Watercolor Paintings: Tips and Tricks
Watercolor paintings depict beautiful landscapes and picturesque scenes. Their presence in the art world dates back to cave paintings of Palaeolithic Europe, continuing on to be used in Ancient Egyptian times and in the European Middle Ages. This medium is also present in East Asian art as well as Indian and Ethiopian painting traditions. Essentially, watercolor paintings are a universally used art form. In today’s blog, we’ll discuss exactly what watercoloring entails, and some tips and tricks for creating stunning paintings even as a beginner.
What is Watercolor?
Watercolor paint consists of four principal ingredients:
- a pigment
- a binder (such as gum arabic)
- an additive (like glycerin or honey) to alter the consistency, durability, or color of the pigment
- a solvent (evaporating water) used to thin or dilute the paint for application
It is the use of water as a solvent that deems a paint “watercolor”.
Unlike other paints, watercolors have a very transparent look to them. They can be buildable and become more opaque, but this comes down to the amount of water that is mixed with the paint.
Also through the use of water, artists are able to manipulate the paint to take on magnificent shapes and blends.
Tips and Tricks for Watercolor Paintings
Here are some pointers for beginners who want to improve their paintings.
Poor quality materials can result in poor quality work, no matter what technique you’re using.
- Paper. Use watercolor paper. It is heavier in weight and has additives that allow it to absorb moisture. Thus allowing the color to have an even tone that doesn’t pill or tear the paper.
- Paint. Use either tubes or pans — whatever is your preference — but try to buy high quality products. Remember with watercolor, a little can go a long way.
- Brushes. Having these key brushes will help you achieve different results. In no particular order they are: Spotter. Round. Flat. Mop. Liner. Fan.
- Paper towels. Use these to clean your brushes and dab your paper as you work.
- Painting palette. Very handy in mixing colors, adding water, and getting the right mix before adding to your painting.
- Scratch paper. A helpful test sheet to try out shades and water-to-paint ratios.
- Masking or painter tape. This will help to create clean edges to frame your painting.
Work from light to dark.
- Lay down your light washes before working on the darker colors and shadows.
- Have patience and allow areas to have time to dry. Use a hairdryer if you want to speed up the process.
- Remember, because watercolor paint is so transparent, light colors won’t show up if they’re covered by dark colors.
- Plan ahead what parts of the paper you want to leave unpainted.
Be aware of your water to paint ratio.
- Too much water leads to colors that are too light. It also makes the paint a little harder to control.
- Too little water leads to thick colors that are stagnant, won’t lay down properly, or cause visibility streaky brush strokes.
- Large washes require more water.
- Detail spots require less water.
- Remember to mix your colors on your palette and check them on your scratch paper before adding to your painting.
- Always wash your brushes well between washes.
- Wet on Dry. This is applying wet paint to dry paper or dry areas of paint. This allows for more control and defined edges.
- Wet on wet. This is applying wet paint to wet paper or wet areas of paint. This creates fluid unpredictable strokes.
- Dry time. This is the amount of time you leave before applying a paint on top of another color. Whether the paint is still wet or dried will determine whether or not the colors will run together and create a muddy effect.
- Always mix more paint than you think you need. It can be rather difficult to create the exact shade again.
Why Use Watercolor?
You should consider using watercolor paints because:
- They’re less messy than other paints and easy to clean off surfaces and brushes.
- They dry quickly and are easy to work with.
- They are portable and don’t leave much waste. It’s easy to reuse paint that has dried on your palette.
- They create beautiful results.