Thursday, October 23, 2008

Preparing to Paint

Before starting to paint, it is necessary to set up the paper on your board. I use a field sketch board which is a large Masonite board approximately 21 inches x 25 inches. These can be purchased at any art supply store. Since I usually have several projects going at one time, my husband has made me several boards out of Masonite panels which he purchased at a home improvement store, cut to size, and rounded the corners.

Tip: If you are a beginner and don't want to purchase a sketch board, a large cookie sheet can be used. Do not use a nonstick or Teflon cookie sheet as the masking tape used to hold the paper in place will not stick to a nonstick or Teflon surface. An inexpensive cookie sheet can generally be found at dollar stores - these work great.

The watercolor paper is taped to your board before painting to hold the paper in place and help prevent buckling when wet. If you are using a cookie sheet, tape your paper to the back side of the cookie sheet. I use masking tape and tape all 4 edges of the paper securely in place, taping approximately 1/4 inch on the paper. The tape will remain in place until the painting is completely dry. Artist tape can also be used; however, it is generally more expensive. I find that masking tape works just as well.

Tip: Before applying the tape to the paper, tear strips the length of the sides of your paper and stick them to your clothing. This will "grab" some lint, make the tape a little less "sticky" and prevent the tape from tearing your painting when it is removed.

See photo above of prepared sketch board. For most paintings, I do not use an easel. I paint on a flat surface and can elevate the board as needed if I would like to force the paint to run.

On my next entry, I introduce beginning watercolor techniques.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Watercolor paper...the good and the bad!

There are many types of watercolor papers available, especially if you visit a special supplier. However, in most hobby/art shops you will find only 3 basic categories: smooth or hot pressed, medium or cold pressed, or rough (cold pressed with texture). The all around favorite is cold pressed .

Watercolor paper comes in different weights with the heavier ones being more expensive. Weights are expressed as lbs. per ream. Most sketchbooks contain paper of 140 lb. These work best; any thinner and the paper will buckle more easily when paint is applied.

There are two schools of thought on stretching paper. Some artists insist that stretching is necessary before painting and others do not. I find, however, if I use 140 lb. paper and tape the paper to my board, I don't need to stretch the paper first.

The Good
I would recommend 140lb. cold pressed paper. Above is a photo of 2 types of watercolor paper - both 140 lb. cold pressed. Both papers are the same brand: the one on the left is slightly more expensive and a professional grade. However, I have had excellent results with either one.

The Bad
90 lb. paper is available in all hobby/art shops, but I would not recommend this weight. It is very difficult for a beginner to work with since it buckles so easily.

Watercolor paper can be purchased in large sheets as well; however, it is more expensive. I would not recommend this type of paper for the beginner as I have seen beginner watercolor artists nervous about using the more expensive paper; therefore, they are tentative and will not allow themselves to enjoy the experience of painting. As confidence is developed, more expensive paper can be used.

I usually purchase 11" x 15" paper. This size can be cut down for smaller paintings. An 11" x 15" painting is a good size for a beginner. A pack of 12 sheets of 140 lb. cold press paper usually sells for less than $8.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Brushes....which paint brush should one use?

Brushes are made in two basic shapes: round and flat. To start out, you will not need many brushes. However, buy the best brush you are able to afford. The most expensive brushes are sable. However, many synthetic blends work quite well and a good bush will last a lifetime if taken care of properly. Taklon is a synthetic brush that I have been pleased with. Be wary of very inexpensive brushes, they tend to lose bristles on your painting and do not hold a point for painting details.

To start with, you can be very successful with only 3 brushes. I recommend a 1-1/2 or 2 inch flat brush to lay down washes, a small round brush for detail (#1 round or liner), and a #5, #6, or #7 round brush. These will get your started - one large, one medium, and one small. Some artists only use one brush. You will find as you progress in your painting that you will have a "favorite" brush.

Above is a photo of the 3 sizes of brushes that I recommend: a 1-1/2 inch flat, a #6 round, and a liner.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Choices...choices....which type paint to chose!

Choices...choices! Watercolor paints are sold in tubes and pans. I prefer tubes as you can mix up larger quantities and strong colors more easily.

