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Watercolor Techniques

Watercolor Technique Painting Light & Shadows

Watercolor technique – Painting light and shadows with color to accurately depict objects affected by light requires careful observation. It is important to notice the temperature of the light and how it changes the colors of objects illuminated by it. The temperature of natural light is warm at sunrise and sunset, and cool during midday. Also, artificial light is warm under incandescent lighting, and cool under fluorescent (or white) lighting.

Natural Light – Time of Day

Nita Leland, author of “Exploring Color” (affiliate link) describes the effect of light at the time of day as follows:

“Every time of day has its own special light. Early morning light is luminous and clear with high-key color and gentle contrasts. Tints of scarlet, blue-green and violet express the awakening day. At midday a harsher light reveals intense contrasts of color and value, bleaching out highlights. Late afternoon light has a softer golden glow, with distant objects veiled with mist moving toward chromatic neutral tones. Twilight and early evening light are luminous, tending toward blue and violet, with the sunset a deep rich crimson. Atmospheric buildup throughout the day causes red rays to scatter widely and fill the sky and landscape with color.”

~ Nita Leland

Suggested Watercolors:

Use the glazing technique with transparent and semi-transparent watercolors. For a warm, luminous glow, paint a very light yellow as the first layer. Use analogous colors in multiple layers for a bright, clear glaze. Use Primary colors to create Secondary colors. To tone down the intensity of a color, use its complementary color layered over or under it.

The purest transparent Primary colors to use are: Aureolin, Cobalt Blue and Permanent Rose.

Natural Light – Color In Shadows

In nature, shadows are not a flat gray or dark neutral color. Instead, the local color of objects are visible through the shadowed areas. Look closely and observe that there are more than one color within the shadows. For warm shadows use analogous colors that are darker than the objects local color. Use the wet-on-wet technique and drop in colors in the shadow area and let them mingle naturally to create more interesting shadows. For cool shadows use transparent blues, violets and greens.

Recommended

To learn my process and see painting demos, I invite you to signup for my Watercolor Mini-Course. And, join my email list to help improve your painting skills. You can view my artwork on Instagram @vanissajames or by visiting my gallery website: Vanissa James Fine Art.

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Watercolor Techniques

Watercolor Technique Textural Effects

Watercolor Technique – Textural effects are elements that are added to a watercolor composition to give it detail and depth simulating textures found in nature and man-made objects.

Drybrush

Drybrush is painting with an almost dry or slightly damp brush loaded with a small amount of paint. The side of the brush is applied lightly over the surface of the paper in quick strokes. Paint only touches the raised “bumps” of the paper texture leaving a grained effect with white spaces between.

The drybrush textural effect is useful for depicting rough stones, wood grain of an old wooden building, the sparkle of sunlight on water, etc.

Granulation

Granulation is painting with watercolor paints that have grainy pigment particles. Some watercolor pigments are naturally coarse. Their granular particles settle into the depressions of textured watercolor paper leaving a mottled effect. Mixing a granulated watercolor with non-granulated watercolor will produce interesting two-color textures.

Following are Winsor Newton watercolor paints that are classified as granulated colors:

Lifting

Lifting is applying absorbent material to a damp painted area to lift off the color and show the white of the paper beneath. The shapes of soft clouds in the sky can be achieved using the lifting textural effect. This technique is also used to create highlights on a painted objected. Tissue paper, paper towels, or Q-tips can be used for lifting.

Salt

The “Salt” technique is applying salt to a damp painted area that is then left to dry before removing the salt. Each salt crystal absorbs the water from the wet watercolor paint on the paper surface it touches leaving light star shapes. The paper should be left to dry completely before brushing off the salt.

Sgraffito

Sgraffito is applying a knife’s edge to a wet painted area to scratch out the watercolor leaving light marks on the paper. This technique is used to creates highlights in a painting. The shapes of the highlights need to be simple and it works best with transparent non-staining watercolors.

Spattering or Dropping

Spattering is applying watercolor by flicking paint off of a brush to create random spatters of watercolor on the paper surface. Dropping is applying watercolor by allowing droplets of paint to fall from the tip of the brush onto the paper surface.

