Beginner’s Guide to
The World of
Created exclusively for Craftsy by Antonella Avogadro
TABLE OF CONTENTS
03 Meet the Expert 04 Types of Watercolor Paper for Perfect Paintings 09 Basic Watercolor Palette Colors 13 Color Transparency 16 Color Value 20 Color Temperature 25 Color Intensity
Antonella is a fashion designer and freelance illustrator, with a soft spot for art history. She spends her days juggling her three passions: drawing, sewing and drafting patterns, while sharing her creations on her blog Stardust Soul (www.stardustsoul.blogspot.com ). 3
2 TYPES OF WATERCOLOR PAPER
for Perfect Paintings No matter what kind of painting suits your fancy, painting with watercolors is an enriching and fun experience. With this medium you never really know what the outcome will be, and it allows mistakes to become “happy accidents.” You can achieve very unexpected paintings by letting the water and colors speak to you and guide you through the painting. But, in the case of watercolors, using the right (or wrong) type of watercolor paper can truly make or break a painting.
Because watercolors are so easily affected by the canvas they are painted on, it is very useful to know the types of paper available and which one will best t your needs. The type of watercolor paper you use will inuence the nal style of the painting, and it can also determine its longevity. Here’s a quick rundown of the main types of watercolor paper, based on texture and weight, plus some extra tips!
Watercolor Paper: Texture The three main types of paper vary depending on the roller used to press it during production. Let’s take a look at what determines the texture.
This type of paper is pressed using metal rollers, which create a smooth surface and an even texture. Hot-pressed paper is great for mixed media work. When combining watercolor with other media, even ink and graphite will glide smoothly over its surface. Hot-pressed paper will also allow you to create a lot of detail. It offers a sleek nish. Plus, the smoothness of the paper is great for creating subtle color gradients, which is very useful when painting things like owers, skies, skin and clothes.
This type of paper presents a rougher texture than the hot-pressed paper. When you glide your brush over it, some of the paint settles on it while skipping the indentations of the grainy texture, leaving them blank. This creates a beautifully textured brushstroke, perfect for representing all kinds of sparkling bodies of water, such as lakes and oceans, among many other subjects. Cold-pressed paper is great for beginners and is also a favorite among many artists.
As the name indicates, this is a paper with a very textured surface, making it very different from hot-pressed paper. It is not ideal for 6 www.craftsy.com
painting a lot of detail, but it creates expressive brushstrokes that can provide a painting with a lot of character and emotion. This is a fun texture to work with, as you never really know what the results will be. No type of paper is inherently better than the other. It all depends on your needs, your preferred watercolor techniques and what look you are going for in your painting.
Watercolor Paper: Weight All three types of watercolor paper come in different weights. If you are practicing or sketching with watercolors, you might want to go for one of the thinner papers, like 90 lb or 140 lb, since they are less Mixed media (watercolor and ink) sketches expensive. Keep in mind that the thinner paper should be stretched before you start painting, otherwise you will end up with a warped and buckled painting. If you are creating a more important piece, or you simply use heavier washes when painting with watercolors, you will want to use something thicker. Try looking for something like 260 lb or 300 lb paper, which will absorb more water and won’t buckle.
Side-by-side comparison of rough watercolor paper and regular drawing paper.
EXTRA TIPS FOR CHOOSING WATERCOLOR PAPER
Stretch your watercolor paper before getting started t o prevent warping. There are blocks of paper available t hat come “pre-stretched,” meaning the pages are glued together on all four sides, ready to be painted on. Once you are nished, all you have to do is let it dry on the block, and then carefully separate the sheet from it. Look for acid-free paper if you want your painting to retain its color and quality through time. Acid-free paper will yellow signicantly less with age.
All three of these papers can seem a bit pricey if you want to sketch or practice in quantity without worrying about “ruining” it. What I like to do in these instances is use smooth, regular drawing paper. It won’t work so well if you are using heavy washes or painting wet on wet, but it’s a good cheap alternative for sketches and allows for a lot of practice work if you use dry-on-dry or wet-on-dry techniques.
