Monday, June 9, 2014

Selecting Your Watercolor Paints

Selecting which watercolors to use is often intimidating for new painters. There are so many brands to choose from, and they are expensive! 

For my students, I recommend a using professional-grade tube paint (as opposed to a student grade or paints in a pan). I don't recommend pan paints because it is much harder to get bold, saturated colors from them. I also don't recommend a student-grade paint because the colors often fade and some darken over time. It takes a long time to get to know a paint's properties, so why not start with a paint you will continue with as you progress?

The brand I often use is M. Graham because I like the way they stay wet and malleable over a long period of time. There are lots of other wonderful brands: Daler Rowner, Winston-Newton, American Journey, Holbein, Daniel Smith, to name just a few.

Below are some of the colors I have on my palette. They are categorized as transparent, semi-transparent, and opaque. 

Aureolin; Scarlet pyrol; Permanent Rose; Quinacridone violet; Phthalo blue; 

Manganese blue; Hookers green dark; Green gold

Raw sienna; Burnt sienna; Viridian green; French ultramarine blue; Sepia

Cadmium red light; Terra rosa; Cerulean blue; Titanium white

Applying the paint
Knowing how much water to add to the paint requires practice and patience, as the thickness and texture of each paint brand differs, as well as the artist's personal preferences. The paper you use also dictates how the paint will behave.

For my portraits, I use 50% water/50% paint for initial washes. When I drop in paint, also called charging (which is touching a brush loaded with pigment to wet areas to let the paint drop in and mingle with the other paint already on the paper), I use more paint and less water (about 70/30). 

For glazing (which is adding transparent layers over dried layers of paint), I use more water and less paint (about 40/60). 

Try it. The more pigment you load up on your brush, the more interesting effects you will have on your paper.

This is an edited excerpt from "Watercolor Made Easy: Portraits". Available for online or buy a personalized copy at one of my workshops.

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