Day 208 (thurs july 27) alcohol markers

So… I’m on the search for alcohol markers, remember? Thinking… “oh, Copic is way too expensive, so let’s see what’s out there.” CRAP. That’s what’s out there. I tried “Dual Tip Artist’s Markers.” I didn’t expect a lot from these markers, heck they didn’t even give them a real name, but I’d read pretty decent reviews about them. I paid $28 for this $40 set… DON’T DO IT. $28… seemed like a deal. That’s equal to about 3 Copic markers. Unless I could be patient enough to purchase them one at a time when Michaels has 50% off coupons, right? Then it’s 6 or 7. SIX OR SEVEN. 24 seemed like a better deal, but it isn’t.
(Regarding the 6 or 7 Copics I COULD have purchased… One of my problems is I can’t figure out which of the 358 colors I really need most. THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY EIGHT. Seriously?? How can there be 358 colors? Decisions are not my forte. I have like, what… six different paint palettes?? Probably 8 different watercolor sets. I’m reading three different books. I can’t even handle a restaurant that serves both seafood AND burgers, it’s too many choices. So 358 colors is out of my realm of decision making. I want a pre-decided set.)

They do look rather fetching. Don’t be taken in, though. Having first used better ones, maybe I’ve spoiled myself for anything less?

This set has 24 colors but there is no rhyme or reason to them. Β They don’t make a cohesive set at all. The brush tip feels pretty nice… some of the bullet tips feel better than others, but all are too broad. The color selection is pathetic even by my standards, and two are already dried up (I did watch a video last night, though, that told me how to correct that!) And… the colors don’t inspire me at all. Even the blender marker seems useless, but I am unfamiliar with blender markers. It doesn’t seem to blend… as much as just remove the top layer.

IMG_3952

I wouldn’t even recommend these for coloring. They don’t layer well, don’t have a narrow enough tip on either end for small areas, and don’t have nice colors. They DO feel nice in your hand, and they have a nice box. If you can’t afford better… get Crayola. I know for a fact they are better markers, though they aren’t alcohol markers. Or be patient and buy one Copic at a time. If you CAN afford better, but not copic-better, try the spectrum noir illustrator sets Michaels sells. With the 50% off coupon they are a decent deal. (I think maybe I paid $12 for a set of five or six? a while back?) They aren’t perfect, but the ink and the tips are both nice.

My lesson? No more cheap brands. (Until the next time, anyway. Do as I say and not as I do.) By the way, if you did the math, for the price of this complete crap set, I could have gotten two more Illustrator sets from Michaels, with coupons.

I wouldn’t have known how much I prefer them, though, so maybe it’s worth it.

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20 thoughts on “Day 208 (thurs july 27) alcohol markers

  1. Hey Holly,

    Apologies for getting this to you so late. I have been…well, you know, it’s life.

    I also have had the experience of avoiding Copics. Then I bought a greyscale set, and, well, was underwhelmed. While I wouldn’t say they were awful, I can say that either I don’t know how to use them well, or I have high standards. πŸ˜›

    In particular, the ones I got (the Cool Grey series), streak — and I’ve seen them streak in others’ work. If you’re working monochrome, it’s also a lot of money to spend just to get different dilutions of the same ink, whereas with bottled ink or watercolors, you just add a little more water to get different values (lightness or darkness) or intensities.

    There are a few links I’d like to assemble for you — including a source cheaper than Michael’s. One of these links goes to a post where I realized that all of the Stabilo and Staedtler markers and fineliners I had were water-soluble and could be brushed out with water:

    https://encodey.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/was-this-intentional/

    These are the Stabilo 68s (bullet-points — in this case, the Minis) and 88s (fineliners), along with Staedtler fineliners and Tombow Dual Brush Pens, plus one or two Mars Graphic 3000 (?) Duo brush pens. (I have more of these, now.) I never did get around to trying to mix non-prismatic shades (like chromatic greys), but I thought you might appreciate the fact that these things, at least, move under water. I’m not sure exactly what type of paper would be optimal, though.

    This was pretty much amazing to me. Keep in mind that at least to the best of my knowledge, markers usually aren’t intended to be archival media. So although all of these markers work, I can’t vouch for how long the finished images made with them will last.

