Using a limited palette of Jackson’s own brand professional watercolour, Becky Samuelson works with new and exciting colour mixes and experiments with granulating colours to build harmony and balance in her paintings.

I have just been sent a generous selection of Jackson’s own brand watercolours in 21ml tubes to put through their paces. The first thing that struck me as I unpacked them was the clear packaging. What a relief! I can read the label clearly and there is the bonus of a small colour strip, which indicates whether the colour is a transparent or an opaque pigment.

To view the full range of Jackson's Artist Watercolours, head over to their website here.

I initially tested all the colours. I loved the consistency of the paint, and the take up and release were perfect in all colours, facilitating an easy wash. Jackson’s manufacture their watercolours using the finest ground pigments. Once ground, they are added to Sudanese Kordofan gum arabic, and honey for lustre and brightness. All colours tested are classed as lightfast or strongly so.

The colours

I sometimes find colours vary across the brands, which is why it's so important to always test your colours to understand them. Another benefit of testing the colours is that it opens up new possibilities for colour mixing and it’s exciting that there's something new around the corner.

Most of the colours I tested here were as I expected and compared favourably with other brands. In some instances I felt the colours and release of paint performed better, particularly the lovely cerulean blue, which is slightly less green. I also prefer the cadmium yellow light, which is fresher and easier to use in mixes, especially when making greens. Raw umber is a darker pigment than other brands and creates really interesting darks when mixed with cerulean blue.

I made lots of different mixes, looking at darks, greys, greens, three-colour mixes and purple greys, as I find them so useful in my paintings. Some of the possibilities are shown in Figure 2 (below). Notice the starting mix may be made up of more than one colour. Keep your charts, as you never know when you will need them.

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Limited palette

To show the colours in action, I began by painting Sorrento Harbour (see below).

Sorrento Harbour, Jackson’s Artist Watercolour on 140lb Langton watercolour paper, (20x20cm). Notice the granulating colours in the background and water.

Colours used

A variety of brushes were used, including Jackson’s sable brush No. 4 Series 1205.

All the white and light elements were planned at the drawing stage with the intention of missing them out; I didn’t use masking fluid here. Jackson’s sable brush, with its sharp point and ability to hold so much more paint, made this very easy.

As always when I mix paint, I mixed good-sized puddles of various colours. Having enough paint premixed is essential for when you want to lay washes down quickly and cleanly; the paper prefers it!

I began by painting the colourful buildings and worked wet on dry with a well-loaded brush, and allowed each area to dry before I moved on. The roofs were a mix of burnt sienna and yellow ochre.

The red building was mostly Jackson’s red – a fabulous pure transparent red – with touches of ochre and cobalt blue. The shadow aspect included cerulean blue in the mix.

Placing a white building amid the coloured houses helped to enhance the light within the picture, which was enhanced further by the shadows, painted using cobalt blue with touches of red. If you find that your shadows are too purple try adding a touch of yellow ochre. Then the dark mixes of the windows were made with burnt sienna and ultramarine.

When it came to painting the backdrop of the sky and sea, I wetted the areas first to ensure the paint would run together. The cliff and trees above were a mix of cadmium yellow and cobalt blue with touches of red and ochre from the palette to make them subtler.

The water was mostly green, made by mixing cerulean blue and yellow ochre. Avoid adding paint to any area that you want to keep light, such as the reflection from the white house. For other reflections, drop the same colours from the buildings into the water to reflect their colour.

Using a limited palette will help you to understand the extent of colour mixing that can be achieved from a few good colours and is greatly beneficial in creating harmony.

Looking for the perfect brushes to use with your Jackson's watercolours? Read Becky's thoughts on Jackson's own-brand studio synthetic brushes when she was tasked with putting them through their paces.

Granulating colours

Island Coastline, Jackson’s Artist Watercolour on Bockingford RKB Fat Pad 140lb Rough paper, (15x40.5cm). The use of a limited palette created harmony and continuity throughout the finished painting.

Colours used 

Island Coastline (above) demonstrates the effects of granulation in some pigments. I always enjoy seeing how far I can take a mix and the nuances that can be achieved by adding or subtracting small amounts of pigment to alter the colour subtly. Some of the mixes I used in this painting are shown in the mixing chart (Fig. 2 above).

The sky was painted wet in wet. I premixed generous, separate puddles of cerulean blue, yellow ochre and Jackson’s red. I wetted the sky area thoroughly and applied cerulean blue, missing out the cloud areas, although I expected the paint to run into the whiter areas, which could then be lifted out. Cerulean is a granulating pigment. This refers to how the pigment settles on the paper, creating a mottled effect, and is deliberately chosen by the artist for this purpose. The effect becomes more apparent when using Rough paper, as it increases the texture.

As the paper was nice and wet, I added small mixes of Jackson’s red and yellow ochre into the blue to create varying greys. It was also easy to lift out colour where I wanted to create softer elements in the sky. Then I allowed it to dry thoroughly.

The distant headland was a mix of cerulean blue and yellow ochre, which made a fabulous soft green, and cerulean blue and raw umber for the darker headland on the right. All this was done with Jackson’s sable brush, which allowed absolute precision coupled with carrying a lot of pigment.

The trees on the left were warmer with the use of cadmium yellow, which I found pleasantly fresher than other cadmiums, plus cobalt blue, which made a good mid green. I added raw umber to create darker elements. The sand colour was yellow ochre and cadmium yellow. This completed the first part of the painting (see below).

Island Coastline shown at the stage when the preliminary washes were dry.

For the water, I premixed separate puddles of cobalt blue and cerulean blue, and still had smaller puddles of yellow ochre and Jackson’s red handy. I wetted the whole area and began by applying cobalt over the entire sea then added green tinges from varying mixes of cerulean blue and yellow ochre, wet in wet, which became stronger as I came forward in the picture. A minute amount of red mixed with cerulean blue and yellow ochre lent itself towards a grey green. Nothing is set in stone; try different versions to see what you like.

By using Jackson’s watercolours I have opened up new and exciting possibilities in mixing for myself. An added bonus is Jackson’s pricing structure; the p.02aints’ favourable prices ensure they are really good value for money. You are on to a winner here!

A 21ml tube of Jackson’s Artist Watercolour costs from £7 and full pans cost from £3 each (correct as of September 2021). To add Jackson's Artist Watercolour to your collection, discover the full range on Jackson's website.

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This product report is taken from the February 2016 issue of Leisure Painter. View the latest issues here.