Mixing Your Watercolor Mediums

An Artist Tests:

Winsor & Newton Watercolor Mediums

Most of you would probably agree with Birgit O’Connor when she says, “I don’t have any tricks; I’m just painting with my brushes and water.” Nonetheless, there may come a time in your painting life when you feel the need to experiment with watercolor mediums, which are substances you add to paint in order to achieve effects that aren’t possible with pure transparent watercolor. Some traditional mediums are gum arabic, watercolor medium, watercolor gel, wetting agent and glycerin. Gum arabic is the binding agent in watercolor; if you add more gum arabic to paint, you will lessen the spread of color when you’re painting wet-in-wet. The product called ‘watercolor medium’ contains gum arabic, water and some mild acid. Adding watercolor medium makes the paint less resistant to lifting. Watercolor gel is a mixture of gum arabic and silica; adding it to your paints thickens the paint and allows you to work with thick layers that doni??t crack as they dry and age. Wetting agents like ox gall break down the surface tension of water and make surfaces more receptive to water; a wetting agent keeps paint from beading on slick surfaces. Another traditional medium is glycerin which keeps the paint moist and increases the paint’s solubility.

Recently, Winsor & Newton released a new line of watercolor mediums. We asked Paul Jackson, award-winning painter and author of Painting Spectacular Light Effects in Watercolor (North Light Books, 1999) to try them.

The Results:
Winsor & Newton’s Blending Medium slows the drying time of colors. Jackson says, “I used to add gum arabic to my rinse water. Every time I rinsed the brush I picked up a little gum arabic. Gum arabic slows down the drying time of the paints, but too much gum arabic on the paper makes the surface shiny. Winsor & Newton’s new Blending Medium, in contrast, slows down the drying time without adding a shine.”

Winsor & Newton’s Granulation Medium clumps particles of pigment together. “It gives you an interesting look,” says Jackson, “but I usually try to avoid that look.” Some colors, e.g., manganese blue, granulate naturally, but by mixing Granulation Medium with the color and some water, you can give any color, even a staining color, that effect.

Winsor & Newton’s Lifting Preparation allows dry washes, even those of staining colors, to be more easily lifted from paper with a wet brush or sponge. You apply Lifting Preparation first to the paper and let it dry. Winsor & Newton advises artists to lift color within five to six hours after the initial application; Lifting Preparation could be of value to beginning painters who would prime the paper for later possible corrections. Jackson comments, “This Lifting Preparation is great if you’re applying a flat wash in order to suggest a sky. If you put down a blue wash, you can use a wet paper towel to pick out the clouds down to the pure white of the paper.”

Winsor & Newton’s Permanent Masking Medium pleased Jackson the most. What distinguishes this mask from other masking preparations on the market is that you doni??t have to peel it off. Permanent Masking Medium is not removable. It can be mixed directly with color, and it’s also easier to clean off brushes than other masks. Jackson reports: “Permanent Masking Medium opens up a new door in watercolor; you can do things that you couldn’t do before. You apply it to areas you want to mask; when it dries it leaves a clear sheen, which, at first, bothered me. However, I discovered, by accident, that the sheen disappears if you apply heat. When I paint, I often use an electric heat gun (originally intended to shrink wrap packages, it gets pretty hot) to speed things along and when it heated up the Permanent Masking Medium, the medium dissolved. The sheen was gone because the mask sunk right into the paper. Though you could no longer see the mask, the masked area still resisted paint.”

As he would with any mask, Jackson used a different set of small, synthetic brushes to apply the Permanent Masking Medium. “You have to paint it on thick; the area will be raised and shiny, but if you apply heat (a hair dryer would probably work well), the mask will sink into the paper.”

Finally, Winsor & Newton’s Iridescent Medium, according to Jackson, “is neat but too gimmicky for me right now. That doesn’t mean that I won’t keep it and probably have an occasion when it will come in handy.” Iridescent Medium gives pearlescent or glittery effects; it can either be mixed directly with watercolor or painted directly over a dry area. According to the company’s brochure, Iridescent Medium “makes dazzling effects when mixed with most transparent color.”

In the above picture: Paul Jackson used Winsor & Newton’s Permanent Masking Medium to preserve the lines that would suggest grout in the mosaic. “I mixed the Medium with a little color to start. It resists paint but leaves a shiny surface that disappears with the application of heat from a hair dryer or heating gun. Sinking into the paper, the medium becomes ‘permanent’,” says Jackson.

Product Information

Winsor & Newton watercolor mediums are available in your local art supply stores. For the location of a store near you or for more information about these and other watercolor products, contact ColArt Americas, 11 Constitution Ave., Piscataway NJ 08855-1396. Tel: 732/562-0770; Fax: 732/562-0941; Web site: www.winsornewton.com

Archival Mist Makes Any Paper Acid-Free

When John Selleck, incorporates collage elements into his watercolors, he makes the paper shapes (cut from magazines or photocopies) archival by spraying them with Archival Mist. Archival Mist preserves and protects all forms of paper-based materials by depositing a safe, non-toxic alkaline buffer into the structure of the paper. This buffer neutralizes the acids that otherwise would weaken the paper and cause it to become brittle. When you spray Archival Mist on paper, the buffer particles, blending with the paper structure, absorb and neutralize the acids in the paper and continue to absorb those acids over the life of the paper. In other words, covering paper with Archival Mist is a permanent treatment; it will last for the life of the paper.

Archival Mist is suitable for all paper-based materials, including newsprint. Because the product contains no solvents and no water, it doesn’t cause inks to bleed. Nonetheless, artists should note that Archival Mist, while preserving newsprint, woni??t stop it from yellowing.

Archival Mist, manufactured by Preservation Technologies, L.P., is sold in retail (hobby, craft and framing stores) and by mail order in a 150 mg (5.3 ounce) pump spray bottle. For more information, contact Preservation Technologies, L.P., 111 Thomson Park Drive, Cranberry Township PA 16066. Tel: 800/416-2665; Fax: 724/779-9808; Web site: www.ptip.com

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