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Thread: Glycerin and Watercolor Paint

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2010

    Glycerin and Watercolor Paint

    Hi all,

    I am new to this forum. After reading some posts regarding glycerin I thought I might be able to add some information, and hopefully receive some via replies!

    I learned about using glycerin as an airbrush lube, but also was reading how some people were using a very small amount of glycerin with Auto Air paints, and some seemed concerned that not much should be added. This confused me, as glycerin is one of the major additives to the vehicle for watercolor paints. Basically there is pigment and the vehicle in the paints.

    There is a phenomenal website on watercolor painting at http://www.handprint.com/HP/WCL, where Bruce MacEvoy has a great deal of information on "how watercolor paints are made". He has Glycerin being about 20% of the vehicle. Farther down the page he has information about paint formulas from "The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques (fifth edition) by Ralph Mayer", which is considered to be a major text on artists materials. Here is a formula listed:
    Vehicle: Premix 3 T gum Arabic solution, 1 T glycerin, 3 t humectant, 6 drops ox gall, 2 drops oil of clove.
    On the Dick Blick site they have the following recipe for making watercolor paint using the Sennelier pigments:
    Suggested Mixing Measurements (per 100 g of pigment)

    50 g to 100 g gum Arabic in 35% solution
    10 g to 15 g glycerin
    1 g anti-fermenting preservative
    There are approximately 20 drops (depending on drop size) in 1 ml and 30 ml in an ounce. That means there are 600 drops in an ounce. When I read that people are adding drops to many ounces of paint I wonder why so little is used, as there is so much in watercolor paints. Please help with my education!

    Ernie Young

  2. #2
    Stencil Pusher sped17's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Duluth, MN
    I think that straight watercolors and airbrush paints, even water-based, are two completely different things--although you CAN quite easily use regular watercolors to airbrush with. When airbrushing you are most concerned with your paint drying as quickly as possible, whereas with watercolors this is not such a major concern being that watercolors are blended wet-on-wet....so you want them to remain open (or wet) and dry slowly. The more glycerin you add to your paint, the slower it dries. A drop or two of glycerin added to water-based airbrush paints is used to keep the paint from drying up on the tip of the needle...this drying hinders paint flow, making your airbrush spit and sputter....thus making it impossible to airbrush a continuous line.

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