Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Painting Leaves with Salt

Winter Trees
9" x 12" watercolor painting

Salt Technique to Paint Fall Leaves in Watercolor


Many techniques can be used to create leaves and foliage in watercolor painting.  In the watercolor above, salt was used to create the leaves.    This blog entry will discuss the technique for using salt in watercolor painting. 


Salt can be used to create interesting patterns in the paint for various subjects.   When salt is scattered into wet watercolor paint, the salt absorbs the water in the paint pulling the pigment across the paper in abstract patterns.   All sizes and types of salt can be used.  However, remember the bigger the piece of salt, the more it will absorb and the larger the abstract patter you will achieve. 


I wanted abstract patterns in the background and leaves with only a definite shape in my tree trunks.  I selected blues, golds and orange as my dominate background colors.  The trees are a nice contrast in white.  Select whatever colors you would like in your background and foliage and let’s get started painting! 


Supplies Needed:
Watercolor paper – your choice of size – I used a 9” x 12” piece of 140# Arches watercolor paper
Masking Tape
Watercolor board

Salt – small grain table salt as well as larger, coarse grain salt

Masking Fluid and old brush
Brushes:  flat and round (size of your choice based on the size of your paper)

  • Yellow Ocher
  • Windsor Blue
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Payne’s Gray
  • Sepia

  • I made green from mixing the colors above (yellow ocher and Windsor Blue).  Green made from mixing the colors used in the painting make for a more harmonious color blend.
  • Also, the brown in the painting was mixed from the blue and burnt sienna. 
Painting Instructions:
Sketch only the tree trunks.  The darker branches will be painted in last.   Apply masking fluid on the areas of the tree trunks you want to remain white.  I left a break in the trunks to allow the foliage to cover parts of the trunk.   Allow the masking fluid to dry.

Foliage and Background:
Wet the entire area of your paper with clean water.  Using the painting above as a guide or painting as you would like, drop in deep concentrations of watercolor.   Leave some areas of the paper white.  Let the colors mix on your paper.  While the paint is still wet, drop in the salt.  I used both small grain and coarse grain salt.  The coarse grain salt was used where I wanted larger “leaves” – mainly out the outside edges of the painting.  The finer grains were used in the center section of the painting and along the bottom edge. 
When the paint is dry, gently rub off the salt.

Tree Trunks:
Remove the masking fluid.  Each tree truck is painted separately.  If the trunks touch, let one dry before painting the adjoining tree.  Wet each trunk with clean water.  While still wet, use a round brush and Payne’s Gray and/or Sepia, and apply the paint along the right side of the trunk.  The water will pull the paint across the trunk leaving a dark line on the right side of the tree.  A pale wash of Windsor Blue also be added on the trunk for additional shadows and to tie in with the background. Allow to dry.  When dry, use the same color paint and make small lines and indentations on the trunk. 
The branches were painted using a small round brush and Payne’s Gray and Sepia paint.  These can be added randomly; or if you are uncomfortable with only using your brush, the branches can be added with a pencil and then the paint applied. 

The only details I added were a few spatters of “leftover paint” on my palette.  A few spatters of green, orange or brown.  If you do add spatter, be certain to cover your tree trunks so that they remain white.
Sign your painting!  Congratulations!

Happy Painting!

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