Monday 25 July 2016

Product Review: Millford Watercolour Paper - Part II

I posted Part I on of this review with some background information and product links a week or so ago. The full review is now online:

If you like the look of Millford too and want to try it out:
Millford only comes in 300gsm (140lb) cold-press paper in the form of Imperial, Half Imperial and Quarter Imperial sheets [US readers can buy it here], which is very economical even though it's quite a large outlay as one has to buy 4 or 10 sheets as a minimum from most suppliers, but do shop around. If you find a vendor that sells it by the sheets, please let me know in the comments and I'll add it to the post! You can buy Bockingford and Saunders Waterford papers via my Watercolour Supplies page.

GIVEAWAY! Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolour in 017 Aurora Yellow

Aurora Yellow was a two-pigment (Cadmium zinc sulfide and Cadmium sulfide) just-warm-of-neutral opaque mid-yellow that Winsor and Newton discontinued in 1996. I have several tubes of it that I managed to obtain in a clearance not long ago. These are very rare and hard to come by, and I'm giving some of them away as follows:

* I will make as many spot-cards of 017 Aurora Yellow as people request it on this youtube video's comments.

* If you want a whole tube to yourself, just subscribe to my blog (box at the top of the right column) AND to my YouTube channel and then comment on this video by 2359h BST Sunday 31st July, saying why you want to win it. You must be over 13 years old to enter. Anyone under 18 will, if they win, need to nominate an over-18 to receive the paint as it contains two cadmium pigments. If you're not subscribed to both my blog AND my channel by the closing date, you're unfortunately not eligible to enter, sorry.

[Please note the tubes are from the 1980s - all the ones I've opened are totally fine inside, but obviously I cannot guarantee the contents - if they have separated from the binder, just stir before use]

Good luck!

Tuesday 19 July 2016

Product Review: Millford Watercolour Paper - Part I

EDITED 19/07/16 - I have just found somewhere you can buy original Whatman watercolour papers - albeit antique sheets. I've not bought anything from them and know nothing about them but I just found it online - please post a comment if you know if they're a reliable person to buy from or not. Thanks.

As astute viewers or readers will note, I have reviewed recently the tinted Bockingford range (Review. Video.) from St Cuthbert's Mill. In amongst the same package of sample papers from St Cuthbert's Mill was a paper I'd never even heard of before - Millford Watercolour Paper. The notes in the package said it was designed to replace the discontinued Whatman Watercolour Paper, which ceased production in the 1980s. I was curious about this because we use Whatman filter paper, chromatography paper etc day in day out in my research laboratory. I've since done some reading, so here's a little history lesson for you!

The Whatman Paper History
Waaaaaay back, about 1750, Mr Whatman (or probably one of his staff) discovered a new way to make paper using a super-fine mesh that created a smooth paper without impressions from the mesh. This was the first of the modern printmaking papers - remember that back then, watercolour paper didn't really exist yet. Mr Whatman noticed that since the paper was lovely and smooth, he could impress things into the wet paper - like sheets of felt or hot metal rollers - to create pressed paper or rolled paper. These lead to the cold press and hot press papers we all know and love, though they were "printmaking paper" or "drawing paper" at that time. Sizing then started to be added and what Mr Whatman is usually credited with is the hard size - this being at the time made of gelatin cross-linked with aluminium potassium sulfate (potash alum aka alum) - alum connects gelatin chains together, making a gel that, when it dries out, is nice and hard and, importantly, holds back water for quite a long time. This was obviously popular with the watercolour painters of the day! Nowadays, there's a bit of an issue with potash alum with regard to archival properties - so synthetic sizes often get used, or are made with strong buffers to get the pH stable.

