Fun with Black Paper Part I

Way back in late December, my 2020 January Sketch Box had a sample pad of Stonehenge black watercolor paper. This is a medium weight paper at 140 lbs with a typical water paper bumpy surface. But it is not bumpy enough to be called rough. The description does not say cold-pressed but that is how I would describe it. I have purchased black art papers in the past including a black Moleskin sketchbook and Carson XL drawing pad but both were rather low weight and meant for dry media not wet. I also have a heavier weight Strathmore Black Mixed Media pad at 140 lbs but the surface is rather smooth like drawing paper. I do like a sopping wet watercolor style and generally buy 300 lbs in watercolor papers this Stonehenge paper is not a good paper for that style. As you can see on the butterfly below the paper did start to buckle a bit with the heavy application of green gouache.

But I find 140 lbs fine for illustrations with ink and watercolor. I was very intrigued by the unique properties of this paper. I set out to create something using what had come in that box. I had a blast with the contents and this was my all-time favorite box.

I also have some gouache I purchased for an online illustration class that I have hardly touched in the last year or so. Gouache just pops on this paper. I have a new fascination with the media because of this paper. I also love metallic, interference, and mica based paints and ink which are really striking on this paper. If you own Finetech pearlescent paints give them a go on this paper you will love the results! This sent me on something of a black Stonehenge pad buying and painting spree.

I started with space illustrations because black naturally makes me think of space. Below are a few of things I painted last month.

Solar System Illustration
Nebula with Finetech Paints.

Next, I think I will move on to the ocean and deep ocean creatures as this seems a fitting subject for black paper.

Happy Art Journey,



Review: QoR Twelve Piece Watercolor Set

I have been eyeing QoR (pronounced core) watercolors for some time. I have been curious about their use of a non-traditional binder and claims of vibrant colors. I am a long time fan of Golden acrylic paints and mediums whom’s watercolor line this is. I finally picked up the twelve piece starter set while visiting Hyatt’s in Buffalo for about $50.00 and must say I am rather impressed. I would also like to add that I picked up two Princeton Neptune Synthetic Squirrel brushes at the same time and I am also very happy with those. They hold a lot of liquid and are great for washes but still give you good control for detail.

What is in the box?

The QoR Twelve Piece Starter Set contains 5ml tubes of Nickel Azo Yellow, Hansa Yellow Med, Quin Gold Deep, Quin Magenta, Perm Alizarin Crimson, Pyrrole Red Lt, Phthalo Blue GS, Ultramarine Blue, Viridian Green, Burnt Sienna, Paynes Gray, and Yellow Ochre. It is my understanding that there are sets with a variation of these colors but this is what mine contained.

The set comes in a metal box the top of which holds wells and can act as a pallet. QoR are not the most expressive watercolor on the marker but can be on the pricier side. I waited until I had a coupon to buy them but you can find the starter set on Amazon for a little under $40.00. If you want to try the watercolors but don’t want to plunk down that much cash at first they also have a few six-piece starter sets in Introductory, Earth, and High Chroma for about $20.00 on Amazon.

What Makes QOR Different?

As you can see from the video below Golden makes some pretty bold claims about there watercolors. According to their site, the main distinguisher here is their choice of binder rejecting the traditional gum arabic in favor of Aquazol. Most watercolors are made of a combination of Pigments, plasticizer (helps to dissolve the binder), humectant (helps paint retain moisture usually corn syrup), water and other fillers depending on the manufacturer. Cheaper less brilliant paint will contain more fillers and less pigment. You can find more on what exactly makes up watercolor paint here at

I am very interested to try the light dimensional medium mentioned in the above video as I have had a ton of fun using gel and flexible molding paste mediums with acrylics. But, for now, I want to talk about Aquazol and the claims Golden is making. Keep in mind my professional watercolor experience is limited to Dr. Ph Martin, Hoblin, Daniel Smith, Grumbacher, and Windsor and Newton. I have never used the ultra-premium stuff like Schmincke and Sennelier.

Aquazol is a food grade polymer with adhesive properties and according to the manufacturer’s website is their flagship product.  If you are an organic chemistry person lots of information there but it is mostly over my head. I retained about well mostly nothing form my college chemistry courses that I barely passed and/or failed.  A polymer is a long repeating chain of molecules called monomers. Organic polymers contain carbon.  Aquazol is clearer than gum arbic which has a slight yellow hue. Aquazol should enable the pigments to better present in the paint. It is also used as an adhesive in art restoration and has been around for a while. But, as I described above a paint is more than its binder.

Among Golden’s claims is that their paint has higher tint strength and more color density. The Quin Magenta, Quin Gold, and blues are especially vibrant and similar to Ph Martin’s liquid watercolor in their intensity. The intensity leads to much less paint use than what you would think is necessary when you initially set up your pallet. I think these 5 ml tubes will last a while.

Below is an assignment for Ink & Watercolor Magic: 5 Step By Step Illustrations taught by Yasmina Creates on as you can see the flowers are very vibrant.

QoR Watercolor and ink flowers in a mason jar.
QoR Watercolor and Ink: Flowers in a Mason Jar.

raindbow pangolin
QoR Watercolor and Ink: Rainbow Pangolin

My only disappointment is the Payen’s Gray is a very blue-gray. But, it mixed well to create a dark blue for the below paintings. You can see how excellent the reds in this set are on the vampire squid as well. The below witch’s dress is QoR’s Payen’s Gray it is sooooo blue. Payen’s is a cool gray typically but dange that is just barely grey. Now Payens is generally a blue pigment, with a warm pigment, and black or a 2nd warm pigment. So it should have cool bluishness to it. My other Paynes are cheapies so this may be a more appropriate Payens Gray.  I am just not used to it and I just recently started working with professional grade watercolors so my expectations may be off. That said, I have to say I really like this Payen’s and can see a lot of great uses for it. It gets very inky in stronger applications as it should. It just looks nearly blue to me in lighter applications. Just an FYI in the second painting only the blue sky and clouds, gray dress, skin, and broom are QoR watercolors the other colors are paint pen and ink. I have read complaints on the earth tones such as the Yellow Ocher but my novice eyes have no issues with these.  I would say Golden’s claims of high tint strength, color density, and smooth transitions bear out given my use of the product.

Another claim of Golden is that these paints are less susceptible to cracking and flaking. I have never had an issue with this even with my cheap Koi sets. Perhaps this was an issue with older brands, heavy application without much water, or its just marketing.

I can’t speak to the adhesion claims as I am using standard hot and cold press watercolor paper which makes comparison difficult. I think this would be noticeable on other surfaces but I am unsure on how to test this.

The paint is very resoluble I had no problem wetting down dried paint on my pallet. If you do washes over existing layers of watercolor be careful to be sure this stuff is very dry and you are very quick with the wash as it reactivates easily.

Final Thoughts

I really like this paint. I will likely pick up additional colors I am particularly interested in trying Hooker’s Green, Sap Green, Dioxazine Purple, Cadmium Red, Cadmium Yellow, and Prussian Blue in this line. This may very well replace my use of Dr. Ph Martin’s Liquid Watercolor as I think leftover paint hydrates better off my pallet. Dried out and remoisturized liquid watercolor can sometimes get a graininess to it that I have not noticed with QoR.  However, nothing in their color chart looks as intense as Hoblin’s Opera so I imagine that will continue to reign as my favorite pink.