Sponging

Sponging is applying watercolor with a sponge instead of a brush. The texture of the sponge imprints patterns onto the surface of the paper. A variety of textural patterns can be achieved using one or more colors layered with a sponge. This textural effect can be used for depicting foliage, masonry on a building, rocky crags, etc.

Streaking

Streaking is pressing aluminum foil or plastic wrap, that has been crushed to form creases and wrinkles, on top of the paper surface that is still damp with watercolor paint. The aluminum foil or plastic wrap is left on the paper surface until the watercolor paint has dried. When the foil or wrap is lifted off the paper, the creases and wrinkles will be imprinted on the dried watercolor paint leaving a streaking textural effect with sharp lines and dark-and-light patches.

Recommended

To learn my process and see painting demos, I invite you to signup for my Watercolor Mini-Course. And, join my email list to help improve your painting skills. You can view my artwork on Instagram @vanissajames or by visiting my gallery website: Vanissa James Fine Art.

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Watercolor Techniques

How To Use Color For Shadowing And Contrast

This blog post addresses the question “How to Use Color for Shadowing and Contrast” asked by a student in my Watercolor Mini-Course.

Every object placed in daylight or artificial light will cast shadow and have shadows itself. The shadows vary according to the time of day or the direction of the light, and if the light is diffused by clouds in the sky or nearby objects. Contrasts between the object and its shadows are the differences between the tonal values dark and light, color temperatures warm and cool, and complementary colors.

Color In Shadows

There are three distinct shadows visible when objects are lite by direct light, they are:

  • Core Shadow – the dark band visible where light and shadow meet at the point where light no longer reaches the object;
  • Reflected Light – the light that bounces off the surface of nearby objects and reflects back onto the object; and
  • Cast Shadow – the shadow created by the object itself blocking the light on the surface the object rests on.

The above image illustrates the core shadow, reflected light and shadow, and the cast shadow of the banana. The bright light source creates a strong contrast of light and dark tonal values, in color contrast of warm and cool colors, and in the contrast of two complementary colors – Yellow < > Purple < or > the split-complement Blue-Purple.

Contrasting Colors

Think opposites:

The color Yellow in the banana has a warm temperature, a light tonal value, and is the complementary color opposite the Purple visible in the shadow.

The color Purple in the cast shadow of the Yellow banana has a cool temperature, a dark tonal value, and is the complementary color opposite of Yellow.

How to Create Shadows

Observation and understanding of color is key.

Use this Color Schemes page as a resource to find my blog posts about the 12 colors on the color wheel and their color schemes.

Look closely at the object to be painted, and determine its dominate local color.

Look closely at the object’s cast shadow, and determine what complementary color it is.

  • Yellow < > Purple
  • Yellow-Green < > Red-Purple
  • Green < > Red
  • Blue-Green < > Red-Orange
  • Blue < > Orange
  • Yellow-Orange < > Blue-Purple

For corresponding watercolor paint names for the above see What Watercolors To Buy.

Use transparent watercolors and/or semi-transparent watercolors, never opaque or semi-opaque watercolors. Why? Because shadows are transparent. You can see the color of the surface beneath the shadow. For the best results when painting shadows use the glazing and layering techniques.

Recommended

To learn my process and see painting demos, I invite you to signup for my Watercolor Mini-Course. And, join my email list to help improve your painting skills. You can view my artwork on Instagram @vanissajames or by visiting my gallery website: Vanissa James Fine Art.

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Watercolor Techniques

Watercolor Technique Variegated Wash

The watercolor technique variegated wash is a process for blending two or more colors together on very wet watercolor paper using the wet-on-wet technique. This method is normally used for painting a blended background on a full sheet of paper. The resulting effect resembles a sunset.

Mix each watercolor separately with a sufficient amount of water.

Wet the paper with clean water using a large brush or sponge.

Tilt the paper on a board or easel.

Quickly apply the lighter watercolor across the top of the paper and let the paint flow down to the middle.

Turn the paper upside-down.

