Posted in art, creativity, watercolour painting

7 simple but effective watercolour techniques using the wet on wet method that you just have to try

A few weeks ago, I shared my experiences of using the wet on wet method for watercolour washes. Today, I’m going to show you the results of some really cool wet on wet techniques using a range of household items which you should already have readily available to you. Let the fun begin…

Applying cling film

This technique is so easy to do but creates some really amazing effects. Simply wet your paper with water and then apply either a single paint colour or blend several together. Next, apply your cling film over the top, allowing it to crinkle in various places. Place a weight over the film e.g. a heavy book and leave it to dry. Remove the cling film and admire the weird and wonderful results (left hand image).

You can also work a different way where you place the cling film flat onto your table, add some clean water and then apply pools of paint directly to the plastic wrap (you could try maybe two or three different colours. After doing this, place your watercolour paper directly on top of the cling film. Flip it over and then either leave the plastic wrinkled where it is or move it around slightly to disperse the colour. When you’re happy with your creation, carefully remove the cling film and leave your paper to dry (right hand image).

Salt

For this one, you need to search for some salt in your kitchen store cupboard or pantry – any kind will do but I used some coarse sea salt which we had in our mill. I attempting this technique quite a few times and I got different results, some more interesting and effect than others. Begin by wetting a small piece of paper with clean water. Now paint the area with one, two or three colours. Ensure that the area is damp and shiny but not too wet. Dry off any excess with small amounts of kitchen towel if you have any puddles. Add a small amount of salt either by pinching and sprinkling it or using a mill like I did. Let the paint dry and leave the salt to work its magic. Brush off the salt with your hand or use a small ruler to gentle scrape it away.

Applying rubbing alcohol

This was one of my favourite techniques. Rubbing alcohol AKA surgical spirit is usually part of our first aid kit (I use mine to clean my silver earrings too!). But did you know, you can use it to create some interesting effects on wet watercolour paint? Place a small amount of rubbing alcohol into a dish and put aside for later. Wet the area of your paper you want to work on and then add some paint. Now, dip your finger or a cotton bud (I used a cotton bud for the first example) into the surgical spirit. Tap your finger or the cotton bud onto the painted area. Repeat as many times as you like. You can also use cotton wool balls for larger blobs (as shown in the second piece).

Lifting paint with paper towel

This is also a good technique to use if you make a mistake in your work or you have excess pooled paint or water on you paper. Mask off the edges of your paper for a clean line around the edge. Wet the whole surface until it is shiny and then apply a wash of colour. Use a scrunched up piece of kitchen towel to blot away the colour. As you can see, I made little cloud shapes in my mid blue sky wash. Doesn’t it look great?

Feathering

You can feather the paint in a range of different ways. The first example (on the top and bottom paper) involves wetting a section of the paper and then applying a single stroke of slightly diluted paint in a downwards motion. This causes the colour to spread to create a feathery effect. For the second examples (number two and three on the top paper and in the middle of the second paper, I applied a strip of pinky red and then applied another colour in the same shape, touching the very right hand edge of the first colour. This causes the first colour to feather into the second and vice versa. The wetter and more diluted your paints the more it feathers. For the final example on the second piece of paper, I applied yellow paint and then rain a strip of pinky red down the centre.

I thought these techniques would be good for using to create variegated tree bark and petals. Do you agree?

Blooms and drop colour

Another really simple but effective technique is to drop colour onto a pre-wetted piece of paper. You can either apply lots of drops using a large brush to blend the colours or you can drop small blobs of paint and watch them bloom. Again, the wetter the paper and more diluted the colour, the more the paint will spread.

As you can see, I had a little bit of a problem with the paint leaking under the masking tape on the second one. I’m not sure if I applied too much water or if the cheap three rolls of tape for £1 didn’t help the situation!

Splattering

I covered this technique in my wet on dry post but as you can see, the splatters look different when applied to wet paper. On this example, below, the paper was wetter in the centre and so the splatters there spread further than those at the very edge of the area.

I hope you have enjoyed looking at my watercolour experiments. I had great fun exploring the different techniques and found it really calming and relaxing. If you’re looking for something creative to do during lockdown I would totally recommend giving it a go and I think it would be something great to do with kids too.