    You can test the stability of the colors, though, by doing a lightfastness test: basically, make a bunch of swatches, cover them up halfway so that light is blocked, then leave them in a sunny window and see what fades over time (generally, weeks to months), and what doesn’t. It’s something I’ve still got to do with my watercolors, but that’s an aside…

    Here are two posts of mine from when I was still dazzled with Copics:

    https://encodey.wordpress.com/2014/08/26/i-finally-got-copics/

    https://encodey.wordpress.com/2015/03/12/copic-hoarding/

    Basically…markers are good to create things that need stable and reliable colors — things that will be reproduced. Also, they’re good when you need bright colors (my markers are brighter than most of my paints.) If you don’t need a stable, flat, predictable, intense color, though, you have other options.

    I saw that you had tried out gouache…I was introduced to this in a Color Dynamics class, but as for using it for finished artwork–? I’m still working on that. (I did screw up a mandala by playing with gouache on top of it as though it were watercolor, or acrylic. It doesn’t allow as…exacting a method as transparent watercolor does. And from experience, I know that it will lift if too much water gets under it.)

    My intuition relates that gouache may work best when used in conjunction with transparent watercolor, to paint in lights that would otherwise need to be masked out. But I’m not sure — I’m just kind of theorizing and muddling through it.

    And — gouache is best used from the tube. It basically dries into little pellets when left out to dry, and it doesn’t rehydrate as well as transparent watercolor.

    As for brands, there are a few that I have used, but I had to get the Winsor & Newton stuff for Color Dynamics. I then repopulated that about seven years later with more W&N, Holbein, and M. Graham & Co. All of these brands have minimal or no white filler — which is basically standard in all other brands (I think?) for opacity reasons. But because of this, colors like Peacock Blue in Holbein need to be mixed with either Zinc or Titanium White in order to show up on a dark background.

    And — right. There are a lot of places to get good quality art supplies online, though Blick has very good prices:

    http://www.dickblick.com/

    If you go there, you’ll likely want to get a membership, which allows you to get the prices listed on the website even when you buy the items in-store (which is a significant discount!).

    I hope this helps. I know I’m just starting out where it comes to inks and watercolors, because I’ve come to see them as preferable to markers, for a number of reasons that go beyond the scope of this comment…

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to write all of that out!! Several things jump out to me immediately after reading this. First I have maybe 6 or 8 tombows and I do really like them. I was specifically wanting an alcohol not water based set… but WHY? Why don’t I just purchase a tombow now and then and stick with what I like? Second… well to be honest I DONT love markets, so why do I feel compelled to find some? Is it that general inclination I have to just have everything whether I use it or not? I ADORE watercolor… maybe I just stick with that, and don’t add to my markers. Third, with regard to my gouache… I have the onky set of pan gouache I’ve found on the market. Maybe that is why I didn’t love the way they felt? They did reqrt nicely, but have a less silky feel than watercolor. I may find them useful later, or as you suggested for adding light, but for now I think back in the drawer they go. Perhaps one day I will try a few tubes and see if I feel differently or the same. And thank you for all of the links! I shall investigate each at my leisure… I really appreciate it!!

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      1. Hi Holly,

        I certainly understand wanting to have all the art supplies! While it is a benefit to being able to switch mediums, there is also a drawback to having too much.

        This is the issue I’m dealing with now, where I could create with so many different materials and methods that it’s hard to choose one to move forward with. Although I learned this with respect to Web Design, there is something called Hick’s Law which relates that the more choices one has, the longer it takes to make decisions.

        This parallels what I can otherwise paraphrase as fear of the blank page, or empty canvas. Once you make one choice, it’s easier for everything else to follow along after that, but getting started is often the hardest part: for me, at least. (I will try to talk about my own motivations, as I can’t be sure of yours.) In particular, I have a tendency to stall out trying to plan things — I find it easier to generate endless ideas of what I would like to make, than to actually go and make it.

