Gansai Tambi
  • PBR 7 – Burnt Sienna – Old Holland
  • PR 102 – Red Ocher – Old Holland
  • PB 16 – Helio Turquoise – Schmincke
  • PG 23 – Green Earth – Rembrandt
  • PV 42 – Royal Purple Lake – Old Holland
  • PBR 7 – Raw Sienna Deep – Old Holland
  • PR 255 – Permanent Red Middle – Rembrandt
  • PY 184 – Permanent Lemon Yellow – Rembrandt
  • PY 150 – Aureoline – Rembrandt
  • PB 15 – Phthalo Blue (red shade) – Rembrandt
  • PV 19 – Permanent Carmine – Schmincke
  • PB 15:1, PBR 7, PBK 9 – Sepia – Schmincke

Nr 9 – Rose Madder Genuine – Winsor and Newton

It’s too bad that this color is fugitive. It’s really beautiful. I don’t know of any other slightly granulating, non-staining, vibrant pink.

PR 122 – Opera Rose – Winsor and Newton

Another fugitive color, which is why I do not keep it in my main palette. It is superduper vibrant, but I feel like I can see it fading even a few days after I have painted with it. I almost never use it.

PB 16 – Helio Turquoise – Schmincke

A color in between phthalo blue and phthalo green. It’s really vibrant, and almost like a tropical sea. You can mix this same color by mixing phthalo blue with phthalo green, but this is more convenient. It is a good cyan primary color. One day I would like to try Holbein’s PB 17.

PG 23 – Green Earth – Rembrandt

A fairly odd color in watercolors. I am always interested in single pigment greens that are non-toxic. It’s nice that it granulates gently. I could see using this a lot for nature colors. I would also like to try this as a underpainting for portraits.

PV 42 – Royal Purple Lake – Old Holland

I saw this color recommended, and wanted to try it out as a pink watercolor. I don’t paint paintings very often, but I know that a lot of people do. This is very nice and pink, obviously not as pink as Opera rose. It is also a good magenta primary color.

PBR 7 – Raw Sienna Deep – Old Holland

While many people use yellow ocher when painting portraits, I really dislike the opacity in the flatness of it. Raw sienna has a similar hue, but it is much less opaque, and much more vibrant to me. I would recommend this over the yellow ocher.

PR 255 – Permanent Red Middle – Rembrandt & PY 184 – Permanent Lemon Yellow – Rembrandt

These will probably replace the Van Gogh versions that I currently have a my palette. Since these are the artist grade to their student grade, it makes sense that these colors are more vibrant and transparent.

PB 15 – Phthalo Blue (red shade) – Rembrandt

As I said before, this will probably replace the M Graham phthalo blue in my palette.

Winsor and Newton Cotman

  • PB 29 – Ultramarine – Winsor and Newton Cotman
  • PBR 7, PY 42 – Burnt Umber – Winsor and Newton Cotman
  • PY 42 – Yellow Ocher –Winsor and Newton Cotman
  • PR 101 – Burnt Sienna –Winsor and Newton Cotman
  • PY 139, PG 36, PR 101 – Sap Green –Winsor and Newton Cotman
  • PR 149, PR 255 – Cadmium Red Hue –Winsor and Newton Cotman
  • PY 65, PR 255 – Cadmium Red Pale Hue –Winsor and Newton Cotman
  • PY 97, PY 65 – Cadmium Yellow –Winsor and Newton Cotman
  • PY 175 – Lemon Yellow (discontinued?) –Winsor and Newton Cotman

That’s all for now! I love to collect unique colors, and new brands, so this list will probably be growing soon.

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Learn How to Mix Watercolors
 Mix Vibrant Watercolors : How to Mix Color Easily

Mix Vibrant Watercolors : How to Mix Color Easily

I'm really excited to announce that I have created my first Skillshare class on  watercolor mixing!

Have you ever wanted to learn how to mix different colors with watercolors? Are you confused about how to mix watercolor on paper or on the pallet?

These things can be very confusing for beginners and more experience painters alike.

In my class, I show you step-by-step how to understand how colors work in watercolor. Not only is there a video demonstration, but I also have several watercolor mixing chart pdfs available for download to help with the learning process.

If you've been wanting to learn more about colors, swatching , the color wheel, or color charts, check out my course!

Mix Vibrant Watercolors : How to Mix Color Easily

This course is designed for anyone who wants to learn how to mix the perfect shade in watercolor quickly and easily every time. Whether you are just starting to use watercolor, or you can already paint flat washes like a PRO, you'll learn tips and tricks that will show you how simple it is to put the color you imagine right onto the page.

We will start at the very beginning and move on to all of the techniques that can help you create beautiful paintings. Whether you like painting flowers, animals, buildings, or portraits, by the end of this course, you will have new skills that will help you to choose just the right colors for your subjects!

