Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor: Understanding Pigments


Are you a watercolor artist looking to improve your technique?

Would you like to better understand glazing techniques in watercolor?

Are you looking to increase your understanding of pigments?

Then you will certainly enjoy this guest blog by watercolor expert Dr. Don Rankin.

He is author of Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor Volume 1: How to Make Your Paintings Glow.

Don is currently a full-time Assistant Professor of Art in the School of the Arts, at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.

He teaches color theory, structure of design, painting and drawing.

Don has an earned Ph.D. in Visual Communication with a specialty in American Indian imagery. He is a former President and one of the co-founders of the Southern Watercolor Society.

His work has been featured in American Artist magazine, The New York Art Review and Northlight magazine as well as other regional and national publications.

Mastering Glazing Techniques in Watercolor:  Understanding Pigments by Dr. Don Rankin

glazing techniques in watercolor
Dr. Don Rankin, Fine Artist

I am currently new to this form of communication. In fact, I have to run to try to keep up with my younger students when it comes to electronic media.

Hopefully I am learning.

While working on the new book I am playing with Quinacridone colors. Now these colors are not new by any means. In fact the were first developed back in the 1890's. At some point in the 1950's they became popular in the automotive industry. From there they eventually made their way to our palettes.

Some painters have trouble pronouncing the name (KWIN-AKRI- DAWN). These colors provide a boost to those who are interested in watercolor glazing techniques primarily because they are so transparent. For some of us dinosaurs this can be a bit disconcerting at times but that is another story.

Watercolor technique is a living thing provided we painters continue to experiment.

The object of this post is to encourage experimentation. You don't have to go over board but it helps if you stay current with new possibilities.

There are a number of pigment guides that suggest this paint over that paint. I'm not interested in adding to the fray. I suggest you become a label reader. Look for the chemical names or designations such as PV19 or PR179. Google the designations and read if you want to know more about certain pigments.

Color Test for Transparency

mastering glazing techniques in watercolor
Color testing for transparency using rings of black india ink.

In this short piece I am providing a chart. The black rings are painted with black india ink.  It is waterproof and provides a uniform dark area for this test.

The upper ring has the paint applied in a full bodied wash, straight from the tube. The smaller ring has thinner strokes of color that have been diluted to about 50% of the first wash.

I am testing for transparency. If the color seems to disappear as it passes over the black then it is pretty transparent. If it appears cloudy, then not so transparent.

I have chosen a group of colors that are currently available and many of these are in regular use in my studio. I'll start naming the colors from the top and work clockwise.

Personally, I consider all of these colors to be of professional quality. In the past I used to caution students about paint tubes with names like "periwinkle pink" or "green apple". These sorts of names usually indicated a less than desirable product. Well, that has changed, at least for one brand, American Journey. I have tested and used the colors and you will see several listed on this wheel.

From the top: Winsor & Newton Lemon Yellow, American Journey Indian Yellow, American Journey Quinacridone Gold, American Journey Old Sienna, American Journey Copper Kettle, American Journey Lucky Penny, American Journey Oxide Yellow, Winsor & Newton Quinacridone Magenta, American Journey Pomegranate, Winsor & Newton Permanent Rose, Holbein Marine Blue, Maimeri Blue, Holbein Brilliant Orange, Winsor & Newton Purple Madder, Winsor & Newton Quinacridone Gold, Sennelier Indian Yellow, Grumbacher Indian Yellow, Stephen Quiller Gamboge, M.Graham Gamboge, & Winsor & Newton New Gamboge.

You may ask why so many yellows? Yellows are often the most opaque in nature. This sampling allows a glimpse at the relative nature of several brands. This is not intended to judge one color over another. Rather this is a glimpse at the behavior of individual brands. If you investigate you will see that there are some colors of different brands that show a bit of difference in appearance.

I am currently working on other charts that will show characteristics of reds, etc. This is a work in progress. Hopefully this will help spur you to test your own colors. Don't worry too much about "scientific" approach. Pick up your brush and paint. The manner in which you apply your color is the best guide for YOU.

This article and all images were reprinted and used by permission from Don Rankin.

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