        This is because in the process of making, I have to cut a near-infinite number of possible futures down into a near-single outcome, if you can imagine the process of making as a hyperbolic graph which approaches infinity at the beginning of the process (for number of possibilities) and approaches one as one works on the piece and makes decisions which all affect its final form. (So maybe the graph would be “Work Done” versus “Range of Possibilities”?)

        I’m trying not to overexplain this — it just becomes really apparent to me in, say, watercolor work, where lights need to be preserved and one can generally just move to more concentrated paints (but it might be hard to undo past actions and regain light, unless you were using non-staining pigments [which lift easily], and/or scraping tools). It isn’t as evident in something like, say, acrylic painting, where you can actually paint over something you don’t like, and in theory keep working on the same painting until you die. πŸ™‚ Or until it gets too heavy for the canvas to support. You know. πŸ˜‰

        Anyhow, I’ve found that it’s really easy for me to get into the place where I hope that new materials will help me get started, as starting is the hardest part, and enthusiasm often accompanies buying new art supplies. But as I said — for me, at least, the trouble lies in narrowing down near-infinite possibilities into one concrete thing. The trouble lies in making decisions and handling risk, that is — for me, the risk is in not liking what I create.

        But the good thing about art, and the thing I often find hard to accept, is that you can always try again. (I also have a hard time, knowing that unpredictability does play a part, and as such, no two creations will be exactly the same, even if I intend them — or want them — to be.)

        The dynamic I’ve just mentioned doesn’t have anything to do with art supplies, except that new art supplies widen the choice of my near-infinite possibilities.

        I’m also sure that marketers know some of the motivations which drive people to collect art supplies, as I have. I know the feeling of getting into a medium, and then suddenly wanting to have all the colors! even if I’m only starting out and am not sure if I’ll even like the technique. It happened to me when I got overenthusiastic about linoleum block printing, earlier in the Summer. πŸ™‚ I think people who really adore colors (like me) are particularly vulnerable to this. πŸ™‚

        As for why alcohol markers…well, to the best of my knowledge, they stay put under water washes, but that would be the major up-side to them…and I’m not sure how this pans out when used on paper that can actually handle water (I wouldn’t assume Marker paper to be able to do so). But Copic in particular seems to have put a lot of effort out into their brand image, as they’re used by so many manga artists. This isn’t to cast any negative light on you — I went through the same Copic desire myself, until I got them and realized that they weren’t as great as I had hoped.

        But the thing is, you might want to get maybe 1-3 Copics (light-medium-dark? the Ciao line is the least expensive) and actually try them out, instead of assuming they’ll work as one might be led to hope they will. Because if they don’t work that well for you, you don’t need to deal with buying other markers, hoping them to be “as good” — because the “as good” idea is something of a mind trip dealt by very good and targeted marketing. The product itself may not live up to expectations.

        On the up side, though, Copics don’t stink as much as Prismacolors or Chartpaks. πŸ™‚ That much, I can say! And they may be good for reproduction work — like if you’re scanning your art and then editing it digitally and then publishing it to the Web or reprinting it. I did have good luck with doing this in greyscale, a while back — but to be honest, it was so long ago that I can’t remember if I used Tombows or Copics. I just still have the reproductions.

        Mostly, the reason to work in greyscale is that you have a strong eye for value (light/dark) contrasts, or you’re printing out your finished work: black-and-white printing is (still) much less expensive than color.

        Markers are also portable, fairly clean, and fairly reliable. This is another upside to them, kind of like colored pencils (which, a long time ago, were my go-to medium; until I discovered paint!).

        As regards gouache — I’ve found it to have a kind of “sticky” feel or texture, highlighted when it’s used on cold-press or rough watercolor paper. When I was in Color Dynamics, we were actually painting on Bristol Board (I think with a Vellum surface), and this worked, unless the paper got too wet: then the dried paints would bubble up (release) from the surface of the board, and there was, basically, no going back from that. (I suppose that one could try and cut out the entire color area and then repaint it…I’m not sure if it’s worth it, though.)

