wet watercolor & alcohol

The other day I was searching through the basement, looking for paint brushes, and I stumbled upon an old palette box that was filled with watercolor paint. I’d completely forgotten about the set that I’d purchased in Saipan about 7 years ago. The entire set of Pentel watercolors cost about $18. Probably not the best quality, but they still work.

watercolors in metal palette box

The Daniel Smith watercolors I ordered won’t be here before Wednesday, and after having so-so results with my last alcohol and watercolor test, I was itching to try out alcohol with wet watercolors. I found the forgotten paints at the perfect time!

Some of the names of the colors are very basic: purple, red, and orange. Others have more commonly used paint names: vermillion, naples yellow, and cobalt blue.

I squirted a few colors onto the palette side of the box and got started.

alcohol and watercolor paint, take 2

For each color, the stripe on the left is the straight alcohol mixed with paint. The next stripe to the right is watercolor and pure water, and the smaller stripe (an afterthought, so I didn’t leave enough room to properly experiment) is a combination of alcohol and water.

When I mixed in the alcohol, the smooth wet paint almost immediately curdled into small particles. When I painted the mixture onto the paper, it felt very waxy. Because the watercolor paint was wet, I was able to gather up more pigment on my brush to smear on the paper than when I tried to lift up pigment from the dry Daniel Smith sample dots. The resulting texture is very streaky and gritty.

As with the dried paint dots, some of the colors seemed more willing to mix with alcohol than others. The red was very stubborn about the whole thing, but red purple (second from left) almost seemed to like the alcohol. The prussian blue (far right) also mixed relatively well with the alcohol, and the purple and ultramarine fell somewhere in the middle.

I finally realize that watercolor paint isn’t made to be used with straight alcohol. It pretty much doesn’t like it at all, but that’s what makes the effect of adding drops of alcohol to watery watercolor interesting–the watercolor practically runs away from the alcohol.

However, just because watercolors weren’t made to mix with alcohol doesn’t mean the effect isn’t interesting. Although I’m sure some watercolor purists would probably disagree, it could have some applications in future paintings where a rough texture is in order.

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