watercolor painting

Painting with watercolor can be difficult at first. There are a number of techniques that need to be perfected before one has the necessary confidence to paint with ease.

What you need to begin with:

In order to begin a basic watercolor painting, you will need a good selection of basic watercolor paints. Buy name brands like Windsor & Newton if possible, as they will give the best results. It is disheartening to struggle with your first painting only to find that poor quality paints are holding you back. The basic colors are red, blue, white, black, yellow, purple, ochre, umber, and sienna. Buy the best quality brushes you can afford; you will need at least three basic brushes medium-size round brush, a small size round brush, and a flat brush. Applying washes with ordinary commercial paintbrushes is discussed later on in this article.

The choice of paper or surface on which you are to paint is a vital ingredient. Although there are a number of painting surfaces to choose from, the best and most popular is professional watercolor paper obtainable from any major arts and crafts merchant. While some brands of paper are expensive, merchants usually carry a range of quality papers to choose from.

Decide whether you are most comfortable working upright at an easel or working on a flat surface. Many water colorists favor working on a flat surface when applying certain techniques and washes.

In most cases, watercolor paper is “stretched”. You will need a piece of hardboard that is at least 6 cm in diameter bigger than the sheet of paper, and a roll of brown packaging tape. Next, dampen do not soak the piece of paper and place it onto the hardboard. Cut strips of packaging tape in four separate lengths that measure the same as the top, bottom, and sides of the sheet of paper. Carefully place the wet paper onto the hardboard and tape it to the board; leave the paper to dry. Once the paper is thoroughly dry, you will notice that the paper is “stretched” and taut against the board. The benefit of “stretching” the paper is to prevent the surface from “curling” in proportion to the moisture of the paints in producing your artwork. It is therefore very important to “stretch” the paper correctly, since “curling” not only makes it hard to work on but also difficult to frame.

On the other hand, you many paint directly onto the watercolor paper without stretching, although you should opt for a heavy quality paper, which can absorb a fair amount of water before it may start to buckle.

Your first masterpiece:

For your first exercise, choose a subject that is not too complex but which holds your interest. For example, a bowl of fruit or a vase with flowers–without too many tonal variations is a good choice. After you have set up your subject, study it for a while. Now, with a light pencil, sketch the subject in freehand onto the sheet of paper. Explore your imagination when sketching the basic structure of your subject. Once the sketch is complete the real excitement begins.

Preparing a wash:

A watercolor “wash” is the foundation of a watercolor painting, which is built up using layers of different colors called glazes, until the required depth and detail of the subject are achieved.

You will need a shallow dish to mix the wash. It is probably best to choose a neutral color like umber or sienna since this basic wash is the start of your painting. Add a small amount of water to the bowl; slowly mix a small amount of paint into the water. Creating the right color consistency requires practice and you will need to experiment with the strength of your washes. Use the commercial paintbrush to apply the wash in long diagonal or vertical strokes onto the paper. Although the wash should be fairly transparent, your pencil sketch should be clearly visible.

If your painting is upright, propped on an easel for example, the wash will run down the paper and it may be necessary to use a cloth or a paper towel to absorb the excess. Painting on a flat surface, like a table, therefore has distinct advantages for the beginner. However, as you progress in your craft, you will discover that applying washes and painting in a “vertical” position offer numerous creative effects.

Working on the painting:

After the first wash is thoroughly dry, you may continue working on the painting. Apply the same wash to certain areas of your sketch, For example, if your sketch is of a face, then apply a light wash of yellow ochre to the face; allow this to dry before adding contrasting color washes to different areas of the face. One may also work washes into one another with a flat or rounded brush. Although watercolor paint dries fairly quickly, depending on the weather and the amount of water, you can retard the drying process with various mediums. After you have established the basic shape and form of your painting with the use of various color washes, start using pure paint or slightly paint mixed with a small amount of water, applied with a pointed brush to establish detail.

While there is no set order to this process, once you are acquainted with the basic techniques of watercolor painting, you can experiment with the methods as suits your creative impulses.

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