        But yes — if you check out Blick’s website, there’s a lot of information there. A lot of it is hidden, though: you’ll need to click around to find full functionality, or you could just ask me. πŸ™‚

        In particular, if you click the paint’s item number, you should be able to see a color swatch, and sometimes information on which pigment(s) that paint contains. Though: I should let you know that the photographs will not contain true-to-life colors, as everyone’s monitors are a little different. Even if they could align (“calibrate”) the transmitted color perfectly to what actually existed (in which light quality?), people’s monitors would distort it. The swatches are good to show relative colors, though (for example, that a yellow paint leans green as versus orange), as well as how smoothly a paint bleeds.

        If you click the little page icon on the other side of the bar, you should find an MSDS (Materials Safety Data Sheet) which should tell you of precautions you may need to take to protect yourself from exposure to the known toxic components of the material you’re looking at.

        Generally you will want to see information on items which have a CA Prop 65 sign next to them, or a CL (Caution Label) sign next to them. It can be scary when you first see it, but eventually a person kind of learns what type and level of risk they’re willing to take. So like for me, I am OK with washing well and not eating my paints πŸ™‚ but not OK with absorbing heavy metals through my skin. And some of the metals, I’m more OK with than others — like I have a lot of Cobalt watercolors, but I avoid Cadmiums because there really isn’t any good way to chelate (remove) cadmium from one’s body, and many of these pigments can be absorbed transdermally (though some more easily than others).

        I…uh…I think I wrote enough! XD Thanks for letting me feel useful on the web. πŸ˜€

        Oh, and: if you’re curious…I’m not getting any kickbacks from this, but…a sheet or small pad of Strathmore ArtAgain coal black paper, and a tube of Holbein Permanent White gouache…will show you what you can do with gouache (see link below)! I haven’t tried value scales with this, yet, but using it for the first time, amazed me. One color plus this, and you can do monochrome drawings.

        https://encodey.wordpress.com/2017/07/21/experimenting-with-papers-and-water-based-media/

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  2. That is all helpful, thanks! And one thing that has been reinforced over and over for me this year during my project is… I want it all, in every color… but I do have trouble with the decisions part. Tremendous trouble. I’m happy to have tried the items but frequently wish I could have rented and returned the ones that aren’t my go-to supplies. I’ve pared down a bit once already and have plans to go through and choose the supplies I regularly use and eliminate or pack away some that I don’t really use or get in the way of my thinking. Yeah, even paint colors and brands… although I haven’t committed to THAT yet because I don’t have enough experience with what colors I really want for my palette yet!
    I had the gray copics as well… i really enjoyed using those and that may be why I so wanted the copics. But something about the brush tip of the copics feels weird… it drags a bit when I use it. I’ve tried the spectrum noir illustrator line and really like those so much better, except the barrel is uncomfortable for my hand after a while. But I like the marker itself. And now that I have tried three cheap brush tip brands I can see why copics are loved… because these things SUCK. But the Illustrators are great, just don’t have the variety of a copic with the light med dark of each color etc. BUT… like you kind of mentioned… while I really had fun with the grays… I don’t enjoy the colors as much. I love them with watercolor but with markers the choices bog me down!! Both with purchasing and with coloring something. (I love watercolor so much… I think I should just stick with that! πŸ™‚ And while I like having all the beautiful watercolor choices too… I think once I come up with a smaller defined palette I will love that even more!

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  3. Hi again,

    Sorry about the delay — I’m dealing with juggling a few different deadlines, but I have some leeway, at this point. I am thinking back — I do recall having listed the required palette for my Color Dynamics class and also for my Beginning Watercolor class, but if you would like to see it, I either have to do some digging for image files (to find the relevant posts) or look through my paint stash(es). The latter might be easier.

    Basically, in Color Dynamics, we used a split-primary palette. Have you heard of this? A split-primary palette uses a “warm” and “cool” tone of each primary color. So one would have a warm and cool yellow, red, and blue. Having both a warm and cool tone makes it so that one can mix rich violets (with, say, Ultramarine [people say Ultramarine is a “warm” color because it is a blue that leans violet; I don’t quite understand, though] and Permanent Rose [which leans violet]) and rich oranges (with two warm-leaning colors like Cadmium Yellow and Cadmium Red [I just mention these because they’re well-known, not because I use these particular pigments…I lean more toward Hansa Yellow Deep and Pyrrole Red for bright oranges, though I also have an intense student-grade convenience mixture to start me off if I need it]).

