You know how much I love Yao…and now she’s sharing her watercolor GENIUS with all of us! I’m so excited to paint along! This is the first in a series of five watercolor tutorials.
Take it away Yao!
I am so happy to be introducing a series of tutorials on watercolor with you guys today! Starting with this first one on the basics and supplies of painting watercolor, I will be sharing techniques and tools of how I use watercolor. There are numerous ways to approach this medium, so I won’t be covering every technique there is out there. However, you can find lots of great information and demos here that will hopefully broaden your creative palette!
I have always loved to paint and create art, but when I discovered the wonders of watercolor a few years ago, I really feel like I have found my voice. I can probably talk about watercolor all day, but I’m going to just touch on some of the basics in this tutorial and go into more detail about different techniques later in the series! For me, watercolor is not only a wonderful medium to paint with, but it also teaches me a lot about how I approach my work. I’ve learned a great deal about just enjoying the process of creating a painting rather than worrying about the final result. The beauty of watercolor is that it isn’t possible to plan out exactly how it will turn out in the end. At some point in the process of painting with watercolor, you have to step back a little bit and just allow it to blend and dry how it wants. Embracing that aspect was certainly hard for me to do in the beginning as I like to be a perfectionist in my work! However, once I became more used to this quality to watercolor, it was liberating and so much fun to just let it do its own thing!
I’m going to first talk a little bit about the types of supplies that I have found to work best, and then I will touch briefly on some of my favorite techniques and tools!
Strathmore and Arches are two brands that I highly recommend trying out. The Arches watercolor paper line offers watercolor blocks as well as single sheets. I mostly use their cold press watercolor blocks because it allows me to work on a few different pieces at once and is also easy to carry when I paint outside. In addition, the Arches line of watercolor blocks offer different grades in hot (smooth) and cold press (textured). The cold press grades have a wonderful texture to it that captures the natural imperfection of brush marks well.
I recently found a very affordable fold over palette that I am really loving because it is small enough that I can take it with me on trips!
This is probably my favorite subject to talk about! I have found that Winsor & Newton make the best pigments out there, and even though they are a bit pricier, their watercolors are definitely worth it. They have two grades of quality in their watercolors, and I would recommend their Artist line because the colors are richer. If you are looking for some great brights to add a pop to your artwork, try Winsor Lemon, Scarlet Lake, Opera Rose, and Cobalt Turquoise Light! Something to keep in mind about watercolor pigments is to shy away from using white to lighten a color. Watercolor pigments have this natural transparent quality to it that it rarely requires the use of white when mixing colors, so if you want a light yellow, all you have to do is mix more water with it!
As far as other ways of using color goes, Prismacolor makes a line of watercolor pencils that you can use to draw with and blend afterwards with water. I like to use it sometimes when I’m in a hurry and just want to sketch out an idea!
Great brushes are definitely worth investing in! It’s not great fun when the hairs of a cheap brush start falling out in the middle of painting. There are a variety of brushes out there, and it really depends on the project and what you are comfortable with. For example, the round brushes are very versatile and can achieve a variety of subjects and shapes from tree branches to larger shapes. But an angled brush might be great if you are painting mostly straight lines or angular shapes. The flat brushes are similar to an angled brush but because the bristles are usually longer and denser, they are terrific for washes and large coverage. My favorite line of brushes has to be the Synthetic Sable series from Princeton Art & Brush! The prices are reasonable, durable and offer a wide range of brush types.
The next few basic techniques are very easy and approachable to anyone who is interested in exploring watercolor. I will be dedicating upcoming posts to each technique and talk more in detail about tips and tricks!
Blending is probably where I first fell in love with watercolor. It is mesmerizing to watch different colors blending together, and since it is hard to predict what the end result will be, I am always pleasantly surprised. There are so many ways to blend colors from using a dry brush on a wet surface to using a wet brush on a damp surface. Take some time to really explore different combinations of blending between wet/dry surfaces and colors and see what kinds of results you like to use the most.
What makes watercolor different from acrylics or inks is that it is pretty easy to correct mistakes. If the area is still wet, just add some water to that area and dab it with some paper towel. So don’t panic if you laid down a color or shape that you no longer want, just add some water and that should take care of most of the issue!
Mark making is an important way of how I approach my paintings. Ranging from fast and gestural marks to meticulous and controlled marks, knowing how to use your brush will strengthen how you express your ideas through your painting. There are many different marks you can make with various brushes. I would try experimenting with different brush types and see the kinds of marks they make and which suits your needs. Round brushes are what I use the most when painting because they are versatile enough to create fine details as well as broader strokes. You will find that brushes with lots of pigment and brushes with not so much make very different kinds of marks!
While this wash brush is similar to the angled one, it is very good for washes and broad coverage.
I use transparency a lot in my work because it is so great for layering images and creating density within the artwork. It can be dense and opaque by layering colors and imagery, or it can be incredibly translucent and light. Try combining blending techniques with layers of colors and shapes! Transparent images work best if you go from light to more saturated colors. Be sure to allow each layer to dry completely to avoid accidental blends.
Last but not least, trying creating translucent shapes with blends and layers. By combining different techniques together, you can create beautiful complexities that are visually intriguing.
Well I hope you guys enjoyed this introduction and found some of these watercolor techniques helpful!
Until next time,
Updated April 2015 – Yao now offers an online tutorial! Check it out!