Earth Watercolours

Pigments in this group owe their name to the fact that most of them are made (or were made historically) of clay and earth minerals. The most common designation for these pigments is “PBrXX“, meaning “Pigment Brown”, but there are some yellow and red pigments in this group too. The Xs in the designation are digits which correspond to a certain chemical substance (or range of similar substances).

Naples Yellow usually ends up in this group, but I refuse to include it here, because it was a synthetic pigment originally (in fact, it’s one of the oldest synthetic pigments, as it dates back to 17th century; the real deal is no longer being made because it is toxic). I also don’t include sepia here, because it was historically made out of ink of some oceanic cephalopods (like squids or cuttlefish). Quinacridones are also absent, obviously.

Below, you will find the swatches of all the various earths that I have or had in my possession, imitations included. Swatches have two areas, the upper one to demonstrate the range of tints (diluted paint), and the lower one to show the mass-tone (the paint taken straight from the tube without diluting or, in case of the pans, the thickest concentration I could get). On each swatch you will notice a black line – I made it to give the idea about the transparency of the paint.

Single Pigment Paints

Mixed Pigment Paints

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Red and Purple Watercolors

Red pigments usually have a “PRXX” designation, where “PR” means “Pigment Red”, and the Xs are digits which correspond to a certain chemical substance (or range of similar substances). Purple colors can have “PR” or “PV” (“Pigment Violet”) designation.

Below, you will find the swatches of all the various reds that I have or had in my possession. Swatches have two areas, the upper one to demonstrate the range of tints (diluted paint), and the lower one to show the mass-tone (the paint taken straight from the tube without diluting or, in case of the pans, the thickest concentration I could get). On each swatch you will notice a black line – I made it to give the idea about the transparency of the paint.

Single Pigment Paints

Mixed Pigment Paints

Lightfastness Tests: Royal Talens Van Gogh

Hi everybody who’s reading this! This is another one of my comebacks (settling in another country takes quite a lot of time and attention), this time with some lightfastness tests results.

My tests were rather simple. On a piece of watercolor paper, I drew some samples of all the paints that have (I tried to get both tints and mass tones in there) as uniformly as I could. Then I cut the paper in three pieces, and stuck one to my southern window (tests were conducted in the north-east of Ukraine, during the sunniest period of the Ukrainian year, from mid-May to mid-September), and another one to my northern window (no direct sun light). The third one (a reference) went into my notebook, and the notebook went into my desk drawer. Nothing fancy, as you see.

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In this post, I will show you the results of my very own test of the Van Gogh paints. I own a set of 10 tubes; here are the colors and pigments in the order they appear on my test swatches (from top to bottom):

108 Chinese White, PW4
708 Payne’s Gray, PBk6+PV19
411 Burnt Sienna, PR101+PBk11
616 Viridian, PG7
535 Cerulean Blue (Phtalo), PB15+PW6
506 Ultramarine Deep, PB29
331 Madder Lake Deep, PR264
370 Permanent Red Light, PR254
269 Azo Yellow Medium, PY154+PO62
254 Permanent Lemon Yellow, PY184

All the colors are marked with “+++” (which means “excellent lightfastness”) by the manufacturer. If memory serves correctly, all the individual pigments indeed have an excellent rating by ASTM. The white paint is virtually absent from my swatches, as I rarely use it. This particular test started on 21 May, and ended on 15 September, both 2015.

So, without a further ado, TA-DA:

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The left strip had hung on my southern window; I placed the reference in the center for your convenience; and on the right, you will note the northern window strip.

As you can see, all the paints are indeed quite lightfast, with the only striking exception of “cerulean”, which is phtalo blue for the reasons unknown mixed with titanium white. I’m not sure how on good Earth they managed to create such a fugitive paint out of two such lightfast pigments, but the fact remains: notable discoloration appeared within less than a month through the test in both the samples.

Considering the presence of a white pigment (which technically makes it a gouache, and it does look and behave like a gouache paint) and the money you pay for it, I’d say this one is not truly good for anything. Royal Talens offers another flavor of the same dish: it supposed to imitate another expensive pigment, cobalt blue. I never tried that one, but after this test, I wouldn’t even bother to. One of these imitations is usually present in all the Van Gogh sets (both pans and tubes), so beware.

Yellow and Orange Watercolors

Yellow and orange pigments usually have a “PYXX” or “POXX” designation, where “PY” means “Pigment Yellow” and “Pigment Orange” respectively, and the Xs are digits which correspond to a certain chemical substance (or range of similar substances).

Below, you will find the swatches of all the various yellows and oranges that I have or had in my possession. Swatches have two areas, the upper one to demonstrate the range of tints (diluted paint), and the lower one to show the mass-tone (the paint taken straight from the tube without diluting or, in case of the pans, the thickest concentration I could get). On each swatch you will notice a black line – I made it to give the idea about the transparency of the paint.

Single Pigment Paints

Mixed Pigment Paints

Green Watercolors

Green pigments usually have a “PGXX” designation, where “PG” means “Pigment Green”, and the Xs are digits which correspond to a certain chemical substance (or range of similar substances). For example, PG7 is copper phthalocyanine, a bright blueish-green substance usually called phtalo green.

The list of available green pigments isn’t excessively large. Many green paints are, in fact, so-called “convenience mixtures” – pre-mixed shades of green, the purpose of which is to free the artist from the tedious task of mixing his or her favorite green again and again every day. Interestingly enough, you will not find a green paint consisting of a yellow and a blue pigment. All green mixtures are based on green pigments, to achieve the highest chroma possible. This is also why having a green paint on your palette is so useful.

Below, you will find the swatches of all the various greens that I have or had in my possession. Swatches have two areas, the upper one to demonstrate the range of tints (diluted paint), and the lower one to show the mass-tone (the paint taken straight from the tube without diluting or, in case of the pans, the thickest concentration I could get). On each swatch you will notice a black line – I made it to give the idea about the transparency of the paint.

Single Pigment Paints

Mixed Pigment Paints

Blue and Violet Watercolors

Blue pigments usually have a “PBXX” designation, where “PB” means “Pigment Blue”, and the Xs are digits which correspond to a certain chemical substance (or range of similar substances). For example, PB35 is cobalt and/or copper oxides, substances of a distinctive shade of blue called cerulean.

Below, you will find the swatches of all the various blues and violets that I have or had in my possession. Swatches have two areas, the upper one to demonstrate the range of tints (diluted paint), and the lower one to show the mass-tone (the paint taken straight from the tube without diluting or, in case of the pans, the thickest concentration I could get). On each swatch you will notice a black line – I made it to give the idea about the transparency of the paint.

Single Pigment Paints

Mixed Pigment Paints