    So even though it isn’t really necessary to buy a rainbow of pigments (I had to do this for my acrylic painting class, however), it can be nice to have them. πŸ™‚ Especially if you’re going to be mixing or using a lot of a color like violet, and want to have a ready-mixed violet (like Dioxazine Violet) to tint with something like Permanent Magenta, just to save time. But mixing colors can actually be really fun! (I particularly have a good time with trying to mix black, and seeing all the deep, nice chromatic grey shades that can come out of the attempt.) And, also, mixed colors can be more intense and more nuanced than bought colors (this is particularly true of violet).

    On the other hand, if you don’t start with the right hues with the right color overtones (yellow with green and orange overtones, blue with violet and green overtones, red with violet and orange overtones), you won’t be able to mix some of these colors with a good amount of intensity…and I’m not sure if there is any way out of that than to expand one’s palette.

    I did forget the whole CMYK thing there…these are printing colors, but I have seen them in inks and in gouache. CMYK stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (a.k.a. “Key” — a term borrowed from the printing world). Theoretically, cyan, magenta, and yellow are truer primary colors than red, yellow, and blue. This is because — for example — red can be mixed from magenta plus cyan (I think?), and primary red plus white does not result in pink: it results in light red. But pink can be made from diluted magenta.

    Many color models have come and gone over the years. Split-primary and CMYK color models just happen to be in popular use, today.

    Have you seen this site? It contains a wealth of information on pigments:

    http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL/water.html

    Anyway, I just wanted to pass along that you don’t need a huge number of pigments to get a huge number of colors! Generally you will see color mixing charts which are combinations of two or three colors, but there are odd and really beautiful color combinations that one wouldn’t think of except intuitively or through play. An example is Permanent Rose Red with Phthalocyanine Green, which produces a range of green/blue/violet/pink hues, depending on proportions. I mentioned this somewhere in my files, but am not sure exactly where the relevant image is located, right now…

    I’ll try and get back to my work at this point πŸ™‚ but you’re welcome to respond, and I will try to get back to you. I don’t want you to think that I didn’t respond because I didn’t want to: it’s more that I have a lot of work and have been overloaded, recently.

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    1. Yes, i love the split primary palette idea… enough colors to do anything I want, but not so many as to overwhelm me. I keep finding artists who can’t live without this or that color, or just find another color I’d like, and I’m off. (To the art store!) yes the cmyk sounds even better… that’s what i should set up for a travel palette! But i figure one day soon (ish) I will know my truly favorite most used colors and be able to reduce my palette to most essential (for me) I’ll go peek at that site, thanks!

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      1. Hi Holly,

        One of the things to take into consideration with paints is also their lightfastness. handprint.com will help you with a good deal of this knowledge. The CMYK colors (Process [β€œPro”] Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black), I should let you know, cannot reproduce all colors (for that matter, I doubt even a split-primary palette can), and I’m not sure of their lightfastness. The CMYK colors should be able to reproduce anything you can print out with a standard color printer, though.

        Just like there are limitations as to what colors a monitor can display, there are limitations as to what a printer can (usually) print. While a split-primary palette is good as a start, there are some colors that will not be mixable from these six, and which will benefit your palette by their addition. Hold on β€” let me go look back through my archives…

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      2. Hi Holly,

        Last comment didn’t post, so I’ll try again without trying to code hyperlinks:

        https://encodey.wordpress.com/2017/07/10/finally-done-filling-the-palette/

        The above link contains a photo of my most recent palette (well, swatches of it). Looking back on it, I wish I had waited and thought it through further, because I would have filled it differently.

        In particular, I would not have put in known fugitive colors (Rose Madder, Alizarin Crimson, Aureolin), and I would have rearranged the dollops…but I only started getting the really interesting colors (the ones that appreciably expand mixing options, rather than just being “rainbow” tone), towards the end of filling this.

        Particularly, Cobalt Turquoise Light (see first image in first link, upper right corner) is beautiful, and not something I would have expected. This and Prussian Blue…they’re really interesting when mixing greens, but neither of them are standard for a split-primary palette.

