Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Why Buy More Scribal Paint Colors?

Scribes painting prepreint scrolls.
When I was painting preprint awards with scribes at a recent event, I was asked what colors I preferred. I had commented on colors I missed having because the paints provided for our use were Reeves gouache paint sets. I missed the colors I used at home.

Gouache is an opaque watercolor used by professional artists to create illustrations and artist works. It comes in student grade and artist/professional grade qualities. Although more expensive, I prefer artist grade paints because they contain less filler, resist fading, and have richer, more varied color options than student paints.

Reeves paints are a student grade gouache, as are Artist Loft's. Both are ideal for learning paint application and color mixing. They are very economical, selling for $10 or less. But they are only sold in sets with limited color options. 

I find buying a replacement color tricky because student paint sets are not sold in individual tubes. Also, their colors only approximate the labeled name because the paint is made from economical pigment combinations. To make things more confusing companies give them unique "brand" names, making it difficult to match your missing color to another brand.

Is it necessary to have all the vast tube colors available? If you are expanding your color options how do you know what to buy for your paint kit?

Before recommending paints beyond student basic sets I did what I ask students do with their paints, I played with the paints. I mixed colors to learn how they behave compared to artist grade paints. 
Playing with Artis Loft Paints. Named 
swatche are directly from the tube. 
The  inner ring is tints made with
 titanium white. I also added black to
  the primary hues to make a shade.

I squeezed out dabs of Artist Loft gouache paints onto my pallet. I then mixed two colors together. I stroked the mixed colors onto heavy paper like card-stock. On this card I worked with tubes labeled cerulean blue, lemon yellow, vermilion, titanium white, and lamp black. 

My paint nerd gene made me do this according to the color wheel, but you don't have to be that specific. I labeled the swatches to save for future reference. 

Using your paints to create a color wheel is a great exercise for your journey to master color. It is also a handy reference tool. This one helps me know how Artist Loft colors look and what I miss.

I know it seems I confused the orange tint paints when I made this card. I didn't. I did this twice and got the same result. Do you see what I see?

The Artist Loft Fundamentals gouache set includes 12 paint tubes of non-acrylic paints. I used five for my first test. Later I added the remaining colors' swatches. I wanted to compare my mixed intermediate colors with the those that came in the set. 


 Remaining Colors and Tints Included
Near the top, I made an additional swatch, yellow ocher combined with lemon yellow. I have a student that mixes those two and gets a usable yellow. My mixture didn't work so well. I'll have to see how she does this.

I could continue mixing colors in a manner similar to the lemon yellow/yellow ocher combination. I could make tints or shades of them all, too. You get the idea by now, I'm sure. 

Give it a try. If not to test for color palette gaps, then to know what colors you can create by mixing your student paints.

I prefer artist gouache paints, particularly Winsor and Newton Designers' Gouache. Their gouache seems highly pigmented and it is readily available at artist supply stores. Holbein's Designers' Gouaches are quality too.

When you run low on a student paint color replace it with a non-acrylic, artist designers' gouache paint from my list. Eventually, you'll have a quality scribal paint set. 

I use six or seven colors plus black and white. While other scribes have their preferences, I recommend these non-acrylic gouache colors:
  • Black: Lampblack, bone or ivory
  • White: Titanium white (replaces Lead white) or Permanent white
  • Blue: Ultramarine, Cobalt Hue
  • Red: Cadmium Red Medium (although toxic it replaces more toxic Vermilion), Cadmium Red Light (also toxic, but nicely replaces Red Lead), Spectrum Red
  • Yellow: Cadmium Yellow Medium (toxic) and Yellow Ocher
  • Green: Sap Green Hue (less permanent but very useful), Chromium Oxide

Please note: a color made by one company may look different made by another company, even though the paint tube has the same name. 

But there's more. How did I decide to choose these colors? What are my reasons?

Medieval manuscripts' bright, pure colors have lasted because they are protected within book covers. They are not exposed for long when viewed.

SCA scrolls are wall displays exposed daily to light and life. They need paint that lasts. How long paint lasts is a combination of fading or discoloration and other chemical aging characteristics. Paint producers lump this together under a "light-fastness" labelPermanence is one trait I consider when choosing paint. If possible, I want colors to be in the permanent category (A). 

I use professional or artist quality gouache because they have a higher pigment density. Their wide, varied color range lets me select tube colors close to period colors. I seldom mix hues, only tints and shades. 


I want my work to look like a lost Medieval manuscript page on someone's wall. To have a permanent home. To have a scroll last a lifetime on display I strive to make prudent paint choices.