WHAT YOU WILL LEARN

Watercolors are such a joy to work with, but there is one big problem that many people run into. Just how do you mix all of these beautiful pans and tubes of color to make the image that you have in your mind? I will show you how to get to know your watercolors, explore them, and figure out color mixtures that you would never have attempted before.

  • Assemble A Simple And Versatile Watercolor Palette
  • Learn The Specific Qualities Of Your Watercolor Paints
  • Create Your Own Color Wheel
  • Make Resources That Will Continually Make Your Mixing Process Easier
  • Combine Colors To Make Them As Vibrant As Possible Using Simple Color Theory
  • Isolate Colors In An Image Or In Real Life In Order To Accurately Identify Them
  • Put All Of This Information Together To Create A Beautiful Painting!

This course is meant to give you all of the knowledge you will need to start making new colors from the paints that you already have . Not only will you be able to mix the colors shown in this course, but you will be able to make any color that you can dream of on your own with these techniques!

Enroll Here!

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Art Supply Review: Faber Castell Albrecht Dürer Watercolor Pencils

These are considered some of the highest quality watercolor pencils available. Do they stand up to that claim?

Stats

Quality Where Does it Stand?
Lightfastness 64 out of 120 have the highest lightfastness rating
Where Is It Made? Germany
Identification (Color Labeling and Accuracy) The pencil are completely covered in a lacquer that is the same color as the lead. the pencils also have their name written in German, English, and a color number code with lightfastness rating.
Shape Hexagonal
Sharpening These pencils are a little bit too big to fit into an average sharpener, but when they are sharpened the wood is smooth and the tip doesn’t break too much.
Dissolubility It might take more than one swipe, but the marks made by the pencil are able to be completely dissolved without too much effort.
Open Stock Yes, it is available open stock.
Packaging The sets come in cute little metal tins that can be used for storage or reused for something else because they seem quite durable.
Price Around $1.60 per pencil

Pros

*The pencils themselves seem really well made. I love that the whole pencil is lacquered with the correct color, so it’s really easy to tell at a glance what color pencil you are reaching for.

  • The marks that these pencils leave behind dissolved fairly easily. Much better than most other watercolor pencils I have tried.

  • The core is soft, but not super soft, so it gives a kind of sturdy feeling.

  • They are available open stock, woo! This way you could build up the exact kind of palette that you would want instead of having to get a whole set. They are also fairly readily available.

  • If you use the other products from Faber Castell, you are able to match the colors using their color index to get the exact same shade as the other products.

Cons

  • Not all of these colors have the highest lightfastness rating, even though about half of the pencils have the highest. So that might be nitpicking a bit.

  • Even though the lines are easy to dissolve, I have to scrub a bit, which I would not want to do with my softer brushes.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

I don’t think that anyone could go wrong with these watercolor pencils. They are high quality, and even though they are not the cheapest pencils they are not overly expensive.

These are not my absolute favorite pencils, but I know that most people will not want to spend the extra money for the Caran d’Ache Museum pencils.

I use these pencils for sketching and planning out some of my watercolor paintings. They are really fun to work with!

Other Reviews

Where to Get It

Official Website

Elsewhere

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Watercolor 101: How to Take Care of Your Brushes

So you finally picked your brushes, bought them, and brought them home. Now what do you do?

This is a post in my Watercolor 101 series. If you haven't read the other posts in the series, check them out here:

  1. Watercolor 101: Everything You Need to Know about Brushes
  2. Watercolor 101: All About Natural Hair Brushes
  3. Watercolor 101: All About Synthetic Fiber Brushes
  4. Watercolor 101: How to Choose Good Brushes — Sadie Saves the Day!

What to Do When You First Get a Brush

This section mostly refers to natural hair brushes. Synthetic brushes are generally ready to go as soon as you get them.

So when you get your brush, it's probably got this little cap on it. Take that off and get rid of it. It might be tempting to put it back on to protect the brush, but this will most likely just damage the bristles and encourage mold. Do you want a moldy brush? No, I didn't think so.

OK, now the Is off. You've probably noticed that your brush is kind of hard. Don't worry, that's not a problem. That is just some gum arabic that the manufacturer has put on the brush to protect it. All you have to do is wash it out.

Don’t smash the bristles between your fingers. Get some warm water and run it into a cup or your hand and gently press the bristles until they are completely free from the gum arabic.

There, now you're ready to paint!

Brush Maintenance

So you've been painting with your brushes and having a lot of fun. What do you do now?

It's recommended that you clean your brushes after every painting session to make sure that they will last a long time. You can do this with pure water or with a brush cleaner.

Some people don't recommend cleaning natural hair brushes with soap very frequently, but I find that I have the best results from washing and conditioning my sables after each painting session.