Palette Colors Whether you are just starting out with watercolor painting or you’ve been at it for a while, it is very convenient to set up a basic color palette with the most useful colors and your go-to ones, depending on your preferred subjects. For instance, if you usually paint owers and natural sceneries, you’ll probably include a wider variety of greens than say, an urban sketcher.
GETTING TO THE KNOW THE BASICS OF WATERCOLOR PALETTE COLORS
The Cotman watercolors from Winsor & Newton are my favorite. They are more affordable than their pricier artist-grade paints, yet they are still good quality and mix together nicely. 9
THE BASIC COLORS
These are the colors I have found work best for either a beginner’s palette or even a travel-sized palette for plein air painting: BLUES:
• Ultramarine Blue • Phthalo Blue • Cerulean GREENS:
• Viridian • Phthlo Green • Sap Green YELLOWS:
• • • •
Lemon Yellow Cadmium Yellow New Gamboge Yellow Ochre
REDS AND ORANGES:
• Cadmium Red • Alizarin Crimson • Permanent Rose BROWNS:
• • • •
Burn Umber Burnt Sienna Sepia Raw Umber
SWATCHING YOUR COLOR PALETTE
Whenever I get new paints, I like to swatch them on a sheet of watercolor paper alongside the rest of the colors on my palette. This helps you see what the color really looks like, since it can vary from the color on the tube. It’s also nice to have this swatch page for future reference. This way, you can have a look at what colors you own, how they look next to each other and keep track of new additions to your palette. To get started swatching your palette, you’ll need:
• • • • • •
Watercolors (either pans or tubes—I use a few of both) A paintbrush Water A sheet of watercolor paper Paper towel (to wipe off your brush) Ruler and pencil (optional)
Artist’s tip: Use two diﬀerent water containers. One for cleaning your brushes (this one will have dirty water very early on) and another one with clean water to pick up new paint.
You can choose to swatch each color by doing simple brushstrokes on the page. This can be quick and easy. But, personally, I’m quite detail-oriented, so I like to draw a grid with equally sized rectangles and plan where I will place each color, organizing them from coolest to warmest (blues—greens—yellows—reds and browns). I also make sure to leave extra empty spaces for future a dditions to my palette. I keep these pages as reference for whenever I’m painting, so I like them to be neat.
With this exercise, one of the many things I was able to notice is that the color Cadmium Red Pale and Cadmium Red are awfully similar 11
on paper. You might be saying “well duh, they share practically the same name!” However, they do look quite different in their pans than they do once you are painting with them. With this knowledge I can now take one of them out of my palette and make room for my beloved Phthalo Blue, which didn’t have a spot in there before. From your swatches, you will also be able to compare things like hue and temperature, which we’ll discuss later on.
Just like any other type of paint, watercolors are dened by their own set of properties. In the next sections, we will explore some of these properties, doing some simple exercises to get to know our colors and how they react to each other. Let’s begin with color transparency.
LET’S EXPLORE COLOR THEORY IN WATERCOLORS, BEGINNING WITH TRANSPARENCY.
The spectrum for this property is made up of three types of watercolor paint: transparent, semi-transparent and opaque. Each of them cover the surface of the paper to a different degree, letting more or less of the light reected from the paper through the pigment.
It is very convenient to understand transparency and have a sense of the degree of each color’s transparency in our palettes, so we can gain a bit more control over the nal results of our paintings. Well, we want as much control as possible with watercolors, as they can be very unpredictable. However, that’s often the fun part!
This method will not only test each color’s transparency, but it will also reveal how the colors on your palette interact together.
