Kremer’s Blue Pigment Assortment

I got a boxed assortment of pigments from Kremer recently and here’s a chart of all of them made into watercolor. As always I can’t guarantee color accuracy. Actually, this time I guarantee it’s not accurate, because ultramarine is hard to photograph. All of these I made just with a palette knife and my own formula of watercolor medium (gum arabic, light honey, glycerin, tiny amount of synthetic ox gall, extremely tiny amount of clove oil). It’s not meant to be a comparison of tinting strengths or how each paint behaves other than granulation. None of these swatches are just a single brush stroke, as I was trying to get the paint to granulate. The paper is 140 lb cold pressed Arches.

Blue 30th Chart
Click here for a large chart.

A1 – PB32 – Smalt, very fine
A2 – PB31 – Egyptian Blue – The first synthetic pigment, made in ancient Egypt
A3 – NA – HAN-Purple, fine – an ancient pigment used in China
A4 – PB30 – Blue Verditer – a synthetic azurite
A5 – PB29 – Lapis Lazuli, sky-blue – genuine lapis lazuli
A6 – PB1 – Indigo, genuine – smells bad when wet, but very nice blackish darks
A7 – NA – Colored glass, Lapis Blue
A8 – NA – Ploss Blue – a form of distilled verdigris
A9 – PB30 – Azurite MP, pale
A10 – NA – Sodalite

B1 – PG24 – Ultramarine Green – a rare pigment not made anymore
B2 – PB29 – Ultramarine Blue, very dark
B3 – PB29 – Ultramarine Blue, greenish extra – the most intense ultramarine blue
B4 – PB29 – Ultramarine Blue, greenish light
B5 – PB29 – Ultramarine Blue, light
B6 – PV15 – Ultramarine Violet, medium
B7 – PB27 – Prussian Blue LUX
B8 – PV16 – Manganese Violet
B9 – NA – Copper Blue
B10 – PB71 – Zirconium Cerulean Blue – similar to cerulean but more granulating and contains no cobalt

C1 – PB74 – Cobalt Blue Dark
C2 – PB28 – Cobalt Blue Dark, greenish
C3 – PB74 – Cobalt Blue, Sapporo
C4 – PB28 – Cobalt Blue Pale (matte) – looks very nice for skies near horizon
C5 – PB35 – Cobalt Blue Light
C6 – PB36 – Cobalt Blue, greenish
C7 – PB28 – Cobalt Blue Turquoise Light
C8 – PB36 – Cobalt Blue Turquoise Dark
C9 – PV14 – Cobalt Violet, dark – similar to manganese violet, but cleaner color and more granulation
C10 – PV49 – Cobalt Violet Brilliant, light

A few extra notes- Three of my favorites are the smalt (A1), ultramarine green (B1), and cobalt blue pale (C4). Though the set isn’t inexpensive, it’s a very good deal when you consider how much is in it. Dividing the price by the number of pigments, and considering that 27 of the 30 jars look like they have roughly enough pigment to make about a regular tube of watercolor paint, it’s comes out to a very low price per tube. Much less than you’d spend buying such pigments as tubed paint. Plus, most of these pigments would normally be expensive to buy a small amount of them all, so a lot is being saved by being able to try them all. Also, I think I typed the names of all of these as they appear on the bottles, but Kremer’s website gives some of them slightly different names.

Egyptian Blue
Comparison of Egyptian blue made with light pressure (left) and heavy pressure (right). Using more pressure ground the particles finer and it seems like it’s the smaller particles that shifted to a greener hue immediately, which gives a very interesting effect. Both versions are a little iridescent.
Ploss Blue
Ploss blue is not listed on Kremer’s site as compatible with watercolor. Here’s a comparison between a paint swatch I made today (left) and one from a few days ago (right). It apparently yellows very quickly in watercolor, though I’m not 100% sure what it’s reacting to. Maybe something in the medium I made, like the clove oil? The verdigris I made myself didn’t yellow like this in watercolor (using the same medium, minus the synthetic ox gall, and a different batch), but it did in oil paint. It is listed as compatible with tempera though, so when I eventually try that I’ll give this a test. The color before yellowing is an exceptionally intense greenish blue.

Self Made Watercolor in Tubes

12 Tubes

I’ve been pretty busy the last several days making and tubing a set of watercolors for myself. I had gotten 12 tubes from Daniel Smith recently and I wanted to make one paint for each of them.

12 Tubes Swatches Tall

I can’t guarantee perfect color accuracy from my scanner, but here’s the swatches for each paint I made. I really like the way Pozzuoli Red and Nicosia Green Earth look next to each other. The Shungite Black Ochre was different from the rest. When I was mixing it with the gum arabic I noticed patches of a slightly oily sheen on top of the liquid. I know that a pigment like lamp black is naturally oily, so maybe this one is too? I really like the paint it made though and I’m planning on making a painting with just this and maybe some of the titanium white.

