Emily Artful, one of our Fuel Your Creativity artists and a watercolor painter, describes how to control pigment flow on your paper just by using water. The main thing to keep in mind is that water will flow where it already is, so these saturation levels matter. To demonstrate how pigment behaves differently on different amounts of water, Emily uses a wet-on-wet technique (to read more about that, click here.) She has created 3 rectangles and labeled them S, M, and L (small, medium, and large) to represent the amount of water she'll use. To see for yourself how water saturation is impacting your watercolor techniques, give it a try yourself with these steps!
- Watercolor/Mixed Media Paper
- Paint Brush or Water Brush Pen
Using an Arteza water brush pen, Emily first tints her water with the color she will lay down so that she can see the water easily. She starts filling in the 'M,' followed by the 'S,' and finally the 'L' with the appropriate amount of tinted water. Make sure it's nice and even when you're laying down the water.
Using a relatively dry paintbrush, Emily makes a line above the rectangles for a reference point of pigmentation. Next, she takes the red paint, and the respective amount of water with a paintbrush and simply adds that pigment to the top of each rectangle. Emily lets the pigment flow without assistance; however, on the 'L' rectangle, there will likely be some pools of pigment at the bottom, so she wrangles those with a dry paper towel that has been twisted into a point (like a mountain top) and gently dab it.
Once the paint is dry, you'll notice that all the rectangles are different. You'll see that the pigment did not travel that much on the' S' rectangle. There are still nice veins of color that bloom outward, but the pigment is mainly concentrated at the top. That is because it was a small amount of water, so as it was drying, it reduced the amount of time the pigment had to travel.
The 'M' and 'L' look pretty similar, but with the 'M,' there is still a decent level of pigment at the top. It had enough time to travel down and almost completely cover the rectangle. The 'L' amount of water traveled much farther and started to pool up in certain areas until Emily had to dab some away to prevent splotches. You can also see that the pigment is much lighter at the top because it traveled a lot further down the rectangle.
Emily notes, "A common complaint I hear from beginner watercolor artists is 'Oh my gosh, when I go to lay down another layer of color; it just blends into the first layer. What do I do?' And the answer is quite simple; you just let that first layer dry completely. You can use time, a heat gun, or a blow-dryer. Something to dry that first layer completely." Using the following demonstration will also help you gauge what your piece will look like in between layers, depending on the amount of water used.
The next time you create a watercolor painting, be sure to keep in mind the amount of water you're using and the variety of techniques (wet on wet/dry on dry) you can use! If Emily has inspired you to start using watercolors or encouraged you to elevate your techniques, make sure to share with us your artwork!