Apply the second watercolor across what is now the top of the paper and let the paint flow down and blend into the first watercolor. You can adjust the amount of blending by the amount of time the paper is tilted.

Always allow the watercolor to blend by itself over the wet surface. It should look very free flowing.

You can slow down the variegated bleed by laying the paper down flat.

For covering large areas, use a one-inch flat brush or an oval “wash brush” (also called a “mop brush”). To paint smaller areas with a variegated wash, use a round brush size 10 or larger.

Controlling the brush and the painting speed is important. The wetness of the paper needs to be consistent until the desired area is covered with the variegated wash. The tip of the brush should lightly touch the paper and move across the paper in a smooth, horizontal stroke.

When the variegated wash is completed, leave the paper flat until it has dried completely.

Optional: If desired, a second variegated wash can be applied over the first. After the first wash is completely dry, rewet the paper with clean water and apply watercolor as before to achieve greater depth and luminosity. Let the second wash dry completely.

Then proceed with painting the rest of your watercolor composition.

Recommended

Use 140 lb cold press archival 100% cotton rag watercolor paper. It is advisable to stretch the watercolor paper first to prevent it from buckling if you plan to cover the paper with a wet-on-wet variegated wash. To avoid stretching the paper, I recommend using a watercolor paper block. To learn my process and see painting demos, I invite you to signup for my Watercolor Mini-Course. And, join my email list to help improve your painting skills. You can view my artwork on Instagram @vanissajames or by visiting my gallery website: Vanissa James Fine Art.

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Watercolor Techniques

Watercolor Technique Graded Wash

The watercolor technique graded wash is a process for painting large, graded color backgrounds or underpainting for glazing, and for smaller areas and objects in a composition using the wet-on-wet technique.

The watercolor is applied in a gentle graduated effect where the color value is darker at the top and gradually gets paler down to the bottom. This is achieved by painting the first few horizontal rows with watercolor paint across the top of the paper or desired area within a composition.

Next, dip the brush in clean water – not paint – and paint a row of diluted color across the bottom of the previous row. For each consecutive row thereafter, continue to dip the brush in water only to paint the next row until the bottom is reached.

By adding only water to the brush after each row is painted, the watercolor gradually gets lighter in value.

In addition to painting a background, the graded wash technique is also used for painting smaller areas and objects within a composition.

For covering large areas, use a one-inch flat brush or an oval “wash brush” (also called a “mop brush”). To paint smaller areas with a graded wash, use a round brush size 10 or larger.

Controlling the brush and the painting speed is important. The wetness of the paper needs to be consistent until the desired area is covered with the graded wash. The tip of the brush should lightly touch the paper and move across the paper in a smooth, horizontal stroke.

When the graded wash is completed, leave the paper tilted at a slight angle on a board or easel until it has dried completely. Then proceed with painting the rest of your watercolor composition.

Recommended

Use 140 lb cold press archival 100% cotton rag watercolor paper. It is advisable to stretch the watercolor paper first to prevent it from buckling if you plan to cover the paper with a wet-on-wet graded wash. To avoid stretching the paper, I recommend using a watercolor paper block. To learn my process and see painting demos, I invite you to signup for my Watercolor Mini-Course. And, join my email list to help improve your painting skills. You can view my artwork on Instagram @vanissajames or by visiting my gallery website: Vanissa James Fine Art.

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Watercolor Techniques

Watercolor Technique Hard & Soft Edges

The watercolor technique hard and soft edges is a process of applying watercolor by blending a sharp edge into a blurred edge to make it appear to fade softly into the distance for depicting perspective and/or for forming three-dimensional shapes.

Hard Edges

Hard, sharp edges are best achieved using the wet-on-dry technique.

Painting hard edges can be achieved by using the tip of the brush to paint a line on dry paper. Then continue to paint in the shape of the object being painted.

For more control, masking fluid, masking film, or masking tape can be applied to the edges of the object to be painted. If using masking fluid, wait for it to dry completely. Then paint within the shape that has been masked off. After the painted area has dried, remove the masking.