Posted in art, watercolour painting

Getting to grips with wet on wet: Watercolour basics

Last week, I wrote a blog post all about wet on dry watercolour including basic washes and fun techniques you can try to get interesting effects. This week, I’m exploring wet on wet washes and cool effects. Again, I’m sharing what I have learnt and some photographs of my actual work which I hope you will agree, isn’t too bad for a beginner!

What is ‘wet on wet’ (or wet into wet)?

As the name suggests, wet on wet refers to using wet paint and applying it to wet paper. It is also used to describe the addition of another wet colour to wet paint which is already on the page (commonly known as charging).

The wet on wet method is great for creating smooth transitions between colours, gradient effects and soft lines and edges. Artists typically use it for painting landscapes, simple skies and soft, flowing washes. Wet on wet can be a little unpredictable but that is what makes it so exciting as you are never absolutely sure of what you are going to get.

What are the issues with using the wet on wet method?

There are a few things that can go wrong when using wet on wet so it’s a good idea to explore the technique using small pieces of cheaper watercolour paper like I did before embarking on a larger piece. You will definitely find that you run into a range of issues along the way when you are experimenting but that’s part of the learning process and the fun of working with watercolour paints.

As you are working with very wet paper, one of the issues that can arise is paper buckling or cockling. This is more common (or pronounced) with thinner paper but can happen regardless of how thick your paper is. So why does it happen and what are the problems with it?

When the paper fibers absorb water they expand lengthwise, and they take on a more random alignment. When the paper dries, the fibers contract again. But to some extent the fibers retain their irregular alignment. This change in the structure of the fibers is what causes raised ridges and low valleys to form on the surface of the paper which we see as buckling… ridges and depressions… make paint flow difficult to control. It’s a nuisance which all watercolor artists have to deal with. This is pretty annoying because as you continue to paint, pigment tends to run into the low valleys and settle in pools. Stretching your paper is the common solution.’

Anthony @ Watercoloraffair.com

The method I used for stretching my paper was to soak it by immersing it in a tub of water for 5 minutes until it turns limp. As my cheaper watercolour paper is only 200 gsm this is all of the time that was needed because the thicker the paper, the longer it needs. I then fastened the wet paper to a plywood board and taped the edges with masking tape before leaving it to dry overnight. Unfortunately, the masking tape I have is pretty cheap stuff and so it doesn’t particularly stick very well.  

Another issue can occur if you use too much water. If you soak your paper and use heavily watered down paint, you can end up with ugly marks on your paper. I’ve seen a range of names for these including ‘blooms’, ‘blossoms’, ‘backruns’, ‘cabbages’ and ‘cauliflowers’ but they’re caused when the paint runs to the edges of a pool of liquid. You can avoid these by controlling the amount of water you have on your page by wetting your paper evenly all over until it has a nice sheen to it and then only slightly dampening your paint with a small amount of clean water. If you do find that water collects on your paper, you can use a dry brush to soak it up or a small amount of kitchen towel to absorb the excess. You especially need to check the edges of your work where you have affixed the tape as liquid has a habit of collecting there! I found the best way to learn is by experimenting to see what works best. I bought a few blocks of 10 A4 sheets of cold press paper, then cut each sheet into smaller pieces.

The final issue I want to mention today is the opposite to the previous problem – not using enough water. With the wet on wet technique, it’s very important to ensure that your paper is nice and damp. To ensure your work surface doesn’t dry out you should mix all of your colours first before wetting your paper. You also need to make sure you work quickly which can be hard when you first start out as you are concentrating on ‘getting it right’. This is why it helps to do some exploratory pieces with cheaper watercolour paper so you can get used to how the paint behaves.

Wet on wet washes

Using the wet on wet method has the advantage over wet on dry because it prevents lines of paint being seen. This ensures your wash is smooth and even whether you are creating a flat wash, graduated wash or variegated wash.

For the flat wash, first prepare your puddle of paint by adding a small amount of water to your pigment (you don’t need a lot as the water on the paper will dilute it further). Next, wet your paper all over with clean water. I used a large flat wash brush for this as it enabled me to work quickly. When you are applying the paint, you don’t need to be as careful as with the wet on dry method because the mixture will spread easily. You do, however, need to ensure that you are not left with any excess watery paint so remember to use a dry brush or small amount of paper towel to mop up any excess moisture so you don’t get those backruns I mentioned earlier.

