Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login

:iconbluem00n: More from bluem00n

More from DeviantArt


Submitted on
October 22, 2007


93 (who?)
Watercolour, much like every medium has no ' proper ' way of use. It can be applied as transparent, delicate waterworks or as opaque as a gouache painting.
Some people mix it with acrylic and gouache, some use pastels or chalks underneath it. Some people ink their sketches, some erase their sketches.
Everything goes in art, a good example of this is our great master Leonardo Da Vinci who was notorious for mixing oils with acrylics. A couple hundred years after he died his pieces started disintegrating into nothing.

Back to our subject, there is no 'right' way of working with watercolour, but here are some tips that might be of help or give you new ideas of tools you haven't even thought of. Either way, I hope it inspires you to create more and perhaps even ease your way around it until you feel familiar with it enough to start painting.

Here is a basic list of tools (and a picture, for your convenience :D ) you will need to start painting with watercolours.

I use five different brushes (and own some more I can't find anywhere :O_o: )
000 - Daler Rowney
6 - Philo (least happy with this brush)
King - 8, 2 number 12 - pointed and rectangular.

I collected these brushes over the year and mostly use the number 8 and rectangular 12. The 000 brush is a MUST for details.
Whatever brushes you have around home are good to start with, even the little crappy ones you get with kids' watercolours, so long as the strands are still toeg

Canson watercolour paper (although any brand is good), 300 g/m, cold pressed, acid free, 24x32.
Now this part is important. If you like to work big - buy bigger papers. If you like to work small, buy smaller sized pages. Personally this size suits me perfectly.

Lukas brand (never heard of them before I bought this set) watercolour set, 24 colours + white in a bottle.

Now, to the meat and bones of the article.
Please take into consideration that everyone works differently, I'm just giving my views from my experience and trying to stick to more general outlines of watercolouring than to a specific style.

a. Put some kind of a scrap paper of any kind (I always have a bunch of papers lying around with random doodles/notes, use those or any other inexpensive/hopefully recycleable paper) next to you. Use this to test out the colours, their transparency and hue and to see how certain colours react when they're around each other. This is especially useful to plan out a colour palette before you start.

b. Watercolour is well known for its transparency. If you are looking for that quality, keep in mind that you need to work in layers. There is a white watercolour but every layer of it makes it an opaque white, rather than giving you more transparency (keep this in mind especially if you are used to working in digital media, where the white is used to give transparency/remove colour). So, in order to receive a real transparent result, work with really light base colour. To do that, dapple the brush in some water, pick some colour with the tip of it and dapple it again in water to thin the colour.
You can test out the result on your scrap paper.

c. Paper. Use at least 300 grams of paper. Less than that and the paper might not hold it through the painting. It will tear, grow creases and folds and will generally mess the painting up completely. Even 300gms can only absorb so much, as you will notice, but it is much more durable.

d. Use *real* watercolour and *real* brushes. I cannot stress this enough. Until today I had worked with the cheap kids' versions of watercolours and brushes (seriously, even though I had actual brushes). I can't even begin to describe the difference.

e. Layers, layers, layers. For maximal result, let the paper rest a little bit in between layers. It will give it more volume and help refine the details, since watercolour is so sensitive until it dries out. It's also easier to correct mistakes this way.

f. Always have a piece of tissue or toilet paper next to you. That's your watercolour eraser and life-saver. It fixes everything, so long as you spotted the mistake early enough.

g. Borders; while today it is easier to produce digital borders, I would urge you to give your actual paper the respect it deserves and if it suits your theme/mood/style and you want to produce a finished piece with a border, here's how.
Firstly, you take masking tape, the light beige type with the lowest glue quality on it. You want to find the cheapest, weakest glue so you don't tear the paper apart. Since th paper is texturised, it would be more difficult to pull this stunt off with regular masking tape/duct tape.
Then, you glue the masking tape to your paper (no need to sketch it out beforehand) in the shape and size you want your border, and start painting.
Once you are done you can remove it, although personally, I remove i right after I'm sure I'm done with the edges and voila! A clear, perfect border.
For an extra twist to your borders, you can paint over them once you are done with their edges, that way you can just put a semi-transparent layer on it so the colour of the page doesn't stick out too much, or continue your painting in one area so there's a feeling of 'breaking the limits'.

h. Highlights. White watercolour, as I already mentioned, has different qualities. If you ran out or don't feel like buying one, you can highlight your painting with gouache or acrylics. Remember to thin them out first though, otherwise they will cover your painting.
Try testing it out on a paper, acrylics actually make perfect watercolours since they're created on the same base, they're just a little less comfortable to work with.

i. Because we are working with layers, I find it very convenient to switch between the regular 8 brush and the detail 000 brush alternatively. That way if I work on one area with the big brush, while I wait for it to dry off I can work on another area with the detail brush. This makes the process much more efficient and less time consuming.

j. Last but definitely not least, this applies to nearly every kind of traditional painting; Try working your way down when using brushes: the thick, big brushes as the primary layer, to block out major shapes and colours and downwards all the way to your 000 brush, for the tiniest details. It will make your work much more fluent. It is important to realise what part of the painting you are working on and choose the brush accordingly.

And that's all for today, I hoped this helped you in some way, or at least inspired you to pick up your brushes and start painting. You don't need to be very knowledgeable in traditional paintings, just go at it and you'll be surprised what you'll be able to achieve with just watercolours. Remember, watercolours are good for any painting, detailed or not and you will never know whether you are good at it unless you try.
Add a Comment:
EmbracedByDvorovoi Featured By Owner Nov 2, 2008  Hobbyist General Artist
Faved and bookmarked. Wonderful job, and thanks for the tips! :D
RenKram013 Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2008  Professional General Artist
Awesome. This is helpful.
Thanks a lot!:D
Middernachtlopper Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2008  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I have bought new paper for drawing, and your advices were very useful :)

nico-olivia Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2008
Some great ideas here, I'll be sure to apply them to my workings next time.
bluem00n Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2008
If you remember me by then show me! I'd love to see :D

Thanks for reading!
rinaswan Featured By Owner Nov 19, 2007  Professional Traditional Artist
I always think that a good watercolorist never uses real black and white colors at all. If you use watercolor along with gouache or acrylics, etc , it's actually a painting of mix-technique.
bluem00n Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2007
I don't believe in 'good' watercolourists and bad ones. If it serves the purpose of the painting, why not? I've seen very opaque watercolours with blacks and whites that came out just stunning.
rinaswan Featured By Owner Nov 25, 2007  Professional Traditional Artist
"If it serves the purpose of the painting...." Yeah, I have no argument over this. It might be because of the influential Impressionism in my country. Most of the famous Thai watercolorists of opaque and watery type hardly use blacks and whites then.
I think that both colors are not necessary as we can mix blackish color from all colors in our palette and obtain white directly from original color of the paper.
bluem00n Featured By Owner Nov 25, 2007
I agree :)
Aquilofolius Featured By Owner Nov 3, 2007
^^ I have recently started working with watercolours and your tips are going to be very helpfull.

Thank you!!!!
Add a Comment: