Watercolor Wednesday: What’s a Stainer?

watercolor Staining paints, debiriley.com

Wednesday rolls around, you’re busy.  Work, holiday shopping and a ‘To Do’ list a mile long. You want to take a break. Why read about  watercolor Stainers, right Now? Can’t I see that you Are Busy!!

watercolor Staining paints, debiriley.com
Watercolor Stainers


Hmm.  Good point.

You have me on that one.  No. I don’t have a life altering answer like,  “It will change your life forever, you’ll never look back,  you’ll be sorry you waited this long,  Learn and do this Now!”

But I’m sure having a quick read, a laugh – or two –  and a look might give you just a wee bit of a break.   And,  if you like the information, well, you know where I am.  I mean, in WEB land.  Not stalker land,  of course.


Today is Wednesday Watercolors and I was asked about Staining paints the other day.

I decided I wanted a topic that at least 1 Person…. would Like, Share, Follow and Tweet. Maybe not so much Tweet… I don’t ‘do’ Tweets… not that I have Anything against tweeters, or linkin’rs or googlers.  It would be lovely to generate lots of interest for the site though.

And you know I am edging closer to the 500 follower mark, right?

Yes, I know.

5,000 – 50,000 would be much much better.  But hang on,  Rome wasn’t built in a day. I work slow.   And Steady.    I said ‘slow’  – not lazy, people!

So,  have you counted how many times you’ve cracked a smile?  Two would be awesome. I’d be happy if you said one.

None?….. Ouch!   Guess I’d better head to the studio instead of the computer now.



Stainers, The Staining Pigments

What is a Stainer? How do you determine if a color is a Stainer?  Why should I really care? What are they useful for?


green earth, prussian, debiriley.com
green earth, prussian blue, burnt umber debiriley.com

Paints in oils, watercolors, acrylics, etc. are made from powdered ground pigments.

Each medium  uses the same ground pigment for the same Genuine paint color.

For example,  genuine Ultramarine Blue in oils, acrylics and watercolors is ultramarine blue pigment PB29.   How they prepare and process that pigment into the oil, or watercolor or acrylic,  that is what makes the difference in the mediums.


Always look at the tube label to check the pigment details.  You’ll know if it says cobalt blue HUE, that it will not be genuine cobalt PB28  but will most likely have the mix of Pb29, ultramarine and Pb15, phalo and PW6 white.

The pigment # will always tell you the truth.   Not necessarily the name on the label, which can mislead, and lead you to make that purchase. Darn greedy paint makers, always wanting me to buy more!



There are 4 Groups of Paint Pigments

Transparents,  Granulators, Stainers, Opaques   are the 4 categories and each has its own special quirks;  assets and liabilities.

The secret is to slowly,  learn them, one by one and to harness their traits to suit Your Purposes.   Have a look at Watercolour Tips page to find out more information on watercolors.

colour chart debiriley.com
Staining Transparent Opaque Granulating


What is a Stainer and what are Its Uses?


  • Staining pigments are extremely powerful, intense and bright.  Potent. Wasabi!


  • Stainers will leave a stain and not be able to lift off the paper (watercolor)  100%  having said that,  they can be lifted up about 90%. Which is normally quite sufficient.


  • Stainers play well with others.  They are fabulous social mixers and when  mixed with most other colors, can do it brilliantly without mud.


  • Stainers have a quirk.   They do not like to be contained.


  • Stainers will ‘shoot forth’ and spread like wild fire…. onto any other area that is wet or damp. But, confined within a pre-dampened  area,  say a flower’s petal – turning the stainers loose is magic!


  • This is a quirk that once you know it, you can harness its power for a more successful painting.


  • Stainers are transparent, luminous therefore make perfect Glazing paints.  Whether its oils, acrylics or watercolors.    Layer by layer by layer.  It is an ideal technique for those who tend to make Mud, to create paintings filled with color and  light and bursting with Luminosity.


  • Stainers create wonderful textures, foliage shapes, reeds, bushes and shrubbery.  When they’re allowed to slowly ‘creep’ into the adjoining area that is just fraction, bit dryer than the stainer color.   That are must be just damp enough to allow stainer to move in; but not so wet stainer barges in.  Nor can that area be dry.



Identification of Paint Categories

How can you tell which paint color  is what?

On the paint tube label you can usually find the key, a box square that lets you know if its transparent or opaque or staining.

But,  you have more luck at the art shop looking at the paint manufacturer’s  color charts. These provide the information much more clearly. Ask for one, they are usually free.


Books and online sources are just a click away.

Hillary Page and

Michael Wilcox  have books that provide loads of detailed data.

Google is great, but you knew that!

handprint.com         a treasure trove of excellent information


A short list of Staining Paints that are my mainstays

Prussian Blue,  Quinacridone Sienna, Quinacridone Gold (PO49)  Indanthrone Blue, Permanent Alizarin Crimson,  Phalo Blue,  Nickel Azo Yellow,  Perylene Green.



My Featured Painting and Its Colors

My cats knocked over my Christmas tree.



Christmas tree, decorations, stillness and reflections, debiriley.com
Stillness and Reflection

All the Christmas balls in blues and greens flew across the beige living room carpet in pandemonium. I said some not nice things.

But these decorations had lovely colors and nice round sphere shapes.

Aha!   A painting and a Post.



  1. I drew some spheres within spheres, for starters.   Then chose my paints.  Stainers, yes.  And of course I wanted a twist.  So out comes Lunar Black again.
  2. The exterior mix is (stainer)  Quinacridone Gold Daniel Smith PO49 – dilute with a small addition of LB.
  3. Next is the (stainer) Quinacridone Sienna mixed with LB, nice and bright.
  4. The green is also, a Stainer Phalo Green  mixed with Lunar Black, very cool mix.
  5. The final interior sphere is the lovely Prussian Blue Bb27  combined with LB.


stainer watercolors debiriley.com
close up



happy holidays.  hope you are smiling.





Published by debiriley

The act of creation, in any media is a fascinating and magical process. I simply love to create. Expressing in color, line, tone, texture - as if, they were words upon a page. Creating a uniquely me, interpretation. Enjoy More of my "one-of-a-kind" expressive art at society6.com/debiriley and, redbubble.com/people/debijriley/shop

23 thoughts on “Watercolor Wednesday: What’s a Stainer?

    1. fan tastic! love happy smiling …Singing.. Jodi! you know I’d give you private painting lessons if we were closer… this just will have to make do, for now. lol

      Liked by 1 person

      1. sorry, clicked enter too soon, Jodi.
        Thank you ! Very much. I know there’s a million books out there. I do really like Tony Smibert’s old book, Landscapes from the Imagination (watercolour beginners book) otherwise, not so much.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I agree with Jodi, you have been writing a wonderful artists guide to watercolor. I am smiling after your post. Thank you Debi, for this gift today of valuable information. Your watercolor image is stunning.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sharon, you are so kind! Thank you for the lovely comments, it is so appreciated 🙂 AND, Thank Goodness – I saw that there were a couple of Smiling readers!! Debi

      Liked by 1 person

  2. thanks for this lesson, Debi. I liked the story with the cats a lot. Was funny, but not for you. Hope you find some new Christmas decoration. Kind regards Mitza

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Debi, Thank you for this latest posting. Your posts have been a year long gift. Best wishes this holiday and Happy New Year. Leslie >

    Liked by 1 person

    1. good morning Leslie, you’re so welcome – I’m glad that you’re continuing to enjoy the images and articles as I ‘learn’ WP! Wishing you and family a wonderful Holiday, cheers, Debi


      1. My pleasure Debi. It has been a treat visiting you all year. Thanks for sharing your beautiful and inspiring art and all your creative wisdom. I’ve learnt so much from you. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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