Previous: Aquinnah in August

Next: We Should Talk More Often

Golden QoR Colors

Post #1721 • September 19, 2014, 2:25 PM • 2 Comments

I have acquired set of QoR colors from Golden, which represent the company's foray into a watercolor line. Golden manufactures the best acrylic paint available and oversees the production of Williamsburg oils, which may have worthy peers but no superiors. The introduction of watercolors makes Golden something of a complete supplier of paint for art applications, barring gouache, and I'm the only one I know personally who's using gouache for art these days.

QoR, pronounced core and standing for Quality of Results, replaces the traditional gum arabic binder of watercolor with a material called Aquazol. I studied up on Aquazol before trying them out because I use kolinski sable brushes that I can't replace thanks to some profoundly irritating nonsense involving an international wildlife protection treaty. Basically, some Chinese bureaucrats managed to ship some Siberian weasel hair—kolinskis are really weasels, not sables—to Europe without the right documentation, and because this treaty says that weasel hair can't be trafficked without it, the entire supply chain has been smashed since the middle of last year. Kolinskis, for the record, are no more endangered than ferrets, but that's international treaties for you. Illustrator James Gurney has more details on this. As for me, I'm trying to figure out how to smuggle a breeding pair into the US so I can start a kolinski farm up in New Hampshire, which may sound crazy but I'm not sure is any less insane than waiting for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to solve the problem of bureaucratically tainted weasel hair. Sure, I'll be known as that artist who went north to pelt weasels. It will be worth it when the American watercolor community builds a statue in my honor. But I digress.

Aquazol has been long known to the conservation world as a stable, clear, water-based, rewettable binder. This implies that some of the conservation problems we have regarding watercolors, particularly their lightfastness and flexibility, might be mitigated with the use of Aquazol instead of vegetable gums. It's a proprietary material, which under other circumstances might be a disqualifying concern. Heaven forfend you get hooked on QoR colors only to have the one supplier of Aquazol, excuse me, Aquazol®, go out of business. But the chemistry is known, in the form of Poly(2-ethyl-2-oxazoline), which I'm not even going to pretend to understand, and its proprietor, Polymer Chemistry Innovations, Inc., has been around since 1990. Aquazol isn't going anywhere.

Aquazol is, among other things, a food-grade adhesive just like gum arabic. This is very reasonable stuff to be handling in the studio and unlike thinned acrylics, with which one could do watercolor-like paintings on paper, it won't tank your brushes. With that established I felt safe to try painting with them. (Click for larger images, here and below.)


JRT Reclining in Blue, 2014, QoR colors on cold-pressed paper, 12 x 19 inches

QoR colors have a somewhat longer rheology than traditional watercolors coming out of the tube, which is to say that they're stringier in the fluid sense. Beyond that they handle exactly the same on the palette. If anything it feels like it takes less effort to get the paint to disperse in water—you just rub them a bit with the brush and zap, out they go into solution. Some of the colors reminded me of working with Dr. Martin's dyes, with those exquisite jewel-like hues and liquidity. I ended up with a sort of embarrassing amount of paint left over on the palette after I was done. Since they require so little water to get the ball rolling, you also need comparably less paint.

The transparent synthetics are especially fine. The phthalo blue will make you tear up with joy. The quinacridones are uniformly excellent. Quin gold has become a staple on my palette as a versatile, somewhat neutral, transparent orange, and the QoR quin gold is everything you could ask for.

The rest of the colors are comparable to any traditional material I've used, and I use very good stuff. If there were any shortcomings, it was among the natural and more-opaque pigments. There's a passage in the headboard consisting of Burnt Sienna and Payne's gray, which is typically a mixture of ultramarine, Raw Sienna, and black although it has varied over the history of the medium. I went over it with a broad line of ultramarine.

The QoR Payne's is described on the color chart as "Copper Phthalocyanine, Nearly Pure Amorphous Carbon, Quinacridone." This is phthalo blue, bone black, and one of the quins to warm it up, in contrast to a more tradtional recipe. It makes a great Payne's, as it turns out, with an inkiness to it that's pleasing and comparatively enormous in tinctoral strength.

The Burnt Sienna looks a little dead to me, though. Acrylics used as watercolors sometimes get a packed-up or dried-out look that this reminds me of. Burnt Sienna ought to be a touch more vibrant than this even in a heavy application. The QoR French Ultramarine is a little violet for my taste, but that's a pigment choice and a reasonable one, particularly with a rocking good green shade of phthalo on the palette and no comparable red shade of phthalo in the line. Something strange happened when I went over the brown, though—it clouded. Ultramarine ought to be as transparent as glass and a little grainy. In a wash, a purple made from QoR Ultramarine looked as expected. But going over stronger colors with it created a ghosting effect. It happened again over a dark edge of phthalo, forming a gelatin-like edge forming where paint dried.

In the interest of knowing what thereof I speak, and because details of the above image aren't sharp enough to bear out what I'm saying, I painted out some tests on 140-lb. hot press. For all the colors I have on my palette, Burnt Sienna isn't one of them, so I compared Yellow Ochres instead. QoR is on the left, Schmincke is on the right. I think that the Schmincke is sitting down in the paper better, is more opaque, and has more granularity and color depth.


Phthalocyanine Blue, QoR on the left, Sennelier on the right. No question about it, that QoR is one hell of a phthalo, deep and transparent.


French Ultramarine, QoR on the left, Daniel Smith on the right. You see what I mean about the hue, but again, that's a valid choice. There's a non-French ultramarine in the QoR line if you want a cooler version. Ultramarine is not a terribly strong tinter by modern standards but the QoR feels a little gentle even so.


To see if I could reproduce the ghosting, I put down a heavy bar of QoR Burnt Sienna and painted ultramarines over it, QoR on the left, Daniel Smith on the right.


The QoR is sitting on top of the brown, with the heavy parts of the stroke bringing the value up slightly. To be clear, I don't think that's an unpleasant or undesirable behavior, but it's not the expected one, which is the one on the right—a consistent lowering of value all the way through. I have to add that the Burnt Sienna looks much better here than it did on the cold press paper, where it was mixed and glazed a few times, so I might have to take back what I said about it above.

At this point I painted the same strokes over QoR phthalo blue to see if I could get that gelatinous edge again.


Yep, there it is. To be honest, I think that's an interesting effect. I've made my own gouaches with the intention of producing that kind of glazed-ceramic look. But the Daniel Smith stroke on the right is what you usually have in mind when you reach for the ultramarine. If you're used to using it for shadows you'll need another color, maybe a phthalo-quin mix.

The verdict: this is an exciting development in the world of watercolors. The phthalos and the quinacridones are world-class. The Pyrrole Red, though I didn't get to paint much with it here, looks fabulous just dried out on the palette. The earth colors and the ultramarine are problematic from the standpoint of deep paint geekery and might have surprises in store for experienced watercolorists, though they'd be fine for most uses. Definitely give QoR colors a try.



Diane Novetsky

September 19, 2014, 2:46 PM

Thank you for the overview of QoR. Have you tried the absorbent grounds for this line?



September 19, 2014, 3:39 PM

I have not. I'll bet they're a lot of fun.



Other Projects


Design and content ©2003-2022 Franklin Einspruch except where otherwise noted