        I also got Green Gold, which I’m told can work wonders for yellowing greens, but I haven’t gotten the chance to try it out yet. On its own, Green Gold is fairly ugly, but it’s what you can mix with it that matters, not how pretty it is when it comes out the tube (IMO).

        In the second photo here,

        https://encodey.wordpress.com/2017/06/11/rounding-out-the-palette/

        you can see — at least if your monitor is like mine — that it doesn’t display the differences between these four blues well, at all.

        Cobalt Blue, here (I’m pretty sure this is a Winsor & Newton tube), is a sky-blue, fairly balanced, nonstaining color which I’ve been told is good for underpaintings (it apparently drops back when other colors are applied). Phthalo Blue (Green Shade) is an intense greenish blue, and mixed with Phthalo Green (Blue Shade) makes an almost neon blue-green which looks peacock in tone. (Both the Phthalos are staining pigments.) Daniel Smith Cerulean Blue (Chromium) is more green/less blue, and granulates in certain mixes more than others (sometimes to the point of being unusable, if the pigment can be brushed off). Prussian Blue is a deep muted blue with green overtones.

        All of these colors have their own mixing properties (as they’re all chemically different), which is why it helps to research the colors before buying them if you can. If the art store will let you use a smartphone (not all of them have wireless service…I don’t know if this is for a reason or not), if you look up the pigment numbers on the tube (or the pigment numbers plus handprint.com — for instance, PW6 [or Pigment White 6], to look up Titanium Dioxide), you should be able to find further information on how that pigment behaves, and sometimes, a little on how it can be used.

        The Blick website also will help you out if the paint you’re looking at is one they carry — though it is just generally a mark of quality when watercolor paints will list pigment numbers on tubes or pans. Just don’t be led into thinking that because they list the pigment, that means they’re putting the pigments you would expect (from the paint name) into the paints. In particular, Van Gogh watercolor paints are super inexpensive, but if you look at the pigment contents, there’s some unexpected stuff there which could complicate mixing (as all pigments have differing mixing properties).

        For instance, I have a Van Gogh Burnt Umber here which I bought because it was inexpensive — around $3 for 10 ml — however, instead of a pigment number representing an earth pigment, I find PR101/PBk5. That’s Pigment Red 101 (Red Iron Oxide) and Pigment Black 5 (Lamp Black). Compare this with the fact that Burnt Umber is the name given to PBr7 (Pigment Brown 7). I find that my W&N Burnt Umber is likely also modified (according to dickblick.com), but at least there’s something I recognize as an earth pigment, in there. (Even though it is normal for earth pigments to be really…nonspecific in their labeling, particularly with the browns.)

        Ideally, for clean color mixing, I’ve heard it’s best to stick mostly with paints which are single-pigment. Of course, that’s hard to always be able to get. πŸ™‚ But I haven’t had too many problems with “mud,” and I think this is largely due to both the color class I took early on, and the properties of the paints I’m using (I started out on W&N Cotmans and then upgraded to largely W&N Professional tubes (it makes a difference), but there are other quality brands out there, like M. Graham & Co., Grumbacher, Daniel Smith, Holbein, etc).

        And — there is a book which will help you out on this level, but I don’t have the newer version, and as such can’t vouch for that newer version. It’s called Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green by Michael Wilcox, and it contains a primer on subtractive color mixing (as with paint). My version is so old (Second Edition, 2009) that a lot of the paints used in the book have been discontinued. In any case, if you can find it in a library, at least my version has a lot about how subtractive color works (aside from paint mixing charts, which were what became outdated).

        Really inexpensive watercolors, like Prangs, do have their uses (like being portable watercolors which it’s OK to lose and great to just toy around with), πŸ˜‰ but it’s also really easy to get muddy colors out of them…and sometimes people don’t know that the paints aren’t helping their attempts to avoid this. Also, Prangs have really poor reds…and starting out with a dull red, I’m not sure it’s possible to get a brighter red out of it (unless there’s one hiding in there somewhere…it can happen!). Using subtractive color mixing, one would have to find a way to mute the colors that were obscuring the red…but I’ve not been able to do it as of yet.

