Pure Color Imagination: How to Use Concentrated Watercolors

Posted by on Aug 30, 2014 in Drawing, Painting |


Most artists are familiar with watercolor paint. But have you ever heard of concentrated watercolors — also referred to as concentrated liquid watercolors, watercolor dye, or simply concentrated watercolor ink. No matter the name, these vibrant, jewel-like liquid tones are a fantastic addition to your painting supplies collection. 

I’m going to introduce you to this wonderful world of concentrated watercolors. I’ll start with an explanation of what they are, and then show you some of the fun ways in which they can be used to create paintings or illustrations!

Concentrated watercolors

Photos via CakeSpy

What are concentrated watercolors?

Concentrated watercolors are tinted, concentrated colors of paint with an extremely vibrant, brilliant and rich color. They are less concentrated than colored inks but more concentrated than watercolor alone. They can be used directly from the bottle or diluted with water.

From the bottle or with water

Concentrated watercolors have a vibrant, eye-popping color that packs more of a graphic punch than watercolor alone. As you can see, below is an example of the same illustration, with one ice cream cone painted in watercolor (left), while the other was painted in concentrated watercolor (right).

Watercolor versus concentrated watercolor

The many uses of concentrated watercolors

Concentrated watercolors are designed for work intended to produce — the vibrant colors scan and print well, and are a good choice for cartooning, illustration and graphic art.

Common applications

Watercolor dye is commonly applied to paper with a brush or in the well of an ink pen. It works well on any type of illustration paper that you’d use for watercolor, including watercolor paper, bristol board and illustration board.

Batik with watercolor dye

Unlike regular watercolor, the concentrated version can also be used with airbrush, or used to create batik designs and textiles, like the batik fabric pictured above. While the ink itself is not waterproof, the concentrated watercolor dye manufacturer Dr. Ph Martin’s suggests that it can be made permanent on cloth by applying a mixture of salt and vinegar or calcium carbonate. Remember, always test a small portion before treating the entire surface.

Mixing media

Pen and ink and concentrated watercolor

Concentrated watercolors work well with other media. You can use it in addition to regular watercolor to accentuate certain parts of a piece, but it also works wonderfully with pen and ink.

You can also mix concentrated watercolor with white acrylic paint to create custom hues. They are typically more gentle and subtle than out-of-the bottle acrylics. Some artists say that adding the pigmented acrylic paint to concentrated watercolors will actually improve its lightfastness, keeping it from fading in sunlight.

Considerations when working with concentrated watercolors

Concentrated watercolor

The vibrant, bright color of concentrated watercolors is ideal for reproduction and scans well. As for original pieces, the brightness won’t last forever. It isn’t lightfast, so fluorescent light or sunlight will fade the color over time (colors will fare longer if protected in a portfolio or under incandescent light). So, if you are creating an original piece which you’d like to sell or display, be sure to cover the image with UV-protected glass, acetate or another clear protective covering.

Thankfully, the colors will wash out of clothing. But watch out of you spill it on your table or work surface because it can create a permanent stain (Note from the author: I have a 10-year old stain on my dining room table to prove it).

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 Have you ever used concentrated watercolors in your artwork?