Review: Sepia (Daniel Smith)

Sepia is a colour with history. It's one of the inks as writing inks and for drawing during the Greco-Roman era. That's why when we look at Sepia handwritten notes and drawing nowadays, we get that old and vintage feel. Sepia tones are also used in photography. It's a colour effect from aging photos. Nowadays, we use Sepia to recreate the nostalgia of the past. For digital photography, there are settings that allow you to shoot photos with Sepia tones.

The colour of Sepia is supposed to be reddish-brown. The ink in the past was extracted from the ink sac of the common cuttlefish Sepia (genus).

The Sepia from Daniel Smith is a mixture of Burnt Umber (PBr 7) and Ivory Black (PBk 9). It's more brown than reddish-brown.

The bottle of DS Walnut Ink that I have looks closer to Sepia.

Sepia is a colour best used on its own. When mixed with other colours, it sort of kills the vibrancy.

Here's a quick sketch I painted with Sepia.

Daniel Smith's Sepia is a low-staining granulating colour. When the wash is still wet, you can lift the colour easily.

The patchy look has it own characteristic.

This is a colour good for tonal studies. It's easily to get really dark values with it. With the Walnut Ink mentioned earlier, to get darker tones, you have to keep adding layers.

When I look at the colour at a glance, I'm reminded of Burnt Umber rather than Sepia. The reddish-brown is what makes Sepia Sepia. If you check out Denise Soden's video on Burnt Umber at the 3-min mark, you can see how DS's Sepia looks more like Burnt Umber.

It's colour that's good for tonal studies. Some of the subject matter that Daniel Smith recommends that are suitable for use with Sepia are plowed fields, farm subjects, fence posts, bulrushes and cattails.

Do you use Sepia? Which brand do you use? Do you like it? Do you think it effectively creates the old and vintage look even in the modern age?


You can find Daniel Smith's Sepia in 15ml tubes on | | | | | | | Jackson's Art (UK)



DS Sepia is the anchor of my

DS Sepia is the anchor of my earth tones (and I _love_ earth tones). I'm not familiar with the tradition colour 'Sepia', but I like DS's because it supplies both dark depth and coolness-of-hue. I can easily make it warmer with a touch of something like Burnt Sienna; but usually I like it cool. If I want even cooler, I'd add Greenish German Umber, or some green. For warmer, try adding a bit of Quin Burnt Orange – wow – Mahogany! It also mixes well with blues to make a range of dark neutrals – try with PB60 for shadows. If I want a lighter cool brown, I reach for DS Raw Umber, instead of Sepia.

The majority of commercial

The majority of commercial Sepias contain black pigments something that it is wrong in my opinion. The original Sepia colour was made from the ink sucks of cuttlefish, ( which in Greek language is called σηπία- sepia). That "ink" was brownish but not a brownish version of black. Sepia should not look black in its darker washes. It is meant to be a dark cool brown and not a brownish black.
I make my own mix that doesn't contain black pigment but is made by a chromatic black mix of PR264+ PG7 ( a red mixed with phthalo green) in which I mix B. Umber PBr7.
This mix looks closer on how the original Sepia looks like, is semi transparent and it doesn't look black in its darker washes neither dull in its dried lighter washes.

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