". Arranged Words: Watercolour 101 🎨

Watercolour 101 🎨

Here you will find general information and few tips about different mediums, with a focus on watercolour.  Please feel free to copy and paste the text to print or re-read at your leisure. And you are welcome to share the link at the end of this post on your blog, or with friends.

 If you are a new painter, I recommend that you buy the best supplies you can afford. 
 Why? Because you will get better results.

Also, if you can, buy good sable or synthetic brushes. I prefer synthetic brushes for several reasons.  A #4  round watercolour brush is, in my opinion, a must. (Other sizes I prefer #6, #2 and a good flat larger wash brush, and a mop brush.) Good brushes are expensive, but, if you treat them well, they should last a very long time. For a cheap alternative, Golden Maple brushes hold paint quite well. 

If you are not sure if you want to paint long term, and it all seems like overwhelm, experiment with cheaper products. However, most inexpensive paints are not light fast, and I find cheap brushes do not hold paint well (so blobs of paint may end up all over your masterpiece) and inexpensive paper will lift and buckle. Should any of these things happen, it’s easy to get discouraged.  (When I started painting, I used cheap supplies. Once I upgraded my supplies, the difference was like night and day.)

Paint, brushes, or paper? If I had to choose what to spend money on, it would be paper. Why?  Because it is the foundation of any good painting. 

I should say that I also buy and experiment with cheaper paint. (If, however, I am painting for my shop, or for someone, I use professional/artist quality paint, or pastels because I want to be sure the painting is of the best quality and will last and not fade.)And last year, for example, I bought a children’s paint set for less than $4.00.  And Wonder of Wonders! Muddy colours cannot be made with these sets. So experiment —leap into a world of colour and fun!

*** Do BEWARE because, like book shops, art supply shops ooze tumble down magic. After just one visit, you may find yourself light on funds, reeling and weak in the knees. Captured forever — hopelessly babbling and lovingly enchanted!




After checking out watercolour paper and trying several different brands, I found I like hot pressed paper best because it suits my style of painting. There are three grades of paper: hot press (very smooth)  NOT ( took me awhile to discover it means not hot pressed), and is actually cold pressed paper and, finally, rough paper.  (Most landscape painters use cold pressed paper.) These days you can also buy watercolour canvases, paper canvas and clay board for watercolour. You can also paint on wood if, that is, you begin with a watercolour ground. (See * below.)

Since my favourite paper is no longer availableI am, now, using Moulin du Roy 300 lb (I just found out it’s no longer made)  and Arches paper. Both are acid free and 100% cotton. I also use 140 lb. weight. (The higher the weight the thicker the paper.) Arches requires a light hand, (you cannot easily erase any part of a drawing (on hot press--not sure about cold press) without paper damage) but it can take several glazes. (For cheaper alternative try Canson XL paper or a good sketchbook will do too.)

                                                
 
Jane Davenport watercolour paint. I bought these at Michaels with 50% off coupon for about $20.00 a tin. The texture of the pans looks rough, (must be the binder they use) but the paint itself is smooth. 

                                               Sennelier Artist Quality Watercolour Paint

I also use watercolour blocks (Arches, Fabriano) that are glued on all four sides. ( For those new to watercolour blocks, there's a small hole at the top of the block, you insert a thin knife and go around the block to remove the sheet from the block when your painting is completely dry.) Painting on blocks keep the paper from buckling.
I also buy large single sheets of Moulin du Roy 300 lb. It's cheaper that way. And you can cut the sheets into the sizes you want. (A scary breath holding activity!)

If you wish to use a light box to transfer your drawing to the watercolour paper, you can remove the paper from the block, trace your image, and then to prevent buckling you can tape all edges down with masking or painters tape before beginning to paint. For this I use a white corrugated plastic sheet. (Foam core will get soggy and buckle.) Again, allow your painting to dry completely before removing the tape.

Watercolour paints:  I use Sennelier, Schmincke and, sometimes, Windsor and Newton. I do like Daniel Smith too. (So many beautiful colours!) I also have a set of Derwent watercolour pencils that I received as a gift. When I began painting, I used watercolour pencils to paint with. They are, it seems, cheaper if you buy them individually.

Pans or tubes?  I like both, but tubed paint flows easily, and a small amount goes a long way. And you can keep it and use it when dry. Just spray lightly before using.

Sta-Wet Palette works well for acrylic paint. I haven’t tried it with watercolour. 
When painting with acrylics or oils, I often use kitchen parchment as a palette with an old plate underneath in case the paint leaks through.

