Watercolour painting requires a very specific set of techniques and has sometimes been called ‘demanding’. However, don’t let this put you off as it can be extremely fun and rewarding. If you had a box of paints as a child it is very likely that these were watercolours and so you may already have given it a go! Lets have a look at the component parts of watercolour.
Watercolour paper tends to come in three different types of surface; hot pressed, cold pressed and rough. The difference in these papers is caused by the types of rollers used in their production.
Rough: Rough paper is pretty much what it sounds like. There are many indentations across the surface of the paper which allows the paint to gather in little pools. Ideally this should be used on lighter paintings where you simply sweep your brush lightly across the paper.
Hot Pressed: Made using smooth metal rollers, hot pressed paper is very smooth. This smoothness makes it the paper of choice for detailed work or any work where you intend to use a drawing pen as well as the watercolours.
Each type of paper will be available in varying weights for different types of project. The weight of the paper is measured in gms or lbs. Most artists will use a paper of 200gsm or 300gms as they find that either of these thicknesses are fairly sufficient. Paper can be bought in single sheets (for larger paintings) and pad (great for carrying around with you).
Always try and use paper that is acid free and you will get a higher quality painting that lasts much longer. The acid in some watercolour papers can erode the paint over time. Before you purchase your paper always check it for any scuffs or dents as these will show up in your final picture. And finally, make sure that the paper is rolled and not folded for transportation.
There are a wide range of watercolour brushes to choose from and, as you might expect, for the most part it really is a case of getting what you pay for. When choosing your brushes there are several things that you should look out for:
Strong Point – The brush should have a clean point which is maintained even during use.
Springiness – The brush should always spring back in to shape.
Flow – The brush should allow the colour to flow in an even way away from the point.
Whilst there are a mind-boggling array of brush styles and materials, generally speaking most artists will only ever use two of three out of the whole range. Shape wise, it is round and flat that are the most popular.
Round – Probably the most classic type of watercolour brush, the hairs are shaped into a rounded point. You can achieve a multitude of shapes and effects with a round brush as they can hold a good amount of water/paint and are easy to rinse.
Flat – Flat brushes have (unsurprisingly) a flat edge and were popularised by 19th Century impressionist painters. There are two types of flat brush. Firstly you have the bright brush which is very square and stiff and secondly you have the one stroke which is more rectangular and made with softer hairs.
Watercolour paints tend to come in much smaller containers than other paints such as acrylics. This is because watercolours tend to go a lot further that other paint types. Brushes should also be very easy to clean after using watercolour paints, just use soapy water. These kinds of paints tend to come in two grades: artist and student. Artist grade paints tend to be made with larger quantities of pigment which means you get a range of stronger colours. It also means that they are more expensive to purchase. Student paints tend to have a pigment alternative and are therefore much more inexpensive. Generally speaking though, they are fairly reliable and perfect for beginners.
Watercolour paints are available in both tubes and blocks (pans). Tubes are good for large washed landscape paintings whilst pans are normally chosen for more intricate designs.