Enhance Your Creative Range with QoR Watercolor Medium, Synthetic Ox Gall, and Lift Aid

July 27, 2022

The team at QoR have taken a deep dive to define and investigate the uses of the QoR Watercolor Medium, Synthetic Ox Gall, and Lift Aid. In fact, while researching these mediums, additives, and aids QoR has found that even traditional products within these categories are often overlooked in the watercolor world.

This article hopes to shed more light on these three important lightfast products.

Mediums & Additives Overview

  • QoR Watercolor Medium may be used to increase the strength, body, and gloss of watercolor paint.
  • Synthetic Ox Gall is an additive wetting agent that changes how diluted watercolor moves over or absorbs into the surface.
  • Lift Aid is a transparent aid which, if applied and allowed to dry before being covered with watercolor, facilitates lifting of even staining colors.

In a retail store, all three will be placed with “watercolor mediums.” These products can assist in techniques and might provoke new avenues of exploration. As with any new material, practice and experiment with these mediums before employing them in your paintings.

QoR Watercolor Medium

QoR Watercolor Medium contains Aquazol, which serves as QoR’s binder. It is a translucent medium with a slight amber color not noticeable when applied thinly, diluted, or mixed with color. This medium may be added directly to watercolor, mixed into the water used to dilute paint, and/or put in the water used to pre-wet a painting surface.

Using a lot of this medium will add body to the paint and increase gloss. Using a little QoR Watercolor Medium in the paint or water can change the way watercolor moves and reacts, often creating smoother color areas when working wet-in-wet. What happens depends upon the binder and pigments in the paint, and the ratio of QoR Watercolor Medium and water used (See below).

Large ratios of QoR Watercolor Medium added to paint—such as diluting the paint with the medium only—will decrease flow due to the viscosity of the medium in comparison with water. Mixes with higher ratios of Watercolor Medium also might dry more slowly. When present in a higher ratio, Watercolor Medium may create a glossy moisture-sensitive film, which could become sticky and adhere to other surfaces if the atmosphere is warm and humid. Take care when storing paintings with glossy areas.

When brushed onto a surface full strength, Watercolor Medium may be used as a water-removable masking medium in a manner similar to Lift Aid. Both of these products provide softer shielding with less defined edges than the protection offered by QoR Masking Fluid.

Comparison of QoR Watercolor Medium and water vs. water only.

Dilutions of QoR Ultramarine Blue on dry paper.

Left [A,B,C]: Water used for dilution, with increasing amounts of water added as the washes move right.

Right [D]: QoR Watercolor Medium only used to dilute paint, glossy surface is reflective and color more intense.

Right [E,F]: Dilution with Watercolor Medium and water, with more water added to F. While not entirely visible in this image, the center wash’s (E) edges have intense color and a glossy surface.

Comparison of Watercolor Medium with paint and water.

On shiny water-wet paper with QoR Ultramarine Blue.

[A]: Paint diluted with Watercolor Medium only.

[B]: Paint diluted with water only. Notice the greater spread due to thinner viscosity of just water.

[C]: Paint diluted with 5 drops QoR Watercolor Medium to cup (8 ounces) of water. Just a small addition of Medium creates greater saturation and feathery spread.

[D]: Paint diluted with water ONLY.

QoR Synthetic Ox Gall

Have you ever painted diluted watercolor on a surface and had the paint bead up, or skip areas you intended to have color? This is probably a surface tension issue. Putting a little QoR Synthetic Ox Gall in water used to coat the painting surface and/or to dilute watercolor may help ‘wet out’ hard sized papers and less absorbent surfaces like acrylic gesso or YUPO Synthetic Paper. Synthetic Ox Gall contains no binder, and so is an additive rather than a medium. It should not be used full strength.

QoR’s Synthetic Ox Gall can help because it is a wetting agent or surfactant that reduces tension between the diluted paint and the painting’s surface. It also may slow down drying slightly. Synthetic Ox Gall added to the paint or water changes the way watercolor moves. Our starting recommendation for dilution is 2-5 drops of Synthetic Ox Gall to 8 ounces of water. This mixture may increase movement and flow over a wet surface when brushed onto paper, used to dilute paint, or both. Since QoR can be quite lively when painted wet-in-wet, results may be subtle (see below).

