Saturday, May 16, 2015

Dilemna of black - to mix or not to mix

The topic of whether to use black out of the tube or to mix your black always makes for an interesting discussion with watercolorists.

In the past months, I painted a few 16" X 20" paintings of apple blossoms with black backgrounds. This was after practicing on smaller paintings.  Black backgrounds on larger paintings are definitely more of a struggle for me, especially getting it to look unform across the painting.

It would be so easy if we could reach for a tube of black and be done with it. However, for blacks that have more life and colour in them, mixing them is the solution.  There are a number of options for creating blacks, some of my favorites include
  • Alizarin Crimson and Winsor Blue
  • Alizarin Crimson and Winsor Green

Because these pigments are transparent, you get radiant blacks. Typically, one would vary the mix so that it is cooler in part of the mix and warmer in another area giving more life to the painting. This is where tubes cannot compete, they look flat because there is no variation.

I've read about it and tried mixing three colours, but my mixes didn't appear as clean.  What's your experience?

It's one thing to mix the right colours, it's another to get the beautiful effect you desire on the paper. Here are a few tips when painting large surfaces of black:
  • for strong a dark, use plenty of pigment and very little water.  However, too little water will provide a blotchy appearance.
  • to create uniform black for the entire surface, mix the paint and water well. Any variation in paint thickness will show once the paint is dry
  • don’t wash or dip your brush in water between applications as this only dilutes the mixture and will create irregular blacks.
  • make sure you have plenty of paint squeezed out – you won’t be able to mix strong darks with minute amounts of paint on your palette
  • wet on dry works best (at least for me) on large backgrounds
  • plan on applying at least two coats of black
For those that have a water well and water conditioner, you may run into an unusual situation. The salt in the water from the conditioner, that doesn't usually make a difference, may manifest itself in the form of light white streaks over the black.  In my case, when I tried to even these out with more water, even purified water, I ended up making the problem worse.

If you do use black out of the tube, you might want to try different brands since not blacks are create equal. They each have different properties of granulation and staining and transparency, and significantly different hues, that is quite a range of things to shun! If you do experiment with tube blacks, you may want to try adding a bit of Ultramarine Blue or Alizarin Crimson to them to give it is some warmth or coolness.

What are your tips for creating unified vibrant black backgrounds?

Today's art find if VĂ©ronique Piaser-Moyen:
veronique piaser-moyen

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1 comment:

  1. Excellent post about mixing blacks. I'll send a link to one of my students.


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