Metallics added to wet pigment or applied on top of a dry wash can be used to encourage a focal point for your watercolor paintings.  Watercolor typically dries much lighter (and sometimes duller) than when the paint is first applied. I remember a day when metallic watercolors were a luxury and hard to come by.  Nowadays, there are many options available on the market to achieve this shimmery look. We will not cover them all here, but hopefully I can provide a starting point to help you choose which metallic pigment to choose for the look you would like to achieve. 


Sanford, Colorific Shimmering Watercolors: No longer available

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The image shown to the left is of my first metallic watercolor set.  When I was just learning how to paint, my mom found this metallic set at United Arts and Education.  She knew how much I loved all things iridescent, and sure enough I went crazy over this paint set!  As far as I know, the company no longer makes these beauties. Still, I felt it was worth sharing this set for sentimental reasons.  






Fine Tec

I have yet to use these metallics in my work. But, having already painted out a color swatch of each on both white and black paper, I can honestly confirm that they live up to their reputation. 

I'm especially excited about the prospect of capturing some of the more difficult iridescent bird feathers with the help of the Fine Tec color options. 

These metallics are mostly used for calligraphy, but as a watercolorist, I would opt for (this) set because it will be more versatile for capturing subtlety. With my fondness for birds, however, the peacock color set was a must!  


Daniel Smith: Iridescent and Duochrome collection

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If you do not want to invest too much money into metallic pigment, the Yasutomo Niji Pearlescent Watercolor set is a great choice. There are 21 beautiful colors to play with and for that variety, this metallic paint set is quite affordable. 

I used the metallic gold from this collection in my black vulture painting. You can see how the glitter pushed away and blended with the green background pigment. 



The fine glitter that makes up this shimmery watercolor is heavy and tends to sink quickly on the paper while the water floats on top.  This means that it blends poorly and is better used as a glaze over existing dry colors.  When this paint is dry, it gives a more plastic appearance to your watercolor. 








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I first discovered PearlEx Metallic Powders at a scrapbooking store.  I was instantly in love!  Originally, I purchased these powders for my photography shoots to style intense makeup and hair. Eventually, they found their way into my watercolors.  After drying, they are less intense in shimmer quality than when first applied, but they give the most beautiful matte sheen to your colors.  I appreciate that I can control the amount of shimmer desired by adding more or less powder to my watercolor paint.  I can even alter colors depending on which color is chosen. 


The hummingbird below was brushed with bit of gold PearlEx powder after it was finished and had completely dried. This really gave a subtle elegance and depth to the finished painting. 






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If you want something magical and extra glittery, Winsor & Newton provide an incredible option.  This medium is excellent for painting galaxies! I prefer to drop it into fairly wet paint and let it travel across the paper as it will.  Used alone or as a glaze, however, it is just too dominant for my style. 









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I use the LuminArte metallics the most in my current work.  As shown below, I find they illustrate the iridescence of bird feathers perfectly.  Since I paint a lot of birds, this brand of metallic watercolor is ideal for me.










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