Using Ox Gall with Watercolour – Jan Thomson
If you’re a watercolour painter you will probably have heard of Ox Gall. This is a slightly unpleasant smelling liquid extracted from the liver of cattle that has been used for many years to achieve “smoother” effects with watercolour paint.
It is basically a wetting agent, meaning that the paper will take the paint more readily. Paper which is heavily sized almost repels the paint so that it sometimes beads. Ox Gall will allow the watercolour to be absorbed, making blending much simpler.
So, here goes my trial of Maimeri Ox Gall…
On the left is a test patch painted wet on wet with no Ox Gall, in the middle wet on wet with Ox Gall and on the right on dry paper with Ox Gall. At the bottom the sphere on the left has no Ox Gall, while the right one does.
I used it by wetting my brush, touching off excess water on a tissue, then dipping it in Ox Gall then into the paint so that I was using it instead of water to actually mix the paint. I may have been using too much – I found it tricky to find info on this.
You can also add a few drops to your painting water, which may be a better way. Both methods seem to be recommended by various artists.
I found that it makes the application of the paint much smoother and definitely more even. It makes it easier to move the paint around on the paper. I can see that this could be useful in subjects like flower petals where you may want a very smooth transition in colour and tone. I felt that it made the colours more intense, but that may have been the amount of pigment that I was using – it’s hard to be consistent!
Ox Gall has a very subtle effect, you almost feel rather than see it.
If flowers are your favourite subject then I suggest you try it – it may or may not be your thing but it's certainly interesting! If you’d like to see it being used I recommend that you watch this youtube video which will give you an idea of what you can achieve with it.