Whenever I would go to the art store, I would see these really enticing bottles of pigments. They reminded me of old apothecaries with their magical tinctures behind long wooden counters. I really wanted to learn what these pigments were for and how to use them but they were quite expensive for a small amount and I figured I had enough stuff anyway. One day, though, I came upon the pigments you see above. They were very inexpensive compared to the known brands (like Fragonard, Shmincke or Holbein), so I thought why not give it a go?

So I did some research on how to make watercolors and it is surprisingly easy. I followed this basic recipe:

  • 4 parts gum arabic
  • 1 part honey
  • pigment in sufficient quatity

That last part is where things can get a little iffy. Some pigment you need more of to make a nice even color, others take very little. Some of the pigments I had were easier to blend than others because they were finer. In some of the mixes, the watercolor didn’t seem as dense as in other colors. I’m not sure yet if that is a big deal or not.

That said, I don’t have all of the right equipment yet: some of the pigments – like the red and the black ones – were very coarse and would’ve blended better if I had had a mortar at my disposal. I did my best with a palette knife but as you can see below, the red kind of speckled and didn’t blend in some of the darker colors.

I also had some really surprising and fun results. That gold is actually my first try at a blue with gold highlights and that is what it ended up looking like even thought you’d think it was just gold from the looks of it. The green next to it is actually a Payne’s Grey with gold highlights. This was mostly done ad hoc and in the spirit of experimentation.

It was so cool to have fun and see what would come from it all. I ended up with quite a few pans of these watercolors and I spent a little time putting them in kits and sending them off to some friends.

I would love to revisit this process and experiment even more when I get to Shangjai an am reunited with my art supplies. Who knows, I may even sell these if I get good at it!