Here are some things I would recommend for making your own watercolor paints-

• A basic recipe includes gum arabic, honey, and glycerin. It may take some experimenting to find a good balance of ingredients and to know how much pigment to use. Different pigments seem to require more liquid to avoid being thick and pasty, while others may become very thin and watery with the same amount of liquid added. I’m still experimenting to find a good balance, but most of these paints here I made with about 1 part gum arabic to 2 parts pigment, by volume, and a few drops of honey and glycerin.

• Start with a few inexpensive pigments, such as burnt sienna, so you can practice without worrying about the cost if the paint doesn’t work out well on the first few tries.

• Making your own gum arabic from a powder and some warm water costs less and is very easy to do. I mixed 1 part powder to 2 parts water by volume and got good results. Just let it sit in a jar for a while until it’s fully disolved.

• There are alternatives to gum arabic, such as dextrin, that may be cheaper and produce different results. I haven’t used it yet, but dextrin is supposed to make a thicker watercolor paint than gum arabic. I’ve also tried using peach tree sap and have gotten good results with that too. One of the best parts of making your own paint is that you can produce results that handle differently from what standard commercially made paint offers, so feel free to try different things.

• Mulling/grinding pigment with a glass muller on a glass plate is important for fully coating each pigment particle in vehicle, which in this case is the gum arabic/honey/glycerin mixture, as well as breaking down large conglomerates of pigment particles. Some pigments require more mulling than others.

• Until you gain more experience and confidence, avoid using toxic pigments. Most of the paints I made here are non-toxic, but even they would be bad to breathe in the fine dust of the dry pigment. Toxic pigments can pose a serious health risk in their dry form before being made into paint if they are breathed in. Wearing a dust mask would be a good idea when handling dry pigments.

Some advice for buying pigments-

• Buying a larger amount of a pigment at once will mean a better price per gram, but it’s probably not necessary to purchase a huge amount of a pigment unless you know you’ll be using a lot of it. The two large jars in the first photo above contain one pound (453g) each of ultramarine (left) and mars yellow (right) from Blue Ridge that came in bags. I got them for an extremely good price, $14 for blue and $8 for yellow, but that might be more of those pigments than I’ll ever use in my life. Next time I think I’ll get half pound bags.

• Buying about 100g (weight) or about 4oz (volume) of pigment at once is a very good and common amount. It’s enough to make several tubes of paint with, so it’s cost effective when you consider the jar/bag of pigment probably cost the same or less than buying just one tube of pre-made paint, and it’s usually inexpensive enough in that size to buy several different colors to have more variety.

• Try finding unique pigments that aren’t made into watercolor paint by any brand. That way you can add these new paints to the watercolors you already use. For example, there are many varieties of natural yellow and red ochres, green earths, and both raw and burnt siennas and umbers but many brands of paint will only make one or two of each. There are also pigments used in oil paint that are also suitable for watercolor but that no one uses.

• There are many companies that sell dry pigments. You may find that one company sells pigment “A” for a high price and pigment “B” for a low price, but another company may be just the opposite. Some companies have high prices on all of their pigments. It’s a good idea to shop around and know what’s available. I found that Blue Ridge has some of the best prices on pigments, but the selection is a bit limited. They are available in 0.5 or 1 pound bags. Natural Pigments offers one of the largest selections of natural ochres, siennas, umbers, and green earths available in may different sizes, as well as other rare and specialty pigments. Daniel Smith has a limited selection of pigments available but only in 2oz jars or 1 pound bags. Some other companies that I haven’t ordered from yet include Kremer Pigments, Kama Pigments, Earth Pigments, and many other brands of paint that also sell the same pigments they use to make their own paint with.

• Remember that the point is to buy a pigment, not romance. Many paint makers sell their own pigments that they use to make their paint but at ridiculously high prices. They may be hoping that their brand name and reputation for making high quality paint will convince you spend $100 on a small jar of pigment that can be gotten elsewhere for $20. When looking at these pigments, ask yourself this- “After I make this into paint, will the final cost of materials for that paint be less than just buying a tube of the same paint from someone?” If the answer is no, then the pigment you’re looking at is priced too high. You should be able to make at least two or three tubes of paint from a small jar of pigment that’s the same price as buying it pre-made from a brand of paint.

• Of course, there are some rare pigments, such as lapis lazuli, that will cost a lot no matter who you buy them from and are not necessarily overpriced. It would be better to practice with cheaper pigments before investing in one of these.

