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Leonardo paper

Painting with Liquitex Soft Body Acrylic paint on Hahnemühle Leonardo paper

My second and probably last review of physical art medium covers Liquitex Soft Body painting on Hahnemühle’s hot-pressed Leonardo watercolour paper. Liquitex Soft Body can be used as a pouring medium but can also behave as a watercolour medium by adding Flow-Aid to it, while Leonardo is a lush 600gsm watercolour medium that you can literally soak. Leonardo is hot pressed and has a very smooth, satin finish.

Liquitex Soft Body Acrylic is the original acrylic paint. It can be made to behave much like watercolour if you add medium, but its main characteristic is its high pigmentation. It has a satin finish, which I sometimes prefer above a matte finish. Soft Body gives triple the coverage area of Heavy Body. If I had to choose one paint, this would be the one as it suits a wide range of techniques and applications, leaves a nice, subtle brush stroke if that’s what you like and can be easily diluted to decrease brilliance and saturation — which is also sometimes what you’ll want.

It may sound silly but Liquitex Soft Body Acrylic loves hot-pressed Leonardo. I tried the large block of paper. The satin look and feel of the hot-pressed Leonardo paper is a perfect match for the smooth, high-viscosity paint that Soft Body Acrylic is. When I used Soft Body Acrylic as an alternative for watercolour, Leonardo responded by giving me beautiful gradients that aren’t broken or hindered in any way by the typical structure of a cold-pressed paper. The only way you can tell the paint is on the paper, rather than be part of it, is by the slightly rougher surface after paint has been applied.

Of course, you can apply paint in thick layers and layer as much as you want, but the hot-pressed variant of Hahnemühle’s Leonardo paper has such a lovely satin look that I for one want to have the paper shine through. That is also the reason that I am not using it with Liquitex Acrylic Gouache. After having tried that as well, I found the gouache paint to be taking away too much of the paper’s lovely satin shine.

One thing I think Hahnemühle should somehow change is the way the paper is glued inside the block. In contrast to the 300gsm Anniversary Edition Aquarelle paper, Leonardo is held firmly in place on the sides with a mesh of what look like glued nylon strings. To remove a sheet, you’ll have to be very careful not to cut into the paper as it is quite easy with such thick edges as Leonardo’s.

Conlusion

Hahnemühle certainly has a winner with its hot-pressed variant of Leonardo. It’s a splendid paper for watercolour and fluid acrylic painting enthusiasts with a beautiful satin lustre and the heaviness that is needed to use plenty of fluids with it. The largest blocks available have a size of 36 x 48 cm, but you can also buy individual sheets of Leonardo.

The hot-pressed variant allows you to paint with much higher detail and lets you use paint in its purest form with no paper structure to scatter the light. If that is not what you want, there’s a cold-pressed Leonardo paper as well.

RGB vs CMYK diagram

Introduction to RGB and CMYK and when to use one or the other

When you’re viewing artwork and documents on a monitor, every colour on your display is rendered in RGB — Red, Green and Blue — because every pixel of your monitor is made up of those three colours. When you’re viewing artwork that has been printed by your desktop inkjet printer, an industrial inkjet printer or an offset press, the colours are rendered in CMYK — Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black – which are the colours of the printer’s ink. These two colour modes are available in most photo and paint apps and it’s important to realise that they differ considerably in their approach towards colour reproduction.

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Prizmo 5 iOS scanning app

Prizmo 5 iOS scanning app; a review

Creaceed, an iOS and macOS developer from my native country, Belgium, has released its newest scan software for iOS, Prizmo 5. Now, there’s a lot of that for the iPhone and iPad, so I was very curious to see what Prizmo 5 has in store for its users.

For starters, Prizmo isn’t new. It has been on the market for 10 years on the Mac, then there was a period where Prizmo remained in a sort of state of hibernation, only to be resurrected now on the iPhone and iPad. Previous Prizmo versions weren’t bad but not too thrilling either, so I didn’t expect too much of it.

