Handmade Watercolour Paints – Earth Pigments

Image showing handmade watercolour paints earth pigments made by Art Scribe. Looking down on a paint brush, circular paint palette and three square pans wrapped with Art Scribe paint colours hematite, Burnt Umber and Italian Gold Ochre. There are autumn leaves, nut shell and seed heads placed around.

Your Essential Autumn Palette

Our handmade watercolour paints, Earth Pigments, are the perfect natural colours for your Autumn palette. In this article I am sharing the stories and characteristics of three watercolour paints that we hand mull from earth pigments; Genuine Hematite, Italian Gold Ochre and Burnt Umber.

Circular image with lines painted into the centre of the circle using handmade watercolour earth pigments Hematite, Burnt Umber and Italian gold Ochre.
Three earth pigment colours for autumn

What Are Earth Pigments?

Made from clay and rock, earth pigments are naturally occurring colours. The minerals of iron and manganese oxide within the clay and rock determine their colour. Think of the red and yellow ochres used in prehistoric cave paintings and you’ll get an idea of how stable and lightfast these pigments are for painting.

Ochre pit, Australia. Photographed by Lexa Harpell.

On the paper, earth pigment paints have good tonal ranges of beautifully soft earthy hues that come alive with naturally occurring granulation. The small dots and flakes of colour known as granulation or flocculation appear when heavier pigment particles settle in the crevices and textures of the paper. If granulation is what you are after, then use a wash of earth pigment paint on wet textured (cold press) paper.

Colour Stories

Handmade Watercolour Paints Earth Pigments

Genuine Hematite 

The ancient Greeks called Hematite “bloodstone” and looking at the pigment of this finely ground mineral I can see why. It is the deep dark red of blood. Once we hand mull it into paint, the colour becomes a reddish brown and speaks of the iron rich rocks from which it is made.

Colour swatch illustrating the tonal range of Handmade watercolour paints earth pigments and granulation of Art Scribe Genuine Hematite handmade paint.
Colour swatch: Genuine Hematite ranges from reddish brown to pinky blush tones.

Paint with Hematite and you can depict the earthy reds of Devon soil, the litter of needles and cones under pine trees and the subtle red hues in autumn leaves.

Close up of sweet chestnut showing colour similarities of Genuine Hematite watercolour paint.
Observe the tones of Hematite in this Sweet Chestnut.
colour mixing chart showing Hematite mixed with Italian Gold Ochre makes earthy orange.
Mix Genuine Hematite with Italian Gold Ochre for an earthy orange.

Italian Gold Ochre

Italian Gold Ochre is a clay earth pigment quarried from northern Italy. As a result, this golden ochre appears to have been kissed by the Italian sun.

Colour swatch illustrating the tonal range of Handmade watercolour paints earth pigments and granulation of Art Scribe Italian Gold Ochre handmade paint.
Colour swatch: Italian Gold Ochre ranges from tones of warm yellow orange to a soft glow.

Painting with this warm earthy yellow you can capture the golden light of sunny autumn days and the glow of yellow leaves before they fade into brown.

Autumn leaves fallen onto dark, wet tree roots show the range of yellow orange and brown colours.
Rich golds, yellows and oranges are the signature colours of Autumn.
colour mixing chart showing Italian Gold Ochre mixed with Cobalt Turquoise makes soft greens.
Italian Gold Ochre mixed with Cobalt Turquoise will bring soft, natural greens to the palette.

Burnt Umber

There is no mistaking that Burnt Umber is a pigment from the earth. Made by roasting the clay soil of Raw Umber, it makes a warmer, richer and darker colour. The result is a pigment that is umami for the eyes.

Colour swatch illustrating Handmade watercolour paints earth pigments the tonal range and granulation of Art Scribe Burnt Umber handmade paint.
Colour swatch: Burnt Umber tonal ranges from rich dark brown into delicate tans.

Burnt Umber speaks of damp soils, wet barks, undergrowth and the dark under gills of mushrooms. Further diluting, and the tones become delicate tans to depict lighter, sandy soils, dry twigs and seed heads.

bracken on dark wet soil showing similarities of Burnt Umber colour.
The tonal range from rich dark brown to pale tans are evident in these bracken.
The two granular pigments of Burnt Umber and Ultramarine make a grey that depicts shadow.

Find out how our artist quality handmade watercolour paints Earth Pigments are made.


Handmade Watercolour Paints Earth Pigments – Sources and further reading:

How Natural Pigments and Dyes have been used in Art.

An Experts Guide to Natural Earth Pigments.

Granulation in Watercolours: What is it and how to use it.