How we make Watercolour

How we make our Finest Professional Watercolours


We source all our pigments from all around the world speaking as close as possible with the manufacturers to assure quality and ethics as much as possible and also consistency

French Ultramarine Blue Pigment Agglomerates

• For more information/Analysis on pigments please see our dedicated pigment blog

Distilled Water & Kordofan Gum Arabic

We dissolve a mixture of Hand-Picked Selected Sudanese Kordofan Gum Arabic with Distilled Water (Distilled on-site) this process can take weeks and rushing the process can cause slight imperfections, so we prefer to wait, once fully dissolved we filter this mixture through unbleached muslin bags to ensure the purity, we then add in the Vegetable Glycerine and preservative

Why Distilled Water instead of tap water? Tap water contains natural minerals such as Calcium, Iron, Magnesium and a few others depends where the water is drawn from, these minerals can interfere and react with the pigment in an adverse way. Distilling the water purifies and removes these minerals through the process of distillation.

• Why Kordofan Gum Arabic Lumps instead of Powdered Gum Arabic?

Gum Arabic is a naturally occurring product that comes from the Gum Acacia (Acacia Senegal) tree, the tree is cut and left to “bleed” the sap is then removed from the tree, by either cutting or naturally, it falls onto the floor which is covered in straw, sand and other materials, when the gum drys this material is usually stuck to the hardened gum.

When making Powdered Gum these lumps are ground up as they are leaving the auxiliary materials ground up also in the powder, leaving a slightly off cloudy look to the final gum when it is dissolved in water. With the Kordofan Lunps we remove these by first dissolving the lumps in water and then straining though unbleached muslin bags to remove the auxiliary unwanted materials leaving an extremely pure gum Arabic solution, we take this slightly further by using Hand Picked Selected Kordofan Gum Arabic Lumps, these are usually cleaner and purer resulting in the purest Gum Arabic

Hand Picked Sudanese Kordofan Lumps


Vegetable Glycerin

A clear, colourless, odourless, hygroscopic, viscous liquid

Ours is made from rapeseeds by heating the triglyceride-rich vegetable fats under pressure with a strong alkali, such as lye. This causes the glycerin to split away from the fatty acids and mix together with water.

We use this as our humectant and plasticiser in all our watercolour, gouache and acrylic ranges

Used in watercolour the glycerin softens/plasticisers the gum Arabic and stops it from flaking off the paper, it also acts as a humectant drawing moisture from the air. add too much and the colour will become sticky and will never properly dry especially when poured into a pan, add too little and the paint will become brittle. This is why getting the balance right is crucial.

Being a natural humectant it also adds to watercolours re-wetting properties when the  ratios of Gum Arabic, Water and Glycerin are balanced correctly this is what gives watercolours their beautiful ability to re-active instantly with just a touch of a damp brush

High-Speed Mixing

Each batch when we get to this stage has been "Wetted out" by hand but to ensure this has been thoroughly done we use a high-speed mixer to fully "wet out" the pigment, we say "Wetted out" as this is when the pigment agglomerates have been coated in the vehicle (Gum Arabic in watercolour)

Pigment Dispersion using a Triple Roll Mill

Once the pigment is "Wetted out" the mix is then run over a Triple Roll Mill (with Ceramic Rollers, we use Ceramic Rollers to stop any pigments reacting adversely as sone can with steel rollers) to ensure tthe best possible dispersion of the pigment into the vehicle.

How does a Triple Roll Mill Work? 

Triple Roll Mills (3 Roll Mills) work by using sheer force created by three rollers rotating at different speeds in different directions in order to disperse a material within a media (the materials for us are pigment agglomerates and a watercolour base is the media)

triple roll mill

The material is fed onto the back rollers (the feed roller and centre roller) this is where the main dispersing happens, generally the closer the rollers the more sheer force but the slower the material is fed onto the apron roller (the 3rd roller) once dispersed the material is then picked up by the apron roller by the process of adhesion and transferred onto the knife for either picking up and running over the mill again or transferred into a storage container

Quality Control

The fineness of Grind - We test this using a Hegman Gauge, this instrument tests the fineness of grind after Milling by putting a small blob of paint onto a precision-engineered trench and drawing down the trench by hand, the readings on the side show how fine the particles are in microns

French Ultramarine Blue Fineness of grind test on a Hegman Guage

Density - We use a density cup to test the density of each paint ensuring it is the same or as close to the previous batch as possible

Painting out - We test every batch by swatching the colour onto different watercolour papers, washing the colour down with different ratios of water to show each tone of the colour, this is all done by the eye of our skilled chemist against previous swatches to ensure quality and consistency against batches


Each tube is filled by hand or by a filling machine depending on the size of the batch. To ensure the correct fill we calculate this when we test the density of the paint along with some mathematics to ensure each tube is filled correctly


Every Pot, Half Pan and Tube are currently labelled by hand. The label is designed on-site and sent off to a trusted Professional printer to ensure the highest quality print possible

Finished Product

Check out our video below:

Making Professional SAA Artist Alison C Board's Own Brand Watercolours Feat Marc Jackman of Jackman's Art Materials, A step by step video of how we make watercolours

Filmed exclusivly at the SAA Studios