Watercolor Painting Surfaces, Brushes, and a Few Techniques
By: Matt Fussell
Most watercolor artists depend on white paper for the tints of the colors in their paintings. Therefore, white paper is generally preferred by watercolor artists. (Although there are exceptions to every rule.) Papers range in price from very inexpensive to very expensive. Watercolor papers are categorized by the weight of the paper and the type of tooth (texture) of the surface. This is determined by how much 500 sheets (or a ream) of paper weighs. For example 100 pound paper is thinner paper than say, 400 pound paper. Thicker paper is most often more expensive. Thinner papers tend to bubble with several applications while thicker papers keep their form. Papers can also range in tooth. Tooth is the surface texture of the paper. Watercolor papers that are "hotpress" papers are smooth in surface texture while "coldpress" papers are rough in surface texture.
Many artists chose to prepare the paper before they paint. This may include moistening the paper. An artist may dip the paper into a water bath and then tape the paper to a board to stretch the paper, or the paper may be first taped to a board and then sprayed with water. Preparing the paper allows for the watercolor paint to be absorbed by the paper without the paper buckling.
There is seemingly an endless variety of brushes designed for watercolor painting. Most watercolor brushes are made of some type of animal hair. Sable brushes are soft and are preferred by most watercolor artists. Many brushes produced today are combinations between natural fibers and synthetic fibers. Many of these brushes provide the benefits of both natural fiber brushes and synthetic fiber brushes. Nylon brushes are purely synthetic and can also be used for watercolor painting. Nylon brushes tend to keep their shape longer and are more durable than natural brushes. (Not to mention less expensive.) Bristle brushes are generally not designed for watercolor painting although some interesting effects can be created with them. I would suggest experimenting with different types of brushes to find the type that is best suited for what effects you are trying to achieve.
There are also different shapes of brushes for watercolor painting. Flat brushes are a square shape, while round brushes are more tubular and then taper to a point. Brush sizes are designated by the number given to them. A no. 24 brush is the largest round brush while a no. 00 is the smallest round brush.
WATERCOLOR PAINTING TECHNIQUES
Watercolor painting allows for a variety of effects. Some of these watercolor painting techniques allow for a lot of control on the part of the artist while other techniques provide the artist with little control.
Wet on Dry-
This watercolor painting technique is exactly how it sounds-wet paint on a dry surface. This may include applying a transparent wash or it may include a heavier concentration of paint. This technique allows the artist quite a bit of control over the medium. When watercolor paper is used, the paint is absorbed into the paper allowing the artist to guide the paint into the areas where it is desired.
Wet on Wet-
This watercolor painting technique is placing wet paint into an area that is already saturated with moisture. This area could be wet because of watercolor paint or it could be wet because of a wash of water. This watercolor painting technique does not allow the artist to have full control over the medium. The water pulls the applied pigment in different directions because of capillary action. This watercolor painting technique, although hard to control, does create some interesting effects.
The dry brush watercolor technique is used to create textures. It is achieved by wetting the brush first with watercolor and then rubbing the brush a bit on a surface like a paper towel to dry it out a little. Then the brush is used to apply the remaining color to the surface. Because of the brush having very little paint in it a textured mark results on the surface.
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