Watercolor Ingredients

I must admit that watercolor ingredients are not something I have given much thought to until today. Color Week 48 is a superficial look into what goes into watercolor paint prompted by a presentation given by representatives from M. Graham & Co. The presentation was sponsored by the Pacific Northwest and the Oregon Botanical Artists associations.

M.Graham is based in Portland Oregon and is somewhat unique in that they use northwest blackberry honey in the manufacture of their paints. M. Graham also has a commitment to solvent free paint and other eco friendly practices. Specifically they use walnut oil in manufacturing and cleaning.

What’s so special about M. Graham watercolor

  • Extreme pigment load, honey allows for a more pigment which delivers more intense color
  • Paint dries to a gum drop texture in the palette, never hard and easily dilutes to create a fluid wash, even after months of disuse
3 M. Graham colors on my palette

Generally watercolor ingredients include the following

Pigment particles provide the paint color, oftentimes people will refer to a specific P# color, but each manufacturer has their own source of pigment particles.

Binder is traditionally gum arabic. Gum arabic is farmed in North Africa. Gum arabic is sticky when wet and quite hard and transparent when dry.

Humectant most used today is inexpensive corn syrup it helps paint to retain moisture. As I’ve noted M Graham uses honey as their humectant. The humectant is needed because both glycerin and gum arabic dry relatively quickly

Additives such as an extender, fungicides and glycerin are common

Water of course suspends all the ingredients and evaporates when paint is used.

I have no interest in making my own watercolors but there are recipes and instructions available. I ever so briefly considered a pigment making workshop

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