Professional Watercolour Techniques: Three Contributors to Granulation

June 29, 2021

Many artists lean towards watercolour for its ability to convey a granulated aesthetic. As a natural property of certain watercolours, granulation causes the pigment within the paint to settle outside the binder, clinging to the valleys of textured watercolour 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 watercolour scene, there are three main factors to be aware of:

1. Medium

The more water you use when mixing your watercolours together, the more intense the granulation effect. Winsor & Newton Granulation Medium will enhance the granulation effect, as shown in the test above 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 watercolour mediums that can transform your practice, read their guide.

2. Paper

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

Debbie Bryan also ran a test of Professional Watercolour Cobalt Violet (see above), 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.

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.

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.

Winsor & Newton’s granulating watercolours

Thank you to our friends at Winsor & Newton for this article