How to Clean Your Brush

  1. Take all of your dirty brushes over to a sink with running water.

  2. Set the faucet to run either cool or warm water. Never use hot water because that can damage both natural and synthetic bristles.

  3. If you are using only water, gently stroke the brush in your hands the same way you would while painting. Do this until you don't see pigment coming out anymore.

  4. If you are using soap, take out your soap. You can either use regular hand soap, shampoo, or specialized brush soap. Hand soap is fine for synthetic brushes, but you should be careful what type of shampoo you use for natural hair brushes. Many shampoos have additives that are dangerous for the fibers. I would recommend using a specialized brush soap like this one: The Masters Brush Cleaner and Preserver - BLICK art materials

  5. Add the water to your brush and to the soap cake. Stroke the soap cake with your brush as if you are painting. Do it gently.

  6. When you have built up a foam, rinse it off in the water. Keep doing this until the foam no longer has pigment in it.

  7. If you are washing a natural hairbrush, I also coat the bristles in The Masters Brush Cleaner, which acts as a conditioning agent and keep my brushes pointed. You don't have to do this, but I find that it helps. Some people say it also helps synthetic brushes.

  8. Allow your brushes to dry either horizontally on a towel or hanging with their tips down in a special brush holder. It's best to have the brushes hanging upside down because this allows the water to drip away from the ferrule.

  9. That’s it!

Things You Shouldn't Do

  • Don't ever leave your brush standing in your water cup. That gets water and pigment into the ferrule, splayed out your bristles, and ruins the lacquer on your brush. Don't do it!

  • Don’t allow your brushes to dry with the tips pointing upwards. Remember, we're trying not to get water and pigment in the ferrule.

  • Don’t use your finely pointed brushes for scrubbing paint or rubbing pigment. That's a great way to destroy them. Use a cheap brush to mix paint and lift pigment.

  • Don't use your brushes for anything except water color paint. Some people might disagree with this one, and I certainly don't always follow this rule. But remember that other pigments can damage your brushes.

  • Please, please, please don't lick your brush. It's bad for you and your brush. Many artists work with heavy-metal pigments such as cadmium and cobalt. When you are licking your brush, you're ingesting these pigments. Also, your transferring bacteria onto your bristles that can then cause mold both on your brush and in your paints. Who wants that?

Storage

For everyday storage, I just keep my brushes in some old jars. You can get fancy brush holders, but I'd rather spend that money on the brushes themselves.

For short-term storage, brushes should be rolled in a bamboo roll, which allows them to remain dry and have air circulation.

Longer-term storage is a bit different. Brushes should be sealed up in some kind of plastic container in order to prevent insects or animals eating the fibers. (Yes, it does happen!)

When Has a Brush Outlived Its Life Span?

How do you know when it's time for a brush to go?

  • The bristles are splayed

  • It no longer comes to a point

  • It's clogged with paint and you can't get it out no matter what you do.

It seems sad to get rid of the breast, doesn't it? Well, you don't have to! You can keep these old brushes away and use them for special effects like grass, fur, and tree limbs. Old brushes are also great for applying masking fluid and for scrubbing to lift off paint.

There, now I have taught you everything that I know about brushes! But what's the point of brushes without paint? That's what we'll cover in the next section of Watercolor 101!

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Watercolor 101: How to Choose Good Brushes

Now you know all there is to know about synthetic and natural hair brushes, but I know that you have one more question for me. OK, what brushes do I get?

Well, let's figure that out.

This is a post in my Watercolor 101 series. If you haven't read the other posts in the series, check them out here:

  1. Watercolor 101: Everything You Need to Know about Brushes
  2. Watercolor 101: All About Natural Hair Brushes
  3. Watercolor 101: All About Synthetic Fiber Brushes

How Do I Decide What Brushes to Get?

Good question. That depends on a number of factors:

  • Cost: What is your budget for brushes? Remember that you still have to buy paper and paint. Is your budget unlimited? Then go all out on the top class brushes. Is your budget a bit smaller? Then look into higher quality synthetic brushes that should perform well without breaking the bank.

  • Your Style of Painting: Do you paint in many thin layers, building your painting up slowly? Then you will need very soft, precise, pointed brushes. Or do you paint in big loose strokes? Then a point is not so important to you, and you need something hold up under the pressure of your brush strokes. If you are simply planning on doing one or a few layers in a basic style, then nearly any type of brush will work for you.

  • Your Position on Animal Cruelty: This will determine whether you get natural hair brushes or synthetic fiber brushes. Do you feel uncomfortable about how the fur or hair in natural brushes is obtained ? Then they are probably not for you.

What about Sizes?

Well, this is about as fun as entering the women's fashion department. Brush sizes are not standardized. They can vary widely between brands, so you should not assume that just because two brushes bear the same number that they are the same size.

