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  1. #1
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    Question...on Acrylic/Watercolor Painting Technique!!!

    Hey all,

    I've tried e-mailing my favorite artists but to no avail, they are most likely to busy to answer, so I figured I'd ask here...

    How to Illustrators like James Jean, Eric Fortune, and Sam Weber get such polished tonal gradations in their work, especially on faces and flesh, when using acrylic or watercolors? Every time I try this my edge control sucks!!

    Thanks for any answers!


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  3. #2
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    Paint wet into wet, thin washes or badger brush after you lay down a passage. I used a badger brush on this background and wet into wet on the figure both are acrylics. You could also just use an airbrush but I never liked cutting frisket.

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  5. #3
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    Thanks for the prompt reply! Could you elaborate on some of the terms you used, like "cutting frisket", and what is a badger brush?

    Thanks so much!

  6. #4
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    When using water media like acrylics you can buy a contact film called frisket you cut it out and stick over places in the painting so you can preserve areas from unwanted color. You can also use liquid frisket but large areas the film type is cheaper.

    A badger brush is basically a makeup brush that most women use; it is very soft and big and round. You lay down the paint with a regular brush and then lightly fan it with the dry badger brush to soften the transitions. They use them in studio bullpens so people don't have to use airbrushes and wear masks. In the old days before digital, we used them at Lucasarts when we did backgrounds and I know they used them at other studios like Disney.

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  8. #5
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    Wow, thanks dpaint, you are so knowledgeable about this sort of thing.

    So just to clarify, in order to smooth transitions, I can apply the paint either:
    1. Wet into wet, or
    2. Dry, then smooth with a badger brush.

    I'll experiment with this technique asap, can't wait!!!

  9. #6
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    Is there any similar technique to frisket masking for oil?

  10. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robotus View Post
    Is there any similar technique to frisket masking for oil?
    Masking tape works.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robotus View Post
    Is there any similar technique to frisket masking for oil?
    Oil's long drying time makes frisketing both impractical and unnecessary, at least in my experience. Also, unlike waterbased paints, oils don't lose volume as they dry, so there tend to be pronounced ridges when the mask is removed.

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  13. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robotus View Post
    Is there any similar technique to frisket masking for oil?
    Elwell is right on all counts, but you can employ a wipe out technique that can create a similar result. It works only at the blockin stage with thinned paints. You paint a large area letting the brushstrokes show if you want and then go and wipe out the highlights or light areas with a clean rag or one with a little turp in it. You can then paint this area with color in a normal way.

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  15. #10
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    What dpaint says. With oil and longer-drying acrylic mixes you can simply wipe the excess paint off.

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    Getting back to the original question, the way they get smooth modeling in the rendered parts of their images is by gradually building up thin layers of color, either in washes or with semi-drybrushed hatching strokes. Eric Fortune has some process videos on Youtube.
    Last edited by Elwell; January 1st, 2011 at 05:19 AM.

    Tristan Elwell
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  18. #12
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    If you are talking about using watercolour, then working into paper/board you've wet with clean water beforehand helps with smoothing out blends. Watercolour was once described to me as moving a puddle round the picture, and I find that close to the way I work in it. The more pigment you introduce to the puddle the more positive the colouring.

    If you want tight control over it, the trick is to work out the direction of blends you plan to paint. With watercolour washes, a traditional way to lay them is on a drawing board tilted at about 30 degrees or so, dependent on how wet you work, so that the puddle moves at a rate you control, down the angle, rather than pooling and leaving edges - although the edges can add much surface interest especially with more textural paper surfaces (never my strength though so I won't pretend to be any expert on that).

    Obviously you can turn the painting to guide the puddle as it moves down the angle as well (always supposing it isn't enormous and unwieldly).

    Talking masks - for watercolour and gouache there is masking fluid - a type of rubber solution that resists the wet, and can be removed by rubbing with your finger later after you've finished with protecting that area - BUT BEWARE - it can have a tendency to take some of the surface texture with it with some papers (which affects how paint goes down), and if you are rubbing next to an area of dense pigment , there is also the danger of smudging that colour into your clean area.

    It's a great media though and can give you gradations that are smooth yet still have life.
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