Talk:Watercolor painting

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Any particular reason why the link to was removed? It's a non-commercial comprehensive description of watercolour materials and techniques. I've added it again: if there's a good reason to remove it please do. Anon2

Too many spam external links. Relevant links needed. -anon April 06

List of painters would be good[edit]

- ideally grouped by date &/or nationality Johnbod 17:14, 28 November 2006 (UTC)

the grouping "by date &/or nationality" is clumsy and counterproductive. the section headed "United States" seems stimulated by a single sentence about 19th century american painters, and includes subsequent discussion about watercolor tutorials (published in england) and industrial pigments (developed and primarily manufactured in europe). similarly, "20th century" marks one sentence about 20th century painters and then an extended discussion of u.s. regionalism, in particular california and ohio painters.

the point of this section was to trace the development of the medium as it progressed through a variety of specific innovations (new pigments, gallery acceptance, watercolor societies, amateur tutorials, better papers, etc.). arguably, even today, there are really no "national" traditions in watercolor painting, in the sense that all the national traditions one may want to identify hinge entirely on marketing, politics and/or painting style, and not on differences in the techniques or materials used by the painters. (this is an article about a *painting medium*, not about *art history* per se.) compare, for example, to the asian tradition of using entirely different brushes, papers, themes and pigments in scroll paintings, which are technically also watercolors or watermedia but which genuinely comprise unique techniques.

the "list of painters" idea is simply bad. i have inserted illustrative names only as markers for a specific stage in the development of the medium: here are some typical examples of what was being done. once you embark on the project of making a list, you spend all your time on inclusion issues (hi, jose fadul!) and boundary issues -- what about canadian national watercolor painters? what about watercolor painters who also use collage, glitter and acrylic paints? good luck with that.

i let these ill advised insertions stand so that some discerning wikipedia editor will acknowledge the inherent problem and remove them, or at least reorganize the content to make them less nonsensical. Macevoy (talk) 16:43, 8 December 2008 (UTC)

Change in intro[edit]

I changed the intro from technique to method. Simple terms better. Smilegood


I've tried to make the Format better and put in a See also section to make it easier for users to find information on the wikipedia. I will try and get back to work at this page again sometime. Artypants 14:43, 26 March 2007 (UTC)


Why is this page called watercolor, it is not an american article, surely it should be spelled in the correct as opposed to the american manner, that is, Watercolour.--Greatestrowerever 11:14, 1 July 2007 (UTC)

It was apparently begun in American spelling, and is not on a specifically Brit subject, so those are the rules. Of course W-colour redirects. Johnbod 12:29, 1 July 2007 (UTC)

It was begun in the correct (that is American, also Shakespearean) spelling. No reason to change it to the incorrect Commonwealth variant, created by the Norman upperclass to make things less Latin, and more French. --Cultural Freedom talk 2007-07-31 18:54 18:54, 31 July 2007 (UTC)
Sorry, Cultural Freedom, but I don't agree. Look, there is an Englisch School (see article: ), but there (so far) isn't an American School of watercolo(u)r (although we surely find excellent artists of aquarelle in Canada and the US) ... so I think the article should be . All the famous societies wrote an write colour instead of color: "the Society of Painters in Water Colours (1804, now known as the Royal Watercolour Society), and the New Water Colour Society (1832, now known as the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours). (A Scottish Society of Painters in Water Colour was founded in 1878, now known as the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour.)" (talk) 17:55, 12 March 2015 (UTC)
You do realize his comment was 8 years ago? It seems that in 2003 we had 2 articles - one for each spelling - which were merged when about equal size and quality. I think that makes the "priority" argument under WP:ENGVAR questionable (does it matter which was begun first?). Personally, I'd support a move to "watercolur" as it is so much more a British than an American medium. Anyone else? Johnbod (talk) 19:50, 12 March 2015 (UTC)


i have substantially edited, corrected, augmented and fact checked this uneven and incomplete article, and added several references. random typos or lapses may remain. with the visual arts project in mind, i have tried concisely to describe the important techniques or technical issues in a way that the reader can accurately visualize and understand. i have also explicitly addressed several misconceptions that have been handed down from the 19th century. i regret that i do not have the wikipedia expertise to integrate the article into other aspects of wikipedia or harmonize it entirely with wiki style, but i hope a wiki guru will offer the charity of his or her assistance. i believe this is now the best single document reference on watercolor painting available from any source on the web. Macevoy 07:43, 3 August 2007 (UTC)bruce macevoy