Round Brush Sizing

Round brushes used a kind of peculiar system. Smaller brushes are indicated by a number of zeros. You might see something like “00000” or “0/5,” which means that's a superduper tiny brush! “0000” or ”0/4” would be the next size larger, and then 000,00,0 until you finally reach normal numbers again.

Just for reference sizes 1 through 4 are pretty small size brushes. Sizes 6 to 10 are medium sized brushes and anything above that is going to be pretty large. A size 24 is probably going to be as large as your fist!

Flat Brush Sizing

Now this is a bit easier. It's super simple. They are just measured in inches. No surprises here.

So What Brushes and Sizes Should I Get?

As I wrote before, this is all dependent on what your painting style is, so it's very personal. However, I can make some recommendations based on the brushes that I find useful peer keep in mind that I paint on a fairly small size, normally no larger than A4, or 8.27 by 11.69 inches.

My Recommendation

  • A large brush (either a squirrel mop or a 1 inch flat) for washes.
  • One or two medium round brushes (size 6 or 8)
  • One or two small round brushes (size 4 or 2)
  • A super tiny, pointy brush or a liner/rigger

That's it! Just 4 to 6 brushes. That's not a lot of brushes, is it? But that's all the brushes you really need, and most of the time those are all of the brushes that I ever use.

What to Look for in a Watercolor Brush?

So now you're all ready to go buy a brush. But how do you know which is a good one? Well, look for all of these features.

Signs of a Good Watercolor Brush

  • All of the parts of the brush fit together properly and snugly. No parts are loose or unstable.

  • The hair or fibers are soft and springy.

  • The brush is able to hold the amount of water that you want it to. If possible, get a store assistant to let you test this out with water.

  • If it is a natural hairbrush, the hair should be stiffened with gum arabic and covered with a plastic In order to protect it from damage before purchase.

  • The fibers of the brush should not be misshapen, frayed, split, or crooked. You can't fix that later.

  • Round brushes should come to a point.

  • The lacquer on the handle should not be chipped or peeling.

One more thing

Just another tip. I wouldn't buy a whole bunch of one type of brush at once. What if you don't like that brand? What if filberts are just not the shape for you?

When I got my first batch of "grown up" brushes, I picked one or two from different brands so that I could see which I liked best without spending a whole bunch of money on big sets of brushes.

Also, I like to look at the brushes in the store but order online. Lots of people like to bend and play with the brush fibers in the store, which ends up damaging them before they are ever purchased. I don't want to spend money on that!

So instead, I order the brushes online, and I normally get pristine ones from the warehouse that have never been tested by prying fingers. Win!

OK, so were almost at the end of this part of the series. All that's left is for you to learn how to take care of your brushes, which we'll talk about next time! See you then!

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Watercolor 101: All About Synthetic Fiber Brushes

OK, today we're going to learn about synthetic brushes!

This is a post in my Watercolor 101 series. If you haven't read the other posts in the series, check them out here:

  1. Watercolor 101: Everything You Need to Know about Brushes
  2. Watercolor 101: All About Natural Hair Brushes

Synthetic Fiber Brushes

In the last post in this series, we learned about natural hair brushes. Synthetic brushes are basically the opposite of those. Instead of being a maid from the hair of animals, synthetic brushes are made from nylon or polyester (often called Taklon).

While less expensive natural hairbrushes are generally of lower quality, there doesn't seem to be a huge difference between the majority of synthetic fiber brushes, regardless of price. The big exemption here are faux brushes, which have been modified to act like natural fiber brushes and tend to be a bit more expensive.

However, since synthetic fiber brushes are cheaper overall, they may be a good option for the beginner because they are not as intimidating as far more expensive brushes.

Advantages of Synthetic Brushes

  • Most often, synthetic brushes are much cheaper than their natural hair counterparts.

  • Synthetic brushes are not the byproduct of fur or food industries, so there should be no animal cruelty concerns.

  • Can be used with other mediums without damage to the brush.

  • Synthetic fibers are less likely to be damaged by solvent, bugs or mold, or acrylic paint.

  • Many artists find synthetic brushes easier to clean than natural brushes. (I personally find Kolinsky brushes the easiest kind of brushes to clean.)

  • Less likely to be damaged by rough surfaces.

  • Keeps a point better than cheaper quality natural hair brushes.

  • Can be great for the artist who doesn't always take the best care of their tools.

Disadvantages of Synthetic Brushes

  • Do not last as long as natural hairbrushes, even with proper care.

  • The tip of round synthetic brushes tends to curl up after some use and needs to be replaced.

  • Synthetic brushes do not carry water as well as natural hair brushes.

  • Synthetic brushes generally do not distribute pigment as evenly as natural hairbrushes.

  • Synthetic brushes generally tend not to be as soft as natural hair brushes.

