Swatching Watercolors

Swatching your art supplies is great for a go-to reference if you need to look up colors or to compare various brands of the same color.

I have taken all the watercolors that I own and did just that. Unfortunately I don’t own any professional grade/quality watercolors. But for practice purposes it is fine for now. It is however on my wishlist to slowly build up some professional watercolor supplies. They however don’t come cheap.

The supplies I have is Winson & Newton Cotman Watercolour Paint Tubes, Reeves Watercolour Paint Tubes, Cretacolor Artist Studio Watercolor Pencils, Derwent Academy Watercolour Pencils and Derwent Aquatone Solid Watercolour Sticks. 

The Tube Paints

These are the only Cotman Watercolor paints I own from Winson & Newton. They are student grade paints but still much higher grade than most other student paints. You will note some of the tubes look different from another. Those with the shiny Winsor & Newton label part at the top is the newer tubes. A little goes a very long way and they active well after hardening by adding water. 

Above you can see small square swatches made of each color. I used a small template that I cut out from a thick piece of plastic. The template can be seen in the very last photo of the additional supplies used during this exercise. I will do a future post on the value variations from each color. 

Reeves is another student grade paint. This was the very first watercolor paints I purchased many years ago. They are not as vibrant and sometimes I do find that there is little pieces in the paint. You have to give it a good whirl with your brush to mix it with the water. It also actives well once dry by adding water again.

Below I did placed the Yellow Ochre and Crimson colors next to each other for a color comparison. On the left is the Cotman and on the right Reeves. Cotman is much more vibrant than Reeves. Please ignore the other colors as they are different rows for each brand.

The Pencils/Sticks

Watercolor pencils can be used in two ways. You can color in the area and then apply water over with a brush or you can wet the pencil with the brush and load color that way and then paint. I have tried to wet the paper and then use the pencil. Even though this can be done I have found that I can not layer colors this way. I use watercolor pencils all the time especially in my bullet journal. 

The Cretacolor Artist Studio Watercolor Pencils was the very first watercolor pencils I bought. They are very affordable and work just as great as any of the other pencils I own.

With the Cretacolor swatches I only colored the first very dark section of the block and then dragged the paint to the end, lifting out sections to show the different values.

There is no color names on the pencils and therefore I wrote the names that I thought resembled the colors.

Derwent Academy Watercolour Pencils is another great pencil. I have both the 12 set tin and the 12 set plastic container. The tubular container is great to take with on the go. 

When I did the swatches for these Derwent pencils I colored the entire block. The first part I pressed hard and the softer and then even softer. Afterwards I gave it a wash moving from the lightest to the darkest areas. 

The Derwent Aquatone Solid Watercolour Sticks feels and behaves quite different to the other watercolor pencils. They feel waxy almost like a crayon.

Just like I did with the Cretacolor, I colored in the darkest first section. I pressed very hard. I would highly recommend you don’t do that, it leaves a lot of residue on the page, almost like shavings and you really have to whirl the brush around to pick up all the pieces. I then spread it out and lifted out the various tints.

In the photo below you can see the waxy consistency of the stick taken from an angle before adding water. The colors are vibrant and the stick stays wet much longer than the other pencils when adding water to the pencil.

The Supplies

When I did the swatches I used the little plastic template as seen the photo below. But in the swatches for the pencils I drew the blocks in a grey color using Microsoft Excel and printing it out on the watercolor paper.

The paper I used is XL Aquarelle A4 Cold Pressed Watercolour paper 330 g/ms by Canson.

I wrote out the names using the Sukura Pigma Micron .03 black pen. 

I tried to erase some initial pencil markings using the Mono Light Eraser from Tombow. This has got to be the best eraser I ever owned. So soft and glides so smooth over the paper.

The flat brush did not have a size on it.

I sharpened the pencils using the duel sharpener from Faber Castell. This is another must have item. Inside is three point sizes and also the cartridge that keeps the shavings.

At the time I did these swatches I used the plastic well palette for the tube paints. I have however now opted to use a large porcelain/glass square plate. 

I mix the supplies I have and don’t use just one brand for a painting or drawing. I highly recommend you swatch and explore various brands and see what you like.


Ps: If you are wondering why I write both watercolor and watercolour, I use it as it shows on the packaging even though I normally write and type watercolor. Please bear with me. 😉

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