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Derivan Watercolour

Water...the beginning | Gum Arabic | Pigments
Lightfastness & Permanence | On Masking Fluid | On Ox Gall

See also Derivan Acrylic


Available in 12ml Tubes


Manufactured using traditional methods and carefully stone milled to enhance and retain the luminous nature of each pigment selected, Derivan Watercolours are now available in 24 brilliant colours, covering the full colour spectrum, including uniquely Australian colours. Each colour in the range has been tested for granulation, transparency, staining and permanence.

pdf Download Derivan Watercolour Colour Card & Info Sheet here (1.4Mb)

The art of watercolours is defined by brilliant, strong but yet subtle colours; clear and clean transparencies. The build up of thin washes created by this delicate mix of colours results in luminous, translucent effects.

The satisfaction of a beautifully rewarding watercolour artwork begins with the choice of a colour range with excellent light resistance, unique colour strength, solubility and paint flow.
Derivan Watercolours have been manufactured using a careful selection of pigments to preserve the tradition of characteristic quality of transparency, excellent light fastness, clean color mixing and intense blends.

quoteWhen Derivan set out to create our first watercolour range, we wanted to create a quality product that understood both the role of water in using watercolour and the play of Australian light on colour. While many watercolours have their genesis in Europe, we looked at the colours around us. Australian light is unique in its clarity, and the colours we see around us exemplify this quality. Our final range of 24 colours is testimony to our awareness of the interplay of light and colour, and also our desire to create products developed and manufactured in Australia.

Our range of Derivan watercolours are characterized by the use of traditional ingredients like Gum Arabic sourced from a region in Africa and carefully tested for quality and impurities. Derivan Watercolours are the result of precisely selected pigments dispersed in a fluid solution of pure Gum Arabic and the addition, in some cases, of Oxgall, which ensures optimal flow off the brush of the Derivan watercolours.






Diluent; Water... the beginning

Water is at the basis of all watercolour paints and its role cannot be underestimated. While the artist can apply the colour, the water ultimately takes the process into its own hands. The watercolour artist soon learns to see water as a friend who must be understood and treated with respect. Neither the water nor the pigment can be completely controlled. Indeed, the artist must also learn the virtues of patience. Watercolours are not a medium for those in a hurry, or feel they must have complete control. It can’t be hurried if the water and the pigment are to reveal their true beauty.
As the water beings to evaporate the bursts of colour find their natural borders. The paper twists and stretches as the surface becomes more opaque and reverts to its original smart texture. More water evaporates, leaving scars and blushes of colour in its wake. Pigment lines the edges of dried colour pools leaving the paper blushing with a soft, gentle stain.

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On Gum Arabic

Gum Arabic (also known as Gum Acacia or Acacia Gum) is a natural gum and primarily a binder or adhesive found in all watercolours, made of hardened sap and commonly sourced from a couple of species of Acacia trees grown in a region of Africa. It dissolves easily in water and its pure colourless nature enhances the purity of the colour inherent in the high quality of pigments selected.
A careful balance is maintained throughout the manufacturing process of Derivan Watercolours in the mixtures of gum and pigment, to avoid hard and differing sheen levels of the resulting colour film.
Gum Arabic is the vehicle that provides the adhesion of the colours over a painted surface and allows the artist to build up thin layers of luminous washes of colours, to reach a desired depth and colour effect, without disturbing or dirtying the colour underneath.

Because Gum Arabic is a natural occurring product used in the manufacture of watercolours, it may tend to separate slightly from the pigment overtime when watercolours are packaged in tubes. This can happen depending on the age of the tubed product and how the Gum Arabic behaves with different pigments. The product has by no means lost its quality, become "out of date" or its archival properties compromised, it is still of good quality and it can be simply mixed together on the watercolour palette (that is clear & coloured paste) then used as normal.

