As Mrs. Patterson demonstrates each technique you will take a 3x3 piece of paper and try the same. Be sure your name and technique is on the back of each paper square BEFORE you add paint to it. The Techniques are:
1. Flat wash - The most basic watercolor technique is the flat wash. It is produced by first wetting the area of paper to be covered by the wash, then mixing sufficient pigment to easily fill the entire area. The pigment is applied to a sloping surface in slightly overlapping horizontal bands from the top down. Rinse your brush out in clean water and blot or squeeze out the excess the water. Carefully pick up the bead of paint that runs across the bottom of the wash using the wick action of your brush. If you draw up too much paint you will lift the color off the paper. Once complete the wash should be left to dry and even itself out - don't be tempted to work back into a drying wash, the results are usually disastrous! TIP: Try practicing your flat washes with different colors and intensities. Each color has its own physical properties that affect how they feel and flow in washes.
2. Graded wash - A variation on the basic wash is the graded wash. This technique requires the pigment to be diluted slightly with more water for each horizontal stroke. The result is a wash that fades out gradually and evenly.
3. Alcohol - Dipping a Q-tip or other object into the alcohol you can tap and drip alcohol directly into a wet wash of watercolor. As the alcohol hits the wash it repels the paint, pushing it away while leaving a lighter tint of the wash exposed. If the wash is wet, you have to repeatedly drop alcohol onto the open areas to keep the flowing paint at bay. As the watercolor wash continues to dry you can try some smaller splatters of alcohol throughout the area. During evaporation there passed a peak time for the effect to work best. Set the painting aside to dry. Alcohol and watercolor don't mix well. The results of their fight on the paper are strangely organic in nature and not achievable using any other technique. The "fish eyes" are a signature of this technique.
4. Wax resist - To preserve white areas or lines in water media, try resists. If you use wax-based colored pencils, like Prismacolor, watercolor slides right off. Draw with a white crayon or drag candle or paraffin wax across rough paper to achieve texture. You'll love the sparkle effect, but use sparingly. If you want to remove the wax, lay the painting face down on brown paper and run a warm iron over the back. The wax will transfer to the brown paper. For a fine line, place a sheet of wax paper (waxy side down) on your paper and draw on the wax paper with a sharp pencil, using enough pressure to transfer the wax line without cutting through the paper. Remember, when using clear or white wax resist, you can't see the lines until you lay the wash. So be sure you know where you want your lines. You can also use liquid frisket, masking tape, oil pastel as a watercolor resist.
5. Newspaper resist – Tear or cut a piece of newspaper to protect an area of your paper from an application of color. Paint from the newspaper to the painting surface so the edge of the newspaper is not caught by your brush and curl up the edge and ruin the crisp edge you were trying to achieve.
6. Color lift-Off - Most watercolor pigment can be dissolved and lifted off after it has dried. Staining colors such as Phthalo or Prussian blue, Alizarin, Windsor Red, Yellow or Blue are difficult to remove and are best avoided for this technique. The process for lifting off is simple - wet the area to be removed with a brush and clean water then blot the pigment away with a tissue. Using strips of paper to mask areas of pigment will produce interesting hard edged lines and shapes.
7. Coffee – Sprinkle coffee on your wet wash and watch it spread in the wetness and change the tonality of your color.
8. Salt - Have some table or crushed salt to hand as you need to sprinkle it onto a wet wash to create snowflakes or light spots in your painting. The salt soaks up the paint, creating a little star around each bit of salt. Apply the wash. Put the paper down flat. Watch it drying and just before it loses its shine sprinkle on the salt. Leave the paper flat to dry thoroughly. Be patient! When it's completely dry, brush the salt off with your hand or a clean, dry brush. When you apply the salt is crucial. If the wash is too wet, the salt will absorb too much paint and melt, creating large light areas. If the wash is too dry, the salt won't absorb enough paint and you won't get any snowflakes. Don't use too much salt as it ruins the delicacy of this effect and don't try to arrange the grains of salt, it should be random. To create a blizzard, tip the painting a little so the paint and salt slide to one side. Note: The use of salt may influence the pH of the paper, and thus its longevity or archival properties, so try to keep the time the salt is on the paper to a minimum.
9. Splattering - You splatter the paint off your brush by rapping the edge of the loaded brush against your finger. The paint appears to fly off chaotically. If your brush is sopping wet you can't control much when you throw it. Try using your finger to rap the ferrule of the brush against. This releases the paint in a more controlled manner. If you want big splats, squeeze several drops of watercolor out of your brush from a height of 3' to make big splats. Toothbrush splattering - There are a couple ways to charge up a toothbrush. You can dip it directly in a paint puddle, but it is hard to fill the bristles evenly with paint. You can apply the paint with a paint brush. The advantage of doing it this way is that you can add as much paint as you need easily and in a controlled manner. You don't want the paint dripping from the toothbrush.
10. Stippling wet/scumbling - Random overlapping wet brush strokes over another dried layer of paint.
11. Stippling dry - Creating dots by tapping your watercolor dry-brush on the surface of the paper to create a pattern. It works better if your brush tip is spread out. From a distance, the colors appear to blend.
12. Dry brush - Dry brush is the almost the opposite watercolor technique to wet in wet. Here a brush loaded with pigment (and not too much water) is dragged over completely dry paper. The marks produced by this technique are very crisp and hard edged. They will tend to come forward in your painting and so are best applied around the center of interest.
14. Rubber cement masking - Watercolorists traditionally paint whites by leaving the white of the paper. To do so, these areas need to be protected from being painted inadvertently. 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 fluid or rubber cement. Masking fluid or rubber cement 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. Keep in mind that the way you prepare the surface can affect the properties of masking fluids. Just as watercolor applied to damp paper soaks into the surface, masking fluid behaves in a similar fashion, rather than sitting on the paper’s surface as it should. Many product manufacturers caution the user to apply the material on dry paper, as wet paper softens the sizing and speeds absorption.
15. Liner brush – Use of a longer hair brush that holds enough watercolor to make a long line yet is thin so the line can be thin.
16. Plastic warp – Once you have a wet layer of paint, tear off a piece of plastic wrap larger than the area you painted. This must be accomplished while the paint is wet. Lay the plastic over the area and squench, stretch and move it around until you have an interesting shapes, edges and gathered areas. Set it aside to dry flat and undisturbed. Do not take the plastic wrap off until it dries completely.
17. Color transparency
18. Soap bubbles – these can be done by blowing with a straw into a bowl of soap and colored water and letting those bubbles flow onto your paper or go outside and blow bubbles with a wand (can be made from a twisted wire) and capture the bubbles on your paper. Remember if the bubbles will paint your paper they will paint your clothes.
1st Day Follow Mrs. Patterson. Do not get behind; Be sure to label all squares with your name and name of technique.
2nd Day Finish squares - Bring your art up to be graded along with your assessment.
Extra credit is available in the form of instructions on how to hold the brush and how to control the brush. See Mrs. Rhodes for the handouts (limited number – you might have to share them).
Zoltan Szabo's 70 Favorite Watercolor Techniques - Learn how from Zoltan Szabo, one of the most revered watercolor teachers in America. Using the same ease of approach that made his workshops so popular, this book makes watercolor painting simple, straightforward and fun.
The New Encyclopedia of Watercolor Techniques - Filled with a complete range of water-based media, it presents more than 30 techniques—explained with easy-to-follow instructions and step-by-step photography to guide and inspire.
See this watercolor demonstration by Elizabeth Tyler
Share Your Art!
Do you have student work representative of the watercolor techniques above? If so, feel free to submit them to this page.