For the graduated wash (also know as gradient wash), you should make a puddle of barely diluted paint then wet your paper evenly as with the flat wash. Then take some paint and sweep from one side of the paper to the other (if you read last week’s post, you’ll know that I suggested working from right to left if you are left handed like me). Then for each new sweep, you’ll need to add a little more water to the mix or to the brush each time. When you reach the bottom of your paper, the wash should be almost completely transparent. It helps to have your board on a slight incline for this to encourage the paint to seep down the wet paper.

Finally, for the variegated wash, create two fairly concentrated puddles of paint in your palette. Then, wet your paper as before. If you want a smooth transition between colours, you may want to tilt your board again. For this, sweep your first colour on in horizontal strokes either to the end of the paper or to somewhere near the centre. Then, rinse and dry off your brush a little on paper towel before adding the second colour to the still wet paint. Because the paper is wet, the two colours will blend together to create a variegated effect (Image 1). If you want a more random mixing of colours, you can simple tap colour onto wet paper in whatever pattern you like so it blooms and spreads (Image 2). Then do the same with your second colour. You can use as many different paint colours as you like but I recommend sticking to about 3 so that you don’t end up getting muddy brown colours when they bleed into each other. Like with the other washes, look out for pools of paint that you need to soak up with a dry brush or paper towel to avoid backruns.

That’s all of the wet on wet techniques I’m going to share today because I’ve run out of watercolour paper and have decided to order some more online to enable social distancing! I’ll post the results of my experimentation either next week or the week after depending how long it takes for my order to arrive. Hopefully, I won’t get as much cockling with my new paper as it is quite a bit thicker than what I have now.

Until next time, keep finding space in your life to be creative during this lockdown period and if you have any finished projects to share on your own blog, let me know in the comments and I’ll be sure to check out your work.

Posted in art, creativity, watercolour painting

Back to basics: Watercolour techniques Days 1, 2 and 3. More colour mixing and layering

As the colour mixing chart took so long to complete, I left the rest of the lessons for Day 1 and combined them with Days 2 and 3 for a mammoth painting session. Although I enjoyed the actual painting I was spending more time trying to clean up my set of colour pans and washing out the mixing palettes so in the the end, I popped to The Range and bought some squeezy tubes and two more mixing trays. This meant I had exactly the same colours as the painting tutor and I could leave my dollops of colour in the palettes to use at a later time. I learnt lots more about mixing colours and had great fun trying out the different techniques.

As I said in my first basic watercolour techniques post, the colour chart took me a long time to do, so although I watched all of the lessons for Day 1, I didn’t complete all of the practical tasks. When I got my new paints, I decided to make the chart again using the new colours so I could see how they would mix.

The second lesson was on colour value which basically means how light or dark a colour is. We learnt how to change the hue of a paint colour by gradually adding more water. Here are the results with different colours:

Finally, we learnt how to mix colours and dilute them to make almost black and white shades. The first two swatches were made by blending all of the different dark colours on my palette and tiny amounts of the warmer colours. It took a while to get the colour right but was worth persevering. Our teacher advised that these shades are softer than pure black and compliment the lighter shades that were going to be painting later on.

For almost white shades, we were taught to make a grey mixture and dilute it with lots of water to create super soft, pale tones. This then creates a very translucent colour which also shows the white of the paper. I made a couple of flower shapes to demonstrate and then added darker colour to the centre.

Day 2 was all about layering different colours. We started off by layering ‘wet into wet’ by tapping one colour into another. For this technique, we created a diluted colour swatch on our paper and then tapped another diluted colour into the corner of the swatch. This made the colour bleed into the first colour and created a lovely gradient effect. The trick was to ensure the paint was watery enough to create a glistening sheen on the paper when you tilted it in the light.

For the second lesson, we layered wet paint over dry. We started by making a colour swatch (permanent rose) on the paper and then left it to dry before adding a different colour (cobalt blue), slightly overlapping the first. We then let it dry again, before adding another colour (lemon yellow), overlapping the second. This allows you to create even more colour variations such as the purple and green which was created here:

On Day 3, we were introduced to colour bleeds. This involved adding a rectangular swatch of colour to your paper and then adding a second swatch right beside it whilst the paint is still wet and touching the tip of the brush to the first swatch. This makes the colours bleed into it each other and creates some wonderful effects. The amount of bleed is dependent upon how much water is used. As you can see, my yellow and red paints didn’t work as well as I didn’t use enough water.