Brands

  • DaVinci Cosmotop Spin: These lists are probably starting to look like an advertisement for DaVinci, but it's not my fault that they make awesome brushes! these are probably my favorite out of all of the synthetic brushes that I have tried. They hold a lot of water and pigment for a synthetic and keep a sharp point.Da Vinci Cosmotop Spin Brushes - BLICK art materials

  • Escoda Baracco and Perla: These are supposed to be very soft and great brushes for a watercolor painting. They are also very popular amongst many artists. However, personally I have not been impressed by them and find them too stiff for glazing or layering. Actually, they're kind of scratchy. I’m including these on the list because I know they seem very popular, so they might be the perfect brush for someone even though they aren't the brush for me. Escoda Perla Toray White Synthetic Short Handle - BLICK art materials | Escoda Artist Brushes - Products - Synthetic brushes-Perla

  • Simply Simmons: I picked up one of these so many years ago, and it's still going strong. I use it for mixing and painting with glass. The bristles are not soft, but the not scratchy either. And after all this time, they have not splayed at all even though I have abused it quite a bit. These are really great brush for a low price! Simply Simmons Synthetic Brushes - BLICK art materials

Faux Brushes

This is where synthetic fiber brushes shine. Recently there have been advances in technology that allow manufacturers to modify the polyester bristles that make up synthetic brushes. The bristles are cut, abraded, or treated with acid to create the same kind of cuticles as natural hair brushes.

While it doesn't seem that these faux brushes have completely caught up to natural hairbrushes yet, they are a fraction of the price and some of the better ones can be nearly as good.

Who could argue with that?

Brands

Mixed Brushes

Some manufacturers are also creating brushes that mix synthetic and natural hair. This creates a cheaper brush that purports to have all the best properties of both synthetic and natural hairbrushes.

The idea is great, but in practice many of these brushes don't live up to the hype. Definitely try these brushes out before buying a whole range of them.

Brands

  • Silver Black Velvet: This brush is a mixture of squirrel and synthetic fibers that many watercolor artists have been raving about. The combination is supposed to provide the absorbency of squirrel with the spring and point that is possible from synthetic fiber. Besides, the black just looks cool! Silver Brush Black Velvet Brushes - BLICK art materials | Silver Brush - Black Velvet

  • Da Vinci Cosmotop Mix B and F: The Da Vinci Mix F is a mixture of Kolinsky, ox tail, and Russian Fitch hairs with synthetic fibers. This is meant to make the brass has a sharp point, high water carrying capacity and superior stiffness. The Mix B is a mixture of Kolinsky, Russian blue squirrel, and the Russian Fitch hair with synthetic fiber. This is supposed to combine the pointing of Kolinsky's, though water capacity of squirrel, and the stiffness of Fitch and synthetic. To be honest, I was not impressed by these brushes and hardly ever use them now. They do not have very good points, and they also don't have the same kind of water carrying capability as my smaller squirrel quill. So painting with them is a bit frustrating. I got these brushes because they were an economical alternative to Kolinskys at high sizes, but I'll probably be replacing them eventually. Da Vinci Cosmotop Sable Mix B Brushes - BLICK art materials| Da Vinci Cosmotop Sable Mix F Brushes - BLICK art materials

Woo! That was a lot of information about synthetic brushes! I hope that helps you to understand the range of brushes available.

Next time, we’ll be looking at how to choose your brushes and take care of them. See you then!

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Watercolor 101: All About Natural Hair Brushes

Hey everyone, welcome back to my Watercolor 101 series!

This is my second post in the series, so if you haven't read the first one, go check it out here:Watercolor 101: Everything You Need to Know about Brushes

So, in the last post I covered the difference between watercolor brushes and other brushes, gave you a rundown of brush anatomy, and gave a snapshot of different types of brush shapes. That probably sounds like a lot, but there's still more to learn, so let's get to it!

Brush Materials

Once you get past all the different shapes of brushes, brush materials are probably the biggest thing that can be bewildering when choosing a brush in an art shop. What do you get? A pack of cheap synthetics? That huge natural fiber brush that's sitting in a glass case?

Well, probably neither of those, but let's see what makes one different from the other.

Natural Hair Brushes

Natural hair brushes are just what they sound like. They are brushes that have natural hair for their bristles. Sounds simple enough, right?

These brushes are generally more expensive than synthetic brushes. On the highest end, we're talking hundreds of dollars, but there are also affordable natural brushes.

The big advantage of most natural brushes is that they hold more water than synthetic brushes. Just like the hair on your head, these brushes have little hooks in them (the cuticle) that allows them to hold water. That's kind of a big deal when you're working with a water-based medium.

Not only do natural brushes hold more water, they also release that water more evenly than synthetic brushes do. They also release pigment more evenly, so it's easier to get an even wash.