Pigments in Derivan watercolours

We also experimented with pigment to create colours that blend perfectly when added to water. The pigments used in Derivan Watercolours are of the highest quality, selected for their superior performance in strength of colour and exceptional brilliance, which have the highest permanence ratings. Our colours are classified as ASTM I or ASTM II, internationally recognized classification of art materials given by ASTM International (formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials). These two levels indicate that Derivan Watercolours have strong fade resistance (lightfastness) that will ensure their colours remain strong and clear.
Lightfastness (and permanence) is best described as the paint’s ability to hold its colour (or not fade) over time due to the action of light on the paint film but like any other artist studio materials, watercolour artworks should not be exposed to direct sunlight for a prolonged period of time due to the fine, delicate nature of the applied colour film.
Single pigments are used in the range anywhere possible, to make certain the pigment characteristics within the watercolour medium is maintained, such as hue, tint, transparency, brilliance. When a mixture is used, this has been carefully considered when permanency is of utmost importance.

The additional fillers used in other products are kept to a necessary minimum in order to let the pigment take centre stage and work beautifully with water. The particle size and quality of the pigments plays a strong role in the behaviour of watercolour products. Transparency refers to how opaque the colour is. Most watercolour colours, but not all, are transparent and allow the texture of the paper to peek through. This quality must also be taken into account when layering, as the colour and texture below any watercolour layer can be affected by any additional applications.

The formula of Derivan Watercolours makes them perfect for creating tints. In other painting mediums such as gouache and acrylic paints, the addition of white or black is used to create either light or dark tints. However, when using watercolour, tints are created by adding, either less or more water. As Derivan watercolours are created with quality pigments you can be assured that when creating tints diluting the colour will not bring out any unwanted undertones. You literally get a more transparent version of the colours you have used. 

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Lightfastness and Permanence

Lightfastness is the paint’s ability to hold its colour (or not fade) over time due to the actions of prolonged exposure to light that can cause a chemical change in the pigment. Ultraviolet light, which is one of the most destructive wavelengths, can take its toll very quickly on pigments that are not lightfast.
Permanency is the intrinsic chemical stability of pigments in relation to chemical or environmental factors including light, heat, water, acids, mold, etc.

The lightfastness of paint is rated or measured by several different standards, however the most popular are:

  • ASTM (ASTM International): ASTM 4303(*) is a procedure or standard for rating artist pigments. Ratings range from ASTM I to ASTM V, with pigments that are rated ASTM I being considered to have excellent lightfast qualities (pigments will remain unchanged for more than 100 years) and those rated ASTM III-V being considered impermanent or fugitive (not deemed for artistic use).

  • BWS (Blue Wool Scale): The Blue Wool Scale originated to compare the lightfastness of dyes for treating fabrics. The scale ranges from BWS 8 (excellent lightfastness) to BWS 1 (fugitive).


For a paint to be considered artist quality, it should be lightfast or permanent, with a rating of ASTM I or ASTM II and/or a BWS rating of 8-7 or BWS 6. Derivan Watercolour pigments are all rated ASTM I or II or BWS 8-7

(*)ASTM4303 - Standards test methods for Lightfastness of Colourants Used in Artists’ Materials. It describes the industry accepted standards for conducting lightfastness tests with sunlight, fluorescent lights, a xenon arc fadeometer, cool white fluorescent lamps or fluorescent UV lamps.


On Masking Fluid

The use of Masking Fluid is sometimes considered a necessary tool in the technique of watercolour painting. Many beautiful highlights and unusual painting effects can be achieved by the careful use of this watercolour auxiliary.
Its purpose is to protect (or mask) certain areas of the paper or painted watercolour film so subsequent overpainted layers of watercolour, applied in free-flowing broad washes, does not affect them and interacts with one another, so a desired painting effect, texture or highlight is achieved.
Masking Fluid is basically an aqueous latex compound containing some pigment, which will give its yellow and, sometimes, white appearance. The purpose of this colouration is to make it easier to see when applied to your paper or over already painted areas of colour. Regardless of the colour finish, all Masking Fluids have the same purpose and behave in the same manner.

