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.
So why does Potter’s Pink(PP) make it into my 12 colour palette?
- 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.
A wonderfully informative post Liz. I actually like the muted pink (no uniform memories for me!) and found it repeatedly in scenes of abandoned Italian villages I visited.
I’ll definitely try some of the mixings you demonstrated.
Ah. Yes it’s a colour of Italy. I meant to stress that in the post. Will add it.
I was one of those, “I hate this color why on earth would I buy it!?” peeps. You shouldn’t have held out of us! I have several colors I use for exactly the same reasons — one is gone and I am very very upset as no one else makes it, and that was Daniel Smith Caput Mortem. Terrible color, amazing mixing properties and I may have found its replacement. I could do mixes of everything from skin tones to building tones and they were lovely — and I’ve hoarded what little I have left of it. The other brands were such a deep park dusky purple they just didn’t do what DS Caput did. I may try both Schminke and WN as they appear to be different hues (slightly) and the Schminke is closer to the purple tones of Caput.
Hi Kate. It’s not so much holding out as I’ve mentioned it many times… rather just finding the time to do a dedicated article about it.
Totally understand what you say about caput mortem though I’ve never used it much.
Hey Kate, it’s Jenn, I saw your response as I was reading Liz’s article and thought of Violet iron oxide from Da Vinci. I can’t find a swatch of your Caput mortem but I also found this independent supplier of a caput mortem, thought you might want to try both. Here’s the link to the independent one… https://www.limncolors.com/shop/caput-mortuum-watercolor-paint-half-pan
and here’s the da vinci VIO link … https://www.davincipaints.com/product-p/289-1f.htm
Hi Jenn, I have DV Violet Iron Oxide and it is a better fit than WN Caput or another one I tried (this is so not a color I want in my palette unless it does what I want it to do! Otherwise it is just mauve!) DV granulates a bit better… and I have been using a Primatek for some applications (Hemitite in the purple rage) but it doesn’t do great skin tones as well. I might give the other a try and bookmarked it. And I will buy Liz’s as it will fit a part of the bill. xoxo we need to have a chat soon!
Kate, if you’re up for mixing your own paints, Sinopia Pigments carries 3 different kinds of Caput Mortem powdered pigments. I’ve mixed up a batch of one of them and it’s a rich warm brown that granulates into several subtly different colors. http://www.sinopia.com/-Natural-Iron-Oxides-and-Hematites_c_31.html
If you don’t want to mix your own, Limn colors has half pans of a caput mortem that looks really beautiful, but I haven’t tried it yet. https://www.limncolors.com/shop/caput-mortuum-watercolor-paint-half-pan
Laurie I’ve not tried mixing my own. I wanted to, but figured it was just too much to chunk into. Have you blogged about mixing paints?
I’ve just run across this post (and these comments), so I thought I’d let you know that Daniel Smith does still make several versions of Caput Mortuum (Caput Mortuum, Caput Mortuum Deep and Caput Mortuum Violet). It appears that we can’t get them from U.S. stores anymore for some reason, but Jackson’s Art Supplies still sells it (I’m picking one up in my current order, as a matter of fact) and their shipping cost to the U.S. is the same as Blick’s shipping cost within the U.S.! Hopefully that helps! 🙂
What would you think of using Daniel Smith Lapis Lazuli Genuine like you have described PP as a cooler color?
Very interesting. Thanks for writing so much about it. I paint in acryic mostly, but have started doing sketching and watercoror again and love it! I have had similar surprises with mixing Thalo green or blue and magenta, which makes beautiful blue greys.
Ah yes. Always exciting to discover a new mix with your paints. Enjoy
Love it! I’m going to try the mixes with Cobalt Turquoise and with Cerulean Blue Chromium – I never thought of mixing it with these!
Hi Marie-Helene… yes!!! mix PP with everything and you will be amazed! Have fun!
Being a potter, I love that color.. and I also find that DS lunar red earth is very similar but much stringer, so I can use it thinned out or mix it to get some interesting red grays..
Hi Eileen. Thanks for comment. I will have to check that out.
Eileen, I looked for DS Lunar Red Earth and don’t see it in the DS lineup. Could it be Lunar Earth, Lunar Red Rock or English Red Earth? Thanks!
Try DS Lunar Red Rock. I’ve recently been laying with it and noted its similarity to Potter’s Pink, which I already love.
As always, great article, Liz!
I, OTOH, *did* rush out and buy it. I was taking your watercolor class at the time (great class btw). I’m finding I don’t use it very much though. Cobalt Turquoise though, might just like it more than you do, and can’t imagine how I did without it. Very useful for buildings in the desert southwest (US).
Hi jay. Your comment makes me smile about your use of turquoise!!! As I’ve always said PP is not for everyone – personal preference as well as local colours. Thanks for reminding me that it works for some places more than others. Will add a note to that effect in my article.
I always thought It’s so ugly but I bought it for Watercolour course and I am in love! Every Mix is so beautiful! Thank you so much
🙂 thanks for sharing Sabine.
Add PP to skies, and you’ll hv the most magical sky! ?
Ah! yes, I have done that before…. but had forgotten about it. Thanks for the reminder Sandra. Even more to love about PP
I have never used it but it sounds like it could be worth trying. It was great to see you mention Robyn in this post. I fondly think about the time when I visited her in Tuscany. In addition to sketching together she helped me purchase my first Lamy pen. She was so nice and I miss her.
