Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Mass Tone and Undertone

The appearance of a watercolor pigment as it comes out of the tube may be rather different from the way it looks when it is thinned with water.

Mass tone and undertone demo by Winsor & Newton

The tube color is called the mass tone (or masstone), and the color when thinned down is called the undertone.

For example, what inspired the color treatment on this sketch was the strange behavior of Azo green watercolor. It has a dull olive-green mass tone but the undertone is a rather strong yellow.

If you're not too familiar with the difference between mass tone and undertone, here's a short video by Winsor & Newton that demonstrates the difference.


Susan Krzywicki said...

One of the things I love about your postings is how a simple observation is deepened and enriched. I had noted the phenomenon you write about but in the barest, most fleeting way. It never occurred to me there was a set of observations, a naming convention and a use for Mass and Undertone.

How exciting.

Sue do said...

Love love Azo Green and the way it turns yellow. Awesome for those early spring leaves just popping out. Have you ever checked out Brown Madder that way… mass tone a deep sienna/ruby drown and then washes out to a super warm pinkish tone like the color on a peach skin. Watercolors are like alchemy. Thank you for showing us the values!

Warren JB said...

I was just listening to more experienced watercolorists talking about 'masstone', and I thought to myself 'I'm going to have to look up what that actually is'.

Lo and behold...