Well, I can only say that this new version has a definite wow! factor to it — and it’s not only the interface design that’s well done. Prizmo 5 has everything what a good scanning app should offer. It’s a nail in the coffin of other scanning apps that I’ve tried over the years. Most of them either were very frustrating to use, didn’t come with features that you can actually use or depended on a Mac for the OCR part.

We will have none of that with Prizmo 5. First of all, the scanning feature is absolutely great. It’s fast and pretty accurate at detecting the parts of the page that matter for OCR — expect about the same performance — or slightly better — as Apple’s own algorithm that you use when you want to use Continuity Camera’s scanning functionality.

For multiple page scanning, you can activate an Autoshoot feature that lets you focus on the page framing, rather than on the shutter button, which is very handy.

Once you have scanned what you want, you are taken to a page with icons along the bottom. Most of these give access to image improvement functionality, including perspective crop, cleanup, brightness & contrast, edge repair and document flattening. Many of them are locked once OCR has been performed. OCR will have been performed almost instantly with pages that look right from the first try, but even if you have a page that’s too bright on closer inspection, and after you made it darker on the adjustments page, the OCR works well.

And indeed, Creaceed’s claim that they’re using best-in-class OCR is no exaggeration. This OCR algorithm works like it’s supposed to. You have two options, though:

  • a reliable and very accurate on-device OCR powered by machine learning in 28 languages (I tried it with English, Dutch and French; all worked very well)
  • a high-performance cloud-based OCR in 26 languages with handwriting recognition (English only for now).

While the OCR worked great on printed text, it was less useful with handwritten texts. I expected that; handwriting recognition is still in its infancy. However, Prizmo did recognise written capitals as good as printed text.

Next to OCR, Prizmo also does a good job of recognising data. I tried that with a business card — for which the starter screen has a separate icon. And again, Prizmo 5 did a wonderful job recognising the “fields” on that card. That interaction with detected data (phone numbers, dates, locations, email addresses, URLs) also happens with other documents and it only failed in my trials when the background was a glossy dark purple. Oh, and with personal data, you can export to the Contacts app or vCard format.

Of course, Prizmo also lets you import images from Photo and the performance is exactly the same.

Other features that appeal when you’re scanning and OCR’ing documents

Prizmo 5 offers output to PDF, as most scanning software does, but with this app you’ll get the opportunity to set options such as password-protection and different compression formats (customisable JPEG, CCITT G4, JBIG2). In addition, you’ll be able to automatically upload PDFs to the cloud with iCloud, Dropbox, OneDrive and WebDAV supported.

I would have loved to see a much longer list of supported platforms, including, for example, Firefox Send, Sync and Box, but I realise a developer has got to draw the line somewhere.

A very nice surprise is that Prizmo 5 has a text reader with a voice that you can change, of course, for what I found to be a lovely reading experience using my iPad’s speakers. A yellow box shows the word the app is currently reading aloud.

A very nice tough to people who have a reading disorder is that Creaceed has added the OpenDyslexic font. Other accessibility capabilities include full VoiceOver support, spoken guidance and a spoken description before shooting.

Finally, Prizmo 5 comes with a batch editor to replicate settings across pages, the use of the Shortcuts app to automate document processing, Siri Shortcuts that allow you to quickly recognise a text document using Siri and a Message extension — a mini-Prizmo that shoots a document and sends it to the recipient without leaving the conversation.

Conclusion and pricing

I thought scanning with an iOS device was tedious at best, plain useless at worst, but Prizmo 5 genuinely proved me wrong. It’s been a while since an iPad app has made me enthusiastic, but this little gem has.

On the iPad, it supports multitasking and comes with a Photos extension for cleaning up the image outside Prizmo, which I found unnecessary with my test images.

Premium Pack is a one-time in-app purchase to unlock all limitations: unlimited on-device OCR, full access to text & text-to-speech, smart actions and watermark removal. It can be purchased within the app for €14.99.

An optional Cloud Plan subscription provides the Cloud OCR feature in addition to all Premium Pack features. Plans start at €0.99 per month.

