Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Watercolor Powder Products

For several months I've been playing with watercolor powders, and I wanted to compile all my thoughts in one place - hopefully this will be helpful in enabling you to better use the powders you have, or give you information to make an educated purchase if you're considering adding some of these powders to your stash.

For comparison here, I've purchased Color Burst, Brusho Crystal Colors, Lindy's Stamp Gang Magicals, and Bister powders.

What are they?
In general, they are a watercolor paint product.  They are useful for a wide variety of basic techniques which can be combined and layered forever with different results every time. The product comes in a powdered form; some powders are finer than others. Many are dye-based.

The product can be mixed with water and used in many different ways. Powders can also be mixed with other liquid, gel, paint and paste mediums to customize the colors of those products. None of the colors are really 'pure' colors - there is a blend of several colors within each bottle or pot that creates its own blend when activated to produce a given color. The color of the powder can actually be deceiving. Look at these greens for an example:

A green blend may include blue, yellow and brown powders. Orange has a blend of pink, orange, and yellow. Black contains blue, brown, and grey. The colors may remain separate with a light misting of water. With more water or blending, they will combine to the intended color. This is the black Brusho powder with a light misting, just enough to activate the colors:

Crazy and fascinating. :)

On to brand specifics...

Brusho is a product from the UK which has been produced by Colourcraft for over 50 years (there are 3 generations working at the factory now! Love that.). The product is available in 32 colors at this time. A tub of powder retails for close to $5, with 15 grams of product per bottle.The colors range from vivid colors to deep neutrals. I love the color range in the Brusho line - the blends within each color are fascinating to me, and within the selection there are quite a few colors unique to their line. The powder dissolves completely in water, and reacts with bleach, both properties of dye-based inks. The product is described as 'crystalline' which is an accurate description - this brand is much less powdery than the others, which is useful for product placement and distribution. The packaging leaves a little to be desired, but I've found a way around that, which I'll share below. (You can see in the picture below how I labeled the pots before transferring the contents - each lid was covered with a pool of clear acrylic glaze, mixed with the powder inside.)

Pros: amount of product per pot, best price per gram, vivid colors
Cons: Poor package design

Color Burst is made by Ken Oliver Crafts - it's a relatively new product with 12 colors total (there were 6 in the original release, and 6 more are shipping to stores now). Unique to Color Burst is its eye-dropper packaging - the small nozzle allows for more direct application of the product, and a light shake or squeeze of the bottle is enough to easily direct powder to your project. The bottles retail for about $5 each, with about 8 grams of product per bottle. Again, the powder dissolves completely in water, and reacts with bleach. Color Burst powders are very vivid colors - the first release was all primary and secondary colors. Because these powders are very fine, they react very quickly and dramatically with water.

Pros: packaging, reactivity with water
Cons: price, limited color selection

Lindy's Stamp Gang Magicals are another dye based product. These powders are also very fine. There is a wide range of 91 colors (91!), which includes the shimmery Magicals mixed with mica powders, and Flat Magicals which are just pure color. The powders come in sets of 5 colors for $17 - there's about 3 grams of product in each pot. The colors coordinate with other products in the Lindy's line, from sprays to embossing powders. I have the least experience with these powders, but they're beautiful, and I love that the range of colors extends into pastels and metallics, in addition to some unique colors that don't appear in the other lines (especially pinks). Their main use seems to be as a base for mists, or mixative with paint or other mediums. The mica shimmer in the Magicals is beautiful.

Pros: vast/unique color line, mica shimmer, continuity with other lines
Cons: price, only sold in sets

Bister is traditionally made by boiling the soot of wood or walnut shells, and is used for pen and wash drawings or as a wood stain. The line of Bister powders that is sold by I Brake for Stamps comes from the Netherlands. There are 8 colors in the line. They come in a small pot (about 3 grams of product) and retail for $1.65 each. This product has the heaviest 'grain' of the 3 compared here - the product is actually almost flaky, and very inconsistent in size, as if it were crushed by hand rather than being produced mechanically. The colors are more earthy and dark than the other synthetic products. They can be mixed into spray mists, but they don't seem to fully dissolve like the other powders. I love the brownish tones, as my palette tends to be more earthy.

Pros: organic quality, earthy colors
Cons: small pots, few colors, inconsistent grain, doesn't completely dissolve in water

What do they do?
It's difficult to give a side by side comparison of the powders and their properties, even within one brand, since it's hard to measure the amount of powder in a shake or sprinkle, or to control the amount of water misted, how or how much colors will blend, where or how they'll move, etc.  I did put together a technique video for Splitcoaststampers so I'll share that here - there are such a wide variety of fun techniques to try. It was actually hard for me to do just one at a time! I get caught up in play time, and asking 'I wonder what happens if...?' - which will be the best way for you to get to know your product too.

Here's the video:

Eye Dropper Bottles
I've been really pleased with the method I used to repackage my Brusho and Bister powders, so I wanted to share that with you. The Brusho pots are a little difficult to work with, and an open pot of powder on my desk is a dangerous thing!  It's recommended to poke a small hole in the lid with a piercing tool, and I did try that, but again, that's difficult to control, and... then there's a small hole in the lid. Having lived in the tropics, I wasn't really sure how the product might eventually be affected by humidity.

I liked the bottle format of Color Burst, so I purchased some dropper bottles - mine are 15 ml plastic dropper bottles similar to these ones. I also purchased some small funnels to ease the transfer of the powder. This size accommodates a full pot of Brusho perfectly.

For each bottle, I made a small label so I'd know the exact color of the product inside - as I mentioned above, some of the powder colors are deceiving. I transferred the Bisters to bottles too, made a color swatch, and reused the labels from the small pots.