I see why you love Potter’s Pink. I finally mixed it with the 21 other colors I own and there were many beautiful results. I’ll continue to play with it. Thanks for sharing some of your secrets!
I only started using the WN PP ages ago because you did Liz! I love it too for all the reasons you do and I am constantly trying it in mixes because I love the way it granulates, and as Forrest Gump said “you never know what you gonna get”. I see it as a bonus colour actually because it’s capable of making changes that no other pigment can. I’m still wading my way through the Watercolour Course but I had a wow moment the other night when I mixed PP with DS Perylene Green (which I have just added to my palette) – the result made my jaw drop 🙂
Liz it will be perfect for the palladian tour for me. tested it from my sample card of DS colors but I will get the wn version. Keep the colors of italy coming
Hi Liz! I hope you are well. 🙂 This is so interesting. I have experimented a bit with Potter’s Pink since I got back into watercolors and sketching last year. It makes the most interesting greys and I like it for painting clouds and it also works great for some birds! Sometimes I don’t like the separation effect, but that’s the quirky effect of PP.
Thanks for sharing your secret weapon Liz. I am also a fan of Potter’s Pink. As you note, it has fantastic granulation can be used to great effect for evoking texture. I like to use it in combination with or alongside other earth pigments, especially Indian red, burnt sienna, and yellow ochre. I used it a lot last summer at Usk Porto when painting terracotta roof tops and some building facades. I am currently making my way through a big Daniel Smith tube, which I find a little too brown and runny. Once I am done with the DS, I will go back to the slightly pinker and more saturated Winsor Newton Potter’s Pink.
I rushed out and bought it just because you like it! Always trust your mentor……
After reading this post and basically having a tube of winsor Newton Potter’s pink that I don’t use because it’s like a rock in my palette, and I haven’t figured out what I actually would use it for even though I never really liked it and bought it because of that, I thought I would give it another try. So I did a little experiment with two other colors that remind me of potters pink that I have that I do like quite a bit. They’re both Daniel Smith colors one is Primatek red fuchsite and the other is the iridescent scarab red. Spoiler alert: I’m kind of into bright colors and sparklies, so my test certainly didn’t turn out pastel, but they were interesting. I uploaded images of the swatches I created to my Google drive shared folder:
There are other crazy color mixes and some random manuf’rs swatch/pigment charts there anybody is welcome to check out too.
Hi! Have you figured out yet which one you like the best, W&N or Schminkes? 🙂
Hi Hannah – yes! I went back to W&N as its the nicer colour.
Thank you! I really appreciate your reply! ??
(Ignore the question marks, it was a happy emoji.) 🙂
thanks for the insight. Received my Potter’s Pink last week, and experimenting it with other paints.
I love the look of potters pink. I’ve been painting skin tones recently and using a red blue yellow mix that I use to make sand tones and then adding opera rose to warm it up. It looks like potters pink could be a short cut.
Thank you, it’s very useful to learn about potter’s pink.
I made some posting about PR 233 on my blog and I linked your posting.
If it’s bother you, please contact me.
THanks for the mention – great to see another article on Potters Pink!!!!
Hi. I am intered in your ppst and the comment about Potters pink. I read it as I was mulling a batch its never been on my radar and I have been painting for over 40 yrd and my dad was a pro watercolourist for longer. But I am a tradionalist and use transparent watercolours loving the subtle washes snd layers. Looking forward when the pans set. I am also going to try Caput mortuum soon. Griff
have fun Ian! thanks for your comment 🙂 Caput mortuum is a lovely pigment,
I love PP and use it a lot for painting animals. F.e. the light pink tones on a horses nose or in any other animal faces. Its just perfect for that and I love the granulation it adds some nice texture. Didn’t try Schminckes Version yet, but probably won’t be able to resist 🙂
Hi Liz, I’m curious how you use potters pink in portraits,
And what mix you generally use
(Lying in hospital bed thinking maybe I could play a bit with watercolour in bed??)
Hi Caroline – find out more here
All the best for your hospital stay!
I bought Daniel Smith first and it had a strange consistency, so i asked around and was directed to the Winsor Newton version which i really liked. However, that tube of DS was expensive so i mixed a half and half ratio (DS and WN) in a half pan with a drop of glycerine to account for the hard gummyness of the Daniel Smith part and it was really nice. It now has a permanent place on my palette.
Hi Joy – that is a great idea. Thanks for sharing. I might use that myself as a way of using up my DS PP tube.
Thank you for your post on Potter’s Pink. I just bought a small tube of WN because I like rose shades and searched the colour for more information. FYI your site came up second in the list, right after Amazon. ?
Hi Barbara – thanks for the comment and I hope that you enjoy potter’s pink. So great that you found my site via search! 🙂
Hi. Did you decide wherther you like winsor and newton or schmincke’s the best. . Thank you.
Hi Susan Jane – yes I’m still with Windsor and Newton:-)
Today, I too fell in love with PP, although the Schmincke version as the other two brands mentioned were not available at my local art shop.
It is just perfect for all those Baroque/Rococo buildings in my home town that are traditionally painted in a weirdish sort of pale brick pink. Thanks for introducing me to this colour.
HI Julia – great to meet another PP fan!!!!
Thanks Liz I look forward to experimenting! I’ll get back to you.
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