A ‘Prizmo – Volume Edition’ is specifically targeted towards enterprises and educational institutions that use Apple’s Volume Purchase Program (VPP). It is functionally equivalent to Prizmo with Premium Pack and is available directly on the VPP store.

Bear app gets encryption

Bear app gains encryption

A slim note taker with markdown capabilities at its core, Bear by Shiny Frog has gained a considerable advantage over its competitors. Mac and iOS app Bear is well known for its bare (sounds like bear but no pun intended) interface that stays out of the way as you gather your thoughts, web pages, recipes, checklists and anything else you can jot down in wordy format — with or without images. The newest version has full encryption capabilities.

Yes, you read that right, Bear’s notes can be encrypted. Better yet, you can lock down the entire Bear app for full-scale privacy and secrecy. The newest version of Bear has more up its sleeve, including the ability to link notes together even if you give a note a new title. You can now also search for anything — including tags or excluding tags — and focus on top-level tags. There are also emoji auto-complete, two new themes, support for Spotlight search on the Mac, 33 new tag icons (so-called TagCons) and more.

However, the biggest and most important Bear feature now is, of course, the lock down and encryption functionality. Locking Bear is easy. You just turn on the option in the Preferences panel and your Mac’s macOS password will be required to view Bear’s notes. Bear will start and show you a nice wallpaper until you enter the password.

But the really juicy part is that you get to set a password for encrypting individual notes. The encryption is no sissy, either. It was developed in cooperation with Cossack Labs and it uses the Themis Open Source library (AES-GCM-256 with ZRTP KDF) with a unique encryption key for each note (but don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you have to remember a password for each note!).

On iOS devices, the password is stored for biometric authentication using Apple’s SecureEnclave through the Valet Open Source library. Bear’s security structure is said to go even further or deeper, but none of it interferes with how user-friendly Bear is. In fact, except for the password you need to enter when you want to open an encrypted note, nothing has changed.

The one thing you should do, however, is save your password in a password manager like 1Password, because, if you lose it, no-one will be able to open up your notes ever again.

Some of the new features, including the per-note encryption, requires a subscription. To be honest, I’m not a fan of subscription licenses, not even if they’re fairly cheap at €16 a year.

But with version 1.7 the Pro subscription gets you something that really is worth more than a fee that’s less than one pint of beer per month. Even if you’re not writing notes that contain secrets — protection against hackers and prying government eyes is worth more than €16/year!

FxFactory Ripple Tools Complete 2 review

Ripple Tools Complete for Final Cut Pro X promises to give you a full set of effects, most of them based on the title concept of FCP X of which many are trackable. Many effects that you can buy in one plug-in are either so simple you can create them faster using Final Cut Pro X’s built-in tools or so cheesy it hurts your eyes. I’m happy to say neither is the case with Ripple Tools Complete.

The FxFactory has become the plug-in resource of choice to most serious video creators. Except for this new version of Ripple Tools, FxFactory also carries the stunning Yanobox Nodes and Mosaic plug-ins. The latest Ripple Training addition is perhaps less the full-blown compositing tool Yanobox’s plug-ins are, but it’s at least as appealing and — let’s face it — a lot less complicated to use.

Ripple Tools Complete 2 has no less than 30 title effects and two masking effects that live in the Inspector. Not all of these are equally stunning, of course, but they’re all very useful and some are stunning. Take, for example, Cloner-trackable, which allows you to remove unwanted objects much the way you would do that in a Photoshop image. Only, this plug-in will track the object as well.

The tracking, by the way, is excellent. I don’t think it’s Mocha’s, but it’s really accurate nevertheless. It’s also quite fast, even on my basic 2017 iMac Retina 5K. Another thing is that you get quick tips if you’re stuck, so that’s great too.

Whereas Cloner-trackable is part of the “useful” category, there’s also a whole slew of “improving the looks” effects. One of my favourites in that category is the Repeater effect that is both easy to apply and great to induce the feel of looking at someone who has serious problems with the liquor bottle.