Tubes are make in a standard size, which may look small when compared to tubes of oil or acrylic paints, but actually last a very long time. Tube paints are available in two types: student or artist. Student paints are less expensive because they contain less pure pigment. Artist watercolor paints can sometimes cost twice as much as student paints. Although many artists suggest that one never purchase student paints, I have never been disappointed. For someone just starting out, I would recommend trying student paints in a good name brand. It can be quite costly to buy all artist paints especially if you don't know that you will like watercolor painting. If you do enjoy watercolor painting and plan to continue, replace your student paints with artist paints when you run out of a specific color. Then you can decide for yourself if the additional cost for artist paints is worth it to you.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Get Ready to Paint

Once you have obtained your supplies......what's next? If you purchased a large plastic palette for your paints, you will want to prepare it before you fill it with paint. The watercolor paint will bead up in the center mixing area if it is not prepared first. Use a pot scrubber or small piece of sandpaper and scratch the surface of the mixing area until it loses its shine. Wipe the "dust" from the surface with a moist paper towel. Now, when pigment and water is applied to the mixing area, it will not bead up. Before paint is placed in the paint wells, write the name of the paint at the top edge of each well so that the colors can be distinguished from one another and refilled with the same color. Above is a photo of my palette.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Welcome to Watercolor Painting!

Welcome to my blog! Let me introduce myself. I have been interested in art – drawing and painting - since I was in school. And, although I was not an art major in college, I never quit taking art classes and pursuing my art. I started out painting in oils, but as my life became busier, I moved into acrylics, and finally into watercolors. Although I still use oils, acrylics, and charcoal/pastels, my main concentration is in watercolor paintings.
I work a full time job in addition to teaching watercolor classes on the weekends. Therefore, watercolors are perfect medium for my busy lifestyle….and can be for yours too! Watercolor painting is a fun and relaxing way to express your creativity in a media that requires less cleanup time than other art forms, dries quickly, and can fit easily into a busy schedule. In watercolor painting, once a watercolor palette is setup, all one has to do is spray the dried paints with water to “bring them back to life.” Brush cleanup is a breeze, and the painting can be worked on for short times to fit into a busy schedule. Unlike oils and acrylics, watercolor painting can be spontaneous and enjoyed for 15 minutes and not take up an entire evening, day or weekend. But, once one gets into the watercolor painting, time flies!
What I would like to accomplish in my blog is to introduce watercolor painting to those of you who would like to get started and to assist watercolor artists who would like to learn new techniques. I plan to post one “lesson” or “tip” per week, more if time allows. Please feel free to email me with questions or comments at
For my first post I would like to help new watercolor artists get set up. The following is a list of supplies. Watercolor painting can be relatively inexpensive and one can start with basic supplies and add additional supplies as interests and finances allow.
PAINT: 1 set of TUBE watercolors (Windsor Newton is a good brand)
Find a set that contains primary colors (6-12) tubes of paint which will probably include the following colors:
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Alizarine Crimson
  • Burnt Umber
  • Sap Green
  • Sepia
  • Windsor Blue
  • Paynes Gray
  • Cerulean Blue
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Van Dyke Brown
  • Lemon Yellow
  • White
  • #1 round brush or liner brush for details
  • 1-1/2 flat brush
  • #5, #6, or #7 round brush
  • Small pallet knife (optional)
  • Palette (large palette with individual sections for paint and room for mixing colors) Note: A large white plate or tray or Styrofoam plate can used for a palette. The palette must be white or the watercolors will reflect the colors on the palette and cannot be mixed property.
  • Water container (old jar or plastic container)
  • Masking Tape
  • Paper towels and/or Kleenex tissues
  • Spray bottle (empty)
  • Kneaded eraser
  • Drawing Pencil
  • Natural sponge
  • Old toothbrush
  • 12 inch ruler
  • Liquid masking fluid for watercolor
  • Travel size liquid soap
  • Old credit card
Paper: 140# 11 x 15 watercolor paper (one pad)
Painting board (field sketch board) or large cookie sheet. Do not get a nonstick cookie sheet.
See you next time....ready to paint!