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at my water colour techniques work and maybe it has inspired you to have a go yourself. In the coming lessons were going to be using what we’ve learnt to create an abstract piece and then we’re going to learn how to create florals. I’m super excited to do some more.

Posted in art, watercolour painting

Back to basics: Watercolouring Challenge Day 1

This week, I’m taking part in an online Beginner’s watercolour course called Show Me Your Florals. This free course comes complete with a workbook, daily demo videos and tasks to complete over a period of 1 week. For Day 1, the focus was on mixing basic colours to create a chart. I spent over 3 hours making it and now have back and neck ache so I hope it proves to be useful! I certainly enjoyed mixing the paints but wasn’t so keen on washing my small mixing palette repeatedly!

The full chart is made using 9 basic colours which are from my Daler Rowney tin. The artist who is running the challenge says it’s best to work with squeezy tubes of watercolour but I’ve already splashed out on new brushes and really couldn’t afford to buy more new paints so I’m sticking with my travel tin of little paint pans which I’m sure will be okay. I’ve also only got some of the suggested colours so I’ve chosen a few other similar ones from my palette.

The diagonal which goes from top left to bottom right shows the original colours and the other squares are the colour produced when mixing two equal amounts of the labelled paints. The chart has been done on Strathmore cold press watercolour paper 90lb weight and each square is 2 x 2 cms.

It was interesting to see how many different colours and shades could be created with the 9 basic ones. The artist also showed us how to can add more water to create a much paler version of the colours too.

A close up of the top left of my chart
The top right hand section
The bottom left section
And finally, the bottom right hand section

If you are new to watercolouring and want to try a little paint mixing, I can recommend making one of these charts to help you choose colours for your projects. However, bear in mind that it takes a while to make. Particularly if you only have a small mixing palette like I do and have to keep running bowls of soapy water to clean it.

Day 2’s lessons popped into my inbox just after lunchtime but I’m going to continue to stay one day behind and work on it tomorrow (I still have a couple of tasks from today to do too). Also, if each of the activities takes in excess of 3 hours like this one did, it might end up taking me until at least the end of October but I’m sure it will be fun and I’ve learnt lots already.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to share pictures of the rest of the challenge but it may take a while as the light is starting to get a bit rubbish now with the cloudy weather and limited daylight hours. Have any of you done a watercolour course before? Did you do it online or did you go to a proper class with others and have personal support from a tutor?

Posted in art, creativity, mental health, Mindfulness, watercolour painting, wellbeing, wellness

Watercolour design pad: a simple red robin

A few weeks ago, I picked up a design pad containing line drawn images for watercolour painting. As I find drawing really difficult, I though this was an ideal way to practise my watercolouring skills without needing to draw my own pictures.

The pad contains 24 A4 size pages with 12 designs so you get two copies of each image. When I purchased it, I wondered why there was several of each image but as I messed up the first robin, I was glad of a second chance!

The pad contains animals and birds and one floral image.

I chose to start with the robin design as I love birds and we have had a robin visiting our garden each day for the past few weeks nibbling on the fat balls and seed mix I put out.

The paper in the pad doesn’t appear to be proper watercolour paper but I did find it easy to paint on and I was able to get the paper quite wet without it going soggy or wrinkling as it is quite dense.

I thoroughly enjoyed having a few quiet hours mixing and applying the paint and was pleased with the results on my second attempt which you can see below. I might add some highlights to the robin’s feet using my Posca paint pen or a white gel pen but I’m waiting a while and may do a test on a piece of paper as I don’t want to spoil my work.

My finished robin and my very messy paint palette!

I’m trying to find more time for doing creative activities as a way of boosting my mental health and after I’d finished painting I felt so relaxed and happy with what I had achieved. If you love getting creative, I can well recommend doing a little watercolouring as a way to wind down after a busy day as a change from sitting watching TV or mindlessly perusing the internet on your phone.

If you live in the UK and are interested in buying the watercolour pad, I picked mine up in Aldi but have also seen it at a slightly higher price in The Range shop. If you want to find out more about my watercolour set, click here for my previous post.