Also included are text effects. Now, usually I am not impressed with text effects. At best I find they are a variation on a theme. That’s also the case with Ripple Tools Complete, but unlike many others I’ve seen, the variations actually make sense. Text Scroll, for example, gives you more control over the scrolling than the free version you can download from FxFactory and certainly than Apple’s own Credits. However, it also adds four drop zones — that you can turn on or off individually — so you can spruce up the title with images or clips. That’s something I have yet to see being added in another plug-in.

Some text effects are trackable as well, adding even more flexibility and creative possibilities.

Conclusion

Once again, FxFactory has a plug-in in its portfolio that offers you a good deal of creative power to enhance an otherwise perhaps underwhelming video.

Ripple Tools Complete costs $59.

acrylic on paper

Commentable or commendable?

OK, so I dabble in acrylic painting. Thirty odd years ago when I was still deciding if I’d rather become an artist and probably starve to death or a lawyer and at least earn a decent living (which you don’t in my native country, but that’s another article I’ll probably never write), I took my drawings to a national gallery and asked the curator for his advice and opinion.

Much to my surprise, he didn’t start laughing but told me what I took for him to judge only lacked technique, something that I needed to learn in art school. So, my ideas were OK I guess, but after careful consideration I decided to read the law and try to make a living out of that.

Since only a few months ago, I have taken up drawing and painting again, and the first painting I consider to be more or less decent enough to ask your opinion about is on display below.

I would love to read your critique. Please don’t just tell me it is no good but allow me to read why you think it’s bad and what it lacks. Thanks in advance for your comments!

It’s acrylic on watercolour paper, by the way.

Klokki time tracker Review

Klokki is the third time tracker for the Mac that I review this year and it’s one of the best. It promises rule-based automatic tracking and it delivers on that promise. Klokki lives in your menubar and after you have set it up for a specific app or job category, it will work on its own. Unlike Timing, Klokki is meant to focus on work, not necessarily on how you spend your day, as Timing is. And unlike Timeular, it isn’t subscription-based and works always. Klokki doesn’t auto-track time that you don’t spend working on your Mac, though.

Klokki has a beautifully designed, user-friendly interface and uses an equally user-friendly and effective tracking concept. You can track time with Klokki the way most trackers do: you add a timer, enter a description, hit the play button and you’re tracking. Unlike other time trackers, you can’t have multiple timers running simultaneously. That doesn’t mean you can’t track time using multiple apps or files simultaneously, though.

Klokki wouldn’t be special if it just let you manually track time, but its automatic tracking system puts it in a league of its own. I’d say it sits between a simple timer and the Timing app which I reviewed earlier. But while the Timing app really is a time management system, Klokki is still a easy to use time tracker.

The key to Klokki’s appeal is its auto-tracking system which you engage by setting up rules. There are two categories available:

  • Those that start timing if any of the rules apply
  • Those that start when all conditions have been met.

Setting up a rule is easy. In a resizable dialogue window, you’ll enter rules that either start the timer or alert you to start it. And that by itself can be set to be executed immediately or only after up to 5 minutes. Pausing the timer is set in this window as well and offers the same kind of flexibility.

Because if the way the rules work, you do need to plan ahead. For example, you can have a condition “Launched Application” and another one “Active Application”. The first starts the timer as soon as the app is launched, while the latter only starts timing when the app has the active window. Both rules will pause the timer if none of the rules apply (but you can set this to another value as well). In the first instance, the timer will keep running as long as the app is open; in the second, it will stop running as soon as you switch to another app.

Since no two timers can be active simultaneously, I couldn’t switch to another app and have Klokki’s auto-tracker stop the first rule (Start when Launch Application) and engage the second one (Start when Application is active). I had to keep an eye on that and switch timers myself, which was a bit disappointing since Timing proves it can be done somehow.

On the other hand, Klokki is easier to use because, for example, you can set the timer to start only as soon as a window title meets your condition. I tried that by setting the window title of Ulysses, my editor, to contain “Klokki time tracker”. That worked like a charm, with only very occasional hiccups. In fact, the only thing that sometimes didn’t work was pausing the timer when I switched to a different sheet inside Ulysses.

