Art and Craft

Watercolour Techniques

Watercolours
Written by Belinda Marshall

Creating Textures and Effects with Watercolour Techniques. Experimenting with different watercolour techniques can help you achieve beautiful paintings full of texture.

Unless you’ve been painting with watercolours for a long time, chances are that their use is an unpredictable process. As frustrating as it is, it could also be a great way to discover the effects of texture painting. The best way to improve is to practice various watercolour techniques using a variety of brushes and paper until you feel comfortable enough with them to make a real painting. This can be time-consuming, but you also don’t want to be in the middle of a successful painting and then have something go wrong and ruin the lovely effects you have created. It is also advisable get good quality watercolour paints as these also enhance your painting and what you can achieve with the medium.

Watercolour Techniques

Watercolour Techniques – Wet on Wet Technique

Building up gradual layers is one of the methods used in watercolour painting. You can achieve this with the “wet on wet” technique. It is used in areas that do not require definition or details, such as clouds. Your paper needs to be quite damp, depending on how loose you would like the effect to be, the looser the effect – the more water needs to be applied. Then using your colour palette gently apply colour and swirl them together in the water on the paper with a wet brush. If your brush is dry the water will quickly be absorbed into the brush bristles and destroy the “wet on wet” effect.

Watercolour Techniques – Multi-colouring

Applying more than one colour is called multi-colouring. Paintings of landscapes often begin with multi-colouring, with blue or grey for the sky, that changes to yellow and green towards the foreground. Sunsets are another typical scene that use this technique.

Watercolour Techniques – Wet on Dry Technique

Superimposing layers is the “wet on dry” method, in which each layer of paint must be dried before painting the next. It is the typical situation where the use of a hair dryer is used to speed up the drying process! This way of painting allows for beautifully detailed textures in the foreground and creates a completely different painting to the wet on wet method.

Watercolour Techniques – Pen and Ink

Some artists like to then finish their painting by using an ink pen or felt tip to define their work, either very loosely or in a controlled manner. It all comes down to your style and what you are trying to achieve. You can do this on a slightly damp painting to allow the ink lines to dissolve into damp areas, creating a soft look, or else use it when the paint is completely dry leaving the ink marks crisp and accurate.

Watercolour Techniques – Splash Method

One technique to create and an effect is the Splash method. This requires splashing the paint off the brush bristles and can be very difficult to control, but interesting, as the brush does not touch the paper and will fall randomly. Some artists do this by moving the brush from the wrist, particularly when using a large brush to achieve more coarse droplets. Another method is to shake the bristles individually or a few at a time; using a toothbrush is the ideal tool as you can control and moderate the splash better. The final appearance resembles a spray with an irregular pattern randomly generated by drops of paint.

Watercolour Techniques – Puddles Technique

The Puddles technique is particularly unpredictable because there is very little that the artist can do to control the final appearance of the painting. Paint brushes are not necessary because the water is mixed with paint pigment and poured onto the watercolour paper to create puddles. You do need to use a high-quality watercolour paper with a good texture with this method because of the quantity of water being used. A thinner quality paper will buckle badly and the paint will follow the paper movement rather than obeying your coaxing. It’s a good idea to start by wetting the paper, this gives more freedom for the water and paint to expand as it will not be absorbed immediately into the dry paper.

The pigment will tend to collect at the edges of the puddle and dry with a stain-like appearance. You can soften this effect by using a brush very lightly when the water is almost evaporated around those edges. It’s a good idea to try this with different colours to create the appearance of marble or psychedelic patterns on the paper.

Watercolour Techniques – Absorption Method

The absorption method involves removing the pigment rather than applying it. Before the paint dries, use an absorbent material such as a towel or tissue, to smoothly absorb the paint. Depending on how much paint and how big the area is that you want to work on, either use a large surface area of the absorbent material or else gently use the tip of a rolled up piece of tissue for smaller more delicate work. This lifts the paint pigment of the paper and can create highlights in your work and also create textures and shapes in the paint. Note that different watercolour papers leave different textures.

Watercolour Techniques – Masking

Masking is an interesting application using a special masking fluid that protects the paper while being painted over. Be sure to use an accredited masking fluid for watercolour paintings which has an elastic quality when removing it, so that you do not damage the paper. This is applied on dry paper and must be allowed to dry completely before applying the paint over. Generally it is used to keep the paper white, being used to keep the highlights unblemished. Watercolour is a spontaneous medium, so the use of masking must be done in a creative way.

Happy painting and experimenting with all the watercolour techniques described above – being creative is half the fun, so try different things – you may be surprised with what you can achieve.

About the author

Belinda Marshall

Belinda Marshall is a Zimbabwean specializing in African Wildlife Art. She has paintings in private collections all over the world, with commissions coming from UK, Spain, Germany, Russia, Australia, South Korea, Croatia and South Africa. Visit Belinda Marshall Art for more information.

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