I'm happy to have found a system that works well for me - it's nice to have the color swatches on the bottles, too.

Now you're asking "Which one is best?" or "If you had to choose one...?" - and I never know how to answer those questions, since all 4 products do work the same in general, but each product has qualities that are unique from the others.

Based on price and color selection, Brusho is my first choice, with the widest color range and best price per gram by quite a wide margin. Compared to Color Burst, it's almost twice as much product for the same price.

Here's a small price comparison chart, just for fun:

ProductColors in rangePrice per containerProduct per containerPrice per gram
Bister81.653 g0.55
Brusho324.9415 g0.33
Color Burst12 (soon)5.008 g0.63
Magicals913.403 g1.13

 That said...

The fineness of the Color Burst powder gives it a slight edge on drama.

I do like the organic Bister tones.

Magicals are beautifully shimmery and there are some pastel and lighter tones that don't appear in any of the other lines...........

So decide what's important to you..... appearance? price? color range? and use what you love. Or get them all!

Feel free to email me with questions or post them with your comments - I'll answer them in a separate post or try to clarify here. Thanks so much for visiting! (Some links in this post are affiliate links that give me a small cash commission when you click through to purchase, at no extra cost to you.)
Thanks for stopping by!


  1. What a great tutorial, Dina - thank you so much! This is all new to me, but it looks like lots of fun!

  2. Thanks for sharing,Dina. I recently got color bursts and was wondering how other products work. I am new to it but loving it. Love your posts.

  3. Thanks for all the info. I first used bister, but was not happy with the results. The colors were dark, and didn't dissolve easily. There is an inconsistency with the finest of the powder, some large chunks in some colors. I recently bought color burst, and have had great results. I think it more user friendly as far as applying it on the paper and spraying. I also used it with rubberneckers stamps(check out their tutorial) and just love the results. You apply the powder directly to stamp and then spritz and stamp. Thanks for all your hard work. I may try some of the other brands.

  4. I've been wondering what all these watercolor powders are and how they compare. Thanks so much for this information. I will bookmark it so I can find it when my Peerless "patches" are defunct.

  5. I haven't commented for a while, but really must today! Thank you so much for your tutorial! I have been dithering for ages about trying Brusho which has been around for a while. Now there are other watercolour powders it's even harder to decide which to try without objective comparisons. I'm still torn between the value of Brusho and the vibrancy of Color Burst, but I agree that Brusho's packaging makes it look a lot less exciting than it is. Trust a Brit company to undersell itself! Your technique demos have opened my eyes to some of their potential. You have answered all the queries I had (and more). I really want to have a go with a few colours, but will have to curtail my natural impulse to buy them all! The backgrounds you created were stunning and looked amazing on the cards in the video. Thanks again Dina. Your work is unique and continues to delight and inspire me.

  6. Another informative and well written tutorial! I've been wondering about this medium so thank you so much for taking the time to do this.

  7. This is wonderful, Dina! Thank you so much for all this information. I just bought the Color Bursts a few days ago, and I've been on the fence about the brushos for a few months now. I just talked to Lydia about them and she is mad at me because I pointed out the Autumnal set which she did not have. LOL! If money was no object, I would LOVE to buy all four of these products and play away. Your information has helped me decide to splurge and buy some brushos. :-)

  8. Great and useful tutorial!!

  9. Thank you so much, Dina, what a great tutorial of tips!! I couldn't resist, and ordered the brushos in addition to the color bursts that I already have. Once you start playing, you can't seem to stop! they're so much fun!

  10. Great tutorial! Thanks so much for sharing!

  11. Thanks so much for all the information and showing us various ways to use the color powders.

  12. Thank you for this post. I have been wondering about the products and trying to decide what to do about buying them. I found this article well written and very useful. Thank you.

  13. Dina, thanks so much for sharing this tutorial! It's full of great information about these products and wonderful tips on how to use them. I love the pictures of finished samples you shared. They are gorgeous and give me ideas of how to better use these. I tried to find where to buy them a couple of weeks ago and couldn't find the Brusho powders. Now I know.

  14. Thank you SO Much Dina for your Powder products comparisons, etc. I Love my Brushos, but have not used the other products. I am printing out your entire info. There is a wealth of helpful information. Thanks again Dina for all you do to keep us inspired and informed. A BIG Hug my friend, Nancy

  15. Dina, a very informative tutorial and have heard about the colorburst product and have not tried them. This really gave me supportive information to put them into my cart. Blessings and thanks again.

  16. Thank you Dina to this comprehensive tutorial about this fun product. Your card ART is just gorgeous!

  17. Many thanks for the comparisons. I ordered last weekend but can't remember now which brand.....I just know it was the cheapest set. I haven't mastered watercolors yet so didn't want to spend much to get a few really bright colors, just to see if I have better luck with the powders.

  18. This is great! I'm very interested and leaning toward Color Bursts.
    Regarding the bottle sizes that you bought on ebay: What size bottle did you end up getting? I am very math-challenged. Thanks!

    Thanks also for the tip about the funnels.

  19. I like the brilliance of Color Burst. Fun and a little bit goes a long way.

  20. Wonderful tutorial, thank you so much, Cathy R

  21. This is new to me. I loved the video and found it so informative and educational. Thanks for the comparisons.

  22. Great post - thanks for the information as I am looking at purchasing some of these!

  23. WHat a wonderful video Thankyou! I have used watercolour powders for some time - but there
    were some lovely ideas here that I have yet to try. THankyou for the concise information.

  24. This is an excellent article and video. I've come back several times and saved it to my Pinterest board. I wish all those folks with Brusho would find your method of repackaging. There is now a Magenta Nuance product that seems very similar. If you ever update this post, please put "Updated: (date)" so we'll know to read it again.