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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Daniel Smith Dot Color Charts

My moving to Canada got me exposed to American watercolor brands, and I’ve always been curious about Daniel Smith. They have ginormous color chart with many unique pigments. Besides, this paint happens to be the cheapest here in Vancouver (the company is based just a couple of hours drive from here, in Seattle), which makes it my future brand of choice in case I lose easy access to my beloved White Nights.

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The other day I decided to amuse myself with Daniel Smith dot color charts. What a marvelous idea, these charts are! Some paints I had craved for turned out to be uninteresting, so here I saved myself some disappointment; I’ve also found several wonderful colors, which hadn’t appealed to me before I actually tried them. I’m dying to do some mixing now!

However, I think these charts are pretty expensive for the amount of paint you get (I would guess rather 12 bucks for these charts, really), because some dots are so freaking small that I barely was able to swatch the colors, let alone to do any mixing. I was particularly upset about Quinacridone Gold, because Daniel Smith is the only manufacturer who got the real thing, PO49. I was so curious about it 😦 Oh well.

Rich color chart and unique pigments aside, I’m not jumping out of my pants over this brand. This is a good quality paint, but I don’t notice any sharp contrast with White Nights, to be honest. So far, that is. I will hold my final judgement until I actually get my hands on a tube or two of Daniel Smith.

So, I have added Daniel Smith swatches to my collection, and you will see them when I post earth colors and blacks/whites. Primateks will get a separate post. I also will update my old posts with greens, blues, yellows and reds (I will leave the links). Hope it will be of interest and of help!

Clock Tower Sketch

got the shape of the top wrong on the large one, so had to try again (the small one).

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These golden tops were tricky, because painting them I needed to shadow yellow. Yellow is a difficult color to darken. I did have my valiant Payne’s gray with me, but just for the sake of art I painted the tops with three primaries (in this case, transparent lemon yellow, quinacridone rose and indanthrone blue). Basically, I used violet to neutralize yellow.

One Evening…

One evening I saw a particularly beautiful sunset, which I to no avail tried to capture on my phone camera. After the third photofail I just grabbed my paints, and finally got a satisfying picture. Usually skies and clouds are my nemesis (and you can see how I ruined this one with inappropriately watery glaze). I like this one, however.

Pigments used: indanthrone blue + cerulean PB35 for the sky, quin lilac PV19 with a touch of quin magenta PR122 for the clouds. I could have probably just used PR122 and some warm blue mixed in different proportions, but I wanted to keep the colors as saturated as possible, so opted for four different pigments instead.

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After scanning this, I found out the remedy for the watery glazes. You see that thin annoying deposit of pigment that marks the edges of the puddle that had been there? You can just lift these things with an almost dry brush after the painting is completely dry. I tried this method with this very sketch, and it works. Be careful to not overwet your brush!!

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.