One of the most common watercolour questions I get is “Why (on earth) do you use Potter’s Pink? I just don’t understand why you like it so much as it is such a weak pigment.” In fact during the first run of SketchingNow Watercolour there was an active forum topic devoted to it.
I also get many requests to share in detail exactly what I use it for, and to date I have kinda avoided answering this question fully. Mainly because for years I’ve called Potters Pink ‘my secret weapon’ and I didn’t want it to lose that title! Do I really have to tell you absolutely everything I do in my sketches???? Ha! I’m being a little bit cheeky at the moment. You all know that I love to share… it’s just that sometimes it takes me ages to get around to putting an article together.
Basically Potter’s Pink is not the easiest pigment to use as it is SO weak and you have to work really hard to pick up enough pigment for it to do its magic. So its secret will not be revealed to people who want instant success – you have to be willing to work at it for a bit, and that makes it special!
But perhaps the most special aspect of the pigment for me is that I was introduced to it by Robyn Sinclair (Have Dogs, Will Travel), a very dear sketching friend who sadly passed away a few years ago. I still think of her often when I use it, so it has an association for me that goes beyond colour.
- It’s not because of its hue. Muted dusty pink is not my favourite colour, especially as it is very similar to the colour of my high school uniform which I didn’t like very much. (Big wave to anyone reading who attended Cheltenham Girls High School!)
- It creates the most beautiful granulation in mixes. I’m a bit obsessed with mixes where the pigments separate in amazing ways and PP creates a lot of these.
- It mutes colours without shifting the hue too much – eg. a great way to get a pastel blue which is not watery is to add PP to Cerulean Blue. If you use water to reduce intensity it will be a watery wash – sometimes I want these muted washes to be juicy.
- It’s transparent. Some people use Buff titanium to achieve similar results, but that is a very opaque paint.
- It’s great for adding texture to earth colours, and it’s perfect for skin tones.
- It’s a colour of Italy! When I’m in Italy for the Palladian Odyssey Tours I go through a lot of it.
- And so many more uses, such as Scottish green, red brick buildings, cream (as in scones with jam and cream).
The main thing about Potter’s Pink is that you have to discover its magic for yourself, mix it with every colour in your palette and see what you get. The above image shows the mixes I use the most (the abbreviations refer to the colours in my 12 colour palette).
I have been using Winsor and Newton(WN) for years as the Daniel Smith version is super insipid and also very runny (I had lots of problems with it running all over my palette). But recently Schmincke added Potter’s Pink to their range and this is what I have been using for the past few weeks. It is a stronger pigment and much easier to pick up, so if you have struggled with other brands you might like to try it.
However, I actually think that although it is harder to use, I prefer the WN version. It’s softer, a cleaner pink colour, and it doesn’t affect the other pigment I am mixing it with. This seems to be the secret magic power of Potter’s Pink for me.
But (big disclaimer coming up) I want to go back to WN once I have finished my Schmincke half-pan just to make sure that my current instincts are correct. I will let you know (and update this post) when I have a definitive answer.
But the most important question is not what brand or what I mix it with, but how (and why) I use it in my sketches. So here are a few examples where Potter’s Pink is an important part of the sketch.
My final word…
I absolutely love Potter’s Pink and would find it hard to have a palette without it. But it is a very quirky choice and I do not want everyone to rush out and buy it just because I like it. It is certainly not a pigment for everyone! It might not suit your colour preferences, or the way that you work, or the colouring of your local area.
However, if you like the look of these examples, if you are prepared to put the work into getting to know it and if you are okay working hard when sketching (ie. stroking your pan multiple times to pick up enough pigment), then maybe you should consider it.
If you have tried Potter’s Pink, I would love to hear about your experiences using it.