Pill Box Watercolors

This is a weekly pill box that only cost something like $1.50 I think. I wanted to fill each of the seven spaces with paint I made so I could take it traveling, but by the time I got the first two done I was getting tired of making paint and cleaning up after each color. Also I was almost out of paper towels from all that cleaning. The other five colors I just squirted into it from tubes that I bought.

Canyon Pigment: Self-Made

A long while back I had picked up some crumbly clay-like rocks with interesting colors while passing through a nearby canyon. Since I’ve been practicing making watercolor paint from various pigments I thought I’d try making my own pigment from scratch using one of these rocks.

Canyon Sienna 1

It was very easy to break it into smaller pieces, but little bits kept flying off even though I was trying to be gentle with the hammer. I wore safety goggles for this. A larger mallet might have been useful.

Canyon Sienna 2

I worked at it with light taps from the hammer until it seemed to be a fine powder… except that it wasn’t. Scraping the powder onto notecards showed many chunks that were far from being powder.

Canyon Sienna 3

So I put it in a granite mortar and pestle that’s been around for as long as I can remember as part of the “decor.” Grinding the pigment in a stirring motion was pretty easy and all the bits broke down into powder. This will be my pigment grinder thing from now on. It was at this point that my neighbor’s cat decided to climb up onto my leg, and from there to my shoulders, while I knelt. I walked around for a minute with a parrot cat perched on my shoulder. ^_^

Canyon Sienna 4

It might have been a good thing to wash the pigment to get rid of impurities, but I’ve never washed pigment before so I’ll have to experiment with that some other time. The muller and grinding plate I’m holding up here was gotten from Natural Pigments.

Canyon Sienna 5

Before mulling, the pigment should be mixed with its binder using a palette knife. I’m using a mix of gum arabic, vegetable glycerin, and local honey. I haven’t done this enough times to have a good grasp on how much of each of these to use, but I think I’m getting better the more times I do this.

Canyon Sienna 6

The mulling process involves moving the muller in a stirring motion over the paint and takes a bit of time and effort. I kept adding more gum arabic, glycerin, and honey as I worked because it felt too stiff. At the start there was still a lot of grit in the pigment but over time it smoothed out.

Canyon Sienna 7

Here’s the finished paint. A plastic putty knife from the hardware store makes a good scrapper for getting the paint off the muller and gathering it back into a pile at the center of the plate. I did that several times while mulling.

Canyon Sienna Final 2
Click for a larger view

Here’s the paint in different applications on paper, Fabriano Artistico, 300 lb soft press. The photo was taken in full sunlight and then adjusted slightly for brightness and to reduce the over saturation in the photo. This is where I was thinking I might have needed to wash the pigment because there were a few very tiny dark particles that didn’t stick to the paper and brushed off after the paint was dry. It granulated nicely in wet on wet and was surprisingly dark when used full strength.

Overall it was a huge success. Maybe for now I’ll call it Canyon Earth? I didn’t use all of the pigment that I made and I still have other rocks with variations of color to try in the future.

Self Made Paint: Mars Red

Muller

Two things finally happened- I got my internet access back after not having it for a couple of weeks (I had to resort to books!) and I got a glass muller so I can start making some proper paints.

This one is the large muller from Natural Pigments. I ordered this over the phone (I hate phones!) because my internet was down at the time and the Russian lady I talked to was very nice. I have to say though that when I first unwrapped it I was kind of worried that the handle was too thin. It’s a lot thinner than the one in the photo on their website, but maybe it’s an old photo or maybe there’s variation in production since it is a handmade product (from a monastery in Russia!). Once I started working with it I felt like the handle will work out just fine, and in fact may even fit my hand better than the thick one in the photo.

marsred1

Here’s the small blob of watercolor paint I made. I have a variety of pigments from Natural Pigments, but earlier this week I had gotten some from Blue Ridge to try out and I decided to go with the Mars Red (PR101) for my first paint.

I didn’t get any photos of actually making the paint though because this is all new to me – thus far I’ve just been mixing things with a palette knife – and I was focused on figuring out just how to get the paint to come out like I wanted. I ended up using gum arabic from Daniel Smith since I already had a bottle of it, a drop of glycerin, and a drop of honey to make this.

marsred2

Here’s a scan of the paint on soft press paper from Fabriano. It dried duller than I had hoped, and I’m not sure that the color in this scan is accurate, but I like the softness of the color in tints. It was surprisingly hard to lift out of the paper. At the top I tried lifting the paint with a wet brush a few minutes after it had dried and at first it refused to even move or bleed at all. The most I got was eventually picking up enough paint to spread it around a little.

I have a lot of different pigments from a few sources and I’m really looking forward to trying out more of them with this muller and then posting my results.