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The Magic of Daniel Smith Interference Watercolors


Hilary Page shows how to use DANIEL SMITH Interference Watercolors to best effect

Interference watercolors are intriguing additions to our palettes. They add luster to a glossy surface, a shimmer to the ocean, or a colorful sparkle to the delicate petals of a flower. They also give an unmatched sense of depth. They have to be viewed at an angle for these attributes to show. When viewed straight on they produce a muted, pastel look. Artists are faced with a challenge when using them since the paintings must work both ways.

My color chart painted in duplicate and photographed at an angle shows the paints with (left) and without (right) the interference effects.

Like the shimmer of a peacock's feather, interference paints derive their sparkle through light wave interference caused by a special surface. The pigment's surface consists of transparent mica platelets covered with a highly refractive metal oxide.

Interference paints are lightfast, tarnish-proof, lift readily and occur in two forms: Titanium dioxide interference paints (see 2D, 3D and 4D on the chart) are transparent and delicately colored lilac, red, green, blue, yellow-gold and silver. The colors occur according to the precise thickness of the titanium dioxide. Only Daniel Smith offers these colors in watercolor. The silver titanium dioxide interference paint is transparent but can be opaque if applied heavily (1D). Red and yellow iron oxide interference paints are opaque (1A, 1B, 1C, 1D). They have a constant color and they simulate a copper, gold or metallic luster.

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Both forms can be applied in two ways: mixed or overlaid. When "mixed" with other paints they give a subtle sheen. The mixed applications are indicated on the chart by dots of the paints used at the bottom of the sample (2B,3B,4B). The iron oxide colored paints form textured washes when mixed on the palette with another paint and a lot of water (1C), or "charged" into a wet on wet wash on the paper (1A, 1B). When applied "overlaid" the interference paints are laid on top of a regular paint of either the same (2C, 3C, 4C) or a different color (3A) that has already dried. When applied heavily they give a dramatic gleam as in "Shells" (11"X15"). The overlaid applications are indicated by two bars of paint placed below the sample in the order applied.

After making a pencil drawing of the subject I wet the paper (140 lb. rough) on both sides and loosely drop in the paints, charging Phthalo Blue GS with Iridescent Russet for much of the overall wash to create texture. I then drop in Quinacridone Magenta, Quinacridone Violet and Quinacridone Gold. When partially dry I lift out paint with a damp sable brush to lighten some shells.

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When dry, I define the major shapes with dark color. This process is repeated, drying between each application. I scrutinize the painting before a mirror to help me clarify the broad underlying shapes. For the shells and background colors, I mix Interference Lilac, and Interference Blue in with the regular paints.

When completely dry I overlay Interference Silver and a little Iridescent Gold to add a dramatic sparkle and give the painting a three dimensional effect.

DANIEL SMITH Interference Watercolors:

DANIEL SMITH Luminescent Watercolors

About the Author
Hilary Page is the author of "Hilary Page's Guide to Watercolor Paint." She has written numerous magazine articles including for American Artists' Watercolor issues, and produced six art instruction videos. Hilary is an experienced workshop instructor teaching in the USA, Europe, the Bahamas, Mexico and China in September 2003. Originally from England, she now lives in Houston, Texas.