So what was modern Whatman paper?
As I understand it, it was a heavily sized, cotton-and-linen rag paper with a strong gelatin sizing both internally and surface sized too, which makes the paint float on the paper for a really long time. This means that:

  • Washes sit on the paper for a really long time before drying, so you can play with them for a long while.
  • Even staining-colours can be lifted because the sizing is so strong.
  • Because the paint sits on the surface and doesn't soak in, it retains full colour and has wonderful luminosity and glow.
How does Millford paper compare?
Millford only comes in 300gsm (140lb) cold-press paper in the form of Imperial, Half Imperial and Quarter Imperial sheets [US readers can buy it here], which is quite limiting. So I am told, St Cuthbert's Mill have actually obtained Whatman's recipe, so what they make is pretty similar, and it has really good reviews. 

I decided to compare it with all of my other papers in stock at the moment and with both granulating mineral-based paints and with light-stain and heavy-stain dye-based paints. This is what I'm going to test:
  • How long washes sit on the paper and how different they are when they dry.
  • How well the 3 different colour types lift, both immediately and after drying totally.
  • How the paper responds to masking fluid (heavy sizing should making this easy to remove and use).
I'll be posting a video and blog post of my findings tomorrow!

Monday 18 July 2016

Mijello Mission Gold - Pure Pigments set - a warning

DISCLAIMER: I have not used this set, I do not own this set, I have not even seen it in the flesh. I do not work for, nor am I affiliated to any paint manufacturers. These are my personal opinions and I have not been paid or given anything in return for this analysis. 

My primary concerns with this set relate to cheap dye-based pigments being used in lieu of mineral pigments such as Viridian, without them being clearly labelled with 'Hue'. When marketed as a 'pure pigments' set, most customers would assume they are actually getting the pigment-proper, not a hue. My secondary concern is that very cheap dye-based paints in this set are retailed for $20 per tube in open stock - they do have a high pigment-load but that doesn't justify the open stock prices when such cheap pigments are used. I'm not concerned by their performance, other than how many of the dyes used are light sensitive.

The Mijello Mission Gold Pure Pigments Set has been very popular recently, with a lot of artists and crafters buying it. The paints are not cheap - in open stock, some tubes are over $25 in the USA - they are not as easy to get hold of in the UK so I can't give UK prices. The incomparable Lindsay The Frugal Crafter has done a video review of this set recently and prior to doing so she asked me if I knew anything about it. I had a quick look at the composition at the time and the "Viridian" and "Cerulean Blue" both being Phthalocyanine dyes stuck out, but I didn't look at it much more. 

Since I watched Lindsay's review, I noticed some of the other colours had odd names or just looked a little unusual on the page. I've since been through all of the colours that Mijello list as being in the set. I have looked up their pigments in the Colour Index and here is a breakdown of what this set really contains. 

I am very concerned that it is mostly made up of very cheap dyes, yet the tubes retail in open stock in the USA at a very high price-point - some tubes are over $25. Mijello advertise "the finest pigments available", but they're not, by any means - they're cheap dyes in many cases, and not the typical pigments one would expect to find in a paint of that name - take a look a Viridian, Rose Madder, Cerulean Blue below, for example. I know "Viridian" is in Series C, as is "Cerulean Blue" - these are pretty expensive paints, yet contain nothing different from a cheap student line's Phthalocyanine dyes - this dye family are amongst the cheapest out there, so they're normally in the lowest priced series in any watercolour range. The ones that do use mineral pigments use cheaper ones like iron oxides etc. Some of the names are misleading - the Chinese White is a weak Titanium White, not a proper Chinese White.

What's worse is how many of the dyes are fugitive - I've noted this below. Now that is not to say that the paints are fugitive, as they may contain UV-resistant binders etc to protect the pigments, but as naked dyes, they are most certainly not lightfast. 