Hard edges can also be formed by pushing pigment to the outside of a shape by first painting the shape then dropping clear water from the tip of a brush into the center of the shape. This will push the paint pigments to the outer edge of the painted shape forming a hard edge.

Soft Edges

Soft, blurred edges are best achieved using the wet-on-wet technique.

Painting soft edges can be achieved by brushing watercolor on to paper previously wetted with water. The edges of the painted area will spread outward causing a soft, blurred edge of color.

Soft edges can also be achieved by adding water to a clean brush and painting over a hard edge before the edge has dried. This method is used for fading a color to a lighter value in blending and molding shapes such as folds in fabric, depicting light and shadow reflected on forms, etc.

Recommended

To learn my process and see painting demos, I invite you to signup for my Watercolor Mini-Course. And, join my email list to help improve your painting skills. You can view my artwork on Instagram @vanissajames or by visiting my gallery website: Vanissa James Fine Art.

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Watercolor Techniques

Watercolor Technique Light To Dark

The watercolor technique light-to-dark is the process of applying colors that are light in value, such as transparent watercolors thinned with a sufficient amount of water, on the first layers of a painting.

Each layer is allowed to dry completely before the next layer is applied.

Middle value colors are applied next, followed by darker value colors.

Painting light-to-dark is the basic process for painting in watercolor. Each successive layer of darker color adds more detail to the objects in the composition defining its shape and depth.

Identifying Color Values

Hues on the color wheel are divided into light, middle and dark colors. The top section of the color wheel has light hues. The middle section of the color wheel has middle value hues. And, the bottom section of the color wheel has dark hues. As follows:

Light Value Hue

  • Yellow
  • Yellow-Green
  • Green
  • Yellow-Orange

Middle Value Hues

  • Orange
  • Red-Orange
  • Blue-Green
  • Blue

Dark Value Hues

  • Blue-Purple
  • Purple
  • Red-Purple
  • Red

See What Watercolors To Buy for a list of watercolor paint names for the hues listed above. Each hue also has colors within it that can range from light to dark. For instance, there are very light yellows and darker yellows in watercolor paints. But, yellow in general is the lightest color on the color wheel.

Recommended

To learn my process and see painting demos, I invite you to signup for my Watercolor Mini-Course. And, join my email list to help improve your painting skills. You can view my artwork on Instagram @vanissajames or by visiting my gallery website: Vanissa James Fine Art.

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Watercolor Techniques

Watercolor Technique Flat Wash

The watercolor technique flat wash is a process for painting large, solid color backgrounds or underpainting for glazing, and for smaller areas and objects in a composition using the wet-on-wet technique.

A sufficient amount of watercolor paint and water needs to be mixed ahead-of-time so that the color value is consistent throughout the flat wash process. If you have to stop to mix more watercolor with water, the paper will become dry and your wash mixture will most likely not be the same color value as your initial wash.

For covering large areas, use a one-inch flat brush or an oval “wash brush” (also called a “mop brush”). To paint smaller areas with a flat wash, use a round brush size 10 or larger.

Controlling the brush and the painting speed is important. The wetness of the paper needs to be consistent until the desired area is covered with the flat wash. The tip of the brush should lightly touch the paper and move across the paper in a smooth, horizontal stroke.

When the flat wash is completed, leave the paper tilted at a slight angle on a board or easel until it has dried completely. Then proceed with painting the rest of your watercolor composition.

Recommended

Use 140 lb cold press archival 100% cotton rag watercolor paper. It is advisable to stretch the watercolor paper first to prevent it from buckling if you plan to cover the paper with a wet-on-wet flat wash. To avoid stretching the paper, I recommend using a watercolor paper block. To learn my process and see painting demos, I invite you to signup for my Watercolor Mini-Course. And, join my email list to help improve your painting skills. You can view my artwork on Instagram @vanissajames or by visiting my gallery website: Vanissa James Fine Art.

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Watercolor Techniques

Watercolor Technique Mixing Colors

Watercolor technique – Mixing colors is combining two or more watercolor paints to create a variety of color mixtures. The most common method uses a palette to which paints are added and mixed together with water and other colors. Another method for mixing colors is achieved by combining colors directly on the paper surface.

