Although I realised it was not essential for animation paint to use very permanent pigments, because I have painted pictures all my life and made my own paint, I have always gone for the best I can possibly achieve. I set about making paint as if I was making paint for myself, using the most permanent and the best pigments that I could.
I made my first colour swatch ten years. There are over 200 colours in the Filmpaint range. Most of them are mixed from 15 basic colours. The colour chart has full shades and also tints of these shades made by letting the shades down with white. Now everybody has got used to my particular colour range colour standardisation is very important. People have got pots of my paint on their shelves from five years ago, still perfectly usable.
When I began working on the paint system I had a long think about the effect of various cel levels on the paint colour. The American animation paint people Cartoon Colour do a range of colours gradated for cel levels, but there are lots of problems when you start doing that. One is that you have got to assume that everybody will use the same thickness of cel. If I made my gradations to work with 90 micron cel and somebody uses 75 micron then it has completely messed the system up. The other thing is the refractive index of triacetate is different from the refractive index of diacetate. Also, supposing you are talking about four levels of cel and you have got a pink, putting it very simply, the pink on the lowest level will be darker because of the refractive index of the cels and it’s also going to be dirtier. In order to get this cel level working correctly I would have to make the bottom pink, which was going to have the cels over it, very bright pink, but the top pink a very dirty pink because that wouldn’t have any cels above it at all. That means if somebody just wants to use the top pink they end up with a dirty pink which they don’t want, they want a nice bright pink. So although, on the surface, cel level gradation is a good idea it is not practical.
Filmpaint is an acrylic water based polymer. The ph has to be right, the level of fungicide has to be right because being organic, carbon based, they are subject to bacterial, biological attack. To get the sort of flow that is required for animation purposes there are lots of different flow control additives used. They are very different and diverse. I have produced a better paint by experimenting, over a period of ten years, with various combinations of different flow control additives. The word that is used for this is rheology. It is the science of the way in which liquids flow, so we talk about rheological characteristics.
There are two ways you can get a paint to be opaque, and being opaque is very important for animation purposes. One is by using a high pigment content, but if you think of a model of a simple paint system that contains 75% pigment, it is going to be really opaque. But that only leaves 25% for all the other liquids, and it is the liquids that affect the flow, so you end up with a paint that’s solid but does not flow. If you put it the other way round, lets use 75% liquids, put all the flow control modifiers in that and only 25% pigment then you are going to end up with a paint that has got beautiful flow but very little opacity. So to start with we have defeated the scientific process in a sense that someone has got to decide when the paint has got adequate flow in relation to adequate opacity.
One of the reasons why household paints are not much use for animation is because they are designed to be brushed onto a wall with a thick, heavy brush. It is no good buying white emulsion, diluting it down with water, brushing with a sable brush and thinking you are going to get good opacity or brilliant colour because these paints are produced with a greater cost consciousness than my paint.
The other way you can achieve high opacity is to produce a paint where the rheological characteristics are such that by brushing the paint out with a brush you get a very high film build, a thick layer of paint on the cel. Of course you have got to make certain that the paint still has sufficient flexibility so it doesn’t crack and come off. I have arrived at my formulations by putting in as high a pigment content as I can and also modifying the rheology so I get a very high film build when the paint is brushed out. Most people, when brushing paint out, will not notice the difference between one-and-a-half thou and two-and-a-half thou but that gives you that little bit of extra opacity.