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      3. One more try: hope I’m not being creepy πŸ™‚

        Here is a photo of my most recent palette (well, swatches of it). Looking back on it, I wish I had waited and thought it through further, because I would have filled it differently.

        In particular, I would not have put in known fugitive colors (Rose Madder, Alizarin Crimson, Aureolin), and I would have rearranged the dollops…but I only started getting the really interesting colors (the ones that appreciably expand mixing options, rather than just being “rainbow” tone), towards the end of filling this.

        Particularly, Cobalt Turquoise Light (see first image in first link, upper right corner) is beautiful, and not something I would have expected. This and Prussian Blue…they’re really interesting when mixing greens, but neither of them are standard for a split-primary palette.

        I also got Green Gold, which I’m told can work wonders for yellowing greens, but I haven’t gotten the chance to try it out yet. On its own, Green Gold is fairly ugly, but it’s what you can mix with it that matters, not how pretty it is when it comes out the tube (IMO).

        In the second photo here, you can see — at least if your monitor is like mine — that it doesn’t display the differences between these four blues well, at all.

        Cobalt Blue, here (I’m pretty sure this is a Winsor & Newton tube), is a sky-blue, fairly balanced, nonstaining color which I’ve been told is good for underpaintings (it apparently drops back when other colors are applied). Phthalo Blue (Green Shade) is an intense greenish blue, and mixed with Phthalo Green (Blue Shade) makes an almost neon blue-green which looks peacock in tone. (Both the Phthalos are staining pigments.) Daniel Smith Cerulean Blue (Chromium) is more green/less blue, and granulates in certain mixes more than others (sometimes to the point of being unusable, if the pigment can be brushed off). Prussian Blue is a deep muted blue with green overtones.

        All of these colors have their own mixing properties (as they’re all chemically different), which is why it helps to research the colors before buying them if you can. If the art store will let you use a smartphone (not all of them have wireless service…I don’t know if this is for a reason or not), if you look up the pigment numbers on the tube (or the pigment numbers plus handprint.com — for instance, PW6 [or Pigment White 6], to look up Titanium Dioxide), you should be able to find further information on how that pigment behaves, and sometimes, a little on how it can be used.

        The Blick website also will help you out if the paint you’re looking at is one they carry — though it is just generally a mark of quality when watercolor paints will list pigment numbers on tubes or pans. Just don’t be led into thinking that because they list the pigment, that means they’re putting the pigments you would expect (from the paint name) into the paints. In particular, Van Gogh watercolor paints are super inexpensive, but if you look at the pigment contents, there’s some unexpected stuff there which could complicate mixing (as all pigments have differing mixing properties).

        For instance, I have a Van Gogh Burnt Umber here which I bought because it was inexpensive — around $3 for 10 ml — however, instead of a pigment number representing an earth pigment, I find PR101/PBk5. That’s Pigment Red 101 (Red Iron Oxide) and Pigment Black 5 (Lamp Black). Compare this with the fact that Burnt Umber is the name given to PBr7 (Pigment Brown 7). I find that my W&N Burnt Umber is likely also modified (according to dickblick.com), but at least there’s something I recognize as an earth pigment, in there. (Even though it is normal for earth pigments to be really…nonspecific in their labeling, particularly with the browns.)

        Ideally, for clean color mixing, I’ve heard it’s best to stick mostly with paints which are single-pigment. Of course, that’s hard to always be able to get. πŸ™‚ But I haven’t had too many problems with “mud,” and I think this is largely due to both the color class I took early on, and the properties of the paints I’m using (I started out on W&N Cotmans and then upgraded to largely W&N Professional tubes (it makes a difference), but there are other quality brands out there, like M. Graham & Co., Grumbacher, Daniel Smith, Holbein, etc).

        And — there is a book which will help you out on this level, but I don’t have the newer version, and as such can’t vouch for that newer version. It’s called Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green by Michael Wilcox, and it contains a primer on subtractive color mixing (as with paint). My version is so old (Second Edition, 2009) that a lot of the paints used in the book have been discontinued. In any case, if you can find it in a library, at least my version has a lot about how subtractive color works (aside from paint mixing charts, which were what became outdated).

