Thursday, 6 June 2013

Testing watercolour - creating templates and test cards.

I mentioned I have tested a lot of watercolours.

In one book I have a paint-out of just about every Daniel Smith watercolour, with notes, pigment information, comparisons with other brands, mixing trials and so on. Another book has brief information on every paint I have tried recently arranged by colour. The third, and most useful for sharing comparisons, is a set of cards, one for each colour, that were pictured in a previous blog here. Others books contain test colour mixing...and so on.

I was asked how I set about making these cards so will share it here.

I used Cotman 190gsm paper since it is a little thinner than my usual 300gsm and I was making a large number of cards so I didn't want too much bulk. Note that it is best to test your colours on the paper you are using, or at least all on the same paper to compare results. The paper I used was from an A2 pad, which I ruled into rows all down the page, that is, lots of horizontal lines 4 inches apart. I then used my metal ruler, which happened to be 3cm wide, and a blade, to cut the paper into strips the width of the ruler.

So I had a load of strips 3cm wide with lines down them every 4 inches.

I hope you can picture that.

I then used a stencil to draw the rectangles and squares on them to paint in my watercolour washes. You do have to make sure your method doesn't confuse the front and back of the paper. If you cut them into cards before drawing on them they can flip around easily.

When you are doing a lot of repetitive work you need to find a few short cuts. Sometimes it is worth making my own stencil, sometimes it is worth just repositioning a bought one. I used a Mathomat - a rather wonderful thing I think with all sorts of lovely shapes - to draw the shapes on rather than measuring them up individually. You could of course do free-hand washes. Using the various edges to measure distances between the shapes, I drew on the rectangle at the bottom first, then the square, the the other rectangle above the square, then the two small squares at the bottom.

I drew the shapes to be painted in pencil and the other shapes in fine pen and wrote the colour name, manufacturer, pigment information and properties, according to the tube or website information, on the card. I then painted the cards, a wet graduating wash in the top square and a juicy wash in the rectangle. Once dry I cut them up and put a hole in them. 

You could also test how opaque they are by drawing a black line through the shapes with a permanent marker before painting them, or how staining they are by attempting to remove some of the colour once it is dry, but mine are about colour and granulation so I didn't do that.

Any other notes, such as whether the paint didn't re-wet well etc I wrote on the back. My original plan was to put them on a string or in a series of binder rings but at the moment these cards are arranged by colour in a tin for convenience.

Keeping a record of what you have tried is really helpful, what ever method you choose to use.


  1. Thanks Jane. Good point to draw all the cards before cutting into the final shape to assure that you're using the same side of the paper. Any size or shape would do and the cards could be sized to fit into an existing box.

    1. I agree Jo, any shape will do. I chose a shape that was the most economical for the paper I was using, and conveninnt for the width of my metal ruler!

  2. This was very helpful. Thank you so much. ^_^

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