Klokki’s reporting capabilities are brilliant. You’ll get a really nice overview — both in numbers and graphically — of your activities in a beautifully designed window. Export is available to a CSV file. Finally, Klokki allows you to set a different price/fee per job, file or folder so that you can easily keep an eye on your income and create invoices from that CSV file.

Conclusion

Klokki is an appealing time tracker with a few rough edges. If you fully depend on the automatic timing feature, then Klokki might disappoint as it doesn’t always start and stop timers when you’d expect them to. On the other hand, the app is so user-friendly that you’ll probably won’t mind paying attention to it every once in a while.

Klokki is available from the website for €24.50.

Hook, your captain of file associations on the Mac

In Scrivener, you can cross-reference from one document within a project to another. That’s very useful for all kinds of publications, but those cross-references only exist within the Scrivener document, so you’re stuck at a level that you can’t apply this concept on task management or project workflows. Hook is a background app that enables this kind of cross-referencing for all types of workflow you can imagine.

Hook is a file association system for the Mac. Associating related files across files, folders and soon also different Macs on a network, allows for creating cross-references or notes in the margin of research, etc. Linking on the latest versions of macOS can be done by using the x-callback method, but that isn’t very comfortable and it’s also not system-wide. Hook’s system, however, is simple, efficient and user-friendly and while using it I couldn’t stop wondering why Apple has never integrated it this way across apps and file types.

Hook acts as a go-between, using a pop-up window to allow you link together documents created in different apps. Even if it’s not a document in the strictest sense — it could be an entry in a task manager, an email message or a database record as well — Hook will often be able to link the entry to a file you define.

Hook presents itself as a menu applet but has a global keyboard shortcut as well to launch its control panel. Starting from an existing document, Ulysses sheet, email message, iA writer file, or task entry in Things — or from any other document in the broadest sense of the word — the control panel lets you create a new document and link to it in any of about 15 predefined apps. It also allows you to copy a link — in HTML or Markdown notation — from an existing document. Once you’ve created a link or copied and pasted one into another app, you’ve established a link between them.

That link exists in the Hook universe with which I mean that, if you delete the linked-to document, the link will still be available in Hook. Next time, when you launch Hook’s panel, it will show you that link in the bottom section of the control panel and double-clicking it will launch the associated document, even if you’ve moved the file to another folder. If you’ve removed it from your system, opening the link will open the app you used to create the linked-to file (or entry) in the first place.

Dead links can still serve as an auditing trail but not much else and if you don’t need or want an auditing trail, Hook lets you remove them easily.

You can also have multiple files linked together and Hook will show all of them in its control panel. This is where Hook becomes a cross-referencing tool without the need for additional software and with the freedom to manage your files your way and not according to the vision a developer of a cross reference tool inevitably forces upon you.

The basics of Hook are easy enough to understand and use, but sometimes you’ll run into things that seem illogical. For example, linking from a document to an Apple Mail message was impossible on my system unless it’s been sent or received, despite the explanation on the support pages that seem to suggest an Apple Mail message should accept a link even if it’s still being edited.

On the whole, Hook is a godsend to those of us who tend to forget what they need to include or check when working on a file that has references to other information. And if you’re part of a team, Hook also has some limited sharing capabilities by using Dropbox as the location for Hook’s files and links.

A Hook licence costs $19.99 and includes one year of free updates. After that you can keep the software but if you want to update it further, you’ll have to pay the same again. I think you’ll want to.

Soulver 3 makes number crunching a breeze

Eighty is to 37 as 6.235471 is to what? Don’t know by heart or how to enter this in your calculator? Enter exactly this phrase in Soulver 3 (without the parentheses) and you’ll have an answer right here, right now (it’s 2.8839053375, by the way).

I couldn’t resist trying out Soulver 3 because I’m not a big calculus or arithmetic mind and I have the Tydlig calculator on my iPad next to PCalc. I love both, but Tydlig is so much easier than pCalc while PCalc is so much more powerful. Now, if you combine the two you get something that is both simple to use and powerful, and that results in Soulver 3.

