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Watercolor by Diane Hutchinson
The pigments used in creating watercolors are similar to those used in oils or acrylics, some natural and some synthetic. These pigments are ground and mixed with a natural sap binder called gum Arabic. The most sophisticated watercolors also contain glycerin as a moisturizer. Watercolor paints are sold in grades created for both the student and professional. Student paints offer an economical way to experiment with the media while professional paints are more expensive because they contain a higher concentration of better quality pigments. Watercolor paints can be bought in pans which offer the most convenience and tubes that are especially useful when mixing large amounts of paint. Watercolors are also available in concentrated liquid form in bottles with an eye dropper. These are useful for large washes but, because they are essentially dyes, they lack the subtle qualities available with pans or tubes.
Although not necessary, there are mediums available that can enhance the behavior of watercolors. For example, gum Arabic solutions and ox-gall liquid can be added to manipulate the flow and transparency of color.
Watercolorists traditionally paint whites by leaving the white of the paper. To do so, these areas need to be protected from being painted inadvertantly. This means you must plan ahead for where those areas are going to be and take care to not paint over them by mistake. An easier way to handle this is to mask them with pieces of tape or masking fluids. Masking fluid is applied with an old, worn-out brush (never a quality or new one) to those areas that are to be protected then allowed to dry. To remove the mask, rub it gently with a clean dry finger or rubber cement pickup.
Starting with Watercolors
One of the greatest things about watercolors is that you only need three or four brushes to start. Brushes are measured in size from 0000 (smallest) to 14 (largest). Synthetic or soft hair brushes work the best with watercolor. To clean your brushes, it is best to simply use water. An occasional dab of dish soap is O.K., but if used too often it will damage the bristles.
Every month we will be updating this page with new information for artists for Beginners & Professionals.
So be sure to check back and learn with Easel Art!
Watercolors are applied on paper. There are many different types of paper available sold in blocks, pads, rolls or single sheets. Watercolor papers differ in surface texture and weight which is based in pounds per 144 sheets. The lightest papers are 70 lb. and the heaviest, 300 lb. Surface textures vary from smooth to rough. Cold-pressed paper is the most popular to use for watercolors because it has a medium “tooth” as opposed to hot-pressed paper which is very smooth. Rough paper is available but has pits that can grab your brush and create pockets of color.
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