Mixing + Using Gouache in Calligraphy
A few weeks ago, I began a color mixing art series on Instagram entitled, Pantone Alphabet. The purpose of the exercise was two fold; first I wanted to hone my Pantone color matching and gouache mixing skills; and second, to learn Pantone colors by name. Their colors are most often identified by a series of numbers, such as 18-3224 (Radiant Orchid), but if the color number you imagine escapes you, the Pantone Fashion + Home Color Locator can help narrow your color search by name.
In the case of the Pantone Alphabet series, I utilized the aforementioned color locator to identify color names beginning with whichever letter of the alphabet I was writing in calligraphy that day. For example, when I began the series with the letter A, I used the color locator to identify a color beginning with "a" (i.e. Azalea), then cross-referenced the color using the Pantone Color Search tool, then cross-referenced the color again using the Pantone Formula Guide. A color measuring scale can cost a small fortune, so rather than purchasing one, I mixed the colors and created the desired shade by relying on my eyesight. Color matching can be fun, but it can also be incredibly frustrating when the colors you've mixed do not match the formula guide or the intended shade.
So, how do calligraphers create all the colors of the rainbow? I cannot speak for all artists, but I can share how I did it. I should preface this by saying that most colors can be created at home using a basic gouache [paint] set. Inks that cannot be mixed and must be purchased from an art supplier are metallics and neons. (If there is a way to create metallics and neons from a basic paint set, please share!)
Creating your own colors at home requires a minimal investment. I purchased an $8 Reeves 12-piece gouache set from a local art supply store, a small $3 plastic paint palette, and a $2 Royal & Langnickel paint brush for mixing. I opted not to purchase a bottle of Arabic Gum (for mixing), because water works just as well.
I used the wet paint brush to mix the paint(s); the consistency of the paint-ink should be that of creamer or whole milk; not too thin, but not too thick. The paint-ink must be thin enough to write smoothly, but thick enough to be held in the reservoir of the nib. It is not an exact science, but certainly a trial and error exercise. If the ink does not flow freely at first, dip the nib in water to loosen the paint-ink. You will almost certainly use the white and black paints most often (for color lightening and darkening), so I would suggest purchasing additional white + black gouache tubes. I used the paint brush to apply the paint-ink mixture to my nib, though if you make enough of the mixture and place it in a small container, you can dip the nib as you would into an ink well. I have read that gouache paint can act as a waterproof ink, but that has not been my experience. Gouache can be made water resistant by mixing with an acrylic medium, but seeing as though gouache is water-based, I don't think it can ever be made waterproof.
When it cames to cleaning the materials, it's not a process, nor does it require any special liquids. Dish soup and water will suffice when cleaning the brush and palette, but the nib should be cleaned with either a nib cleaner + water mixture, or a Windex + water mixture. Remember, you can leave your nib in a cleaning mixture for up to eight hours. When you remove the nib from the cleaner, wipe off any access liquid with a paper towel and set aside to dry. Nibs rust easily, so it is important not to let a wet nib sit ideally.
Happy mixing! Happy painting! Happy writing!