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Masstone and Undertone in Watercolours

Masstone and undertones in watercolour, what are they? Masstone is the colour as it comes straight out of the tube; undertone is how the colour looks once it has been diluted with water. We open up these Professional Artists’ watercolours to reveal the hidden undertones of Transparent Yellow, Quinacridone Gold, Green Gold, Phthalo Turquoise, Prussian Blue, Hooker's Green and Payne's Grey. Some undertones are quite different from the masstone. For example, Green Gold is a dark olive colour straight out of the tube, but it becomes a bright yellow-green when diluted with water to reveal the undertone. It is worth considering the properties of both the mass and undertones when choosing a colour.

Video Transcript
0:06    Hello. Today I'd like to talk about masstone and undertone in Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolours. Masstone is the colour of the paint that comes straight out of the tube. Undertone is found in the same colour once it has been stretched out or diluted.

0:21    Let's start with a dramatic example of how different the undertone can be from the masstone using this Winsor & Newton Transparent Yellow. Here's the rather brown masstone, but look how the undertone reveals a bright yellow - completely different from the masstone. Let's look at these other colours: Here is Quinacridone Gold, which starts as a dark reddy-brown and is diluted to reveal a rich orange brown. Green Gold is a transparent watercolour with a masstone of dark olive. When diluted we see a yellowy-green.

0:58    Here is Phthalo Turquoise, which starts almost black, but has a blue-green turquoise undertone. Prussian Blue reveals rich blue-black undertones with hints of red. Here's some Hooker's Green, which is a good example of a colour where the masstone and undertone are similar. Payne's Grey comes out of the tube looking almost black, but when diluted reveals a blue-grey undertone.

I hope you'll be able to apply this to your work in the future by exploring the hidden undertones of colours.