Monday, August 27, 2012

Introduction to Watercolor

This lesson is an intro to watercolors.  We'll work with the doll next time.  Today we'll look at the basics of using watercolors.  Please keep in mind (again) that these are my methods for using watercolors.  I am certainly not an expert! If you would like to look at a more in-depth introduction to watercolors, please visit this fantastic site:  Just to be clear, I am in no way affiliated with this site -- I just thought it was a thorough intro.

Materials List:

Watercolor Pans (Winsor-Newton)
Watercolor Tubes (Winsor-Newton)
Watercolor Semi-soft pans (Yarka)
Assorted brushes
Canson cold-press watercolor paper (not pictured)
Arches cold-press watercolor paper (not pictured)

I can't say this enough -- MATERIALS MATTER!  Always buy the best materials you can.  It can make all the difference.

We're going to look at three types of paints on two types of paper.  First, a brief explanation of our materials.

There are two types of brushes I use: flats and rounds.  They come in a variety of sizes & quality.  I prefer the Winsor-Newton/Cotman brushes.  Find a brush that feels comfortable and works well with the paper and paints you use.

There are three types of paints I use: pans and tubes by Winsor-Newton and semi-soft pans by Yarka.  The pans are a solid pigment and require pre-wetting before use.  The tubes have a smooth gel-like consistency and need to be thinned with water to be used properly.  The semi-soft pans are just that: not quite solid and not quite liquid.  They require very little water to work.

Paper also matters.  We'll look at Canson watercolor paper and Arches watercolor paper.  Canson is a budget paper while Arches is a bit more of a splurge.  Both are very easily attained.

We'll look at a wash, and dry or wet brushes on dry or wet paper.  First the definitions and then the samples:

At the top of the sample is a wash, which is a large, flat layer of color.  This wash is a bit thin but you can do deep, dark washes as well.  I wet the paper with clear, clean water and then applied the color with a large brush 

Dry on Dry:
Underneath the wash is a dry brush on dry paper.  A dry brush is brush that hasn't been fully loaded with paint and leaves a textured line on the page. 

Wet on Dry:
A fully loaded, wet brush on dry paper.  This is the method I use for a lot of my watercolor paintings.

Wet on Wet:
This is another technique I use a lot.  First, wet your paper.  Then, using a fully loaded brush, apply color onto the wet paint.

Dry on Wet:
Like the dry on dry technique, this is a thicker, not quite fully loaded brush on wet paper.

On the left, the pan colors on Canson paper.  on the right, pan colors on Arches.  The Canson paper ripples under washes and has a smoother texture than the Arches.  Pan paints have a tendency to be a little grainy.
Here are the tube colors on the Canson paper (left) and Arches paper (right).  Again, the Canson doesn't hold up as well under a wash as the Arches.  Something I didn't do here is use the color straight out of the tube.  It has a thick, gel-like consistency that can be challenging but useful. 

This shows the Yarka semi-soft pans on Canson and Arches paper, again on the left and right respectively.  These paints have a nice, almost opaque color and the color range is a bit different than the Winsor-Newton line.
This is a picture of the pan paints & the semi-soft paints as washes on the Canson paper.  I made them somewhat heavy washes to really see how the paper would hold up.

Here are the pans & semi-soft paints in heavy washes on the Arches paper.  The Arches paper holds up much better under lots of water than the Canson does.
This is an example of one of my watercolor dolls.  Just about the only edit has been removing the background & it could use a little bit more editing...  I used every technique described above on this doll.

Next week we'll look at our doll in watercolors.  I'll try to be a detailed as possible.  Watercolors require patience & time, so the next lesson may be broken into parts.  Til then, enjoy these last beautiful days of summer!

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