Comparison of QoR paints diluted with water only vs. diluted with water and QoR Synthetic Ox Gall

QoR colours brushed onto wet YUPO Heavy paper.

Left [A]: Colors brushed onto water-wet surface.

Right [B]: Colors brushed onto surface wet with mixture of 5 drops of QoR Synthetic Ox Gall to 1 cup of water.

QoR Lift Aid

QoR Lift Aid is an aid that can help remove dry watercolor if an artist plans ahead. Brush one or two coats over an area to be protected, whether it is the white of the paper or a previous application of color. Dry Lift Aid can create a temporary barrier between the surface beneath and the next layer of watercolor, making it easier to lift color from that last layer of paint once it is dry.

How To Use QoR Lift Aid

QoR recommends using Lift Aid at full strength and painting it either directly onto dry paper or over a dry wash. You may coat the entire paper or watercolor ground, or only part of the surface where you wish to lift paint. One or two layers should be enough, however, test to be sure. Carefully paint with diluted watercolor over the dry Lift Aid. Aggressive brushing will dissolve the Lift Aid and mix it into the paint, which reduces the medium’s ability to stop color staining. Allow the new layer of paint to dry completely.

How To Remove Lift Aid

First use clean water and a brush to re-wet any color on the dry medium then gently blot off with a clean paper towel or rag. If care is not taken when removing this paint, the color can mix in and stain the paper (Image 5B). Once the paint is removed, use the same technique to remove the Lift Aid and reveal the bare paper or color underneath.

Please be aware that leaving Lift Aid on the paper will make additions of more layers of paint difficult, since the presence of the aid causes paint applied on top to lift and this can also stain the paper. The areas with Lift Aid might also look slightly different (Image 5C). The image sequence below [A –G] shows the results of various approaches to reserving or reclaiming the white of the paper or an earlier area of color, including QoR Masking Fluid, Watercolor Medium, and Lift Aid.

Using QoR Lift Aid to keep or reclaim the white of the paper with staining colors.

Top row of tests: Lift Aid brushed over center square on paper and allowed to dry. Staining Nickel Azo Yellow brushed over the paper and Lift Aid. More information provided beneath the images below.

Bottom row of tests: Nickel Azo was brushed over the entire surface and when it was dry Lift Aid was brushed over the center square. A blend of staining Phthalo Turquoise and Phthalo Green (Blue Shade) was brushed over the yellow and the Lift Aid. Each layer was allowed to dry before the next was applied. More information can be found beneath the images.

Left [A]: Top, two coats of Lift Aid applied to paper. Once dry, a yellow wash brushed over surface. Lift Aid removed when yellow was dry. Bottom, two coats of Lift Aid over yellow, followed by green paint. Lift Aid removed once green glaze was dry.

Left [B]: As with 5A, but only one coat of Lift Aid. Top, dry yellow paint over Lift Aid was not pre-removed, so paint mixed into Lift Aid during removal of the aid and stained the paper.

Right [C]: Top, results of painting on top of Lift Aid with a second glaze, then removing the Lift Aid. Bottom, Lift Aid remains on paper.

Left [D]: Top, one coat of QoR Masking Fluid applied and dried before application of watercolor, removed when the yellow paint was dry. Bottom, one coat of Masking Fluid applied over the dry yellow wash and allowed to dry, removed once the green glaze was dry.

Left [E]: Top, one thick coat of QoR Watercolor Medium brushed on and allowed to dry before painting, then removed once the yellow was dry (removal process as described for Lift Aid in the article). Bottom, one thick coat of Watercolor Medium over yellow, removed once green glaze was dry.

Right [F]: Painting around areas to preserve paper or color.

Right [G]: Trying to lift color after staining paints are dry.

All tests done on Fabriano Artistico 300 lb / 638 gsm Extra White Cold Pressed Watercolor Paper.

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