Watercolor Painting Basics

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 44,264
    Craft Expert Catherine Hillis discusses watercolor painting basics.

    Catherine Hillis: I am Catherine Hillis and I am a professional watercolor artist and I am going to teach you how to paint in watercolors. Right now I am going to show you the basic building blocks of watercolor painting. If you can master these techniques, you can paint anything. I am going to tape the paper up with regular masking tape and try to tape the paper to the board leaving a nice margin tape, so that when we pull the tape off later, we are going to have a nice clean edge.

    It is of course, cotton, the paper can pick up the grease of your fingers. So always be sure that your hands are clean and you don't want to be wearing hand lotion, or any kind of oils. Alright, I am getting it nice and flat. We are ready to go. The first skill I am going to show you is Wet-on-wet and what I need to do is just use some clean water and I want to wet the square evenly. Notice that I have a nice outlined area here that we are going to be painting on right now. So, I want to wet this evenly and use overlapping strokes.

    The paper is evenly wet and I am going to fully load my brush with paint and just let the watercolor do its thing. What's nice about the Wet-on-wet technique is that it lets watercolor be watercolor. Now I can go ahead and load my brush up with another color and float that in too and that is the Wet-on-wet technique. The second building block is Wet-on-dry, and you can just use a brush loaded with paint. I dilute the paint to about water to pigment, it would be about 2% skimmed milk or milk; that's about the recipe you want to use for diluting your pigment. Let's pick up the strip again.

    Now I like to work upright, not all watercolor artists do this. Most watercolor artists, I think, probably, work flat and you can do that too or you can have your paper up at about 30 degree angle is usually good. You have a little bit more control on this technique and you can see Wet-on-wet has a more flowing look and the wet-on-dry, you have a little bit more control about where that paint is going. Right now you are seeing the tooth of the paper show through and if you want that, you can leave it and if you want to fill it in, you can fill it in.

    Now, the next technique that I am going to show you is a pretty tricky technique and I do have my paper upright and the Graded wash is -- because it's such a flowing technique and it's difficult, I need a little more control. So, I am going to lay my paper down right now, I am going to lay it flat so that I can lay the graded wash right onto the paper. We have laid our paper flat now, so that we can paint the graded wash. So I have my paper evenly wet. So, I am going to take a wash brush and I am going to fully load it, really, really load it with the pigment.

    I am going to stroke across the top of the graded wash with the brush once and overlapping the stroke, I am going to go a second time. Then I am going to dip the brush in water, take away a little bit of the pigment, I am going to, again, overlap across the swath, I have already painted on. I am going to, again, dip in the water, get rid of a little more paint on the paper towel, I am going to overlap again and this is a process where you are diminishing the amount of paint as you go down the wet paper.

    Now I am just going to continue overlapping the brush strokes to the very end. There is very little paint on the brush and now, I am going to take away the paper towel and the water and I am going to, very gently, tip my paper just a bit to let the watercolor do what watercolor does so beautifully. The next skill I am going to teach you is Dry brush. The previous skills that we have used, we have used a good bit of paint and water to the consistency of about 2% skimmed milk, but now what I am going to ask you to do is use fairly dry paint on a damp brush and that's called Dry brushing.

    I have some paint loaded on my brush, very little water and I am just going to, kind of, scrape the brush across on top of the painting to get a texture technique. This is great for fur. You can see I am just painting right on top of this previously painted area and a lot of the tooth of the paper is showing here and that's what you want to get for Dry brush. Finally the last technique I am going to show you is Glazing. Glazing is defined as a layer, a thin watercolor paint, that's painted on top of another layer of paint.

    Now the real secrete here is that the previous layers are completely dry. You can glaze as many layers as you want to on a previously painted area as long as each layer is totally dry. So as you can see, I have an area here that I have already painted and what I am going to do is re-wet the apple. The apple is not really bright enough and it doesn't have enough, I guess, roundness to make it look enough like an apple. So, what we are going to do is we are going to be observing an apple, a real apple and we are going to be looking at the colors on the apple and then I am re-wetting this object.

    Now this was painted yesterday, so I know it's really dry. I have evenly wet the apple and I have some diluted paint and now I am just going to paint right on top of this apple with the diluted paint. I am just adding in any colors, again I see a little bit brighter yellow than I had on there yesterday. I want to keep that area right in the apple shape. Now if I see, perhaps, a little rose on the apple, I can add a little bit of rose, maybe right here. Sometimes those apples are little bit rosy. The secrete here is to keep the paint moving, to keep the object wet.

    When the paint begins to slightly dry, I need to stop; stop and let it dry. That's Glazing and you can paint many glazes as long as you follow the cardinal rule, stop and let it dry between every layer. Next I am going to teach you how to paint black in watercolors.