"Lemon Yellow" is not a typical lemon - it's Hansa Yellow 10G (PY3), which is fugitive when used very dilute, like in a thin wash. "Primary Yellow" is Benzimidazolone Yellow 154 (PY154) - this is as close to Process Yellow as you can get. "Permanent Yellow Deep" is Hansa yellow 65 (PY65) - usually in "Hansa Yellow Deep" type colours. "Red Orange" is your typical Pyrrol Orange (PO73) - nothing wrong with this. "Scarlet Lake" is Naphthol Red AS-D (PR112) - this is fugitive and will dull and go muddy. "Permanent Red" is Naphthol Red AS-D (PR112) - this is fugitive and will dull and go muddy over time - not very "permanent" is it?! [note the above are quite same-y on the page in Lindsay's review video - makes sense, same pigment] "Perm Red Deep" is Pyrolle Red (PR254) - again, fugitive - it darkens and blues over time. "Cherry Red" is Quinacridone Red (PR209 - there are two Quin Reds) - again, fugitive - it blues over time with exposure to light "Indian Red" is PR101 (Red Iron Oxide) as it should be. "Crimson Lake" is Quinacridone Crimson (PR202) - not a lake but not fugitive at least. "Permanent Rose" is Quinacridone Rose (PV19) as one would expect it to be - but this also blues with time - most Quinacridones are fugitive! "Perylene Maroon" is indeed Perylene Maroon (PR179) - this does fade a bit but it's not too bad. "Rose Madder" is made of PR176 Benzimidazolone Carmine (should be NR8 or NR9 if it's genuine or can be PR83 (Alizarin Crimson - synthetic rose madder, basically) or PR122 (Quinacridone Red) is sometimes used - PR176 is, as such, an odd choice) - this is fugitive and turns more blue as it fades so keep an eye on this one. "Permanent Magenta" is PR122 (Quinacridone Red) - this fades and neutralises - becomes less of a magenta and more of a red as it fades. "Cerulean Blue" is Phthalocyanine Blue BGS (PB15:3) - this is the blue-green Phthalo Blue - Cerulean Blue should by rights be a Cobalt Chromate mineral pigment, not a dye. "Prussian Blue" is indeed Prussian Blue (PB27) - this can brown in bright sunlight but it is totally reversible in the dark. "Cobalt Blue No. 2" is indeed Cobalt Blue (PB28) - cobalt aluminate/blue spinel - lovely granulating pigment. "Ultramarine Light" is Ultramarine Blue (PB29), as it should be. "Viridian" should be chromic hydroxide (PG18) but they have used Phthalocyanine Green BS (PG7). "Bamboo Green" is Phthalocyanine Green YS (PG36), hence why they look very same-y, they're the same pigment molecule, with slight modifications. "Yellow Ochre No. 2" is Hydrated Ferric Oxide (PY43), as it normally is. "Green Gold" - now this one is weird, they've used Nickel Azo Yellow (PY150), which is one of those grey-ish lemons - it's also a bit prone to fading but not much. Green Gold proper is Irgazin Yellow (PY129), which doesn't fade. "Red Brown" is Benzimidazolone Brown (PBr25) - this is quite nice as it's a synthetic dye brown - you should get good luminosity through it. "Vandyke Brown" is Brown Iron Oxide (PBr7) - this is usually used in Burnt Sienna, true Van Dyke Brown (NBr8) is Lignite, but Manganese Brown (PBr8) is often used instead. "Chinese White" is Titanium White (PW6) - Chinese White is usually either Zinc White (PW4) alone or mixed with Titanium White - the latter is the cheaper option, hence why I guess they have used it? Why not just call it Titanium White? Unless they made it so dilute that it is translucent and looks like Chinese White? "Ivory Black" is made from Lamp Black (PBk7) - this is not usual. PBk9 (Bone Black) is usually used for Ivory Blacks - note they are obviously all carbon but the impurities are different which impacts tone, granulation etc etc.

Friday 15 July 2016

Bockingford Tinted Watercolour Papers - A Review

So some time ago now, the lovely people at St Cuthbert's Mill (based pretty nearby - they're upcountry in Somerset) sent me some papers to try out - samples of every weight and texture combination of Bockingford and Saunders Waterford. The former is chemical pulp and my preferred day-to-day paper - 535gsm/250lb, cold-press. I love the Rough texture even more, but it doesn't come heavier than 425gsm/200lb, and I prefer really heavy paper. The latter is a 100% cotton, heavily sized paper that I like for producing works as gifts or to sell - best of all, it comes at 638gsm/300lb in a Rough texture, which is brilliant! Sadly, it's very expensive for day-to-day use, otherwise I would be using it all the time. They also sent me some of their Millford watercolour paper (which is a facsimile remake of the old Whatman watercolour paper) and their Somerset printmaking paper - more on those later.