Best Watercolors for Mixing Colors

Not all colors mix well together. So, it is important to know which colors to choose before mixing colors. Jim Kosvanec did extensive studies of watercolor paints and developed a color chart that categorizes watercolors into groups of colors by their characteristics. See Which Watercolor Paints Are Transparent for help in choosing watercolors for mixing colors.

For the best results, only use transparent and semi-transparent watercolor paints for mixing colors.

Mixing Colors on the Palette

Preparing a palette is central to starting the painting process. It involves selecting paint colors and placing a sufficient amount of paint for mixing on the palette surface. A palette can be made specifically for the purpose of mixing color and have compartments to hold each paint color. It could also be an enameled butcher tray or a plain dinner plate.

Two color mixtures are prepared at the start of a painting:

  • The first is a large mixture of paint containing a lot of water for washes that will be used the most in the painting. A separate bowl or enameled butcher tray would be ideal for this purpose.
  • The second are small puddles of water mixed with color on the mixing area of the palette. The brush is used to drag color from the paint wells onto the flat area of the palette where it is mixed with water.

When adding watercolor paint to the palette’s paint wells, arrange the warm colors on one side and the cool colors on the other side. Use two brushes, one for the warm colors and one for cool colors, to keep colors and mixtures clear.

Mixing Colors on Watercolor Paper

Three different approaches used to mix colors directly on the watercolor paper are:

  • Glazing or Layering – is painting a warm Primary color as the first layer, and after it has dried paint a cool Primary color as the second layer over the first. The two Primary colors layered over each other will result in a Secondary color. For example, a Blue layer painted over a Yellow layer will result in a Green color.
  • Organic Mingling – is dropping one color into a wet painted area of another color and letting the two colors mix organically.
  • Variegated Bleeds – is painting one color at one end of a shape and painting another color at the opposite end of the shape, then using the brush to drag the two colors together at the center of the shape allowing them to bleed color into each other.

Recommended

To learn my process and see painting demos, I invite you to signup for my Watercolor Mini-Course. And, join my email list to help improve your painting skills. You can view my artwork on Instagram @vanissajames or by visiting my gallery website: Vanissa James Fine Art.

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Watercolor Techniques

Watercolor Technique Glazing & Layering

The watercolor technique glazing and layering are very similar processes for painting transparent and semi-transparent watercolor paint in layers, one color over another. What is the difference? The glazing technique is used to create luminous atmospheric effects and for underpainting a foundation for other glazes to be applied over it. Whereas, the layering technique uses glazes specifically to build depth and three-dimensional form in stages.

In both the glazing technique and the layering technique, a layer of watercolor is allowed to dry completely before another layer is painted over it.

Watercolor Glazing Technique

Use the watercolor technique wet-on-wet when applying glazes.

The first step is to brush, spray or sponge on a layer of clean water on the paper surface.

Next, mix a sufficient amount of watercolor paint with water enough to cover the paper surface area intended for glazing. This could be the whole sheet of watercolor paper or just a portion of it.

For a luminous effect, apply a warm color – usually a transparent yellow such as Aureolin – as the first layer. As mentioned above, it is very important to let the layer dry completely before applying the next.

Before applying the next layer of transparent watercolor, rewet the paper surface lightly with water. If working with the same brush, rinse it thoroughly with clean water. Then dip the clean brush in clean water and lightly brush the water over the previous glaze.

What color to use for the next glaze is determined by the underlying glaze color and what the combination of the two (or more color layers) will result in. For instance, by adding a transparent layer of blue over a yellow layer results in the color green. A transparent red over a yellow layer results in the color orange. A transparent blue over a red layer results in the color purple. And, so forth.

Watercolor Layering Technique

Use the watercolor technique wet-on-dry for applying layers to build depth and form over an underpainting of glaze that can be applied wet-on-wet or wet-on-dry.

First do a watercolor flat wash of the large, two-dimensional shape of a subject in the painting composition. Then let it dry completely.

Next, in stages, paint the smaller shapes over the large, two-dimensional shape.

Then paint the smaller, descriptive details as the final stage.

