How are watercolor paints made?
The beginning of the way
According to Felix Scheinberger, the author of Watercolor Sketching, the paint begins with pigment, a powder concentrate that determines its color. Pigments are vegetable, mineral, containing metals or their oxides. Dyes are mixed from hundreds of organic and inorganic substances that are initially in powder form. To become a paint, a pigment needs a binder, which holds all the components and fixes them on paper after drying.
In the Middle Ages, pigments were mixed with egg yolk to obtain tempera.In the Renaissance, boiled linseed oil was used to create oil paint.
Watercolor paints are made from gum arabic – gum, or viscous wood sap of small spiny acacia trees growing in Sudan. The ancient Egyptians used gum arabic for mummification, and the Chinese added to ink for writing.
To make a binder for paint, acacia bark is cut from top to bottom. The emerging milky juice is collected, dried, and then crushed into powder, and then pigment is added.
Today, watercolor is done in much the same way as a thousand years ago, since a synthetic analogue to gum arabic has not yet been found. It is transparent and reflects light, which improves color quality. The dried gum arabic is water soluble and, in addition, non-toxic. However, the adventure does not end there, because the history of the production of primary colors is no less interesting.
Yellow and orange
For many centuries, yellow pigments have been made from toxic arsenic, cadmium or chromium. Non-toxic alternatives (such as saffron obtained from pollen from crocus) were very expensive. Moreover, only snow-white (and therefore the most valuable) fabrics could be stained yellow, otherwise the brightness of the color was lost. Therefore, in ancient China, only the emperor and the higher clergy were allowed to wear yellow robes, which were then dyed with saffron.
The history of the orange pigment goes back to the 1st century AD. A fire broke out in the Athenian harbor, in which barrels of lead white were damaged. When the fire was extinguished, local authorities came to assess the damage and were struck by the change in color of the white: they turned red-orange. The dye became known as lead minium. Beauties and gladiators tinted their faces, and painted walls and painted miniatures for books. Unfortunately, it turned out that this dye is poisonous, and in the XX century it disappeared from sets of paints.
Orange has long been considered not a single color, but a transitional one. Depending on the saturation, it was called a shade of yellow or red. He received the status of a separate color already in the modern world thanks to paintings by Van Gogh and Edward Munch.