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I'm in love with granulating watercolor paints, but it wasn't always the case. In fact, my first experience with them was a disaster! Read on to learn how to enhance your sketches with granulated watercolors.

Back when I was a beginning artist who didn't know anything about watercolors, I went to an art supplies store and bought some paints. At home, I unpacked them and started painting. One of the paints that I used was ultramarine. That's a beautiful color, I thought, so I didn't expect it to look so... UGLY when it dried. I actually thought that the paint had gone bad and even wanted to return the ultramarine to the store.

I later asked my professor at the Art Academy what was wrong with the pant. It was then that I learned about granulation! Ultramarine with high granulation was in fact very beautiful (and definitely not gone bad) if you knew how to use it.

Read this post to learn the basics of granulation.

What is granulation in watercolors?

Granulation is the tendency of tiny particles of pigment in your watercolors to stick together and form little dots which become visible on paper. The paint looks a bit uneven, especially on cold-press paper with a rougher texture. Granulation occurs naturally in some colors, but may vary greatly across brands.

Winsor & Newton have many granulating colors. They are marked by the letter G on the color chart.

If you are not sure what the other symbols mean, I've got a handy post for you on how to read paint labels.

Here are my favorite granulating colors by Winsor & Newton (buy on Amazon):

Schmincke has a whole series of super granulated colors. They are too granulated for my taste, but you can mix them with other paints or use small quantities.

Buy Schmincke granulated sets on Jackson's Art | on Amazon (set 1) | on Amazon (set 2) or discover a range of colors and brands on Jackson's Art.

When do you need granulating watercolors?

Short answer: use granulating watercolors when you need more texture.

A slightly longer answer:

  • Take advantage of granulation when you are using watercolors on their own, without fineliners. If you are not adding details with fineliners, you can add extra texture with granulation for a more interesting sketch.

  • Use granulated watercolors to draw greenery and mix your own greens (see below). Doesn't it look awesome?

  • Use granulation to paint over large areas, such as the sky or walls of buildings. This prevents large surfaces from looking flat.

  • Add some granulation to shadows. Shadows are often large and kind of boring, so try adding some granulated violet to the shadow. You will fall in love with it!

How do you use granulating watercolors?

There are three main ways to use granulating watercolors:

1. Use them on their own

Granulated colors are usually very beautiful. The granulation gives the color an unusual twist, so there's not much you need to do. The colors do all the work:

2. Mix two granulated colors. This creates stunning visual effects:

3. Mix a regular color with a granulated color. To do this, start with a non-granulated color and then transition to the granulated one:

This is my favorite way to use granulated colors without the risk of overusing them. One of the applications for the regular+granulated combination is greenery:

When you use pre-mixed green paints, your greenery looks flat and dull. Mixing your own green colors allows you to create beautiful transitions and give your sketches more volume and more life. Using granulation enhances that effect.

Not sure how to mix greens? Here's a helpful guide: How to Mix Greens with Watercolor.

Need more practice drawing greenery? Do my class Greenery in Urban Sketching on Skillshare (and get a free 1-month trial period if it's your first time on Skillshare)

Disclaimer: some links in this post are affiliate links, which means I get a small commission when you buy something (at no additional cost to you). I appreciate every sale because this is a way for me to continue creating free content for you!


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Sep 09, 2023

Thanks so much. I will look at your SkillShare classes.😉


Jul 26, 2023

Thank you for this explanation. I now better understand their purpose. :)


The tree has so much life because of the granulation. I really want to try them now!

Julia Henze
Julia Henze
Nov 22, 2022
Replying to

Thank you! Yes, it appears so much livelier! Hope you'll enjoy them!;)

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