Interesting optional items: Masking fluid, Gum Arabic, Lifting Preparation and Watercolour grounds. 


Masking fluid is used to cover small stamens etc, that you will paint later, or any area that you want to keep white, or finish later. It can be tricky to apply.  The small funnel shape tips work well though. When the masking fluid is completely dry, rub your fingers over it to remove it. It’s best removed as soon as possible, or within 24 hours otherwise it will be almost impossible to remove without damaging the paper.

Tip: If your paper does buckle, you can fix it after your painting is completely dry. Lay your painting face down on a towel and spray the back with water, being careful not to get any water on the right side of the painting. Smooth out with a wet sponge.  On a protected flat surface, replace the towel, with doubled or tripled paper towel, add your painting,  then add a layer or two of paper towel and weight it all down until completely dry. (Billy Showell’s method.)

Tip:  Try not to use your good brushes to mix paint with. (A tall order--I often forget.)  And you may annihilate a good brush if you use it to apply ink or masking fluid. (I haven’t tried it but I read that you can dip the brush into liquid soap and then into masking fluid for easy clean-up.) 

Tip:  If you use watercolour pans, spray the paint with water before you begin. This wakes up the paint. It flows easier and there’s no need to dig in the pan with your brush.

Tip:  After a painting session, cover your palette tightly with plastic wrap, or slip it into a freezer bag to keep it fresh and dust free. 
       
Tip:  For convenience, each time you need new tube paint, lay your paint out on the palette in the same order. A round plastic palette, 
          works well, and you can use a marker to mark in the colour of the paint. You will probably
          have room for the initials only, but soon, a glance will lead you to the colour you
          are looking for.

Tip: Never leave or stand a brush in water. After painting, rinse, remove the water, (wipe on an soft cloth) reshape the brush with your fingers or roll on the cloth and lay it flat to dry. Of course, stuff does happens. So to reshape a misshapen brush run it under warm to hot water.
 
* Watercolour grounds provide surface adherence for watercolour paint so that you can paint on many surfaces, including glass, wood, shells, plastic, stone and metal. Grounds range from opaque, gold, black and transparent etc. Apply straight from the container, one coat should be enough, but you may need two for transparent ground applied to wood, then allow it to completely dry for at least 24 hours. A light sanding with fine sand paper between coats may be required.

Tip: When you paint on grounds, use less water when you mix your watercolour paint.  Another learning curve, and it may be best to try the mixed paint on scrap paper with applied ground to get a feel for it.

Tip: You can use a white gouache to cover watercolour mistakes.  Also titanium white watercolour ground may be thinned by 10% to cover up watercolour mistakes. (Use the opaque paint sparingly, or you will lose the transparent beauty of watercolour.)

Gum Arabic extends the drying time of watercolour paint, adds vibrancy, and is also used to add shine to eyes, reflections etc.

Lifting Preparation allows time to lift out highlights. Do try it out first. It does have a learning curve. Not a favourite of mine because I find it changes the consistency of the paint.

For drawing, I prefer Staedtler pencils. 2H-6H, (H for hard) but I prefer the 2H, although, I do use soft leads or B pencils, especially 2B for graphite drawings.






When paintings do not work out for one reason or another. (Step away from the painting!) I try and make something positive out of the chaos like this bookmark. Like the old saying goes, when life gives you lemons 🍋 make lemonade.  
 If you have room, keep paintings that didn’t work out to look back on. Then you can say I can from there and now I am here! Leap Froggie. Mistakes also teach you a lot. Sometimes though it's hard not to dwell, but it's more productive to move on.  Be kind to yourself. You deserve it!

Tip:  Yellow and pink paint will often make pencil permanent, so erase pencil guidelines as soon as the paint is dry.

Tip:  Unless you are adding (charging) paint into wet on wet, allow each layer of paint to dry completely before adding a layer over the initial wash, or you will muddle the glaze and ruin the painting.
Allowing each coat to dry completely can be difficult to do—one wants to get on with it! (Yes, I am sometimes still guilty of this.)  Have a cup of tea, coffee etc. and once everything is dry continue.

Tip: If painting with acrylics or oils, you can paint on paper, or wood panels instead of canvas if you apply a coat or two of gesso first. Usually, I add a touch of water (keeps gesso from cracking) for the first coat and sand with fine sand paper between coats for wood panel. Apply a coat in one direction and after it dries, apply the second coat in the other direction. (For smooth finish, apply paint with a metal spatula instead of a brush.)  Allow 2 days drying time.
(Store bought canvases are gessoed and ready for painting, but I like to add at least two more coats. I do sand the canvases between coats.)