One thing to keep in mind with natural hair brushes is that the majority of them are probably byproducts of the meat and fur industries. So if you are against that, or do not use animal products in your life, then natural brushes are not for you. But don't despair! There are lots of other alternatives in synthetic brushes that are pretty cool.

Sable Brushes

If you look up watercolor brushes, you're probably going to hear a lot of people talking about sables. So what are they?

Sable brushes are not actually made from Sables. They are made from the hair of the Siberian weasel, which is native to much of the Asian continent. I guess it was easier to get people to spend a lot of money on something they considered a luxury item (Sable furs) than an animal that's often considered a pest (weasel).

Kolinsky Sable

So this is the top of the top. Kolinsky is most luxury watercolor brush you can buy, and also the most expensive.

So what's the big deal about these?

They hold water amazingly well. They retain their shape and are very flexible, and so are easy to control. Also, these brushes will give you the finest point out of anything available. If maintained well, Kolinsky brushes will last for a very long time.

When I tried these brushes for the first time, I felt like all was right with the world. I was very frustrated with the synthetic brushes I had, and was having a really difficult time building layers and glazing. As soon as I got some Kolinsky brushes, those problems melted away. It was like magic.

Another thing that I really liked about Kolinsky brushes that cannot necessarily be said for all natural brushes is that pigment releases from them super easily. All I have to do is push it in water to get my brush totally clean. So I feel like I'm wasting less pigment in the water and more of it is ending up on my paper.

This is also great at the end of a painting session, because I don't have to grind the hairs in soap in order to get the pigment off. Most of the pigment is normally already gone when I rinsed them in my painting water.

So, a big pro for lazy painters!

Pros
  • Holds water well
  • Soft
  • Fine point
  • Retains shape
  • Easy to clean
Cons
  • Expensive!! No, but like seriously. Over $50 for a brush? What is that? Do I look like I'm made out of money?
Best For
  • Artists who use many layers and glazing techniques in their paintings.

  • Artists who can afford it, or will save for these expensive brushes.

Cost
  • As I said before, too much!
  • Anywhere from $4 to several hundred dollars for a single brush.

  • I have heard that you get what you pay for, so it may not be worth it to get cheaper priced Kolinsky Sables.

Brands

Red Sable

But what if you don't want to have to eat Ramen for a month after buying your set of watercolor brushes? Well, you’re in luck!

Red Sables, or simply Sable brushes are made from any weasel with red hair. High quality sable brushes are a pretty good alternative to Kolinsky brushes at a much cheaper price. They have many of the same qualities as Kolinsky brushes and the biggest difference you're probably going to see is the fineness of the point.

Sabeline

So, these are not actually sable brushes but I'm going to include them here because it can be confusing. Sabeline brushes are actually brushes made from Oxford hair dyed to resemble Red Sable. So they don't have any of the same qualities as other sable brushes.

Squirrel

Now for something very different.

If I have my art supply history correct, squirrel hair brushes were originally used by porcelain painters in France for glazing. They were adopted for watercolor painting when an artist needed to buy some extra brushes and just used the ones that were available locally.

Recently, these brushes have become more popular for very loose and expressive watercolor painting styles.

The most sought after type of squirrel is the Gray Squirrel (Petit Gris, Taalayaoutky). These are small gray or black squirrels that are native to Russia, and the brushes made from their hair is very expensive. After that is the Brown Squirrel (Kazan), which is very similar, but has less snap to it.

Squirrel hair overall is very thin and fine. It holds a ton of water, probably more than any other type of brush. So squirrel hair mops are the best for quickly getting your paper full of water. Also, since they are so absorbent, you can use them to lift up water and pigment very easily.

The difference between squirrel and Kolinsky brushes is that Kolinsky brushes come to a point and retain their shape. Many people who use squirrel brushes for the first time don't like them because they are very soft and squishy.

They are definitely not for detailed work. I like using them for wetting down my paper, putting in initial washes, and for making quick sketches.

Pros

  • Absorbs a ton of water and pigment
  • Very soft
  • Good for looser painting styles

Cons

  • It can be difficult to get pigment to release from this brush

  • Not for detailed painting

Best for

  • People who paint with large washes of color and water

  • Artists looking to loosen up their painting style

Cost

  • Midrange to crazy expensive. The most coveted squirrel brushes are made by Isabel, who claim to have invented the squirrel quill style. Their brushes are still handmade and insanely expensive.

  • I have heard, but not cannot verify, that there is not a huge gap in quality between cheaper and more expensive squirrel brushes.

Brands

Camel

These brushes are not actually made from camel hair. They are just camel colored. Generally, Camel brushes are some kind of mixture of squirrel, goat, ox, or pony hair. You may come across these in children's art sets that have natural hair brushes.

Ox

The highest grade of ox fiber comes from behind the ears of auction. It has a strong body and silken texture. The fibers are very resilient, and have a good snap, but no pointy tip. This makes them pretty good for being either large wash brushes or flat brushes.

