Monday, August 31, 2015

Making a color chart for referencing pigment properties!

One of my students just asked me about pigment properties, specifically, how to know which paints are granulating. The best way to know how your paints will perform is to make a color chart of your paints and test them yourself. Here's my color chart, which I keep in my studio as a handy reference. I've been sharing this with my students in my classes, workshops, and demonstrations for many years, and now you can learn about it, too!


To start my color chart, I painted black stripes with acrylic paint on a large sheet of watercolor paper, and let them dry completely. When I paint a sample of watercolor across the black stripe, it shows me the opacity/transparency of each color.

While each watercolor sample is still wet, I backwash the color with a brushstroke of clean water. This shows me how granulating the color is, and also how much it will bloom. 

After the watercolor sample is dry, I use a damp brush to try and lift a stripe across it. This shows me how much staining strength that color has.

I try to get the same amount of paint and water on my brush for each test stroke, and the resulting intensity shows me the pigment load for that particular paint.

I write the name of color and the brand name next to each sample, as some colors are similar to others. Also, colors and their properties vary dramatically between brands.

I have a lot of tubes of paint in my studio, and this color chart helps me to distinguish which ones are right for which paintings. Cobalt, in particular, varies tremendously between the brands, and using a chart for reference helps me maintain consistency in my colors. I can quickly see the color at a glance, and determine which one is right for each specific situation.

I started this color chart several years ago, and each time I get a new color I add it to my chart for future reference and comparison. I learned how to do this many years ago when I first started doing product testing, and research and development for manufacturers of artist materials. I've been demonstrating this process to artists for many years in my classes, workshops, and demos, and over time my watercolor chart exercise has become a standard practice for artists and it is now copied and taught by art teachers everywhere.

Even if you're just an amateur artist or student, I highly recommend you make a color chart for yourself. It will help you to become familiar with colors and their properties, and help you to create better paintings!

posted by Annie Strack @ 3:53 PM   0 Comments

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