Tip:  To create texture, instead of using molding paste, or Spackling you can add, over the initial smooth coats of gesso, in specific areas, gesso with a palette knife. Allow to dry.
You can also use sponges, plastic wrap, salt, alcohol to create texture. Leave the plastic wrap and salt in the wet paint and allow it to dry before you remove it, or brush it away.  Give it a whirl on some scrap paper. So much fun!

Tip: Acrylic paint can be used as an underpainting for oil, but acrylic paint cannot be used over oil paint. Also when using oil paint, fat over thin rules. Meaning if you mix paint with a medium it is considered thin, paint on its own is thick and can be added over thin paint once dry. However, you can certainly use either method on its own.  If you do paint thin over fat, the paint will likely crack. 
Winton student grade oil paint works well. (I have noticed professional artists using Winton.) Also, Windsor and Newton and other brands have water mixable oils for a easy cleanup.

Tip: To smooth out a buckled or dents in a canvas, spray the back with water and allow to dry. Once dry, it should be drum tight.


Rose hips 2016

 I also like:

FW acrylic inks.

Kneaded Erasers to roll over a dark drawing. Tom Bow mono zero erasers are wonderful.
Tracing paper ~ a must, unless you draw straight onto your watercolour paper.
A light box is a dream! (Can’t see through it if you are using 300 lb. paper though.)
Sketchbooks ~ look for good quality paper.  Moleskin (only comes in cold pressed) but ( just now) I use Stillman and Bern hot pressed Zeta because my stand-by favourite sketchbook is no longer available.

 And what about space? For watercolour, a corner of a table is all the space you need. Until I bought a small desk, I worked at my dinning room table. Still do now and then. Wonderful light there. Speaking of light, a good lamp helps. I try and light my subject (usually flowers) from the left side. Since I am right handed, I find it’s easy when the light shines from the left to see and record the shadows-whether in (form shadow) colour or cast gray shadows.
I chose to leave out the cast gray shadows in the rose hip painting above, and I didn’t use a lamp for that wee painting. I painted the rose hips in a bright backlit room, and at my dining room table.

It's a good idea to learn as much as you can. If you do not want to spend money on books, of course, the library is a great option, and/or the Internet. You tube has so many wonderful painting videos.

Also classes are fun to attend. Don’t worry if you are a beginner, usually the studio teaches beginners as well as intermediate and advanced artists. But if you can’t find the word beginner in the course offering, give the studio a call. 
Perhaps you won’t always walk away with a ton of knowledge, but you will walk away feeling uplifted and enthusiastic and you will meet some wonderful like-minded people.

Of course, either immediately or in time, you will be attracted to either a loose watercolour style or
a detailed style, or, perhaps, a combo. Please don't let anyone tell you that a loose watercolour painting is better than detailed or vice versa!  What you paint and what style you choose is, after all, a very personal matter.

I think this holds true with regard to subject matter as well. Specialization works for many artists; however I see no reason why an artist must paint only this or that. However, when you are ready to exhibit in a gallery, they may insist on continuity. For example, along with your lovely array of landscapes, birds, or abstracts may not be welcome. But having the urge to experiment with different mediums, styles and subjects, may lead you to find your way to either specialization or diversity, so go for it!

I also believe in sharing knowledge.  So if you have any questions, that I can answer about supplies, techniques, or tips, or you’d like to talk about painting in general, do leave a comment or email me
@  ( dixiekearley@gmail.com)  and I will get in touch with you. Not that I know everything about watercolour, and I also have a lot to learn about other mediums as well, but what I know I’m happy to share. The beauty about painting, in any medium, is that there is always more to learn, so if you have an tips or pointers, I’d love to hear from you.

When it comes to supplies, in the end, it's really all about personal preferences, so experiment, splash some paint around, have fun and in the process you will find out what you like and what works best for you. 




A wonderful book to help you fill up your creative engine: The Artist Way.  

"The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only as you can."                                                     
                                                         Neil Gaimon 

Be brave. Work with passion.  

  Happy Paint, Paint, Paint, Painting! 🎨 👩‍🎨 

Best Wishes,

Dixie @ Arranged Words

                                                           Cultivate Your Dreams!  


The Command Centre
My little desk: Abigail—Just Enough.

Example of something not to do in the small acrylic painting on my desk.  Tree shapes are too uniform...while I have seen some uniform trees, 🌳 it is not typical. Different shapes and sizes  add interest.  


                                                             


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Take Care.
Dixie