Soulver 3 lets you create sheets with calculations, so it saves your calculations for whatever purpose you see fit. By default, Soulver 3 shows you totals, but you can switch that to averages if you like. Its major unique selling point, however, is that – in most cases – you can enter calculations and other number crunching in plain language.

The intro text of this review gives you a good example, but there are countless others. For starters, you can use Soulver as a sort of numeric journal. Let’s say you’re a big spender on clothes and to keep your chequebook balanced, you need to carefully track your expenses. You can create a spreadsheet for that in Apple Numbers or Microsoft Excel, but that’s hardly efficient. Both apps are designed for much intenser number crunching, they’re not very fast and you have to set up a spreadsheet before you can start tracking.

Soulver lets you track without any further preparation. In this usage scenario it acts like a Notes app for numbers. You just enter something like “€512 + €128 // on August 1, spent on shoes and a coat”. The next day, you can enter “€300 // on August 2, spent on a pair of trousers”. The double slash acts as a comment denominator; everything behind it is ignored.

It’s very easy to create subtotals for every month. Tracking purchases in different currencies is easy too: just add the currency to the amount and Soulver figures it out by itself – the first will be your total’s currency.

Often you’ll need to add a result to a new calculation and you can do that as well. Just double-click the previous line’s results, and you’re using that result as the first entry of your new calculation. Now, in the furthermore excellent user guide you’ll find it stated that you can only reference the previous line, but that’s not correct. The latest version of Soulver 3 lets you reference any previous line and that too has been implemented in a very user-friendly way. It works like this:

  • Enter your new figures and operators up to the one that you want to contain the line reference, then
  • Hit Command-L and you’ll see numbers appear right besides the calculation results of all the previous lines in the sheet.
  • Make your pick and enter the number of your choice as you would any number in a calculation and magically the number of that line will appear and the result will appear as usual.

Advanced calculation features

All of the above is still relatively simple, but Soulver 3 handles more complex matters too. For example, you can declare variables very easily. You just state something like “CF (crop factor) = 1.6”, “CF = 1.5” and “CF = 1.3”, and you can calculate the hyperfocal distance for your aperture, lens and camera combination by referencing the most recently defined value in any calculation you enter on subsequent lines.

(NOTE: The formula for hyperfocal distance calculation is: Hyperfocal Distance = (Square of Focal length divided by F-number times acceptable circle of confusion) + focal length.)

Another more advanced feature is the number slider. If you hover over a number and hold down the shift key, a value slider appears so you can create simple “what if” scenarios. Other advanced features are percentages and proportions. For example, you can enter “20 is what % off 321” and “5 is to 38 as 23 is to what”. Then there are new functions that are available in the very latest version of Soulver 3, e.g. “larger/greater (or smaller/lesser) of 121 and 323” and my personal favourite for some obscure reason that I am not actually conscious of myself: “remainder of 21 divided by 8”. That’s the same as “21 mod 8” but the former is easier on the – mine at least – brain. An equally great function is “midpoint between x and y” or “half of x”.

Finally, you can enter traditional functions in the more traditional “function()” notation and perform exponential, logarithmic, trigonometric, and other such calculations.

Greatest timesavers

Soulver 3 will also save you a lot of time. Currency functions are the first group that come to my mind because I frequently need to convert USD and GBP to Euro and vice versa. Soulver’s Preferences hold the key to getting the last currency values. Note that Soulver 3 has an extra for those of us who deal with cryptocurrencies; it supports those as well.

And just as with the examples that I entered above, you can mix digital currencies with the real thing or just convert one into the other. Conversion also covers units, plenty of them. Unfortunately for photographers and video producers, luminosity has been given the least love; it supports candelas only.

Conclusion

Soulver 3 is not just a nice-to-have. It’s a time saver and a great help with many calculations that you would otherwise need to create a spreadsheet for. It’s very powerful and incredibly user-friendly, although you sometimes do need to check if your notation is correct. For example, I wanted to convert acres into square metres and entered the latter just the way I wrote it here. That didn’t work and the right notation was “m2”.