As well as the usual White and High White (bright white) finishes, Bockingford now comes in 5 tinted varieties - Oatmeal, Eggshell, Blue, Grey and Cream - these only come as 300gsm/140lb in cold-press, but that's ok. In the samples that St Cuthbert's Mill sent to me, they only sent small maybe 4" × 4" square pieces, so I didn't really know what to do with them and they've been languishing for months! I've never used tinted watercolour paper before but I know people use it to show different moods or times of day and I've been itching to try it but couldn't come up with a way to do it.

Lap dissolve and cut to this week! I discovered the wonderful Peter Sheeler's YouTube channel - he does beautiful urban sketches of wonderful locations all over the world and then paints beautiful layers of transparent glazes over them to create fabulous images. This week I saw a video he did of a painting of a street in Porto, Portugal. I just LOVED this video as the image reminds me a lot of the style of an original watercolour I was given 10 years ago by some friends, of a ruined church in Bulgaria, painted in the late 1990s - I can't read the artist's name, unfortunately, but I'll post the picture at some stage in the future as I love it so much. Anyway, one night I couldn't sleep so I did a version of Peter's sketch, with some differences - I removed the road sign and made a lamp-post for example - and I realised it was the perfect sketch to use to test the Bockingford tinted papers!

I then set about re-drawing it six times which was boring beyond belief - I stopped aiming for replicas and just went with six fairly similar pictures. I then mixed up some nice weak washes and painted all six pictures at once then left them to dry before judging how the tints impacted the mood.

Overall, I liked them a lot - the Grey and Blue were the ones I ended up enjoying the most for the watercolour and the Cream for the line-drawing stage of things. As with all Bockingford papers, masking tape did some damage - keep that in mind. I've embedded my video review, and, below that, there are the different ways you can buy these papers:

Bockingford Trial Pack (2 Quarter Imperial sheets of each of 5 tints) – UK £10.31 ( or USA $14.23 (

Curtisward Bockingford Rainbow Pack (140lb, Cold Press, 11” x 15”, 2 sheets of each tint) – UK £14.99 (

Curtisward Bockingford Rainbow Pack (140lb, Cold Press, 7.5” x 11”, 2 sheets of each tint) – UK £7.99 (

GREY (140lb, Cold Press)

11” by 15” (Quarter Imperial) – 20 sheets – UK: £13.11 ( OR 200 sheets – UK: £124.12 (

15” by 22” (Half Imperial) – 20 sheets – UK: £23.70 ( OR 100 sheets – UK: £124.12 (

22” by 30” (Imperial) – Single Sheet USA: $18.94 (

CREAM (140lb, Cold Press)

11” by 15” (Quarter Imperial) – 20 sheets – UK: £13.11 ( OR 80 sheets – UK: £49.65 (

15” by 22” (Half Imperial) – 20 sheets – UK: £23.70 ( OR 100 sheets – UK: £124.12 (

22” by 30” (Imperial) – Single Sheet USA: $18.94 (

OATMEAL (140lb, Cold Press)

11” by 15” (Quarter Imperial) – 20 sheets – UK: £13.11 ( OR 200 sheets – UK: £124.12 (

15” by 22” (Half Imperial) – 20 sheets – UK: £23.70 (

BLUE (140lb, Cold Press)

11” by 15” (Quarter Imperial) – 40 sheets – UK: £21.25 (

15” by 22” (Half Imperial) – 10 sheets – UK: £15.55 (

22” by 30” (Imperial) – Single Sheet USA: $18.94 (


11” by 15” (Quarter Imperial) – 80 sheets – UK: £49.65 (

15” by 22” (Half Imperial) - 20 sheets - UK: £23.70 (

22” by 30” (Imperial) – 10 sheets – UK: £23.70 (

Saturday 9 July 2016

A lick of paint

Yup, I've tarted things up a little! I've decorated my website (work in progress) and I've split up my YouTube videos (and tarted those up too - I much prefer my new look) into distinct series to help me organise things better. I've got a lot of footage I can now edit (I've had technology issues!) and I just got a new daylight bulb that makes filming new content a lot easier - phew! 

