Going for the Glow

Artwork: White Nights Watercolours and Holbein White Gouache on a Hahnemühle Cold Press Watercolor Postcard. Reference photo courtesy of swampcat1943 on Pixabay.

When I first started using watercolor what attracted me was the glow that you could get with it. I knew the tricks of contrast and value that could help me get it but for a long time, I thought that transparency was necessary as well.

Transparency is discussed often in relation to watercolor. In fact, some people will only use transparent colors and to hear some of them talk, it’s THE most important thing about watercolor.

I kind of bought into that, but when I tried to follow along with it, I was usually unhappy with my paintings.

That made me sad and disgusted with my work – I must be doing something wrong. Eventually, I realized that while I do want transparent color sometimes, my particular style doesn’t lend itself to using it, and I went my merry way with other methods.

Just recently, as I started using gouache, and deliberately choosing opaque watercolor pigments, it dawned on me that what I really wanted with was that beautiful glow you see when the light is bright and the shadows deep, but black, and dark pigments aren’t part of it.

Oh yes. You can paint this beautifully with transparent colors. But you can get it with opaque colors too.

I’m so much happier now that I’ve fully realized that obvious fact.


Hahnemühle Cold Press Watercolor Postcards (review)

White Nights Watercolours

Holbein Artist Designers Gouache 15ml Permanent White

REVIEW: White Nights Pastel Watercolors – Part 2

Yesterday, in Part 1 of this review, I discussed the White Nights Pastel Watercolours in general. Today, I’m going to show you what happened when I tried to draw over the paint with technical pen.

My first thought when I saw these colors is that they would be fabulous to use as backgrounds for technical pen drawings and tangles. The colors had a somewhat chalky feel (not look) once the paint dried, though. I almost expected it to rub off easily, but it doesn’t.

I started drawing with a Zebra Zensations 0.8 nib size technical pen.

At first, everything seemed fine, but then the ink stopped flowing very well. I wiped off the nib, and it was okay for a while, but started having problems again.

The Zebra’s a pretty sturdy pen, but it does have a fabric nib, and those can clog.

I switched to a Micron PN (plastic nib) 0.8 technical pen and moved on to the next background.

The situation was much the same – the plastic nib worked fine for a while then it became harder and harder to get the ink to flow. The Aqua Black paper is pretty soft, and I thought it might be at least part of the problem. I decided to switch to the background I did on white Nostalgie paper. It has a much smoother, harder surface.

The pen worked a little better on this paper; it took longer before the flow clogged up. But clog up it did. For grins, I switched to the Zensations with its fabric tip. I kept going, switching between the two pens. My line work was clumsier than usual because I was trying to get that ink to flow!

Eventually, both pens stopped working altogether. I may be able to get them working again, but they’ll never give me crisp flowing lines again.

*sigh* But these are such beautiful colors. I’ll know not to plan to draw over them with technical pen, but you’ll be seeing them a lot used in other ways because I like them!

REVIEW: White Nights Pastel Watercolors – Part 1

My first brand of serious watercolor was a set of Yarka St Petersburg pan paints. They are also sold under the name of White Nights. They are a professional grade, though on the lower end of professional*, very nicely priced (for professional). Recently, they came out with a set of six, new pastel colors.

*Not to be confused with the student grade Yarka sets that come with round pans in a long thin palette for about $8. Those are in fact surprisingly decent. Much better than Prang!

This is a set of individual pans – one each of the new colors. They don’t come in a palette. All White Nights paint pans are full size, which are better for your brushes and you get twice the paint than the standard half-pans.

The colors are:

When you talk pastel colors in watercolor, it usually means a pigment mixed with white and that is the case here. The names on this set aren’t standard. The index numbers tell you more – you might recognize the color under these names.

PW6 is Titanium white and all the the colors are mixed with it.

  • Coral is PR242/PW6. PR242 often goes under the names Scarlet, Cadmium Red HUE, French Vermilion Hue
  • Pink Peony is PR122/PW6. PR122 often goes under the names Magenta, Brilliant Red Violet, Brilliant Magenta
  • Rose Quartz – PR170/PW6. PR170 often goes under the names Napthol Red, Permanent Red, Ruby Red
  • Lilac – PV19/PW6. PV19 often goes under the names Quinacridone Rose or Purple, Alizarin Crimson, Red Rose
  • Royal blue – PB29/PW6. PB29 is best known as Ultramarine Blue.
  • Lavender – PV19/PB29/PW6. This is a very common mix and standard name for it.

So what do the colors look like when you paint with them? Pretty nice, really. Watercolors mixed with white are often chalky. These colors could be used for a chalkboard look, but they have a beautiful glow.

You can see how well all the colors co-ordinate.

I would have like to see a yellow in the set, but that would allow you to mix muddy color. You could also mix greens and oranges, so there are pros and cons to adding yellow. As it is, these colors will always work well together.

On black paper, the colors really excel. They are truly opaque colors, but you do need to use more than one layer to get real color. A single layer has a grayish tinge to it. With this painting, I used less water and only a few layers, which allowed the colors to glow.

In this painting, I used more water and built up layers to get more of a graduation of color values. While the added layers give you a wide range of values, it also reduces the glow.

You could mix these colors on your own. But you’d have to experiment with the ratio of color to white, and would never get exactly the same shade twice. You could waste paint trying for the right shade. If you like to experiment, and want to learn the best rations – mix them for yourself. If you like convenience, these colors are a fabulous buy.

Tomorrow, I’ll show you what happens when you try to draw over these paints. Part 2.