Friday, 22 June 2012

What Art Materials do I Need for Watercolor Painting?

Watercolors is one of the most popular art mediums for the paints are compact, clean to use and requires only water to make it flow. But with such an array of watercolor pigments and associated art materials, the hopeful watercolorist may wonder where to begin. When it comes to embarking a watercolor class, what are the most essential watercolor colors and brushes to buy?

Tips for Watercolor Painters

Firstly, avoid cheap watercolor paints of the sort to be found on the market. The pigments may have weak tinting strength or tend to become gritty or fade. Always invest in tried and tested watercolor brands that have passed the testament of time and artist evaluation. Briefly, Water color paints comes in 3 forms: pans (pigments in a tablet form); these are good for compactness and the travelling artist. Tubes; these are popular with artists who wish to use large quantities of paint for washes over a larger area – small 37ml tubes will go a long way. Or watercolor pencils; ideal for obtaining sketchy effects, but which the pigment will run into washes if water is added.

Best Watercolor Paints

Winsor & Newton’s Cotman or Daler Rowney’s Aquafine ranges are ideal for the beginner as they offer value for money but retain high quality. Reeves can also be sampled. The more costly artist quality watercolour range has a larger range of pigments some of which are produced in the traditional way.

Essential Hues in Watercolors

There are countless watercolor pigments to be found; the Winsor & Newton Artist range lists around 96 colors. However, the watercolorist does not need all these colors. Watercolors can often be found in sets, but which some colors are redundant. To obtain the best range, it might be best to purchase the colors individually, although this might work out a little more costly. Crucial pigments to include are: ultramarine, cerulean, pthalo blue, viridian, permanent rose, cadmium red, burnt sienna, burnt umber, lemon yellow, cadmium yellow (lemon, or ‘pale’). Additional colors might come in handy, such as: alizarin crimson, Naples yellow, Hooker’s green, violet and ivory black.

Can White be used with Watercolors?

The translucent nature of watercolor means that the potency of the wash will determine how pale the color will appear, which could make white redundant. Similarly, highlights will be expressed by the absence of color on the paper – masking fluid can be applied to the area concerned. However, some artists use Chinese white to make the color appear paler but this can cause a milky appearance to the pigment. It is down to personal preference, but some artists combine gouache paint with watercolors to attain an opaque color mix or add punch. Gouache, by the way is like watercolor, but the pigment is blended with chalk. White gouache might be a better choice than Chinese white if expressing solid highlights.

Advice on Watercolor Paper

Care should be taken that thin paper is not used for watercolors, as these tend to buckle. This means that print paper or everyday cartridge paper would not be ideal. Proper watercolor paper comes in various thicknesses, denoted by ‘weight’. 300 gsm (or grams per square inch) is quite stiff. Again, watercolor paper can be found in various textures, such as ‘rough’ which as the word suggests, has a high texture. This sort of paper has been ‘cold pressed.’ ‘Not’ is medium-textured, and if smooth texture is required, ‘hot pressed’ paper would be ideal. Langdon, Bockingford and Cotman papers can be found in these ranges. Watercolor boards can also be used. Watercolor ‘blocks’ are watercolor pads where the papers within have been glued around the edges, dispensing with the need to stretch the paper.

What Watercolor Brushes to Use

Watercolor Materials
Rachel Shirley
Don’t scrimp on brushes, for these are essential for exacting watercolor techniques. Brush Sizes 00, 1, 4, 6 will suffice for an array of detail; a 1 inch flat or fan brush is ideal for washes. Riggers, a long, thin brush is optional, but may come in useful for expressing tree branches, or indeed, rigging on ships. Don’t use stiff brushes designed for oils or acrylics or delicate washes will be hard to achieve.

Additional Art Materials for Watercolor Techniques

It is down to personal taste, but the following art materials may come in useful for the watercolor painter:

  • A HB – 3B pencil, sharpener (or scalpel) and putty rubber. Avoid hard rubbers or pencils in the H range as these are harsh and may damage the paper.
  • Masking fluid and an old brush for application.
  • Backing board and bulldog clips on which to affix the watercolor paper.
  • A ceramic palette with depressions on which to mix the watercolor paints. These can be purchased in artshops. An old ceramic saucer can be used.
  • An old eye-dropper or pipette for feeding water in small amounts to the pigments.

If wishing to stretch the watercolor paper, gum tape will be needed.
An old tool box (cheaper than an art bin) with tiered compartments in which to keep the watercolor materials will make watercolor painting more portable. A portfolio with large plastic wallets will help keep artwork flat and clean.

Essential Art Materials for Watercolor Painting

The beginner watercolor painter need not spend lots of money on art materials. A mere 10 – 15 essential pigments will produce just about any color needed; with brushes and paper, this lists all where quality is essential. The other equipment could be found in the home or in a DIY shop at a cut-price.

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