To get started, begin by painting a long and thick horizontal stripe with one of your colors. Allow it to dry completely. Then, paint vertical lines over it, using the rest of the colors on your palette. Some colors will let more of the underlying pigment through than others, while showing how each color is affected by the rest of them. Repeat this exercise with all the colors on your palette. You can label the brushstrokes and save this page as future reference. Revisit it whenever you need to know what the resulting color will be when you overlay any two given colors. If you only want to test your colors’ degree of transparency without testing how they interact with each other, you can do the same exercise with one minor change: Use black India ink to create the long horizontal line. Let it dry completely and proceed as indicated above. The paint you place over it will react in one of three ways: It will either disappear completely, partially cover that area or something in between. This reaction will determine whether the paint is transparent, semi-transparent or opaque. Try out this exercise to get more acquainted with your palette. 14 www.craftsy.com
Let’s move on to color value. When we speak of color value in a rt, we refer to the levels of darkness and lightness of any particular color. Watercolors are very versatile when it comes to value. Depending on the amount of water you use to pick up a color, you can achieve a very saturated brushstroke, a very sheer brushstroke or anything in between. When you are starting out with watercolors, one of the more frustrating issues you may encounter is diﬃculties with not knowing how much water to use with your paints. I am going to show you a simple exercise that will help you gain control over the amount of water you use to mix a color that, in turn, will help you get the exact value you want when painting.
How to master color value in your watercolor paintings! What you will need: • • • • •
Watercolors A paintbrush Water A sheet of watercolor paper A clean palette
For this demo, I am using Phthalo Blue and Permanent Rose, both in tube form, so I begin by putting some paint onto my palette. If you are using a color in pan form, you want to do the same by picking up a generous amount of watercolor and placing it on your palette. We will be gradually watering down this color until it’s practically clear in order to create a gradient of all its possible values. First, lets make the value gradient for Phthalo Blue.
Using your brush, pick up your color of choice (in this case Phthalo Blue) in its most saturated form and paint the rst swatch of your value scale on the sheet of watercolor paper.
After you paint the rst swatch of the gradient, add a small amount of water to the color on your palette to slightly water it down and create the next value on the scale. Continue mixing in more and more water to your palette after you paint each new rectangle. It will begin to look something like this:
For the rst three or four swatches, the difference in value will be barely noticeable but don’t worry, this is OK. After you keep watering down the color, the gradient will advance and begin to look lighter.
Keep repeating this simple process for a few more rectangles, until the color on your palette is completely watered down and almost clear. Usually, you’ll reach this point after about 14 or 15 swatches of the same color. Remember to let it dry! Now you can repeat this exercise with any other of your most used colors, like I did with Permanent Rose.
Using the property of color temperature in art can build depth and mood in your watercolor paintings. Color temperature refers to the level of warmth contained within any certain color. The way we classify colors based on this property is either as warm or cool. The very basics of this type of classication are very straightforward and in tune with the way we usually perceive colors in the real world, and what we associate them with. For example, we associate red with things like re and the sun, making it a warm color; and blue with ice and the ocean, making it a cool color.
Hot & Cold: Discover the World of Color Temperature in Art TEMPERATURE AMONG DIFFERENT COLORS
In this broad sense, different hues are compared and contrasted against each other and classied depending on their temperature—red is warm, blue is cool. The placement of colors on the color wheel 20
is based precisely on this premise, with reds, oranges and yellows together on the warm side while greens, blues and purples are on the cool side. But, if we peel off this initial level of classication and dig a little deeper into color temperature, we nd that different red hues can be classied as cool and blue hues can be classied as warm. This is where things get a bit more subjective and relative.
TEMPERATURE BETWEEN VARIANTS OF THE SAME COLOR
When comparing two or more variants of the same color, like the blues above, we need to look at their undertones. The blues containing a red undertone (leaning toward a violet hue) are classied as warm and the others as cool. That being said, classifying colors by their temperature is subjective and artists sometimes have different views on this topic. So, nothing is set in stone when comparing the temperature of similar hues. It all depends on what you are comparing the color to. A blue can be classied as cool color when compared to a red, but it could also be classied as a warm color if it contains slight red undertones and is being compared to a cooler blue.