People in the visuals production industries who frequently consult a calculator will love Soulver 3 for its many built-in functions and preset constants and variables. Ultimately, even the poor support for luminance units doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker as Soulver 3 lets you define your own per-sheet variables.

Hahnemuehle anniversary aquarelle paper and liquitex acrylic gouache

Painting with Liquitex Acrylic Gouache on Hahnemühle Anniversary Edition Aquarelle

Producing visuals doesn’t always have to be digital. A lot of art and indeed, some graphics design, is still done the old-fashioned way – with paint on either canvas or paper. We tend to forget that modern art materials can just be as innovative as digital apps, tablets and computing platforms. And if you’re good enough to have your work on display in Tate Modern or another prestigious gallery, you’re bound to earn a lot more than what you can ever make from creating digital art.

Recently, after a long pause, I took up painting again and decided that I no longer was going to mess about with turpentine, easels and canvas preparation. Acrylic paint seemed like the medium that would befit me the best. I don’t particularly like heavily structured paintings and I had already decided to go for paper media, so I started with GOLDEN Fluid Acrylics and some French brand of watercolour paper.

The paint was great, the paper less so. Then I tried Bockingford 300gsm but the “cold-pressed” on the wrapping meant that what I got was structured. After having tried painting something decent with that combination and never getting anywhere, I was ready to give it up. And then I saw a new acrylic painting medium being promoted in my online art store.

Liquitex had released its Acrylic Gouache, an acrylic paint that dries up to a completely matte layer and feels like true gouache. A huge benefit is the matte finish, which is ideal if you want to scan or photograph your art for online selling or archiving.

At the same time, I discovered that Hahnemühle has a 425gsm watercolour paper – Anniversary Aquarelle paper – in its portfolio that is very white and very nice and forgiving to work with. Oddly enough, I know Hahnemühle from the time that I was heavily into reviewing HP graphical and photo inkjet printers. This German paper mill had — and still has — a large range of very fine digital papers that are very good for printing art photographs. All the art papers I ever reviewed for use with HP’s photo printers came from Hahnemühle and I still have photos from 20 years back that look exactly as brilliant as they did back then. That is also due to HP’s excellent printing inks, of course, but if the paper isn’t any good, your image will fade after a couple of years.

Liquitex’s Acrylic Gouache paints much the same as I remember from 30 years ago when I also tried my luck with gouache as a medium. The only difference that Liquitex’s product puts above the old thing is that their version lets you overpaint colours without disturbing the underlying ones — when the underlying ones are completely dry, of course. That allows you to have the best of both worlds: you can create beautiful colour transitions as long as the paint is wet, but when it’s dry, you can paint an opaque colour over another one without the first one showing through at all.

Another benefit is that you can layer at your heart’s content and apply them with much paint as it won’t crack when it’s dry. And finally, I can also make it a lot thinner using up to 20% of water and treat it more like it’s watercolour. Of course, that dilutes the pigments, but it’s so saturated it can be diluted quite a fair deal before it loses brilliance. It’s even slightly more saturated than GOLDEN Fluid Acrylics, in my opinion.

Hahnemühle’s Anniversary Aquarelle paper is a boon when you want to apply much water, although Liquitex Acrylic Gouache never runs out as GOLDEN Fluid Acrylics does. The paper sucks up a lot of water but needs some time to absorb it fully without ever curling or wrinkling. The absorption time offers you just the flexibility that you need to create colour gradients with Liquitex’s paint. Covering the surface with plenty of water using a spalter gives a good uniformly wet surface so the paint takes a bit longer to dry – time you can use to paint wet-in-wet – up to a degree.

With GOLDEN Fluid Acrylics that works out even better, because that paint behaves more like watercolour. If you apply a little bit to Hahnemühle’s Anniversary Aquarelle paper made wet it will slowly feather out in all directions. If you know how to limit the feathering, the effects can be gorgeous.

I’m now going to experiment with Hahnemühle’s Leonardo hot-pressed paper and with Waterford hot-pressed high white. Because, although Hahnemühle Anniversary Aquarelle paper isn’t too structured – it’s quite nice, even to me – it’s still cold-pressed and that’s always rougher than smooth.