Julie Karlsson | Recycle a Painting: Go Black!

A friend recently gave me a gift of some Mars Black Watercolor Ground from DANIEL SMITH. I’ll admit I scratched my head and wondered what I was ever going to do with it?

And then the fun began!! I discovered a great new way to recycle: I covered over some of my old un-wonderful watercolors with a coat of Mars Black Watercolor Ground (you could do this to recycle both failed and old watercolor paintings!). Painting on a black surface isn’t exactly classic watercolor, so I decided to just play around and see what happened. [For tips on how to apply and use DANIEL SMITH Watercolor Grounds, including Mars Black, please scroll down towards the bottom]

All the “opaque” watercolors work fine on black ground (such as Chromium Green Oxide, Graphite Gray, Titanium and Chinese White and even Lamp Black).

The real fun, however, began when I dipped into my DANIEL SMITH Luminescent Watercolors! I became fascinated as I watched twinkling stars in the night sky appear wet in wet in a mix of Iridescent Sapphire and Pearlescent Shimmer, Iridescent Gold, Duochrome Mauve…… and more! The sky is literally the limit!

Watching the Luminescent Watercolors “play together” wet into wet is a captivating experience all on it’s own!

I think I have found a new addiction . . . .

-Julie Karlsson



DANIEL SMITH Watercolor Grounds:
– Archival and acid free.
– Creates a soft, absorbent surface similar to cold press watercolor paper.
– Excellent surface for all watercolors.
– The Watercolor Ground surface holds up to vigorous scrubbing without any damage.
– Heavily pigmented with a thick, brushable consistency.
– Easy Application.
– Repair and rescue paintings.
– Transparent watercolors can now be shown on any surface.
– Frame without Glass.
– Fantastic for multi-media work—combine with decorative paper, acrylics, pastel, colored pencil, pen and ink, stamps, collage and much more.
– Available in 6 colors: Titanium White, Pearlescent White, Iridescent Gold, Buff Titanium, Mars Black and Transparent.
– Nothing else like it on the market.

Tips for using DANIEL SMITH Watercolor Grounds

Absorbent or semi-absorbent surfaces require no special prep beyond making sure the surface is clean before brushing on DANIEL SMITH Watercolor Ground. These include paper, canvas and other fabrics, wood, plaster, shells and hardboard. Non-absorbent surfaces such as metal, plastic or glass should be lightly abraded with sandpaper or steel wool before brushing on the Watercolor Ground.

We recommend using Watercolor Ground straight from the container. It has a thick, brushable consistency. Use a soft-haired synthetic brush, foam brush or foam roller for a smoother finish, or a hog bristle brush for a more textured finish. The ground is highly pigmented so one coat will cover most surfaces; very absorbent surfaces such as unfinished softwood may require two coats, please allow the first coat to cure before adding the second. Wash brushes immediately after use and do not use your good brushes!
TIP – when using the Watercolor Ground to Rescue a Painting, thin some Watercolor Ground in a small dish with up to 10% of water and use a soft brush like a hake brush.

Let Watercolor Ground dry and cure for at least 24 hours. This allows it to attain the right degree of absorption.
Painting DANIEL SMITH Watercolor Ground works beautifully with watercolors and thinned acrylics. Because it creates a surface more absorbent than paper, you will want to use less water with your paint. Experiment and see what works best for you.

As with all watercolors, your work on DANIEL SMITH Watercolor Ground will need to be fixed if it will not be framed behind glass. GOLDEN Archival Aerosol MSA Varnish with UVLS is an excellent spray varnish that will protect your work on any surface. Use it at room temperature in a well-ventilated area and follow the directions on the canister.