Watercolor painting is a method of painting in which paints from pigment suspended in a water- soluble vehicle are used. Most commonly, watercolors are done on paper, however, other materials such as bark paper, plastics, vellum, fabric, leather, wood, canvas, or papyrus may also be used to paint on. Watercolor painting produces a luminous quality due to the fact the pigment is placed on the surface in an almost pure form and few fillers are used that might obscure the pigment colors. This is a classic painting techniques that has been used for centuries in many different parts of the world.
Artist-Grade Water Colors vs. Student Grade
There is a great difference between artist quality water color paints and student grade paints. It is helpful to know and understand the differences in order to select the paint that is right for you.
Artist grade water colors provide the artist with the highest pigment loads suspended in a binder which is typically natural gum arabic. The paints are sold in a tube in moist form, where the artist will thin and mix the paint on a dish or palette before using. These paints may be used on both paper and other surfaces that are absorbent. For use on surfaces other than paper, the surface must be primed to accept the water based paint. Artist watercolors offer easy soap and water cleanup.
Student grade watercolor paints have characteristics similar to those of artist grade paint, but contain a lower concentration of pigment load. Student grade paints cost less than artist grade paints, yet also offer less choice of colors. The colors can be mixed but will not provide the same strength in color as a higher grade of watercolor paint. The artist may find that the hues produced with student grade paints may not mix the same as full-strength colors do.
How are Watercolors Used?
The technical aspect of using watercolor paint is fairly simple. It requires squeezing the paint from the tube onto a palette or dish and then mixing the paint with water. Simply dip your brush in the paint and you can begin to create your masterpiece. Keep in mind that just because actually using the paint is easy, it does not mean that the art of watercolor painting is easy.
Keep in mind when using watercolors that they will dry lighter on the paper and will always appear darker while wet. You can make your colors appear darker by adding less water to the paint, or by painting in layers after one layer has dried. Watercolors dry very quickly and will remain water soluble, meaning that you can re-wet areas after they have dried if needed. Remember that watercolors are transparent and mistakes can be seen even through multiple layers of color. Try to use this to your advantage instead of being overly concerned about it. It is also helpful to starting with lighter tones and colors and moving on to the darker tones and colors. The white from the paper itself provides the white color when using watercolors.
Two other helpful hints for using watercolor paint is to invest in a decent brush. This will allow you to achieve fine brushmarks and will eliminate the need for frequent reloading of the paintbrush.
What is Gouache?
Gouache is a type of paint designed to be used in an opaque painting method. The name gouache can also be used to describe the paintings created using this method. This type of paint consists of a pigment, gum arabic or other binding agent, and an added inert material. Gouache paint is very similar to watercolor paint, but yet differs because of the modification to make it opaque. Gouache paint particles are larger than those found in watercolor paints, and the ratio of pigment to water is higher. Gouache is a heavier paint that possesses more reflective qualities than traditional watercolors. Unlike watercolors, gouache paint tends to have lighter tones that will dry darker, while darker tones will dry lighter. This can cause difficulty when attempting to color match during multiple sessions of painting. Gouache provides fast coverage and will allow the artist to totally cover up mistakes.
Types of Papers Used in Watercolor Paintings
There are several types and weights of watercolor paper that can have a visible effect on the finished product. Also, even the same type of paper can vary between manufacturers, so it pays to experiment to find the paper you prefer to work with.
Rough watercolor papers have a textured surface, or what is known in the painting world as a prominent tooth. Pools of water and pigment collect in the indentations on the paper, giving the painting a grainy effect.
Hot-pressed watercolor paper has a smooth surface, fine grain, and very little texture. Paint dries very fast on this type of paper. This is the ideal paper choice for painting large washes of color. Meanwhile, cold-pressed watercolor paper (also known as NOT paper) is slightly textured, and falls somewhere between a hot-pressed paper and rough paper choice. Most artists prefer to work with the cold-pressed paper. The term NOT paper refers to the fact this type of paper is not hot-pressed.
Paper thicknesses are indicated by the weight which is measured in pounds per ream (lb) or grams per square meter (gsm). If a paper is less than 356 gsm, or 260 lb, it should be stretched prior to using to prevent warping. Most watercolor paper comes in white, but other cool and warm tints are available. In order to prevent yellowing with age, only acid free paper should be used.
What Makes Watercolor Painting the Most Difficult Type of Painting?
There are several factors that make watercolor painting a bit more challenging than other forms of painting. This includes the fact that a lot of planning needs to go into a watercolor because there is very little room for the correction of mistakes. It also takes a lot of practice to learn to properly control the amount of water used and paper wetness. Due to the fact that no actual white paint is used and the artist is relying of the white in the paper when using watercolors, learning to work from light to dark also takes a great deal of practice.
Watercolor painting is a beautiful art that requires patience and a lot of trial and error to get it right. Many aspiring artists take advantage of free or inexpensive painting classes offered within their local community, to learn valuable tricks and tips to help them paint better.
Follow this link for information on watercolor painting classes.