Thanks Bruce. Your website, (handprint) is a truly remarkable achievement for which I am very grateful. Your website is better than this article because it contains advice and original research which are not suitable here. I expect that over time this article will attract editors because of the quality of the contribution you have made to it and will become a highlight of Wikipedia. Thanks again PeterGrecian 13:46, 13 August 2007 (UTC)
This is a really well written, interesting read, with a lot of useful information. There is a lot to laud as good, but I have two criticisms. It is meant constructively, to point room for improvement. I am not going to be editing this article, so take of it what you will:
  • Tone. (See WP:TONE). Much of the writing seems to be written in an informal way that good in a magazine article or instruction guide (maybe Wikibooks!), but isn't a factually precise style suitable for an encyclopedia. There are subjective statements like "the best art papers are designated archival," questionable statements like "most watercolorists prize brushes from kolinsky (Russian or Chinese) sable", and speculation like "watercolors seem poised to enter yet another 'golden age'." (It's not really a fact that water colors seem poised to do this, it's someone's opinion. From WP:NPOV: "Assert facts, including facts about opinions—but do not assert the opinions themselves," and "It is not sufficient to discuss an opinion as fact merely by stating 'some people believe...' as is common in political debates. A reliable source supporting that a group holds an opinion must accurately describe how large this group is.")
  • Source citation. (See WP:CITE and WP:RS). With so many references, and no footnotes with page numbers, it would be difficult to verify any individual fact. I think it would benefit from inline citations, when a particular book is only used for a relatively small amount of information. From WP:RS: "Articles can be supported with references in two ways: the provision of general references – books or other sources that support a significant amount of the material in the article – and inline citations, that is, references within the text, which provide source information for specific statements." Unfortunately, I think only Macevoy would be able to do this at this point, and it would be a lot of work.
-Agyle 22:31, 22 September 2007 (UTC)

my editorial assumption was that readers will, in the main, be amateur painters and therefore more appreciative of an informal tone rather than a deeply referenced thesis. it bears emphasis that we are primarily talking about a hobby and a very small part of the commercial art market; it's also fair to say, i think, that this is not an article about ayn rand and the points made are not heatedly controversial.

the archival paper designation is simply an industry standard, minimal assurance of paper ingredient quality and the likely durability of printed or fine art paper products, primarily against embrittlement or yellowing over time. however the "archival" attribute is emphasized in all catalog listings of papers offered for art retail sale, and is recommended in all published painting tutorials which discuss paper, as a paper attribute that painters should prefer. the same goes for "kolinsky" (sable hair) brushes, though note that "kolinsky" is not a regulated market or trade term and therefore is just whatever the brush manufacturer says it is.

the opinion that watercolors are poised for a golden age hinges primarily on three facts: the large number of baby boomers entering retirement, and the choice of painting as a retirement pastime; the recent expansion in both the number of watercolor paint brands and the increased number of different paint "colors" offered by each brand; and the forward placement and number of catalog display pages devoted to watercolor paints, as opposed to oil or acrylic paints, in art retail brochures. a few manufacturers also disclosed to me (at the time the article was written) that watercolors were among their fastest growing product categories.

finally, the few magisterial studies of watercolor painting, such as martin hardie's view of watercolor painting in britain or christopher finch's three lovely texts published by abbeville press, end at the mid 20th century or are limited to national traditions. most available sources about watercolor painting are knock off tutorials published in the highly perishable art instruction market. nearly all these books, to my informed dismay, simply copy from each other and perpetuate many errors or urban myths. this is, i think, an editorial problem that wikipedia cannot easily resolve. what are the valid references for tattooing, or japanese rope bondage, or dog fighting, or tantra sex? typically, either an "outsider" or reporter account that suffers from seriously incomplete information or polemical intent, or an "insider" or participant account that typically shows either victim bias or participant/partisan advocacy. the crux, it seems to me, is that editorial common sense and reasonable challenge and response have to suffice when the institutional and academic or journalistic conventions of reference seem insufficient for whatever reason.

thanks to all contributors for their comments and improvements. Macevoy (talk) 17:36, 8 December 2008 (UTC)


"In the 19th century a six paint 'split primary' palette became popular and is still advocated by older painters." I have trouble believing that this claim of an age bias is a verifiable fact. As mentioned above, I'm not going to get 20 books to find the exact source, but it sounds like a non-neutral point of view (see WP:NPOV).

I never heard of "the hexachrome palette" before, and the only google mentions of the term are to 90 derivatives of this wikipedia article, plus a couple mentions about Pantone's Hexachrome(tm) process. Can anyone verify that this is currently the predominant approach worldwide, and that the terminology is standard?

Also, are the specific colors listed part of the definition of those palettes, or just examples? I think the split primary is a general palette (two of each primary), not a specific one. Googling the specific colors only turns up one corroborating source,, and a spanish copy of, which I gather from the above discussion is by the same author here. If the colors are just examples, clarification would be helpful.

-Agyle 22:34, 22 September 2007 (UTC)

reasonable points. i've inserted the comment "for example" in the listing of pigments. i've replaced "hexachrome" with "six paint" to remove trademark confusion. and i've cited the traditional three and four paint palettes for completeness.

all the painters or "experts" known to me personally, or publicly through publications or workshops, who also advocate the "split primary" palette, are over 50 years old. the deeper point is that the "split primary" palette is based (as far back as i have been able to trace it) on some detailed comments on subtractive color mixture in chevreul's "simultaneous color harmony and contrast" published in 1839 and quoted in my critique at . this text is relied upon heavily in a specific tradition of "color theory" which, in part because of the innovations of digital imaging and color printing technologies, and in part because chevreul's analysis is based on a complete misunderstanding of both color perception and subtractive color mixing, is no longer front and center in art school curricula. in other words, it's outmoded.

What you call the "Split Primary" pallette is still widely taught in college color theory courses. The facts that you are giving do not apply outside the world of the printing industry and will only confuse aspiring artists who are unfortunate enough to follow your advice. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:32, 26 February 2012 (UTC)

Paint Lightfastness[edit]

The Paint Lightfastness section seems to have a number of factual errors (and / or lack of references) It's got PY40 Aureolin as "should never be used under any circumstances" whereas that pigment is ASTM rated II and article goes on to say "painters should only use paints that have a lightfastness rating of I or II under the testing standards published the American Society of Testing and Materials (now ASTM International)." ! I've seen one particular artist on web advising against Aureolin but don't think its generally accepted fact that there is a problem with it.

"and paints premixed with a white pigment, including paints marketed under the names naples yellow,..." where does evidence for that come from - seeing as most whites (except flake white) are ASTM I - problems only arise if you mix with a fugitive yellow!

How about using Michael Wilcox "Guide to the Finest Watercolour Paints" ISBN UK 0 89134 4098 for this? It lists lightfastness ASTM and his research for all pigments and for specific manufacturers paints.

I'm considering making changes to this, but would like other peoples comments... -Hunting dog (talk) 11:57, 18 May 2008 (UTC)

i appreciate huntingdog's careful read but the previous comments are misinformed and all the challenged information should stand.

the article on cobalt yellow (aureolin) by maura cornman in "artist's pigments: a handbook of their history and characteristics, volume 1" (national gallery washington, 1986) states (p.38-39): "Experimentation over the years has indicated that cobalt yellow is given to apparently capricious reactions. Thus, the evidence in the literature concerning its permanence is contradictory -- some reports suggest that it is extremely stable while others indicate that it may turn brown on exposure [to light] or contribute to the degradation of admixed organic pigments. An inconclusive picture remains, and cobalt yellow's replacement by more reliable and less expensive pigments has all but eliminated interest in further investigation of its properties and value as an artists' colorant." to that i would add that aureolin is also listed as suspect by the michael wilcox paint guide (for all its flaws) and thoroughly disapproved by the hilary page paint guide. my own lightfastness testing of this pigment (in watercolors) supports the view that it is unreliable and should never be used (see my results at

deference given to the 1999 ASTM testing results is unproductive, as those lightfastness tests include anomalous results -- the rating of cobalt yellow among them. (note, in the text, that i refer to the *testing standards* or lightfastness testing methodologies, which are useful, not to the ASTM "test results".) the wilcox guide uncritically parrots the ASTM ratings in an inappropriate extension of the ASTM test of a single pigment sample from one manufacturer to all the pigments from all manufacturers as used in all commercial paints. (his paint "tests" consisted of painting out a sample to see if it was "gummy" or not: see my extensive comments on wilcox at .) the hilary page lightfastness tests, though outdated now, are much more reliable. my own tests of about 750 paints in 2004 are the most recent available, and already out of date. the larger point is that lightfastness is not a fixed attribute, like the atomic number of an element, but a continually moving target. the recent upsurge of commercial pigment production in china and india, in particular, greatly complicates any reliance on a pigment rating "authority".

to the comment about "flake white" (actually, only zinc white or titanium white are used in watercolors): the blanching of color mixtures that include white paint is well known to watercolor painters, reported and emphasized by michael wilcox in his "blue and yellow don't make green", and repeatedly uncovered in my own lightfastness tests (see for example the naples yellow results: ). the source of the problem is not clear to me, but it seems to involve (in watercolor paints) a chemical change in the oxide pigment that causes it to become more opaque so that it somewhat masks any pigment it is mixed with.

" The most stable painting medium is pastel, but modern lightfast watercolors are now more stable than oil or acrylic mediums." A reference needs to be provided, if this material is to be considered reliable. I find the whole paint lightfastness section of the article very untrustworthy.Amadeus webern (talk) 02:19, 1 October 2012 (UTC)

External Links[edit]

I've culled the external links section, which seemed to have accumulated a lot of individual artists sites. I don't think artist 'x' demonstrating method 'y' (or trying to sell pictures of same) are relevant links for this article. If anyone disagrees please discuss here: -Hunting dog (talk) 21:33, 14 June 2008 (UTC)

blessed are the link cullers, for they shall have watercullers painted in their tribute. Macevoy (talk) 19:19, 8 December 2008 (UTC)

Split article[edit]

The article is very long and I wonder if it is worth splitting into two smaller articles "history of watercolour painting" and "Techniques of water colour painting"? Peterlewis (talk) 20:51, 15 June 2008 (UTC)

hmm, its 63kb which is a bit large according to Wikipedia:Page_size#A_rule_of_thumb in the probably should be divided category, just. "History of watercolour painting" sounds like a good idea, I'd beware of "Techniques of..." though the article's already a bit 'how-to' ish. Watercolour materials maybe? Oil painting is split Oil painting and Oil paint -Hunting dog (talk) 20:43, 17 June 2008 (UTC)
Agreed, but I think it's ok for now. The hisory, nearly all from EB, badly neglects early periods though. Johnbod (talk)

not sure what "badly neglects" and "early periods" refers to. it's generally customary to start any discussion of watercolor painting in europe with durer, at the earliest, and his practice was both limited, atypical and not influential. paper was not in common use before that time, and parchment was typically illustrated with a more durable binder, as pigments other than ink were relatively coarse and the surface relatively nonabsorbent. watercolor (gum binder) paints were used to hand tint engraved illustrations in early printed paper books, but this is really a book publishing rather than painting use of the medium. the dutch "landskip" tradition is typically a sepia wash and ink drawing, not a watercolor painting. watercolor painting as a painting tradition, even in britain, is difficult to document before c.1700.

i think the point is that there is an incidental practice using the materials associated with a medium (e.g., gum used as a convenient general binder for pigments and for gold leaf), and then there is a recognized standardized practice, specifically indicated when a medium is cultivated and taught as having inherent visual properties or artistic uses separate from other techniques. i know a wide range of sources and to my knowledge "standard practice" does not apply to european watercolors before the early examples i mention. one could of course go the other way, and start with the prehistoric cave paintings made with soot and spit. Macevoy (talk) 19:34, 8 December 2008 (UTC)

Jose Fadul's image[edit]

I've removed this since it's obviously a photograph with several Photoshop filters applied (including the watercolor filter). A look at here shows that all of this guy's work is made of photographs that are heavily Photoshopped with various art/effect filters. None of it appears to actually involve the artistic techniques with which the images are tagged.

Further, a look at Jose Fadul shows what seems like a vanity page for a somewhat accomplished person, though with misrepresenting his artwork I'm uncertain how credible the contents of the "artist"'s page should be considered. (talk) 20:19, 24 July 2008 (UTC)

have moved your comment to bottom of page where more users are likely to notice it as new section. I tend to agree with your assessment, it was link to his site that I'd removed on previous edit, someone seems to be on a promotional spree. Some of 'references on the Jose Fadul page do look dodgy but those are probably best discussed on that articles talk page. -Hunting dog (talk) 20:32, 24 July 2008 (UTC)


I removed the following as it blanked part of the article in what I assume was an editing mishap

[[and that can be applied with a brush, pen or sprayer; this includes most inks, watercolors, [[tempera]]s, gouaches and modern acrylic paints. The term watercolor refers to paints that use water soluble, complex carbohydrates as a binder. Originally (16th to 18th centuries) watercolor binders were sugars and/or hide glues, but since the 19th century the preferred binder is natural gum arabic, with glycerin and/or honey as additives to improve plasticity and dissolvability of the binder, and with other chemicals added to improve product shelf life. Bodycolor is a watercolor made as opaque as possible by a heavy pigment concentration, and gouache is a watercolor made opaque by the addition of a colorless opacifier (such as chalk or zinc oxide). Modern acrylic paints are based on a completely different chemistry that uses water soluble acrylic resin as a binder.

You guys can reinsert if you see fit benjicharlton (talk) 13:31, 3 September 2008 (UTC)

Not a good move - look at the edit before yours. Always look at the history to try to see what has happened. Johnbod (talk) 23:49, 4 September 2008 (UTC)

Image copyright problem with Image:Latefall.jpg[edit]

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No citation For synthetic brush filament claims[edit]

The statement,

"In the past decade or so, each nylon bristle now has many small "hairs" off of it, each of which can hold a drop of water. Many artists now prefer synthetic brushes because of their superior points and durability."

seems to me either inaccurate (the durability claim was in fact contradicted several lines down) and not relevant to watercolor (simulating flags on synthetic bristles by abrasion); without a citation or a link to an external creditable source it really should be deleted. If someone can find a suitable reference this edit could be reverted... DruBanerjee (talk) 18:20, 23 October 2010 (UTC)

Bodycolour & Gouache[edit]

Whoever said that "Bodycolor is a watercolor made as opaque as possible by a heavy pigment concentration, and gouache is a watercolor made opaque by the addition of a colorless opacifier (such as chalk or zinc oxide)." Historically, bodycolour is watercolour made opaque by the addition of chalk or Chinese White (zinc oxide). I think that this passage should be deleted. Amadeus webern (talk) 23:54, 14 June 2011 (UTC)

Instead of simply deleting it, why don't you correct the information and provide a reference? Cheers, Lithoderm 00:09, 25 October 2011 (UTC)

Medium (mechanical engineering)[edit]

Reference to the mechanical engineering processing medium may be useful here, even while that is an ultra-Stub. But I think it's a mistaken target in the lead sentence. There must be a better article (section?) about the solids & liquids aspect of "medium/media". --P64 (talk) 19:23, 29 November 2012 (UTC)

File:Dolceacqua43 - Artista locale mentre dipinge un acquarello.jpg to appear as POTD[edit]

Hello! This is a note to let the editors of this article know that File:Dolceacqua43 - Artista locale mentre dipinge un acquarello.jpg will be appearing as picture of the day on May 29, 2013. You can view and edit the POTD blurb at Template:POTD/2013-05-29. If this article needs any attention or maintenance, it would be preferable if that could be done before its appearance on the Main Page. Thanks! — Crisco 1492 (talk) 00:59, 13 May 2013 (UTC)

Picture of the day
Watercolor painting

A watercolor painter working in Dolceacqua, Liguria, Italy, using a round brush. Watercolor is a painting method in which paints are made of pigments suspended in a water-soluble vehicle. The traditional and most common support for watercolor paintings is paper.

Photograph: Dongio
ArchiveMore featured pictures...

Large portions of text need citations[edit]

There are several entire sections without any citation whatsoever. Some of the text seems to be stating subjective opinion as fact (i.e. the superiority of one type of brush over another).I know little about the artform, so I can't tell what is or isn't likely to be common knowledge or likely to be supported by references. however, that goes to the point that if what is written here is assumed to be common knowledge, it's not very common. There needs to be a pretty decent overhaul of this text with it stands this reads like someone's book report on watercolors rather than an encyclopedic entry. I wouldn't know where to start, but someone must have some experience in this field, and could add a reference or two. I don't want to start galumphing through erasing uncited text as an uninformed reader. But something needs to be done here. (talk) 22:18, 29 May 2013 (UTC)