Pony

This is probably one of the cheapest natural hair and is mostly used for student grade brushes. Not a great material.

Mixes

Sometimes manufacturers create brushes with a mixture of hairs in order to reduce price or optimize certain features. For example, one common mixture is squirrel hair and Kolinsky hair. This sort of brush would hold a lot of water, but still have more body and hold its shape better than a pure squirrel hair brush. However, it would not have the same sort of point as a pure Kolinsky brush.

OK, that's all for natural hair brushes! Check back next time for an overview of synthetic hair brushes.

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Watercolor 101: Everything You Need to Know about Brushes

Hi! Welcome to the very first post in my watercolor 101 series.

In this series, I’m planning to explain a lot of things that could be confusing for people wanting to enter the awesome world of watercolor painting.

I know a lot of these topics were really confusing for me at first, so I hope that they can be helpful to you in your journey!

So, today we’re going to start with brushes!

What Are Watercolor Brushes?

You would think that a brush is a brush, but that's not quite true. There are a ton of different types of brushes, and it can be really confusing staring at walls of them in an art store.

So first of all, let’s make sure that you’re looking at the correct type of brushes to begin with.

Length

Watercolor brushes are different from oil and acrylic brushes because they are shorter.

Why’s that?

It’s because oil and acrylic painters tend to work standing up on an easel, fairly far away from their canvas. So they need a long handle to paint easily.

On the other hand, watercolor painters tend to work fairly close to their paper, and often work horizontally. So a short handle is much more convenient for them.

Of course, you can technically use oil and acrylic brushes for watercolor painting, but it's probably not the best idea.

Materials

I’ll be talking more about materials at another time, but here's the important difference between the materials used for watercolor brushes and other types of brushes.

Watercolor brushes are generally made with softer materials. That's because painting with many layers requires a very gentle touch.

You will generally see watercolor brushes made out of things like soft synthetic materials (often called Toray) and natural sable or squirrel hair.

Oil paint brushes are made with things like hog hair and stiff synthetic materials. That's because the paint is really thick and just won't make it onto the canvas otherwise.

Don't use these! They'll just eat up your paper!

Parts of the Brush

Okay, now you're looking at watercolor brushes instead of oil or acrylic brushes. Let's take a closer look at how brushes are actually put together.

Handle

We'll start at the bottom because that's the easiest part.

This is the part that you'll hold in your hand. Most watercolor brushes have handles that are either made out of wood or plastic.

Nicer brushes tend to be lacquered and have ergonomic curves that bulge out where your fingers would hold them so that you don't need to grip tightly. They are also well balanced so that they are easy to hold in your hand. Cheaper ones tend to be straight, and have lacquer that easily chips or no lacquer at all.

The handle is also where you’ll probably find information like the size of the brush, the brand, the material, where it was made, and the model of the brush.

Ferrule

Well, there's a funny word.

The ferrule is in many ways the most important part of the brush. The bristles are obviously pretty important too, but everything falls apart (literally) without the ferrule.

So this is what connects the bristles to the handle. It's almost always a long piece of metal. In some special cases, this part might be made out of plastic or natural bird quills, but that's pretty uncommon.

A quick tip about the ferrule: make sure not to get any paint in there. That's a surefire way to ruin your brushes. The paint dries in the feral and then makes the bristles spread out, ruining the brush shape. Don't do it!

Heel

This is where the bristles of the brush enter into the ferrule.

Crimp

On the bottom of the ferrule, is the crimp. This is the little indentation that you see on the metal, and it serves to secure the metal onto the wood of the brush.

When you’re buying a paintbrush, make sure that the crimp is well done. If it is not, Then your ferrule might just pop off of your paintbrush!

Now this is the exciting part, the head of your brush!

Regardless of what material it is made out of, or what shape it is, this part of the brush is called the head.

It has two important parts: the belly and the tip.

Belly

The belly of the brush is the widest part of its bristles. This is what will determine how much water and how much pigment it can carry.

A brush with a bigger belly will carry more water and more pigment than a brush with a smaller one. So, even though liner brushes are great for doing detail, because they are so thin they cannot carry very much water or pigment.

Tip/Toe

Some might consider this the most important part of the head of your brush. It is also the area where cheap brushes and higher quality brushes differ the most.

What you want here are for the bristles to taper to a very fine edge. In the case of round brushes, you want a super sharp tip that can make very tiny lines.

Poor quality brushes have tips that don't taper into a fine line, and make it difficult for you to control the shapes exactly the way that you want them to.

Brush Shapes

Now you know your way around the brush. You can tell your ferrule from your toe, and you won't get fooled by flimsy crimps. But you've probably noticed that even if all of the other parts of brushes are the same, there is a huge amount of variability in the brush head.

Let’s explore the different types of brushes.

