All That Glitters Is Not Gold – Part 1

The headline is justified because this post also deals with silver.

I use mainly ink and watercolour for urban sketching. Bothe media reach their limits when it comes to paint gold and silver. This problem does not exist in flat figure painting. There are a lot of easy methods and good products to produce a gloss effect. But how do I bring one in my sketches? May be I should first explain why I want to do this at all.

Vienna is a centre of baroque architecture, where something is always gilded somewhere. The most interiors of our churches virtually blind the visitors. Then there is the gold of the Christmas decoration, the glitter of the snow, etc. All this is difficult to achieve just by watercolour and white space. If I want to paint a bigger surface, I mix a lighter grey for silver or steel, for gold I use Quinacridone Gold by Daniel Smith. To create the gloss effect I tested several tools. (Neither camera nor scanner could reproduce the "real" colours. The pictures are an approach at best.)


Uni-bal Signo Silver: This pen really glitters and covers the underground colour completely, that is why it is not so good for highlights. I once used it in a lamppost, which afterwards looked like a Christmas decoration. The glitter particle do not stick very well. It can happen that you find them on the opposite page of the sketchbook, your fingers or in another colour.

Pentel Hybrid Gel Grip K118 Gold: It is completely opaque, too but does not glitter. It looks flat more like a dark yellow.

I do not find the gel pens suitable. They are opaque, waterproof, impossible to cover lager areas, and have either too much or too little glitter.

Pastel sticks

On a product presentation, I got the Pastel Carré Sticks in silver and gold by Cretacolor. The latter one I used in a sketch of the high altar in St. Anne’s church. Even with a lot of fantasy, I cannot explain what these sticks have to do with gold and/or silver. One produces a dark grey, the other one a colour I would call muddy yellow. Both are waterproof and can be used one bigger areas but the structure of the paper will always be visible. The silver is covering the underground colour as is the gold, but it is hardly visible.

Coliro (Finetec) Pearlcolors

I owe this tip to Betti, a nice colleague from the USK Vienna. The colours behave nearly exactly like watercolours. Instead of tubes the come in small pots with a diameter of about 3 cm. As far as I know, they are available in selected stores but I got them without any problems and very fast in the web shop. They have a huge range of colours. I chose two different golds.

Tibet Gold (M610) is rather opaque with a warmer hue.

Gold Pearl (M640) is cooler, more transparent gold.

For silver, I discovered beside the classic version something special.

Sterling Silver (M660) is an opaque silver.

Stardust (M021) belongs to the Coliro Shimmer Pearlcolors, which are also available in various colours. They are transparent show their effect normally on darker surfaces. Because of their transparency, they can be mixed with other watercolours without changing their original hue. That seems perfect to paint snow for example.

Pearlors are differently opaque, something one can control to certain degree by adding water. Tibet Gold is less transparent. It covers the underground colour nearly completely. One has to be careful if one applies a Pearlcolour on a dry watercolour, because the colour can come of the paper as soon as it gets in contact with water again.

Probable the Pearlors can be transferred from bigger to smaller pots but I do not recommend mixing them in the same paint box or on the same palette as the "normal" watercolours. The glitter tends to move very fast into colours and spots one does not want it to be.

Pearlolors are easily washed out of the brush with water. Nevertheless, one should not use the water afterwards because the glitter particles are swimming everywhere.

Until now, the Pearlolors are my favourites. During the next days, I will test all the glittering tools in some sketches again. You can read about the test here: All That Glitters Is Not Gold – Part 2

Comments are closed.