When granulation becomes a style

Over the years my watercolor painting style has varied greatly in appearance. But underneath the variety really boils down to three branches: I do stylized illustrated Tanka in ink and watercolor; I do illustrations based on preconceived images making use whatever medium I feel needs to be in it, but I mostly do watercolor paintings in which I work with a rough idea in mind, but then let the paint form the basis to work from and let the work grow from there. And to make that happen, I like to use all kinds of media mixed and granulating watercolor paint. I just really love the textured look a colored surface gets when painted with a granulating paint. They make paintings feel more lively. That being said, granulation is a skill to learn. The results are most beautiful in a balanced image.

Landscape painting in which I made use of a granulating paint. In this case Qor Cobalt Green.

A collection of granulation

A few weeks back I decided to make a collection of good granulating paints and keep them all in one tin. Here’s the collection I have composed thus far. THUS FAR, because…as you can see, there are eight vacancies. Eight empty pans! That’s not tolerable, is it? So my question to you is, which granulating paints do you think should be added to this set to complete it? A good color chart with pigment information can be found further down this post.

My current collection of granulating watercolors…with 8 vacancies…which paints need to be in this set, do you think?

What IS granulation?

Granulation is a characteristic in the paint that makes the pigment particles flock together in micro-heaps or sink straight down onto the paper while the water flows on. So when the paint dries, you can see an uneven spread of color in the area that’s been painted. There are two kinds: real granulation, which can actually leave tiny areas uncolored and a flowering sort of granulation, which causes an uneven spread of color. Both can be really, really nice.

Artist vs cheaper quality & granulation

Granulation works best in artist grade pigments due to the heavy load of pigments in the paint, which makes this characteristic come out best. And because more expensive, pure pigments are used. Cheaper paints tend to be made with cheaper pigments and most of those have an ink-like feel, which means their color spreads out evenly. Many student grade paints have no granulation at all, some only in cheap pigments.

The most affordable watercolor paints and fluid watercolors are made with dyes rather than pigments, so they don’t granulate at all and instead the result of using those is an even, inky look. It can be lovely too, mind you. Granulation is not a must. But to me it is a perpetual source of fascination and inspiration.

Other ways of achieving texture in watercolor

Granulation can also be achieved by granulation mediums, although the effect of those will never be the same as the use of a good granulating pigment. You will see texture happen, though, so it is certainly worth a try. Other really great texture effects can be achieved with salt, alchohol and plastic wrap too, for instance. So if you don’t own granulating pigments yet, but do love texture, then by all means, experiment!


This morning I did a color chart of my granulating set of watercolors while having a coffee. I figured I might as well make it a cosy moment together…

Color charts

Color chart of my collection in which there are still 8 vacancies. Clicke to see larger image.

Color chart of the granulating paints that I own in tube or stick form. As you can see, not all granulate as much as another. Click to see larger image.


As you can see, I already have a rather extensive collection of granulating paints, but it will not surprise you that I’m always curious for more. There are just so many lovely watercolor paints out there. I’ve been very curious about Daniel Smith Primateks, but I know other manufacturers use many of those pigments too, naming it differently. And I know that every day more and more small paint makers join the game and some offer really lovely paints, or so I’ve heard. So should you have any suggestions, you’re more than welcome to leave a comment. And if any of you perhaps know granulating yellows an reds, I’m extra interested!