Categories: ART SUPPLIES

Watercolor Pigments: Brusho & Color Burst

Perhaps you’ve seen an artist using watercolor pigments and wondered where you can find them and how you can use them? Or maybe you’ve never heard of these concentrated watercolor crystals. Read on for information about watercolor pigments, where you can purchase them and how to use them. I’ll share some of my favorite artists’ work with them too.

Watercolor Pigments

Of course, watercolor paints are made from pigments and binders, but here I am referring to a special kind of pigment that comes in a fine dust which spreads when it touches water. Some refer to them as watercolor crystals and others call them watercolor powders.

The two most popular brands of these watercolor pigment crystals are Brusho and Color Burst. I’ll give you information on both brands and explain some of their differences. You can buy the pigments in sets or individually and mix and match them with each other and other paints and inks as well.

Colourcraft Brusho

Brusho is one of the oldest brands of watercolor powders. They come from England and are available from many sites online.

Brusho colors are made up of finely ground pigments in vivid colors that can be used with plain water and water-based mediums to create beautiful works of art. You can also combine the watercolor crystals with acrylic mediums, gels, acrylic inks, and many other mediums. Many artists use Brusho or other watercolor pigments to create backgrounds or lovely textural pieces for use in collage. Find more below about ways to use watercolor pigments.

Brusho comes in small cylindrical pots of color that are labeled with the name of the hue. The white plastic containers don’t have any shakers or ways to distribute the color. Some artists dip a dry brush into the powder to use the pigment while many others use a pushpin to poke a hole in the top of the plastic container. This allows you to tap out a small amount of pigment without opening the lid. Seal the hole by leaving a pushpin or thumbtack in the hole when not in use.

As the Brushos do not come with color coded labels, many artists make their own.

You can purchase Brusho in sets or individually. I buy mine at Dick Blick individually, as I prefer to choose my favorite colors. You can find them in sets at Blick or on Amazon here.


Read on for a comparison of the different water-soluble powdered dyes below.

Ken Oliver Color Burst

Ken Oliver is an artist living in Indiana who has created several products that are especially loved by the scrapbooking and crafty crowd. One of these products is Color Burst.

These super concentrated watercolor pigments can be used to create fun splashy designs, added as details to landscape paintings or used on their own simply as normal watercolor paints.

Color Burst is sold in sets of six in themed combinations like Caribbean, Earth Tones and Brights. These sets are well priced at Dick Blick, check them out here.

Buy  Ken Oliver Color Burst Watercolor Powder from: Blick Art Materials

You can also purchase the bottles of watercolor powders separately here on eBay, find them on Amazon or on Etsy.

Compare prices on Ken Oliver Color Burst by shopping at the links below.


Other Brands of Pigment Powders

While Brusho and Color Burst are probably the most common pigment powders found in USA and UK, there are other brands you can look for.

Couleur d’Artigo Bistre/Bister: a European brand of water-soluble pigment powders that comes in eight earthy colors. You can find it here on Amazon.

Marion Smith Color Lab: mix these powdered pigments with water, mod podge, acrylic mediums and more to create colorful artworks.

Magenta Nuance: these dye-based watercolor powders come in a collection of bright colors that can be combined with water based mediums, made into sprays and more. Magenta is a Canadian company. You can find Magenta Nuance on Amazon or here on Etsy.

Lindy’s Stamp Gang Magical Shakers: these pigment powders are created by crafters for crafters. They come in a huge range of colors. Lindy’s Magicals are some of the least expensive pigment powders and if you are new to the powders you might want to try these first to see what you think. These come in sets of vivid hues called flats and metallics with mica called shimmers and you can find them on Amazon, on Etsy and eBay here.

Brusho vs Color Burst vs Lindy’s Magicals

You might prefer Color Burst to Brusho if you like the cleanliness of the squeezable bottles rather than the small plastic containers. There is less chance of spilling the Color Burst all over your table and floor creating a huge mess. In a way that means more control but at the same time with Brusho you can decide how you will get the color out of the container and how much you would like to use. Magicals also come in little pots but a few colors also come in shakable containers somewhat like a spice jar. These are called Magical Shakers and you can find them here.

Some find the Color Burst can sometimes be difficult to get out of the container. It might depend on your local humidity. Instead of trying to squeeze the color out, try tapping the bottle with your finger to release the powder. You could also try using a pin to enlarge the opening slightly.

Another difference is that Brusho pigments all come in the same white container, while the Color Burst bottles have color coded labels. If you prefer to pick your colors by sight rather than read the label name you might like the Color Burst better. Some artists have created color swatches for the tops of their Brusho bottles. The Magicals pots have color coded labels on their lids.

But what about the colors? Brusho and Color Burst both have a huge range of colors, and you might prefer one over the other. Lindy’s Magicals come in a really enormous range of colors but they are only sold in sets at this time. However sometimes you can find individuals being sold.

I find that Brusho has more variable colors, for example, the color Grey might actually have flecks of blue, purple and orange and not really look grey at all. But if you mix the Brusho crystals with water to paint with them the color is just a basic grey and you don’t see the flecks of color. Interesting!

If you prefer more predictable results you might like the Color Burst palette better, however some colors will still have variation. The Color Burst swatches tend to be more consistent in shades and tones without the speckles of different colors. Check out these swatches of some of the colors from Sandy Allnock, above.

If you like metallics then you will definitely want to take a look at the Magicals. Many of the colors include mica and are shimmery. Check out these shimmer sets. The Magical Shakers also include some sparkle.

You also might decide on Brusho vs Color Burst vs Magicals depending what is included in the sets. Brusho and Color Burst are sold in sets as well as individually, but if you’d like to collect many colors then the sets are less expensive per bottle. Therefore you might prefer Color Burst or Brusho depending on which colors come in the sets. The Magicals are only sold in sets at this time though you might find them individually here on eBay or on Etsy.

To see more, check out these videos showing some of the differences between Brusho, Color Burst and Magicals.

How to Use Watercolor Pigment Powders

Now here’s the fun part! There are many ways to use these concentrated watercolors. Spray a sheet of watercolor paper with water then sprinkle on the crystals and watch them bloom, or sprinkle the colors on first and then spray. You can also add water with a brush for different effects.

My favorite way to use these art supplies is to combine them with regular watercolor paints and inks to get cool textures, patterns and color combinations. The watercolor pigments create splashes and splatters that add flair to your regular paintings.

The pigments can also be used with other mediums like acrylic painting and embossing. The powdered pigment can be combined with any type of solution like acrylic mediums and paints, alcohol, gel medium or even oils. You can add a bit of pigment crystals to water or another solution, mix, and use it as a spray as well. If you enjoy getting crafty, these watercolor crystals can also be used to color fabric, ribbons and many other substrates. Just note that without a fixative, these products are neither lightfast nor waterproof.

Here are some examples of ways you can use pigments like Brusho or Color Burst in your artworks. Check out these amazing artists that feature watercolor pigments like Brusho or Color Burst in their creations. Get inspired!

Joanne Boon Thomasmore
Darcy Wilkinsonmore
Carolyn Gavinmore

You may also like these books and tutorials on how to use watercolor crystals in your artworks.

I hope this post helped you learn more about watercolor pigments and powders. To see some of our favorite watercolor papers and sketchbooks that would be great for these watercolor crystals, click here. You might also like to check out some of the best liquid watercolors and watercolor inks.


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