My Watercolour Painting Techniques
Watercolour techniques that I frequently apply in my painting process, have been practiced and developed through many years of my career in watercolor painting. I do not think that these watercolor techniques are some of the best to be treated as watercolor instruction, but I rather wish to view them as some of my little tricks or techniques that can be some useful tips for beginners.
Some of these techniques have been explained in my watercolor lessons while others have not due to various constraints like time. I would like to share them in manners of step by step watercolor demonstrations and hopefully these informations will be of use to you. Here are some of the commonly used watercolour techniques.
Choosing Watercolour Paper
The quality of the watercolour paper plays a vital role in delivering the exact and result of painting watercolour. Choosing the right paper will enable the artist to control the flow of water and hence enhance the effect of the watercolour painting.
There are three types of paper surfaces:
Hot-pressed, Cold-pressed and Rough.
The hot-pressed type has the smoothest texture and is the least absorbent of the three types. It provides a flat finish and is a great choice for artworks that has an emphasis on the details.
The cold-pressed type has a rougher texture than the hot-pressed. It is a popular choice as it suits the styles and techniques of many artists. It is a great choice for beginners that wants to dabble and explore what style fits them.
The rough type has the roughest texture amongst the three types. It provides deeper pits on the surface that will allow more pigments to settle in. This creates a greater granulation effect on the work, which makes this a preferred choice for landscape and expressionist paintings. Loy Chye Chuan prefers rough textured paper as it suits his painting style better.
Sketching is important at any skill level to create a good piece of work. Conventionally, a pencil can be used for sketching. However, I prefer using a thin line of paint to sketch as pencil marks cannot be erased from watercolour. Using a mix of cobalt blue and sepia, a very light colour of grey is produced, which is then used by a thin brush to sketch. This method of sketching takes a few practices to master.
To create a blurry effect on the painting, I would use fine-grit sandpaper to sand down the surface of the paper before painting. This creates a smoother texture and allows the pigments to disperse differently. This technique can be used to create the effect for rainy weather or wet floors. There are accounts of other watercolour artists using sandpaper to sand off pigments after painting. This creates a fine spray of white that can be used for a sea spray or mist effect.
The background is sanded to create a blurry effect, shifting the focal point onto the boats.
This is the technique of using a wet brush on a wet piece of canvas. This technique does not leave hard lines and is commonly used by myself to paint the sky. Watercolour works according to the fundamentals that water acts as a medium for pigments to diffuse. Therefore, it is very important to control the wetness of your brush and the dampness of your paper. This technique is typically harder for beginners in watercolour as the knowledge of how much water to use comes with experience.
Wet-on-wet can create very beautiful pieces of works depending on how you utilise it. The tip towards mastering this technique is constant and relentless practice and to always enjoy the journey along the way. The beauty of one’s work not only comes from the art itself but also from the cultivation of one’s craft over the years.
This is also another very common technique in watercolour. Basically, this technique is a wet brush on a dry canvas. It is a much tamer and friendlier technique for beginners as the dry canvas does not allow the pigments to diffuse outside of the brush strokes. This means greater control over your paint and is useful in creating finer details and objects that need a strong definition.
The intricate details in this painting are painted using the wet-on-dry technique.
This does not mean a dry brush literally. The brush is still slightly wet in order to pick up the pigments but dry enough to not let the bristles clump due to water tension. This technique is only used in the last part to paint finer details. The dryness of the brush means a more intense and defined stroke of paint. Depending on how you use it, it can create a “hairy” stroke as the bristles separate from the lack of water.
Using an old toothbrush is an inexpensive and effective method to spray. This method works by flicking paint onto the canvas from the toothbrush using your thumb. Preferably, the canvas should be dry and laid flat before spraying on the pigments.
The first step is to dip the tip of your bristles into a small amount of paint. The paint will be sprayed onto the canvas by stroking your thumb across the bristles. Depending on your desired density of spray, adjust the distance of the brush from the canvas. Use tissues to cover the areas that need not be sprayed.
This technique is commonly used by some artists to recreate the rough texture of concretes and roads.
Leaving white spaces
The white in watercolour is useful to bring out the lights and shadows. I prefer leaving white spaces in my artwork to painting with white paint. This is because using white paint can make the work look muddy and opaque which hinders the translucent nature of watercolour. Though it is not necessary, masking fluid can be used on white spaces to block out pigments from being absorbed. This is particularly useful on finer details as carefully avoiding these details can be quite a task.
The light on the pigs is achieved by leaving out white spaces on the pigs.
Overcoming the fear of a blank canvas
A blank piece of paper can be intimidating to some artists. Usually, this is because of a lack of starting point for the piece. In watercolour, I follow the order of painting lighter colours before darker ones. Why? Darker colours are more obvious and block out lighter colours. Painting perspective in watercolour, further landscapes and objects are blurrier while closer objects have more definition and details in order to bring out the depth of the work. Following these rules of thumb, I would suggest painting the canvas from top-down, using lighter colours before darker ones and background landscapes before closer objects.
Ultimately, the path towards mastery of any craft requires practice. The guidance of websites can help familiarise yourself with the way watercolour works. Yet, only by holding the brush yourself can you understand the depths of your knowledge. With more experience of the brush, you familiarise yourself with the many nuances of watercolour. Watercolour is challenging and dynamic in its own aspects. Let every stroke of the brush be a chance to test your skills and you will find yourself growing fond of the brush. It is because watercolour is challenging for the artist, the pride and satisfaction he has in the improvement of his craft throughout the years made him fall in love with watercolour.