I Like Granulation Now

I’ve been saying since I started watercolor over a year ago that I don’t like granulation; I tend to choose colors that are clean and transparent as tinted glass, like Quin Rose and Phthalo Blue. I avoided fan favorite Ultramarine for a long time because of the unpredictable textures that the granulation caused; I couldn’t predict how it would mix, or what it would look like dry. However, since investing time in learning to love Ultramarine, I’ve started to really enjoy it.

Ultramarine Deep & Cobalt Turquoise

Ever since, something’s changed. I find myself drawn to colors like Viridian (PG18), seeing its texture as an asset rather than the way I used to see it, as a liability. 

Viridian & Monte Amiata Natural Sienna

I’ve also circled back to Transparent Red Oxide (PR101), a bold earthy orange that I briefly loved but then cruelly rejected after seeing how its granulation caused unpredictable mixes with blues and greens. What I once saw as ugly and annoying, I now see as beautiful and exciting.

Cerulean & Transparent Red Oxide

Now – shockingly – I’ve found that I even like the famously difficult Potter’s Pink, which should be the opposite of everything I stand for: low tinting strength, muted color, high granulation. Basically this is a special effects paint that adds granulation to everything it touches. As Liz Steel says, it makes “watercolor magic.” 

Potter’s Pink & Cobalt Blue

My perspective on unpredictability has changed, I think. When I first started out, everything about watercolor was unpredictable, so one more wild thing was too much to bear. How was I supposed to learn the rules if granulating colors didn’t follow the rules? Now, I find something wonderful about the unpredictability, the uncontrollability. 

Granulating colors are more work. The mixes are more difficult to understand and predict, but even just rewetting them and getting color is often more work since they tend to be lower tinting strength. It’s understandable that beginners might not be up for that work, that it’s something you grow into.