Watercolor Techniques for a Perfect Painting Result
As one of the oldest artistic methods, watercolor techniques are tricky mediums to master. As a versatile and flexible medium, also known as aquarelle, watercolor is a painting technique which relies on water and concentrates on the wet and dry, light and dark contrasts. The watercolor paint techniques are certainly skills worth pursuing since they award the artist with some of the most beautiful effects of color and light. Due to its immediacy, the direct and spontaneous response to the subject matter, watercolors express the effects of the shifting light. For the beginners, drawing or painting with the use of the watercolor paint techniques can be tricky. What brush to choose, should the paper be wet or dry, what is the best way to control the wash, are just a few of the questions that follow the watercolor technique.
The history of the watercolor techniques dates back to cave paintings and ancient Egyptians. Used to decorate the walls of churches, paint the ritual and funerary art, watercolor art traveled the world and also documented the world. The earliest illustrators and watercolor artists carried with themselves the boxes of paints and accompanied the famous explorers of the globe. Some of the earliest maps and typography paintings were created with the use of the method, not to mention book illustrations, and various detailed drawings of animals or human figures.
To achieve the luminosity which is truly magical, there are various watercolor techniques one should adopt which help the artists on his/her creative journey. There are several tips to follow and learn which help the beginners to conquer the painting and drawing using this old artistic method. The time dedicated to master the watercolor paint technique is not lost time since amazing results and effects follow.
The Basic Tools of the Watercolor Painting Techniques – What Brush, Paint to Use and How to Control the Wet Wash
Just as its name suggests, watercolor is a water-based medium that uses pigments suspended in the water-soluble vehicle. The choice of such paints for sure will not dictate the end result of the work, but if capable, one should invest in a good quality watercolor paints and brushes. The better-quality paints will not only last longer but will not yellow or degrade as much over time and the good-quality brush will aid the artist as well. The best tip we can offer when it comes to the choice of the brush is to have a range. Experiment with the different sizes and ranges available today, and even choose a smaller brush then you may think you will need. These will help with the small details one may not even anticipate. Before you even start to work in watercolor, you should also make sure that you have paper towels with you. These are useful as they act as an eraser for your watercolors, and can also help to direct the paint in different directions. Another trick to erase in watercolor is to apply water on the dry layer, let it sit for just a minute and then dab away with a paper towel.
The surface of the paper is also important. Watercolor papers are traditionally sized, or treated with a substance to reduce the cellulose absorbency. Heavier paper with more texture on it is sometimes preferred as it can hold up to rubbing and extreme wet washes. As the watercolor technique sometimes requires various layers of color and wash, the heavier papers are the way to go. Using such paper allows the artist multiple brush strokes and layering of paint.
How to Master the Watercolor Painting Techniques – Tips to the Trade
There are various ways one can paint or create detailed illustrations or drawings with watercolor techniques. As it relies on water, that changes not only the absorbency and shape of the paper when it is wet and the outlines and appearance of the paint as it dries, one needs to plan ahead. Usually, a pencil sketch is used to create the outlines which direct the artists but sometimes authors prefer to work spontaneously and without any preliminary sketches.
It is important to plan ahead and to know what areas of the paper one will save and keep without paint. As there is no white color in watercolors, anything kept white or light in the painting needs to stay that way to the end and usually, the lightest areas of the work are the actual color of the paper itself. With the help of the masking tape, one can block the areas that need to stay light as well. Once the image is finished and tape removed from the page, the white would be kept but also some sharp edges or clean lines, as a contrast, can be created as well.
Working from light to dark, the manipulation of the darkness and the saturation of the color depends on the amount of water we use. The more water we use, the shade of the color is lighter. Because watercolor is a thin medium, color needs to be built gradually and the preferred technique which creates the soft effect is called scumbling. As watercolor is all about the layers and texture artists can add salt to the layer of paint which is not yet dry. Once the layer is dry simply wipe or blow away the salt and the produced effect will add the texture and the natural surfaces like rocks or tree bark. With the help of various sponges, painters can blot the paint on paper which creates various effects. The random dots or effect of the floating dust on the paper is produced with the splatter watercolor technique. Simply by pulling the wet tip of the paintbrush and letting it snap forward, the dots of paint will splash on the paper.
Often, artists will choose to work with dry paper but some artists prefer to wet the entire paper first and then start their image. This will produce some magical results and large areas of color which may remind us of Rorschach’s abstract shapes in his psychological test.
Famous Artists Who Adored Watercolor Painting
One of the most famous artworks presently kept at the Albertina Museum in Vienna, the Young Hare by the German painter Albrecht Durer was produced with the help of the various watercolor techniques. The use of the watercolor art is seen in the production of small manuscripts and illustrations of the Limbourg Brothers’ famous book The Book of Hours. The famous Italian artist Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel with the help of watercolor art and the watercolor mixes for the fresco wall paintings. As it survived through the centuries, various painters such as William Blake, James Whistles used this method which was also famous among the avant-garde artists such as Neo-Expressionism and the work of Francesco Clemente, Gerhard Richter and many other. Presently, a number of contemporary artists use watercolor techniques to help form some of the best examples of contemporary drawings and paintings.
- Zhen, L., Q., Chinese Watercolor Techniques – Painting Animals, North Light Books, 2005
- Reardon, M., Watercolor Techniques: Painting Light and Color in Landscapes and Cityscapes, F+W Media, 2016
- Wong, F., Oriental Watercolor Techniques: For Contemporary Painting, Dover Publocations, Inc. , 1979
All images used for illustrative purposes only. Featured image in slider:Watercolor kit. Image via wallpaper.com;Henry Darger, At Jennie Richee – Violet and her sister are captured on the river.., detail, c.1940-50, carbon transfer, pencil and watercolor on paper, 18 x 76 inches (courtesy of OUTSIDER Art Fair);Nadine Faraj – All These Forms and Faces in a Thousand Relationships to Each Other, 2015;Left Don Bachardy – Bea Arthur, 1994 Right Don Bachardy – Johann Erickson, 1994