How to Paint with Watercolor Paints

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There are several types of painting mediums, each requiring slightly different techniques in order to best produce a desired look. This holds true with watercolors. To some, watercolor may be a fresh take on painting, as it does not require thick coats of paint that take hours, if not days to dry (such as oil based). However, to others, the chaotic flow of water proves too much. Thankfully, with a little time, patience and practice, you can master watercolor painting and the proper techniques for creating your painting.

Watercolor Paper

Select a thick, absorbent paper before beginning any watercolor painting. Most art and craft stores have special watercolor paper. This helps prevent the paints from running into unwanted areas. It also ensures that you have the best color on the paper. Stay away from using computer paper or even drawing paper when watercolor painting. Also make sure to have a large supply of paints and different colors on hand. Red, blue and yellow (primary colors) are the most important to have.

Watercolor Brushes

Keep a wide array of brushes on hand, for different areas of the watercolor painting. To create different techniques, you will need different kinds of brushes. When painting fine detail it is best to have a small, squared off brush with coarse bristles. This helps ensure the watercolors stay in the desired area. For larger areas of a watercolor painting that needs to be one color, wide brushes are desired. This helps coat the entire area in a shorter period of time. If you use smaller brushes for this task, some areas of the watercolor are going to dry or streak, creating a noticeable color difference. If this ever occurs (even when using larger brushes) take a damp brush and run it along the edge of the current layer of watercolors. This technique helps smooth the paints, allowing you to continue painting the area without any noticeable difference.

Start by applying the lighter areas of the painting first. These techniques are the exact opposite to other paint types, such as pastels and oils. Due to the nature of watercolor, you are unable to apply lighter colors over dark colors. So, for example, if you have a ball that is partially in sunlight and partially in shadow, you want to paint the highlights first.

Applying Layers

Give your paints time to dry. If the paint is still wet when applying darker layers over top, or when painting around the current layer, the paint is going to run. This may lead to a disastrous effect if two unwanted colors mix together. If this occurs, make sure to have a paper towel on hand. The paper towel can be used to dab at the smearing paint, preventing it from further escaping outside the desired border. You may have to touch up the area of the smear, but this is far better than restarting the entire painting. When using the paper towel be careful and make sure you dab gently at the paint. Wiping at the paint only further smears it across the paper.

Tape off any area of the paper you want to keep crisp lines on. For example, if you are painting a building with a picturesque background behind it, you are probably going to start off by painting the background sky, as it is undoubtedly lighter in color than the building in the foreground. To prevent any of the background paints from seeping into the area of the building, apply artistic tape over the edges of the building. The tape blocks out paints and ensures that you have crisp lines.

The more water you use, the lighter the watercolor colors generally are. Lighter colors are often desired when painting highlights or areas of the painting you don’t want to draw attention to. The less water you use and the more pigment added gives your watercolor paints a darker look. Remember, use these darker colors after painting the highlights.

Mix plenty of Color

Mix more of one watercolor than you think you need. Due to the absorbancy of the paper you are going to run out of a certain color rather quickly. This technique ensures that you have enough of one color to cover the entire desired area. You don’t want to remix the watercolors in the middle of the painting, because the watercolors are not going to exactly match, and the areas of the watercolor painting you are currently working on may dry, creating the streaking effect. Again, if the watercolors do dry and create a streak, use the damp brushes across the streak to remove any harsh lines.

Watercolor painting takes a variety of techniques to ensure the best painting. These techniques range from selecting the right paper to picking the best brushes. It may take time and practice, but soon, if you keep at it, you’ll master watercolors and all the necessary techniques.

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