Friday 8 July 2016

New Series - Colour Chemistry

So over the last week or so, I've had a lot of questions about pigments and paints and their behaviour - which is something I really don't mind - I'm more than happy to help people understand some of the whys you can do X or can't do Y of watercolour painting. This lead to me to have an idea, which I've now spun into a brand new YouTube series!

Colour Chemistry is probably going to be uploaded 1-2 times a week for now, until I run low on ideas, I guess! I've kicked off with two episodes thus far, which I've embedded below:

Episode 1 covers the absolute fundamental - what is colour? How does light work? What do we really mean by colour? What's wavelength and how does it relate to colour? And above all, what do we really see when looking at a paint on the page?

Episode 2 uncovers the hidden secret of Opera Rose, one of my all time favourite paints - its beautiful, ethereal pink is owing to a fluorescent dye as part of the binder. In this video I explain what fluorescence is - a little bit of fundamental quantum physics, but I promise you, it's at a level anyone can follow!

Sunday 3 July 2016

Cotman Studio Palette - Converting into an en plein air palette

I've been trying to get myself organised for en plein air painting before the summer is over and I bought myself first of all a small Cotman sketchers set with 12 half-pans, and I liked it a lot but, y'know, I like to paint with 24 colours, minimum, so I started looking at buying another one, getting some empty half pans and pouring my own professional paints blah blah...then it hit me - I'm never going to paint a finished painting outdoors - only ever studies and sketches - so who needs professional paints, right? I found a Cotman 45-half-pan studio set, which was at a steal of a price - reduced from £65.00 to £27.79 on Amazon UK - too good to miss out on, right? That's like £0.60 per half pan, they're normally £2.50 each in the shops! So, I got it, but, unlike the sketchers set, that is clearly designed for en plein air work, with every pan fitting tightly, this is a studio set in which the pans rattle and I just couldn't see it working in the field without being damaged.

First thing I did was repair the loose paint and remove all the duplicates and colours I hate. I then bought two colours from Winsor and Newton professional range that I can't live without in the field - Green Gold and Opera Rose - and I added a medium to it - compressed oxgall from Schmincke, already in half-pan form. I added a colourchart, backed with funfoam so that it cushioned the paints. I also intended to add some sticks cut from facial sponges to pad between the pans and to be useful in the field too.

My plans to accessorise this are a mini-mister containing 1% solution of Daler & Rowney acrylic flow enhancer, as it is a good way to wet the paints really fast in the field. There will also be some bottles for clean and dirty water, plus a brush. As the set doesn't come with a brush, I chose a 000 Renaissance Squirrel Mop from Pro-Arte, who are rapidly becoming my favourite brush company! It's a beautiful brush with genuine fur, and thus gives a needle-fine point or can be used to wet large areas - perfect in the field where I don't want to carry multiple brushes.

Quick Tip: Repairing Watercolour Pans

Ok, I know for many people this is stating the obvious, but I also know those new to watercolour don't necessarily know this, so here goes. If you use half-pans or have a little field set of them that you don't use often, you'll probably find the blocks of extruded paint fall out of the pans and getting them to stay in can be a real issue in the field. Some people try wetting the bottom but that doesn't hold them in very well - there's a really easy way to do it that doesn't damage or waste the paint.

There's only one product you need - Gum Arabic Solution (around £8 to £9, which is currently [2nd July 2016] US$10-11; €9-10; CAN$14-15 or AUS$14-15), which is one of the most useful watercolour mediums you could ever need. Full details of how to do it are in the video below.

Saturday 2 July 2016

Forgotten Friends Challenge: Part I

So I've already posted the rules of the game, now it's time to show my own colour selection! They are all from the Winsor & Newton Professional Water Colour range:

Naples Yellow (422)
This is a mix of Titanium White (PW6) and Chrome Antimony Titanate (PBr24) and is a beautiful semi-opaque yellow, much like sand at sunset. For sand normally I would use Titanium Buff, but that's not available in this range.

