SO Zen! watercolor granulating pigments

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Where would we be without the granulating pigments of watercolor?

That’s a good question!


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Granulation is, So Zen



Watercolor Pigments

Granulation is Texture.

Texture creates depth, atmosphere, feeling and visual interest.

The granulation adds ….  Mystery. Intrigue.

It is yet another powerful tool to capture the audience.



My featured painting “So Zen”  used a lovely blend of Lunar Black, Serpentine, Zoisite and Prussian blue.

However, it was key that first, I knew what paints could do.

And how I could assist them to do so.


 I needed to know which paints would do what, (when wet, dry, and damp) in order to be able to achieve the atmospheric effect desired.




Without my Granulating Paints –

I would be truly lost, most of the fun would be gone in this medium.

It is that thrill of rolling the dice,  the sense of adventure, the exquisite evocative nature within its granulation that keeps me coming back for More.



My range and scale would be abruptly curtailed.

I wouldn’t have the contrasts, the texture, the layers, the depth that I so enjoy  – with  these Granulating pigments.


We couldn’t  Sing quite as brightly, nor filled with so many layered nuances  without these  special colors.





Granulating Paints

They are one, of the four categories of pigments. (Transparents, Granulating, Staining, Opaques)  Each has its own unique talents, quirks, and surprises.  Learning to harness their attributes and direct them down the path you wish, is part of the Fun.


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fun with granulating watercolor paints



Granulating Paints

what they do for us

They create texture…  Adding dimension and depth.

Their heavy particles sink. Right into the fabric of the paper’s crevices.


1   Granulators help immensely to create mood and ‘feeling’; and the wonderful, atmospheric appearance within our paintings.


2   They help to stop our fiddling.   They do the work for us with their tiny little particles looking so much like details of texture, which we haven’t  had to dob or dab on!


3   They rouse our imaginations and inspire us with their fantastic self created shapes and forms that ‘just happen.’






Granulation is texture; thus, we would like most of our texture in the foregrounds.  Some in the middleground. With little, in the very backgrounds.

In my featured image, So Zen,  the background has been greatly diffused.

Yes, there is some slight granulation, but it is minimal compared to the middle and the foregrounds.




Granulation is in proportion to the amount of fluid, water used.  Lots of water will give you a lot more granulation.

Rougher papers also will give more granulation as well.    Anytime you mix one paint that granulates with another non granulator, you’ll get granulation for the new mix. That is provided,  the ratio of water & granulator paint was sufficient.



which ones

The list is extensive, I’m providing a shorter list of the ‘most commonly’ used paints that have Granulating properties in various degrees.

Cerulean, Ultramarine, Rose Madder Genuine, Viridian, Raw Umber, Raw Sienna, Cobalt Green, Cobalt Violet, Cadmium Red, Cobalt blue, Ivory black, Ultramarine Violet, Lunar Black, Zoisite, Lunar Earth….


which brands

On a regular basis, I use and suggest:  Daniel Smith, Winsor and Newton, Art Spectrum, Maimerblu, Holbein, Blockx.   There are other artist quality paints I use. But much more infrequently.  I do not always just use one brand only, because each brand will excel at one color and will have shortcomings on some other color.  Therefore, I switch as needed.

I have, listed the brands –  in order of my own  overall preference. In case you were wondering.





daniel smith watercolors, granulating watercolours, lunar black mixes, prussian blue pb27, phalo blue, naples yellow Daniel Smith watercolor mixing, Impressionist watercolor landscapes, basic beginner watercolour techniques in color,
Granulation of Lunar Black + Naples Yellow + Prussian


With just 3 colors: 1 Staining Prussian blue; 1 Opaque Naples Yellow; 1 Granulating Lunar black

The combination melts together beautifully.



Staining watercolor paints, prussian blue pb27, Impressionist watercolor landscape mountain, granulating paint manganese blue, cerulean blue, debi riley watercolor,
Mountain Prussian Blue watercolors,

The Mountain above uses  a range of blues.  Staining Prussian blue; Granulating … Cerulean blue, Manganese blue;  Burnt Umber Granulating. This painting had minimal granulation, but it is there when you view the piece up close.




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Fluted Blue Vase, watercolors

The fun of combining so many blues… Granulating Cerulean, Ultramarine with Staining Prussian, Phalo, Indigo.

The granulation is in targeted centralized areas. Its not everywhere.

And wow, the vase does pop!



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Lunar Black Mountain

Lunar Black,  never disappoints.

Hit it with sufficient water, and it will combine with everything to Granulate. Creating textures, depth, contrasts.

The dense areas are where the granulating paint, Lunar Black was applied with very little water.

Other areas, seem to flow and melt right down the mountainside where there was a lot more water.



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Zoisite and Apatite  Granulating watercolors


Stunning combination of Granulating Daniel Smith watercolors. Zoisite is a marvellous grey green, perfect for alluding to the far distance.

Green Apatite with its brighter, yellow green is far more suited to the foregrounds.  Used in combination,  they make great landscape foliage greenery.




Two Staining paints Phalo blue and Phalo green paired with  Lunar black on a 100% cotton rag Fabriano Rough paper.  Delightful!




I’ve highlighted some previous posts and articles that may be useful for watercolor beginners.

The Watercolor Basics , will also be a helpful tool.


My collection of paintings from the Masters,  are on my  Pinterest watercolor art boards… one is Learn from the Masters

another is the Masters of Watercolor  they are both Excellent for beginners to review and study.


Additional sources you could look up:

Hillary Page, Michael Wilcox, David Taylor, Tony Smibert, Jane Blundell  give wonderful insight into the nature of watercolor.






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 and,

11 thoughts on “SO Zen! watercolor granulating pigments

  1. I love the textures of the granulating paints Debi, especially on the rough paper – a lovely combination. I find I struggle to remember all the different properties of watercolour paints at the moment – stainers, granulators, transparents etc. – I’m hoping it will stay in my head eventually! But I can see the wisdom in knowing this information and using it to my advantage when necessary….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. magical, LOL
      and well, we can’t possibly remember every single paint out there! but the ones we hang out with most often are easier to know what they are… for me. hey, I’m trying to catch up with your cool pinterest boards! I’ve already got some lovely pins now of yours!! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Deb

    Just wondering how you are going? I love your posts and have missed your input into my own developing sense of the wonder of artistic expression.

    Kindest regards

    Lynette Neil



    1. HI! smiling…. ok thanks, and how are you? enjoying the holidays? Atwell, yes?!! I need a face, LOL is age creeping up on me? sigh. anyway, i just posted an article on imagination and …purple. I hope you enjoy it! cheers, happy painting!! debi


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