by Rachel Forster

Mediums open up a whole world of exciting possibilities for the watercolour artist who wants to experiment.  Here’s a list of some that I have used to achieve very satisfying results.

MASKING FLUID:  This pigmented liquid latex “masks” or protects areas of the page that are to remain paint-free, and is rubbed off once the painting is dry.  Apply with an inexpensive or old brush, because it tends to get stuck between bristles unless it’s washed right away.  I prefer to use a silicone tipped tool because the the masking fluid peels right off!

GUM ARABIC:  This traditional watercolour binder improves gloss and transparency, slows drying, and reduces staining.  When diluted and brushed onto the page before painting, it aids in lifting.  However, if used in excess it tends to dry brittle, so Lifting Preparation is preferred for this purpose.

IRIDESCENT MEDIUM:  Best with transparent colours or used on a dark background, this adds shimmer to the paint.  On it’s own it yields a dramatic pearlescent effect.

GRANULATING MEDIUM:  Some pigments are already considered granular.  Using this substance mixed with watercolours adds or increases a mottled finish.

TEXTURE MEDIUM:  With a similar consistency of applesauce, but containing fine particles, this is brushed on the paper and added to paint to produce texture and depth.

OX GALL:  Added to the pot of water, this liquid improves flow, slows drying, and is excellent for hand lettering.  It also has the function of making the painting surface more receptive to paint when brushed on beforehand.

ABSORBENT GROUNDS:  Yes, it is possible to paint on almost any surface (i.e. canvas and wood) that wouldn’t normally accept watercolour once this compound has been applied.  It is available in various textures, as well as in self-leveling and light-molding versions.

As you can see from this brief overview, mediums are a great way to add new dimensions to your art.  If you need advice, visit any of our three locations.  Our friendly and knowledgeable staff would love to assist you.

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I’ve used Winsor & Newton products for over 10 years. I use their bristle brushes, stretched canvases, oil paints and mediums. I find them very consistent and of good quality, even in their Winton student line.

The Winton line is excellent for earth tones that don’t need to be as highly pigmented as cadmiums or ultramarines, which I get in the artist quality lines. Buying the products strategically allows for a wide selection of tools available to me.

Inside each tube of paint is the pigment powder mixed into oil. Winsor and Newton primarily use linseed oil and/or safflower oil. Linseed oil is more yellow than safflower so it is good to pair the oils you paint with to the value of the colour you are using to ensure the colour stays true over time.

Typically, in a glass jar, a mixture of 40% thinner and 60% oil (or a similar ratio you come to like) is what you paint with.

If you want more of a glaze “stand oil” is a thicker version of linseed oil so it makes the paint more ‘tacky’ and holds the pigments while you spread it thinly over an area.  Typically I use just thinner at the start of a painting, then the mix, then stand oil for the top layers.

The best tip for any painter who wants a vibrant painting is to keep the area clean. Clean your brushes, clean your palette, change your painting rag, and don’t over-paint an area. I clean my brushes every hour and switch my thinner every time it gets cloudy.

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