Liquid watercolors are similar to inks, but they are usually more transparent. While ink is meant to be used undiluted, watercolor inks are designed to be mixed with water. Liquid watercolors, also known as watercolor inks or concentrated watercolors, are not waterproof, but they may stain paper and unlike most regular watercolor can be difficult to remove.
Some liquid watercolors are lightfast and some are not. The Ecoline brand is not lightfast, and neither are the Ph. Martin’s Radiant. These fugitive watercolor inks are meant to be used in projects that will be scanned or copied and reproduced, not sold or displayed as originals.
Watercolor inks may be made with the same pigments as tube or pan watercolors or they may consist of dyes. They often have extremely vibrant colors and can be fun to mix with normal watercolors. One of the biggest benefits of liquid watercolors is that you only need a tiny amount of the concentrate to get bright colors. This can also be a negative as the colors are so vibrant they can appear unnatural when painting scenery. However, they can of course be mixed and diluted as well.
Liquid watercolors can be popular for children’s projects in the classroom due to their bright colors, but they are also used by professional and hobby artists.
Popular brands of watercolor inks and liquid watercolors include Dr. Ph. Martin’s and Royal Talens Ecoline.
What is the difference between liquid watercolor and ink?
The basic difference between liquid watercolor and regular ink is that watercolor is always meant to be mixed and diluted with water. Ink can also be mixed and diluted with water, but depending on the type of ink the varnish and other particles in it may make the result grainy, especially when mixed with larger amounts of water. This can happen whether you mix the ink with water directly or mix the ink with watercolor paint and water on your palette or on the paper. The ink can separate and look grainy, blotchy or swirly which can be a cool effect or undesirable depending on your goals. Some inks are also waterproof when dry.
Both watercolor inks and regular inks can be used as washes for painting. Try both to see which you prefer.
Liquid watercolors behave slightly different than watercolors from a pan or tube. The pigments and dyes are very fine, so you get a very smooth stroke. The watercolor inks also dry a bit more like ink than the typical pan or tube watercolors.
I especially like liquid watercolors for projects like lettering or painting geometric designs. They are also fun to mix with pan or tube watercolors. In my experience they can sometimes blend together unevenly, leading to cool effects.
You can dip your brush directly in the container of liquid watercolor, or put a few drops of color into your palette and mix shades together. As the watercolor inks are very intense it can be good to add a bit of water to them too.
The best liquid watercolor comes down to a battle of Ecoline vs Dr Ph Martin. Both are excellent products with slight differences. Try them both to see which you prefer. Read on for a description of both products. And keep scrolling to see two videos that demonstrate the qualities of each brand at the end of the article.
When trying out a new art product or tool I will normally purchase the lower priced option first to see if I like it. And usually I will purchase just one individual item instead of a whole set. I’d recommend buying your favorite color first and playing around with the new material before investing in a set. But if money is no problem, then a set can be a great way to really experience a product line.
There is just something about beautifully designed, colorful art supplies, isn’t there? Dr. Ph. Martin’s liquid watercolors are packaged in cute bottles with retro labels making you want to buy them just to see them on your shelf. Luckily these art supplies are also a delight to paint with.
Most fine artists who use watercolor inks love Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus and Radiant liquid watercolors. The Radiant liquid watercolors are made from dyes, and come in 56 beautiful bright colors. They can be used with a brush, technical pen, dip pen or airbrush.
Dr. Martin’s Hydrus Fine Art Watercolor is liquid watercolor in a plastic bottle. Unlike most other watercolor inks, these are lightfast and can be used in fine art pieces. The colors are a combination of the same pigments used in tube or pan watercolors and are bright and beautiful. The colors can be mixed together and used with brushes, fountain pens, and in airbrushes.
Purchase Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus liquid watercolors in sets or by individual bottle at Blick, or from Amazon.
Made by Royal Talens in the Netherlands, Ecoline is a brand of watercolor inks from a company with a long history. Ecoline comes in 46 transparent colors and 2 opaque colors. The watercolors are based on dyes mixed with gum arabic and are not waterproof when dry. Ecoline is the best watercolor ink to try first if you are on a budget.
A little goes a long way, and you can use these colors by dipping straight into the jar or adding a bit of color to a palette. They can be used with brushes, dip pens and fountain pens. Many people prefer liquid watercolors for brush lettering. It doesn’t have the grittiness that ink can sometimes have and you can blend colors easily.
I purchased my first jar of Ecoline watercolor a few years ago, when I accidentally picked it up while shopping for colored ink. When I brought it home and began painting I noticed that it was not waterproof like many inks and instead I could manipulate it after it dried. That’s when I read the label and realized it was a watercolor ink. Since then I have purchased many more colors and enjoy working with them along with my tube and pan watercolors and gouache.
Ecoline watercolor ink paintings should be stored in a portfolio out of the light.
Purchase Ecoline watercolor ink in individual bottles at Blick or in sets at Amazon.
If you are looking for something more affordable for large projects, experimentation or for painting with kids, try the Blick brand liquid watercolors. They come in 118ml or 237ml bottles and even come in glittery metallics.
If you prefer the neatness of markers to accident prone little jars full of staining liquids, why not try watercolor pens?
Ecoline and Winsor & Newton make watercolor pens that you can use for any project. Draw fine lines or large swaths, then paint over them with water to blend and soften.
The Ecoline brush pens are currently available in 29 colors and are sold individually as well as in sets, while the Winsor & Newton watercolor dual nib markers come in 36 colors and are also sold in sets and individually.
If you are trying to decide between Dr Ph Martin vs Ecoline, these videos should help. This first video shows both Hydrus and Radiant liquid watercolors by Dr Ph Martins.
And this next video shows Ecoline watercolor ink in action. He also reviews the Ecoline brush pens at the beginning. Comparing the videos should give you a good idea of whether Ecoline vs Dr Ph Martin is best for you!
I hope this list of the best liquid watercolor and watercolor inks helped you decide which to try! Have fun playing with these cool art supplies!
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