Masking Fluid can be brushed, drawn, spattered (for textural effects) onto the paper or painted surface. Various tools will provide different effects, which you may consider depending on the style and intention of your artwork. A brush, a stick, a bamboo calligraphy nib, even a sponge, are suitable alternatives for this purpose.
The most recommended is what is referred to as a "colour shaper". Its rubber nib comes in a variety of different shapes and sizes, giving you the option to choose the most appropriate one for the job. It is also the easiest to clean up afterwards and can also be used to remove the masking film when the overpainting is done and dry.

If you intend to use a brush, make sure it is not one of the most precious and expensive in your collection because the latex base in the fluid will tend to adhere to the brush hairs and sometimes it is very difficult (if not impossible) to successfully remove all traces of Masking Fluid. There are times when you, if done immediately after use, may be able to remove this film by washing your brush by just using soap and water.


hint As with all brushes, it is best to leave them to dry horizontally after you wash them. This will prevent from any liquid residue to drip down into the ferrules, where will be much harder to remove. You can store them upright once they are dry.


But to prevent the accidental loss of a good quality watercolour brush, it is best to use one you can dispose of afterwards, inexpensive or choose one of the other options mentioned earlier.
In some cases you can also dilute the masking fluid with a little bit of water, specially if delicate or intricate patterns are desired, this will help with flow of it when creating finer lines.

It is important to remove Masking Fluid as soon as the overpainted film is dry. Depending on the paper you are using, Masking Fluid tends to be very hard to remove successfully, if left on longer than required, without tearing the surface of the paper in the process. Once you have painted over the masked areas and ensure the overpainted watercolour film is dry, remove gently by rubbing out with, either the colour shaper you used before or using a rubber cement eraser (slightly textured hard vinyl eraser). Sometimes your fingers can also do the job (in a gentle manner) but some artist advise against this method because oil from your fingers may transfer to the paint film , which may affect subsequent overpainting.

Because there are various makes and finishes of watercolour paper, some Masking Fluids may adhere more aggressively onto the their surface depending on the absorbency of the paper fibers. It is recommended to always do some testing on your paper to give you an idea of how well or difficult to remove is the Masking Fluid you have chosen to use.

Be mindful that this watercolour auxiliary is just a means to an end, and used creatively, the end result on your artwork will enhance the desired look and artistic intention and not stand out as if it was an afterthought and may your artwork look unfinished and chaotic.

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On Ox Gall

Ox Gall is a natural wetting agent mixed usually with alcohol and used in watercolour techniques as well as Marbling, Engraving and Lithography.

This is another watercolour auxiliary used to improve flow of watercolours off the brush and onto the paper. It is beneficially in improving flow of the paint over heavily sized watercolour paper, especially noticeable on CP or Cold Pressed or Medium texture papers. On smoother watercolour paper surfaces it is usually not necessary the use of this auxiliary, as the watercolour paint film will flow much more readily due to this smooth finish.

This medium can also be added to the water to be used in the painting process.

Sometimes you may find that the watercolour stroke is "dragging" the paint film rather than flow into place, or other times the brush stroke of colour may appear to "bead" on the surface due to the size on the paper. The use of small well-mixed drops of Ox Gall liquid may help with getting your watercolour washes to flow easily where your intention is to be for them.
It is recommended to experiment with various quantities of added Ox Gall medium to your technique. We are talking DROPS here and not MLS. Overuse of it has the same effect as using too much water in your brush strokes.



While Derivan Watercolours supply the quality pigment you need to create your art, it is up to you to add the necessary time and patience needed to understand and work with water. Continued experimentation with not only Derivan Watercolours, but also paper and brushes will bring you to place where you understand the way watercolours interact with other products. Learn to take your time, and let the watercolour and water take theirs.

Derivan Watercolour. Patience and pigment have their own rewards

Derivan watercolours on artwork


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