Professional Water Colour Techniques: Three Contributors to Granulation

granulating colour

Many artists lean towards water colour for its ability to convey a granulated aesthetic when applied consciously. As a natural property of certain water colours, granulation causes the pigment within the paint to settle outside of the binder, clinging on to the valleys of textured water colour paper. If you’re painting a foggy or cloudy scene, or portraying the haze of beach waves, this can be a particularly useful technique to employ.

In order to control the level of granulation in your water colour scene, there are three main contributors to be aware of:

1) Medium 

The more water you use when mixing your water colours together, the more intense the granulation effect. Winsor & Newton Granulation Medium will enhance the granulation effect, as shown in the test at left by artist Debbie Bryan.

Using Sepia, an opaque, non-granulating colour on cold pressed paper, she shows the difference between using plain water and Granulation Medium. The example reflects the contrast between:

A. Plain water  
B. Granulation Medium 

For more about water colour mediums that can transform your practice, and other helpful tips, browse our Tips & Techniques section.




2) Paper

Rough surfaced papers leave much stronger granulated effects, as the pigment clings on to the texture of a granulation-friendly surface, like our Cotman Water Colour Paper Pads.

Debbie Bryan also ran a test of Professional Water Colour Cobalt Violet (see: example at right), a naturally granulating pigment. Applying the paint to rough, not/cold pressed and hot pressed smooth paper, she shows that although certain pigments are likely to give a granulated effect on any paper, the roughness will exaggerate the granulation.


 Winsor & Newton's Granulating Water Colours

3) Colours

If you’re not sure where a certain colour lies on the granulation spectrum, wet your paper and add some colour on top. Gently rock the paper back and forth until the pigment settles, and you’ll have your answer. 

Some colours achieve a more intensely granulated texture on professional paper, such as those pictured above. (Click on the colours above individually to explore them within the Professional Water Colour range.)  

The aforementioned colours may granulate on their own, but to take it one step further, or to test granulating effects in otherwise smooth pigments like Winsor Blue (Green Shade), try Winsor & Newton Granulation Medium.

For more Tips & Techniques to evolve your own water colour practice, browse our selection of helpful articles online.