5 Useful Watercolor Painting Techniques



2020-04-22 10:48:49

Watercolor is a tricky medium to work with. But if handled correctly, painting with watercolor can be a lot of fun and interesting!

These paints are made of pigments suspended in a water-based solution. When you create watercolor paintings, light reflects off the surface and bounces up through these translucent colors, adding a luminosity that is truly magical.

Let get to grips with this versatile medium with these must-know watercolor painting techniques.

● Wet-on-Wet

The technique is a less controlled way of working, it can produce beautiful effects giving a soft and fuzzy edge to the shapes of the watercolor. This is typically used for painting interesting backgrounds, landscapes, simple skies, clouds, water, and soft watercolor washes. Basically, this method involves adding layers of wet paint to a wet surface.

Start by wetting your brush with plain water and paint two rectangles on the paper. These rectangles would not be clearly visible as it has no color pigment, but if you tilt your head a bit, you will be able to see where you have applied the water. Then, using the paintbrush pick up the moistened paint from your palette and add the color to the first rectangle while in your second rectangle, just add dabs of the paint. Let it dry and see how different it looks.

Once completely dry, the watercolor changes even more and might look less vibrant but with interesting textures.

When painting wet-on-wet, you don’t have much control over how the paint would behave. As watercolor dries in mysterious ways, this is a great technique for adding texture to the painted shapes.

● Wet-on-dry

Wet-on-dry tends to give you more control over your brush strokes and the applied watercolor paint, letting you achieve more uniform, precise and defined shapes, as well as variegated color.

Pick up some moistened paint from the palette with a large brush and simply begin to paint the dry paper surface. You can either mix lots of water or use a drier paint with each giving a completely different texture and finish. Once the paint is completely dry, you will notice that the colors look quite different at this point.

The final color appearance would remain intense as the colors don’t fade or bleed as much compared to the wet-on-wet technique.

You can also obtain graduated blending with changing tonal value using this technique.

● Building Up Colors

This simple technique enhances the look of your watercolor portrait painting by creating a seamless ‘ombre’ effect.

Let’s practice building up color from plain water to a saturated paint mix. Start with a dry area of the paper. Next, spill little water into your palette and add a dab of concentrated paint of your choice right next to it.

Pick up a bit of water (no paint) with your paintbrush and begin painting your strip which would look transparent. Now, add a tiny bit of pigment into your puddle of water in the palette but be careful about the amount of paint you are adding. (Try to make this process subtle and work up slowly). Continue painting where you left off with the plain water and repeat the process by adding a bit more paint to your puddle of water each time. However, make sure to rinse and pat your brush on a piece of cloth or paper before picking up more color.

By the time you reach the end of your strip of paint on the paper, your watercolor mix would be quite thick and the paint would appear concentrated and opaque. Once dry, you will have a smooth transition with tints and shades moving from light to dark.

● Creating Color Gradients

This technique involves the use of two colors which are slowly transitioning from one to the other.

One important thing to keep in mind here is that use colors that are located together on the color wheel as it will help to create harmony in the gradient. For example, you can use green and yellow, or red and orange.

Mix two separate colors (red and orange) keeping a 50:50 ratio of water to paint.  Paint a horizontal strip (image above) on the paper surface using the orange paint. Then,  add a little bit of the red paint into your orange mixture. Taking this paint mix, create another stroke exactly next to your first brushstrokes on the paper. Keep adding a bit more red paint to your original orange mix every time. Try to keep the changes in the color tone smooth and subtle so the gradient doesn’t look muddy.

By the end of this paint strip, your original mix should be completely transformed into pure red and you will have a beautiful gradient of color.

Try creating gradients as many times as possible using paints of different color tones.

● Getting Precise With Shapes

This technique will help to paint around edges of shapes in a controlled way.

You can start by painting simple shapes such as circle, triangle, star around your dry portion of the watercolor paper. Now, using a different shade of color, paint around these shapes. Use different sized brushes for working on the detailed areas and another one for filling out larger portions. Try getting really close to each shape while painting but make sure your paint does not smudge through the shapes.

You can also practice this technique by painting just inside the edge of your paper, creating a border.

Practice more often to get into the illustration-style watercolor painting groove.

Wrap Up

Watercolors are so versatile that it can be used in so many different ways. So don’t limit your creativity and possibilities, keep experimenting and painting!

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