Tips For Successful Watercolor Paintings
I’ve been painting for about 50 years in oil, acrylic, ink, colored pencil, and watercolor. My favorite has become watercolor for its versatility and vibrancy. I have a few suggestions here that will help you create successful paintings. Come with me to explore the possibilities.
Hot Press vs. Cold Press
Typically watercolor paper comes in 140 pounds and heavier. In that range, there are hot press and cold press papers. It can be hard to decide at first.
The distinction of hot press or cold press refers to how the paper is made. After the pulp is removed from the deckle it is placed on a press to squeeze out the extra water. A hot press paper is usually smoother than the cold press. I like the cold press for landscapes because it has lots of texture to hold paint. However, if I am planning a portrait I may go for the hot press so there are fewer texture bumps on the face.
You may have seen videos of artists preparing a piece of paper for painting. They soak the paper in water for 15 minutes or so, then stretch the paper onto a board, staple and tape the wet paper down and wait for it to dry. This long process keeps the paper from buckling during the painting process. Since my students did not have the time to spend on this, we skipped this step usually and flattened our slightly warped paintings after the paint dried later. You may wish to try this stretching method someday but it is not absolutely necessary to complete a fabulous painting especially if you are using heavier paper than 140 pounds.
“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.”— Tony Robbins
A word to the wise: the real-hair brushes cannot stand in water without becoming permanently curled. You don't want this. The curly brush hair is hard to paint with. Also leaving a brush in water tends to water-log the wooden shaft or handle. When the handle swells with water then dries the ferrule or metal sleeve holding the hair becomes loose and will eventually let the hair fall out.
Water is an important resource for your painting process. It is wise to have two cups of water near you for painting. One for dipping into clear water and one for cleaning your brush. I like to keep a bucket nearby as well to replace muddy water as often as possible. I have seen artists use a large pint or gallon jar of water instead of smaller cups. They then clean the brush and dip for water to mix from the same jar. It makes sense that the water will not be contaminated very quickly if there is a lot of it, but I still like to have two jars so I won’t have to break my rhythm to go get more water. Every artist should choose what is comfortable to him/her.
Have you tried watercolor painting?
Absorbent towels are handy for cleaning your brushes between colors and for mopping up spills or making clouds in the sky, etc. The towels can be cloth or paper, your choice. I use cloth for my classes because they seem more cost-effective and ecologically sound. I just throw them into the washing machine and they come out good as new. However, when I am painting outside, I use paper towels so clean-up is easier for the carry-out. I just find a receptacle and toss the used paper.
This is a very useful substance and saves the white of the paper for you. It goes on like rubber cement but peels off easily as long as the paper is completely dry. If the paper is still wet, it tends to peal some of the paper with it. To apply this fluid to the paper before painting, you must use a "discard" brush. The fluid is made of liquid latex and dries quickly and permanently in brushes. You do not want to use your best brushes unless you have first treated the hairs of the brush with soap so the latex will not stick to the hairs. Even then you must rinse often and apply more soap before dipping into the masking fluid again. This method I used to paint small flowers or fine lines that you wish to stay white. The eyelashes and whiskers of these zebras were masked out before painting the background. That's how they stayed white.
My Watercolor Class on Skillshare
“If it (painting) weren’t so difficult, it wouldn’t be fun.”— Edgar Degas
Studies on Color
Studies show that red is warm but also an agitating color, the color of anger. Blood pressures will rise in a red room, which is probably why most decorators don’t paint bedrooms all red. Red also gets attention. Often the police will pull over a red car fist. It is such a good attention-grabber that they use it for stop signs and stop lights.
Violet, being the last color in the spectrum right before invisible light, is considered a spiritual color. It is used to symbolize heaven and is often worn by priests and religious officials. Yet being close to the end of the spectrum it also is a camouflage color. If you want to be obscure and unnoticed, wear violet. A girl at a dance wanting to be chosen to dance shouldn’t wear violet or risk being overlooked.
“Art is like a border of flowers along the course of civilization.”
— Lincoln Steffens
These are just a few of the things that are interesting about color and color theory. When painting you want to notice the dominant color in a painting. A forest painting will have a dominant green. An ocean will have dominant blue. Once you identify the dominant color think about adding the opposite color from the color wheel to give it a spark of attention-getting contrast. In a forest, I’d add a red bird or a few red flowers. In the ocean painting, I add some orange in the clouds or sky or orange and tan color in the beach. It is the spark of contrast that will make your painting successful.
Have a cheerful yellow day!