Since these are not absolute rules, I recommend not getting too caught up in this. Simply having an understanding of this concept
can go a long way when mixing colors or creating an eye-catching composition. Temperature can play a huge part in setting up a particular mood in a painting and conveying a feeling. 21
You can get more acquainted with this property by swatching different variations of the same color and making them slightly warmer or cooler by mixing in reds or blues into your hue. For example, adding yellow to an orange will result in cooler orange hues. In the same way, adding more red to an orange will create warmer shades of orange, and so on.
Katharine, 10’ x 8’ oil on l inen by Craftsy member Brian Neher
Let’s take a look at some great examples using temperature in paintings from members of Craftsy ﬁne art community.
Notice how the subject pops right out of the painting thanks to the use of a muted and contrasting cool background. Warm colors tend to be perceived closer by the human eye while cool colors tend to be perceived farther away. Similar to the technique used in the above painting “Katharine,” the poppies are painted in a very warm hue and contrast against the cool green in the background, making them the main focal point of the painting. 22 www.craftsy.com
Sunset Poppies via Craftsy member Steve Butts 23
Transition by Craftsy member kolorama1662292
I love the beautiful hues in this piece entitled “Transition.” Look at how the orange sections of the clouds take front and center while the purple and blue areas seem to be far, far away. The wonderful use of temperature here creates a lovely mood. If you wanted to, you could extend the gradient even further by mixing the pure color with a dark neutral tint like black—this will create darker tones without changing the hue of the color.
No one wants a dull painting, but don’t underestimate the great power of mixing muted and dull colors. These seemingly boring tones will help your paintings reach a whole new level of depth and realism. Having an understanding of color intensity in art is an important skill. Here’s an overview on color intensity to help you create beautiful, realistic watercolor paintings.
WHY IS INTENSITY IMPORTANT?
In my experience, I have found that having a strong grasp of what intensity is all about and knowing how to mix colors with lower intensity helps a huge deal in making paintings look more realistic. In real life, the colors we see around us, especially in nature, tend to be muted versions of the colors in our paint tubes. Painting the leaves of a palm tree, for example, with an intense green hue can make it look less realistic and at, unless you are consciously painting a high intensity piece with vibrant hues. Keep in mind that too much color vibration and intensity can be hard to look at. WHAT IS INTENSITY?
Again, when we speak of the intensity of any given color we refer to its brightness or dullness. The intensity scale is made up of hue 25
and tone. Hue is when a color is fully saturated, meaning it has not been neutralized by its compliment. We can call these colors that have the highest possible level of saturation pure hues.
CREATING MUTED TONES WITH COMPLEMENTARY COLORS.
By looking at the color wheel, we can select pairs of complementary colors to create our study of intensity. We can begin by painting an intensity chart of blue-orange, two complementary colors. First, begin by swatching blue and orange in their purest hue, straight from the tube or pan, at either side of your scale. Then, slowly begin to incorporate small drops of orange into the blue on your palette to create the gradient. Even the smallest drop of orange will create a slightly muted blue tone. Notice in the scales I created how the hues that are closest to their true complement on the color wheel tend to mix into a more neutral gray. RYB color wheel via Wikimedia commons In theory, mixing the exact opposing colors on the color wheel in equal parts will result in a neutral gray. Something worth remembering whenever you are painting.
You can repeat this with other pairs of complementary colors, such as red-green and purple-yellow. Don’t underestimate the power of this simple exercise. Even if you already have plenty of experience with watercolors or other mediums, it is always worthwhile to revisit the basics every now and then to gain a new perspective, overcome an artistic block or simply to discover new colors mixes that you hadn’t explored before. 26
Remember that with colors, the key to achieving realism is pure observation and knowing when you need a vibrant hue and when the atmosphere calls for a muted tone.
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