As each layer is applied, a three-dimensional shape is revealed.

Recommended

Use 140 lb cold press archival 100% cotton rag watercolor paper. It is advisable to stretch the watercolor paper first to prevent it from buckling if you plan to cover the paper with a wet-on-wet wash. To avoid stretching the paper, I recommend using a watercolor paper block. To learn my process and see painting demos, I invite you to signup for my Watercolor Mini-Course. And, join my email list to help improve your painting skills. You can view my artwork on Instagram @vanissajames or by visiting my gallery website: Vanissa James Fine Art.

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Watercolor Techniques

Watercolor Technique Wet-On-Dry

The watercolor technique wet-on-dry is the process of applying a brush wet with watercolor paint to dry paper. This method allows a more controlled brush stroke for defining shapes and details and is the method most commonly used in watercolor painting.

Wet-On-Dry Technique

A variety of wet-on-dry brush strokes can be achieved for making natural-looking marks, lines from thin to thick, sharp edges, and textures depending upon how the brush is held and how much watercolor paint is on the brush.

  • Lightly touching the tip of a wet brush to the dry paper produces a thin line.
  • Pressing the side of a wet brush down onto the dry paper produces a thicker mark or line.
  • Lightly stroking a dry brush (one with very little watercolor paint on it) produces texture.

Wet-On-Dry Wash Technique

Unlike the wet-on-wet wash technique, it is difficult to lay a wet-on-dry wash without the brush strokes showing. So, the wash will have streaks if you don’t work quickly.

The paper should be tilted slightly on a easel or board so that the watercolor paint brush strokes flow downward more evenly. This will help the brush strokes be less visible.

For covering large areas, use a one-inch flat brush or an oval “wash brush” (also called a “mop brush”). To paint smaller areas with a wet-on-dry wash, use a round brush size 10 or larger.

The brush needs to be full of watercolor paint. Apply the brush in an even stroke across the full width of the paper. Then immediately fill the brush again and brush across the bottom edge of the previous brush stroke the full width of the paper. Repeat this process until the desired area is covered with paint.

When the wet-on-dry wash is completed, leave the paper tilted at a slight angle on a board or easel until it has dried completely. Then proceed with painting the rest of your watercolor composition.

Recommended

To learn my process and see painting demos, I invite you to signup for my Watercolor Mini-Course. And, join my email list to help improve your painting skills. You can view my artwork on Instagram @vanissajames or by visiting my gallery website: Vanissa James Fine Art.

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Watercolor Techniques

Watercolor Technique Wet-On-Wet

The watercolor technique wet-on-wet is the process of wetting the paper’s surface first with water before applying watercolor paint to it. The water can be brushed on, sprayed on or sponged on the paper. Watercolor paint is then brushed on while the paper is still wet or damp.

Wetting the paper first allows the watercolor paint to spread or flow when it is brushed on the wet surface. Whether the watercolor paint spreads or flows depends on the angle of the paper surface. If the paper is laid flat on a table, the watercolor paint will spread out from where the paint brush tip touches the paper. How much the color spreads is dependent on the wetness of the paper. If the paper is placed at a slant on an easel, the watercolor paint brush strokes will flow downward.

Wet-On-Wet Wash Technique

The wet-on-wet “wash” is used for painting large, solid color backgrounds or underpainting for glazing, and for smaller areas and objects in a composition.

  • Flat Wash Technique – painting an area with watercolor paint in a seamless color value without evident brush strokes showing.
  • Graded Wash Technique – painting an area with watercolor paint from a dark to light color value by adding more water to the paint brush instead of adding more watercolor paint.

A sufficient amount of watercolor paint and water needs to be mixed ahead-of-time so that the color value is consistent throughout the wet-on-wet wash process. If you have to stop to mix more watercolor with water, the paper will become dry and your wash mixture will most likely not be the same color value as your initial wash.

For covering large areas, use a one-inch flat brush or an oval “wash brush” (also called a “mop brush”). To paint smaller areas with a wet-on-wet wash, use a round brush size 10 or larger.