Bismuth Yellow (025)
This a pure pigment - Bismuth Vanadate (PY184), which is often found in Cad Yellow Hues in cheap student sets. It's a wonderful vivid near opaque yellow but I've never found a use for it.

Indigo (322)
This is faux-indigo, made of a mix of Phthalocyanine Blue (PB15), Carbon Black (PBk6) and Quinacridone Violet (PV19). The real thing is an extract of Indigofera tinctoria L. (the true indigo), which is costly to produce, so most denim products these days are stained with synthetic indigo, which would make a much more granulating paint.

Potter's Pink (537)
This is a very heavily granulating earth pink made of Chromium Tin Silicate (PR233) - this is a very hydrophobic pigment which is why it clumps so much - I will be interested to see if adding oxgall improves this and makes it a more useful colour.

Perylene Green (460)
This is very, very dark, staining green that is black in mass-tone. It is made of Paliogen Black (PBk31) - when diluted you can get a decent transparent dark green.

Sepia (609)
This is another faux colour as real Sepia is derived from the ink of members of the genus Sepia L. (cuttlefish), but this is a mixture of Carbon Black (PBk6) and Synthetic Iron Oxide (PR101). I think it might be useful for shadows in the evening sun as it has a lovely warmth to it.

You can see more about these colours in my Part I video for this challenge:

Challenge: The Forgotten Friends Challenge Rules

So one of my favourite regular videos from a watercolour vlogger is Lindsay The Frugal Crafter's live tutorials that normally run at 1230h EST (which is 1730h BST) - she's done the odd one much later in the day ad hoc that I really enjoyed too. She paints something intermediate to advanced but with an eye to teaching and inspiring and narrates what she's doing. She does them with her friend, Sarah The Unseen, who reads out viewers' questions from the live chat that typically has 300+ people from all over the world participating. I really learn a lot from these videos and the very relaxed and loose style. Lindsay this week painted a rocky shore with breaking waves, based on a photo by John Warren at PaintMyPhoto (one of my favourite resources for photographers and painters alike), she did so with Naples Yellow as one of her colours since she doesn't use it much. It's one of my favourites but actually, I don't use it that much either, so I had an idea and suggested it to Lindsay who liked it so now it's a thing ;o)

The Forgotten Friends Challenge
This is designed to make us use those colours we neglect - you can use 3 to 6 colours but they must be ones you own but just never think to use or remember to use. I originally thought of picking a red, blue and yellow but actually 6 is a pretty good number - so minimum 3, maximum 6. You have to post a Part I vlog/blog post showing which colours you've picked and why and tagging as many watercolourists as you like. You then have 24h to think about what you want to paint and then paint it. You can only paint for 30 minutes - no longer - so this is a nice quick challenge. Please paint no smaller than a few postcards in size as it needs to be big enough for others to see what you did. You can do any subject you like and you might want to talk about that in your Part I video/blog post. You can use as many brushes as you want or whatever paper you like. The main rule is you get one attempt only! In your Part II vlog/blog, you can talk about the picture, how you found painting it, what you learned from it, which colours you will/won't be using again and so on. You can film the painting process and speed it up and narrate it, if you want.

Colours: 3 to 6 colours you own but just never use for whatever reason. No more, no less, but you can use white gouache for snow/sea spray if you need it - that's a given.
Brushes: Whatever you like.
Paper: Ditto!
Part I: Show the colours you have chosen, talk about why you picked them and any ideas you may already have. Tag as many watercolourists as you like to make them take the challenge. You then have 24h to think about what to paint!
Part II: Show your finished painting, talk about what you learned, what you found hard or easy, which colours you loved and if you plan to use them again, and which colours you just hated and won't use again. You can film and narrate the painting process if you're brave enough!
Hashtag/label: #paintFFchal or paintFFchal

I also run through the rules in my Part I video: