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Watercolor: A Few Basics

Use enough paint and enough water as you make your paint mixtures in order to ensure a smooth and rich application of paint.  More water (in relationship to a given paint) will give you a lighter value, and less water will give you a darker value.

When applying the paint to the paper, the loaded brush will unload more quickly the more vertical you hold it...generally a 45 degree angle works well.

Click on images to enlarge.
 

A. Round Brush.JPG

B. Flat brush.JPG

Round Brush
 A round watercolor brush has a round "belly" (to hold water) and a fine point, giving it versatily, from painting large areas to fine detail.  
 


 

Flat brush
A flat brush does not hold as much water and is not designed to give the detailed strokes of a round brush.  However, its edge can make fine lines or grass strokes, etc.
Some artists prefer using a flat brush almost exclusively to keep from getting to fussy with detail in their paintings. 

C. General brushstrokes.JPG

D. Uniform Wash.JPG

General brushstrokes
The top stroke is a wet-on-dry (wet on dry paper) application from a round brush.   

The two middle strokes are variations of wet-on-wet (wet on wet paper) applications.  

The bottom strokes are done by dragging a dry brush (i.e., a damp brush loaded with a concentrated pigment with little water) across paper for good textural effect.




 
  

Uniform Wash
It takes practice to do a uniform wash smoothly.  Keep your paper on a slant to let gravity help you.  Make sure you make a large puddle of your paint mixture so that you won't run out.  Apply paint with a round brush "row by row" and going from top to bottom. Remember to hold your brush at about a 45 degree angle so that the paint can unload freely.   Be careful not to overlap your strokes, just touch (with the point of your brush) the bead of wet paint from the bottom edge of the previous row.  
Remember that a flat brush doesn't hold as much water as a round brush, so if you use a flat brush to apply a uniform wash, it helps to wet the paper first, so that the paint doesn't dry too quickly.
  

E. Variegated wash.JPG

F. Pigment and Water .JPG

Variegated wash
Similar in application as the uniform wash, but here you gradually add water into your color puddle as you go from top to bottom.  You can also gradually shift colors in this application.


 
  

Pulling pigment with water
Here you apply a wet-on-dry brushstroke, then modify with a brush of clear water.  Just touch the edge of the painted brush stroke, to pull it into the shape you make with the water stroke.  Or in the case of the middle circle shapes, you can paint the brush stroke of the outer circle, and then wet the inner circle.  You need to move quickly, so that you can pull the pigment before it dries. 

G. Pigment and Water.JPG

H. Negative Painting.JPG

Pigment and Water
 Wet small area of paper with clear water, then add strokes of paint.  You can alternate as you continue, brushing water, then brushing
paint to get the effect you desire.

 
 

Negative Painting
 You need to think in a different way with watercolor since it is a transparent medium.  You need to think ahead and reserve your whites and light values.  This often means doing what is called negative painting.  In this example, the picket fence is depicted not by painting the fence, but by painting around it.
 

I. Wet edge.JPG

J. Wet on Wet.JPG

Wet edge
 To accomplish a soft edge like this, paint one color, and before it dries, apply another color next to it.  It helps to use a similar paint/water ratio in both mixtures to get an even soft edge.
 
 

Wet on Wet
 Wet paper surface with clear water and let it sit for a minute.  Apply paint as you wish, then slant to get pigment  to move around for special effects.  Usually you use more concentrated paint when you are applying to a wet paper surface.
 


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