Controlling the brush and the painting speed is important. The wetness of the paper needs to be consistent until the desired area is covered with the wet-on-wet wash. The tip of the brush should lightly touch the paper and move across the paper in a smooth, horizontal stroke.

When the wet-on-wet wash is completed, leave the paper tilted at a slight angle on a board or easel until it has dried completely. Then proceed with painting the rest of your watercolor composition.

Recommended

Use 140 lb cold press archival 100% cotton rag watercolor paper. It is advisable to stretch the watercolor paper first to prevent it from buckling if you plan to cover the paper with a wet-on-wet wash. To avoid stretching the paper, I recommend using a watercolor paper block. To learn my process and see painting demos, I invite you to signup for my Watercolor Mini-Course. And, join my email list to help improve your painting skills. You can view my artwork on Instagram @vanissajames or by visiting my gallery website: Vanissa James Fine Art.

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Watercolor Techniques

What Are Watercolor Techniques

In this post, I will define what are watercolor techniques and provide a list of techniques with brief descriptions for each. Definition: A “technique” is defined as a way of carrying out a particular task, especially the execution or performance of an artistic work or a scientific procedure; a skillful or efficient way of doing or achieving something.

So, a watercolor technique is a method, procedure or process to achieve a particular desired effect when painting in watercolor. Mastering watercolor techniques gives the artist the ability to control the application of watercolors on the painting surface.

By practicing watercolor techniques you will acquire the know-how and skills to paint flat and three-dimensional shapes, textures, depict light and shadow, how to use colors and reserve white space in your composition.

Wash Techniques

  • Flat Wash Technique – creates a continuous flat color without showing evidence of brushstrokes
  • Graded Wash Technique – creates a gentle graduated dark to light effect using one color
  • Variegated Wash Technique – creates a gentle graduated blending effect using two or more colors

Wash techniques are the basic methods used for watercolor painting, and are the primary skills learned and practiced by the beginner in watercolor.

Wet & Dry Techniques

  • Wet-On-Wet Technique – water is applied to the paper first before painting watercolors on it
  • Wet-On-Dry Technique – painting watercolors on dry paper (without prewetting the paper)

Wet and dry techniques are used for laying washes and creating textural effects.

Preserving White Space

  • Planning and saving white space – determining, before starting a painting, where to leave white space in the composition, and avoiding applying watercolor to those saved white spaces
  • Resist Technique – applying waterproof materials such as masking fluid, or Frisket, masking film, and masking tape to the paper surface before painting to preserve white space

Preserving white space is essential for painting in watercolor because, unlike painting in oils, white watercolor paint is not normally used. Instead the white of the paper serves the purpose for white areas needed in a watercolor composition.

Applying Watercolor

  • Glazing Technique – layer of transparent or semi-transparent watercolor paint applied to a wet surface, then left to dry before adding the next layer of transparent or semi-transparent watercolor paint over the previous layer
  • Layering Technique – glazing layers to build depth and three-dimensional form
  • Light to Dark Technique – light watercolor applied first, then left to dry before adding darker watercolors in succession
  • Hard and Soft Edges Technique – blending a sharp edge into a blurred edge to make it appear to fade softly into the distance for perspective and three-dimensional form

These techniques for applying watercolors to paper are the basic methods for painting in watercolor.

Textural Effects

  • Drybrush Technique – painting with an almost dry brush with only paint loaded onto it
  • Granulation Technique – painting with watercolor paints that have grainy pigment particles
  • Lifting Technique – applying absorbent paper to a damp painted area to lift the watercolor
  • Salt Technique – applying salt to a damp painted area that is then left to dry before rubbing off the salt
  • Sagraffito Technique – applying a knife’s edge to a painted area to scratch out the watercolor
  • Spattering Technique – flicking paint off of a brush to create random spatters of watercolor

Textural effects are elements that are added to a watercolor composition to give it detail and depth.

Recommended

To learn my process and see painting demos, I invite you to signup for my Watercolor Mini-Course. And, join my email list to help improve your painting skills. You can view my artwork on Instagram @vanissajames or by visiting my gallery website: Vanissa James Fine Art.