Round

I'm starting here because this is the most basic and important brush for watercolor painting. You can have a collection of just rounds, and you'll be able to paint anything. Seriously. Anything.

Rounds are called rounds because their ferrules are, well, round.

They are generally narrower at the heel and the tip, and fuller at the belly. A very good quality round will have such a sharp tip that you can make fairly thick and thin lines with the same brush. That's great because then you don't have to switch between brushes in the middle of a painting.

You can use rounds for making all kinds of lines and shapes. Some (including me) would consider them to be the most versatile of all the brushes.

I love my rounds.

Flat

This is probably the other most common type of brush.

They are called flats because their ferrules and bristles are flat.

Flats are really great for making straight lines, like when you are painting buildings or other architectural details. Large flats are also good for putting down big washes of water or color.

I’ll be honest and say that I don’t really use these, since I mostly paint pretty organic subjects.

Bright

A bright is basically like a flat, except wider and shorter.

Why would you want a wider and shorter flat, you ask? It's because it gives you a bit more control and is generally a bit stiffer than a regular flat.

This is not a very common brush for watercolor painting, but it makes a great stiff scrubber to erase mistakes by lifting the pigment.

Filbert

A filbert is kind of like the love child of a round brush and a flat brush. The ferrule is squished flat, just like a flat brush, but the tip is rounded, just like a round brush.

This is also a very versatile brush. It can be used to paint round objects as well as angular objects with ease. It just depends on how you hold the brush to make the stroke.

Pretty cool, right?

Cat Tongue

These are pretty uncommon, but I thought I'd mention them because they look pretty cool!

Cat tongues are basically filberts where the end comes to a sharp tip instead of a rounded arc. This means you can fill in large spaces, just like with a regular filbert, but you can also make tiny thin lines, like with a high quality round brush. Some people paint with only this brush.

Specialty Brushes

These brushes are for when you want something a little extra.

Specialty brushes are not really basic brushes, and are not really necessary. However, they can sometimes be really useful for a very specific effect. Also, they sometimes do their job much better than a regular brush would.

Angled/Slanted

So if round brushes are called rounds because they are round, and flats are called flats because they are flat, an angled brush is called an angled brush because… it's angled!

These types of brushes are also good for architectural details. Angled brushes give you a bit more control in making lines, so it might be easier to make a straight line with one instead of a flat or a liner brush.

Swords and Daggers

These are my favorite types of angled brushes, but also fairly uncommon. They look kind of weird, just like a sword or dagger.

What’s the point of them?

You can use them to make straight lines with more control. They also hold more water and pigment than a liner brush, since they have a fuller belly. You can also use them to make more expressive, calligraphy lines because they are not as wide and thick as a flat brush.

The tiny tips can also be used to make fine lines like grass or even eyelashes very easily. Swords and daggers also make painting tree branches a breeze.

Can you tell that I like them just a little bit?

Mop

Another specialty brush that I love is the mop.

You might be looking at this and wondering what is the difference between a mop and a round? Not a ton. Mops just generally tend to have a bigger belly and don't have to have a sharp tip.

The point of the mop is to get a ton of water on your page quickly and efficiently, just like a mop.

A beginner probably doesn't need one, although it makes life a lot easier. You can just use a large brush for the same purpose. However, if you're like me and you hate dipping into your water glass over and over again just to went down a piece of paper, you will love a mop.

Quill Mops / Petit Gris

These are just mops that don't have regular metal ferrules, but instead have a quill connecting them to their handles.

This style of mop has become very popular for painting expressively, and I use them for very loose painting and sketches.

Plus, they are also just cool to look at.

Riggers/Liners/Script

Riggers, also called liners, are thin brushes with extremely long bristles.

These are definitely not for regular painting. They are used to make expressive lines, like when you're painting grass or trees.

Decorative painters often use them for super long, uniform, steady lines.

Be warned, because they’re so long, liners can be difficult to control at first. However, they are a useful tool if you often paint foliage, or other things requiring long thin lines.

Fan

You probably get the theme of why brushes have their names by now. So yeah, this brush is shaped like a fan.

This is the brush that confused me the most In the beginning. What in the world could that be for?

Fans could be considered "special effects" brushes. You don't really use them to put paint on the paper, but instead to move paint around once it's already been put down.

You can use them for painting a ton of grass at once. They can also be used to paint fur. Depending on how the brushes angled, the fan brush could even be used to paint certain types of trees.

Now You Know All about Brushes!

I hope that was helpful in understanding the basics about paintbrushes, particularly watercolor brushes.

Next time I will talk a bit more about the materials that brushes are made out of and what properties they have.

Do you have any other questions about watercolors or paintbrushes? Is there anything that you want explained in my watercolor 101 series? Let me know below!

P.S. 

Need a cheatsheet? I've got one for you below!

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