        Really inexpensive watercolors, like Prangs, do have their uses (like being portable watercolors which it’s OK to lose and great to just toy around with), πŸ˜‰ but it’s also really easy to get muddy colors out of them…and sometimes people don’t know that the paints aren’t helping their attempts to avoid this. Also, Prangs have really poor reds…and starting out with a dull red, I’m not sure it’s possible to get a brighter red out of it (unless there’s one hiding in there somewhere…it can happen!). Using subtractive color mixing, one would have to find a way to mute the colors that were obscuring the red…but I’ve not been able to do it as of yet.

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      4. Ive had issues with burnt umbers, too. And I can’t figure out how two paint companies can use the same single pigment and end up with different colors??? I love having prussian blue and indigo available in my blues. And another artist I enjoy kept using phthalo turquoise which is beautiful… turns out it is just a mix of ph. Blue and ph. Green like you described so I am putting off ordering the color. But I probably will at some point! I’m using Daniel Smith and Qor paints. I go back and forth pretty much daily first living one best, then the other. But in the end, I think DS are the better paint, really. Seems like more single pigment choices and better lightfast ratings altogether. But the Qors are really fun to use. I’ve tried to avoid fugitive colors as well. And can’t figure why so many beginner sets (even expensive ones!) include fugitive reds or purples instead of one of the so many non fugitive choices! But maybe with experience I will see that I can’t live without them (? I doubt it… since I try not to purchase them any more!)

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      5. Yeah, I’ve had the same experience with wondering how two different colors come from pigments with the same color codes! Sometimes it’s relatively easy to guess — like one pigment being synthetic and the other naturally sourced (which is what I’m guessing happened with my Winsor & Newton Yellow Ochre vs. Yellow Ochre Light)…other times it seems like they just gave up on differentiating the pigments. πŸ˜›

        I also totally understand being drawn to Phthalo Turquoise — I bought something similar to what you describe, a while back (this is Holbein Peacock Blue gouache. It was kind of a silly buy, I see now, but it was so beautiful!

        I’ve never tried QoR, but it seems like the color intensity is really nice (right now this has got me thinking about Yupo as a painting surface…wondering if it will let the colors “pop” more).

        I did just get my first Daniel Smith paints earlier this year, and…I mean, dang. Quality. The Prussian Blue I got from them was exactly the same value as the Cotman Prussian Blue which I tried out, but it was more intense and concentrated in color — that is, the Cotman was closer to grey, although if the swatches were xeroxed in black and white, they would be the same tone.

        It’s kind of something to see (I wonder if the difference translates to digital media?). And the Cerulean Blue Chromium is just beautiful, though I wonder if I’m overdoing it with the blues. πŸ™‚ (I’ve wanted to be able to make decent greens for a very long time!)

        Okay, I guess I’ll get back to work, or something! πŸ˜€

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  4. Hi Holly,

    One of the things to take into consideration with paints is also their lightfastness. handprint.com will help you with a good deal of this knowledge. The CMYK colors (Process [“Pro”] Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black), I should let you know, cannot reproduce all colors (for that matter, I doubt even a split-primary palette can), and I’m not sure of their lightfastness. The CMYK colors should be able to reproduce anything you can print out with a standard color printer, though.

    Just like there are limitations as to what colors a monitor can display, there are limitations as to what a printer can (usually) print. While a split-primary palette is good as a start, there are some colors that will not be mixable from these six, and which will benefit your palette by their addition. Hold on — let me go look back through my archives…

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    1. I tried to reply to the recent comment and it wouldn’t let me???? Anyway… wait till you get into daniel smith’s GREENS… drooool worthy. I love making greens but some of these are just gorgeous. They make the best paints. The Qor are fun to try though… the reaction they produce when added to another wet paint is just so fun to watch… and beautiful. They really spread out in a great way. The binder, I suppose. Although I’m wondering if I have added too much water to them, then let them dried and used them again… seems like that affects their cool tentacle thing going on. I’m going to study this a little more. They are really fun and i recommend them though. Bright and vivid. πŸ™‚

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