"Chance favors the prepared
Q. What is the proper way to dispose of art materials?
a day-to-day basis it's wise to dispose of paints, waste water and
solvents so they won't get into your sewer system and cause blockages or
exacerbate environmental problems. Go
to this site for instructions on handling rags, solvents, liquids,
aerosols, glues, metals, paints and more.
Q. What are water-mixable oil paints?
A. It is very easy to
paint and clean up using these paints without having to use turpentine or
other potentially hazardous solvents. Using mineral spirits for clean-up
is a more involved process and includes concerns about disposal of the
hazardous solvent at the end of the painting period. The paints seem
highly pigmented and have that nice buttery quality found in traditional
oils. Drying time for water-mixable oils is about the same as for regular
paints, and the working characteristics and appearance of the finished
painting are also similar. They can be used with traditional oils and
alkyds, but I feel that such mixing makes clean-up a little more
difficult. Several companies make water-mixable oils, such as Winsor &
Newton, Holbein and Grumbacher. It may not be a good idea to mix brands,
as each company has a different process for making the oils compatible
with water. Consider taking water-mixable oils when you travel to
workshops or vacations. See my book review of Painting With Water Soluble
Oils by Sean Dye.
Q. What is the white powdery substance I find on some of my
A. It is either mold or mildew. Some colors are more
likely to do this than others, especially when left in a closed palette
over a long period of time. Phthalocyanine green seems to be one of the
chief offenders. I wipe the powder off with a cotton ball dipped in
rubbing alcohol and spritz the palette with alcohol to kill stray spores.
I've only had this happen two or three times in thirty years, so I don't
consider it a major problem. It doesn't seem to affect the color or grow
on the painting. If anyone has had a different experience, please let me know.
Q. Why are some so-called "transparent" watercolors actually
A. It's the nature of certain pigments, such as cerulean
blue, the cadmium colors, and some of the earth colors to be denser and
more opaque than others. This is also true in other paints than
watercolors, with the exception of gouache, which has opaque matter added
to the pigment to give it covering power. Watercolors are traditionally
called "transparent" because they are diluted more than other paints and
applied in a fluid manner so the support, usually white paper, will
reflect through the paint layer. Other media are generally applied more
heavily so the paint layer has more body and covers up the support, even
though the pigment itself may be somewhat transparent. These pigments are
frequently used by oil and acrylic painters for glazing. However,
regardless of the nature of the pigment, brands may differ greatly both in
hue and transparency because of different manufacturing processes. For
instructions on testing your paints for transparency, see my project, Testing Paints for
Transparency. For more on transparency see pp. 38-39 of Exploring Color.
Q. What is the difference between dyes and pigments?
colorants in which the coloring matter is dissolved in liquid, are
absorbed into the material to which they are applied. Pigments, consisting
of extremely fine particles of ground coloring matter suspended in liquid,
form a paint film that is bonded to the surface it is applied to. Dyes are
sometimes precipitated onto an inert base and ground into pigments.
Traditionally pigments have been more lightfast than dyes, but the advent
of synthetic paints has seen much improvement in the lightfastness of dyes
and inks, as well as pigments.
Q. Is there any way to keep new paint from shooting out of the tube
the first time you open it? A. Unfold the crimp at the bottom of the
tube just once before opening the tube to relieve the pressure. After
squeezing out your paint and putting the lid back on, re-fold the bottom
of the tube. Kathy Roush posted this tip on an art newsgroup.
Q. Is it safe to put my acrylics in the freezer to keep them
moist? A. No! Paints of any kind should not be subjected to freezing
temperatures in the freezer or in your car overnight in the winter.
Freezing might affect the chemistry and handling properties of the paints.
It won't hurt your paints to be stored in the refrigerator, though, if
they are tightly sealed.
Q. Where can I find information on pigments and paints?
my opinion, the most comprehensive for watercolor is Hilary Page's Guide to Watercolor Paints. Another
recent book that is very informative is David Pyle's Paint & Colors: What Every Artist Needs to
Know, new this year. The book is comprehensive, covering most
media and including the history of pigments to the behavior of paints and
Q. What's the difference between artist-quality and student-grade
A. As a rule, the student grade will have a considerable
amount of filler or extender added to the paint, which lowers the amount
of actual pigment in the color. The result is a color that is weaker in
tinting strength than the same color in artist's quality. It may also make
the paint more opaque or chalkier than the better quality of paint. With
some student colors, the original pigment has been replaced by a synthetic
substitute that may not be an accurate replication of the true color, both
in appearance and handling characteristics. For example, if Cobalt Blue is
made with the less costly Phthalocyanine Blue, it will be much greener and
have staining properties that true Cobalt Blue doesn't have. It's easy to
understand why people begin painting with student colors (and there are
some good ones on the market), because of the big difference in price, but
it's usually advisable to upgrade as soon as possible, if you really want
to get good results from your paints. One way to tell the difference
between them is in the pricing structure: student paint tubes will usually
be priced the same throughout the line, while artists' colors are priced
according to the cost of the pigment materials and manufacturing processes
that go into making the paint.
Q. Why do you use Alizarin Crimson, which is a fugitive
A. Alizarin Crimson isn't rated "fugitive" by most
manufacturers--it's "moderately durable." I tested several brands of
Alizarin Crimson in a south-facing window for three-and-a-half years and
noticed a barely perceptible shift in color after nearly three years,
hardly worth mentioning. In this same window test there were colors that
faded noticeably within two weeks and eventually nearly disappeared.
Others began to show fading in about two months and then stayed about the
same for the next couple of years. I have never noticed a change in the
paintings I've done using Winsor & Newton watercolors, although I've
heard that some student brands are less reliable. I recommend all artists
conduct their own tests and decide for themselves whether they feel
comfortable using certain colors. (Believe it or not, one of the least
fading colors in my test was Holbein's Opera.) For your own peace of mind
you may want to try one of the newer Permanent Alizarin Crimsons, but the
colors aren't as luscious as the real thing. Let's Talk about your experiences
Q. Are colors with the same name alike in different
A. Colors may differ greatly from one brand to another,
even if they're made from the same pigments, because the formulas and
other ingredients, as well as the manufacturing processes, are probably
not the same. Ask your dealer to show you painted chip charts, rather than
printed charts, so you can compare the actual paint colors.
See these articles and projects relating to paints.
Ask your question on Paints.