On Making Your Own Watercolor Paints

Watercolor represents at least a purity of form simple pigment on paper. Nothing to hide the pigment and barely enough of something to hold the pigment to the paper. I wanted to expand a handful of pigments into my watercolor palette.

1. Lapis Lazuli - one of the kings of pigments. I had tried before to add this to my pallet by purchasing a pre-made tube from another manufacturer. I was unhappy with the results as the paint resulted in more of what I would think an ash grey should be.

2. Lemon Ocher. A lovely yellow, even more so when used lightly.

3. Cyprus Raw Umber Dark. I had just fallen in love with a pigment in oil, and I needed to replace the umber on my palette. 

So now that we have chosen our victims, we needed to choose something to grind them with. My choice was Rublev Colours Watercolor Medium.

I decided to start with Lemon Ocher. I added a bit of water to the pigment, added just a bit of the watercolor medium, and mulled this over. Then I placed the resulting mix into a half pan to let dry. I rinsed off the muller, grinding plate, and the two palette knives I used to make paints with and proceeded to make some umber; I don't know what happened with the umber. When it dried, it became crumbly, and the golden ochre shrunk considerably. However, after examining the results of the previous two attempts, I tried the lazurite.. being much more careful this time.

I did not use any water with the Lapis, just the watercolor medium. I also did not add quite as much to it as I had the Lemon Ocher.

What I achieved demonstrates why Lapis Lazuli has been a favorite amongst artists for as long as there have been artists.

An excellent transparent blue, much more transparent than I thought it would be. And with a slightly more purple tinge than I had thought it would have. I have since found it invaluable, especially in toning transparent colors.

So the key to making watercolors is the amount of watercolor medium and not adding any water. It also seems like oil because you need to experiment a bit to get it right for each pigment you try to make. 

The Lemon Ocher and the umber both work as watercolors; they are just not the ideal consistency in the cake form I would like. This is entirely my fault, and I will correct it the next time. This is also one of the benefits of experimenting with half pans, as it doesn't take much pigment, so mistakes are not quite so costly, even when using relatively expensive pigments.