Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Q&A: watercolour dullness

Here's a question I received via my website: I love your watercolor on paper. My question is the paper watercolor paper and is it gesso ex? My paintings often look to dull. I love your colors and brightness. What am I doing wrong. I use WC paper not gessoed.

My answer: Hi and thank you Judy. A common problem and a simple solution. Dullness could be caused by a number of things: poor quality of paint; poor quality of paper; too many pigments being mixed together; or overworking/re-working of washes. Unfortunately, watercolour materials do not come cheap. Alongside decent sable-type brushes you will need artist-quality paint and paper – student quality, albeit fine for learning, doesn’t quite cut it. Mixing too many pigments together will result in muddy wash of colour. I keep my mixes fairly open and mainly use either one pigment/colour or two. Watch out: some colours (eg. indigo) can contain two pigments to start with. Re-working washes (areas of paint) will result in the painting losing its freshness. I believe this is due to the pigment particles being disturbed from their initial state – a bit like smudging a fresh pastel mark will result in a duller result. Oh, gesso doesn’t really make a difference except that it can improve the surface of the paper if you’re using cheap stuff. I hope this helps.

Always happy to help!
Chilled to the bone/watercolour


  1. I found one of your paintings on Pinterest. Your artwork is brilliant. Thank you for sharing some of your techniques so freely on your blog. That is most helpful to many people i am sure. Myself included! :)

    1. Thank you Ross. I've been slacking a bit recently, but your comments may prompt me into uploading some more posts… once I've overcome this cold!