Watercolours are dramatic and delicate, creating a distinctive style of painting that is instantly recognisable. They can be a little difficult to master, but there are few art mediums that are worth the effort! If you’re looking at giving watercolour painting a go, here’s our short guide to getting started.
Watercolour paints are thinner and more transparent than oils and acrylics, made from pigment mixed with a binder. When painting with watercolour, the opacity of the paint is altered by adding more water, rather than chemicals such as turpentine. Watercolours can be found in both compact pans and tubes, and are available in both cheaper student quality and more professional artist quality.
When using watercolour, your brush will need to be able to hold plenty of liquid to allow for a smooth, even gliding over the paper or canvas. The structure of natural bristles makes them the better option for this, with synthetic brushes unable to retain enough liquid. The difference between natural and synthetic brushes is more apparent with watercolour painting, so it’s a good idea to invest in natural brushes if you can afford them. Hard bristles can also leave unwanted crisp edges at the edge of the paint line, while soft bristles give a smooth, blended finish.
To see exactly how different sizes and types of brushes can be used throughout your watercolour painting, Jennie Wickings is a skilled artist that really manages to break down painting for beginners, while also bringing up new tips for long-time watercolour lovers.
Due to using more liquid in watercolour painting, special paper pads are needed to prevent the paper from warping. Watercolour paper can be usually found in weights between 90 lbs - 400lbs, and the heavier the paper, the better it can withstand the paint. Heavier paper tends to be rougher in texture, whilst lighter paper has a smoother surface to work on.
This is the most popular type of watercolour paper, with a slight texture to the surface. It’s used by both amateurs and professionals, as it gives an attractive finish to both broad washes of colour and intricate detail. It is sometimes called ‘Not Paper’ - which means it’s not hot-pressed paper. These are perfect for use at home, in the studio, and even whilst painting on the go.
This is paper that has been compressed between hot metal rollers, creating a smooth, almost glossy finish. It’s popular for detailed work, as the paper doesn’t absorb as much paint as cold pressed. It can be tricky to get to grips with though and isn’t the most commonly used paper for watercolour.
Paper such as this are great for consistent wash use as well as for adding layers of fine detailing.
Also known as liquid frisket, masking fluid allows watercolourists to achieve white areas on their painting without actually using white paint. The white paint that comes in watercolour sets is opaque and is used for gouache - a different style of painting completely. Masking fluid is painted on to areas that you don’t want the paint to go, and is particularly great for detailed areas that can be fiddly to paint around. Once the masking fluid is dry, you paint over and around it, then peel it off once your paint is dry.