New to watercolors- how do I start?
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  1. #1
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    New to watercolors- how do I start?

    I recently got some very nice watercolors as a present (at least, I think they are good quality). The problem is that I am clueless when it comes to watercolors.
    My supplies (the ones that I blindly assume can be used for watercolors) are:
    A few Robert Simmons synthetic white sable brushes in various sizes (which I am also using for acrylics, is that bad?)
    Strathmore watercolor paper
    W/N Cotman watercolor set (tubes, not pans)

    Are there any more supplies that I need to get started? Any useful books for technique? Anything I should learn about watercolors? Overall advice would be helpful. Right now I'm just fiddling around with them and just painting randomly. Also, I have come across the problem of overworking the paper (it wasn't strathmore though, it was canson, but I ran out of those) and having it start to "shed". How do I prevent this from happening?

    Panicking is optional.
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  2. #2
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    M. Graham watercolor tubes are cheap and good in quality, and I don't find that much difference between them and winsor newton tube watercolor paints (I can't believe I insisted on winsor newton everytime I bought paint, which costs a lot more. Then, I tried M. Graham water color that sells for half the price and found no difference. But definitely don't go for those cheap watercolor sets). Rosemary and Co makes quality Kolinsky brushes that are cheap (People have said it is actually better than the over-priced Winsor Newton Series 7, but I have never used the winsor newton series 7. I bought it once, but I returned it to get Rosemary and CO brushes, and I am glad I did because it is the best brush I have ever used), also get the series 22 ones, which is what most people get. Even with international shipping fees, they are still cheaper than the Winsor Newton Series 7 counterpart.

    This is a helpful book for watercolor: http://www.amazon.com/Watercolor-Art...1040664&sr=8-1

    For synthetic brushes, I find they keep their shapes better. Natural brushes might get frizzy when dried, so you want to get "The Masters" Brush Cleaner to clean your brushes and then dry your brushes with the soap's lather on to hold their shape.

    Last edited by Vay; July 18th, 2011 at 10:49 PM.
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  3. #3
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    This book pretty much covers basic watercolor techniques - Watercolor Artists' Bible

    Do you know the weight of the paper you bought? Something like 140lb paper should be good for someone just starting out. If that is what you have, then great. If you use too much water and cause a lot of friction while painting, the paper will peel so always be mindful of how much water you actually need to be applying to your paints and paper.

    As for more supplies...you should invest in some nice watercolor brushes. The good thing about watercolor brushes is that they can last quite a long time. Make sure to get some nice brush soap for them. You may also want to think about getting a plastic palette/mixing tray so that you can pour your tubes of paint onto it. If you still have paint left on the palette, you can always store it and bring it back with some water.

    It could also help to have a small spray bottle, some sponges to soak up water or lay down paint with, and some artist tape to tape the edges of your painting so that the paper doesn't buckle. Later on you can research stretching your paper.

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    I'm no expert in watercolour but here are some tips I've learned to get you started.

    Good things to experiment with:
    Learning about the colors.
    Doing some grids like this with all your colours will tell you which are opaque and which are translucent. Handy!


    Physics of water:
    Water goes from a wet surface and gets absorbed by a dry one. That means:

    Using a wet brush on dry paper makes the water go from the brush to the paper (and takes the paint with it.) This is obvious. This is how you put the paint on your paper.

    Using a dry brush on a wet paper makes the water go from the paper to the brush (and takes the paint with it.) This can act like an eraser. If you just painted a spot and want to remove that paint while it's still wet, you can dry off your brush and use it to lift the paint back off the page. It's not perfect but it works.

    Applying water onto dry watercolour paint will obviously make the paint wet again so you can mess with it some more. Again, not perfect but it works.

    Washes: If you paint a stripe across your page, the water beads up at the end of your stroke. You can then use your brush to drag that water down and go back the other way (or wherever) to create a wash. This takes a lot of practice to get it seamless.


    Fun things to try:
    Painting with an egg yolk. Separate an egg's yolk from the white, and pull off the thin yolk's skin so it runs out. Use that yolk instead of water to mix with the paint and create a different effect. A bit more shine to it.

    Try putting salt on your painting and watch as it absorbs the water around it. It creates an interesting effect.



    Try some other things like letting the paint dry under a stretched sheet of saran wrap


    Use a wax crayon on your paper to mask areas off so the paint won't go there.



    Most importantly, set up objects from around your house and just paint them. I like to use a mixture of blue and brown (I think usually burnt umber and I can't remember which blue, it's been a while) and mix them to create a nice gray for shading. You can lay it down first and then paint your colours over it and it will show through like shadow. You can also use less blue for warmth or less brown for cools.

    That's all I remember at the moment. Have fun!

    Last edited by manlybrian; July 21st, 2011 at 02:36 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by manlybrian View Post
    Separate an egg's yoke from the white
    You mean yolk?

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    Try going to watercolorpainting.com. They have a lot of great resources for the novice and pro alike. Also, The Complete Watercolor Essentials Notebook by Gordon McKenzie is highly recommended.

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    lol I suck. Fixed.

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    And then God said, "Let us make man in our likeness and our image. Let us make him ridiculously hard to draw so that poor artists everywhere will have to spend 10,000+ hours failing repeatedly before they can begin to capture the form and likeness onto a two-dimensional surface." And there was man. And it was good. And artists everywhere lost their minds.
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    Just get off the computer and have a go. I know it's scary but just do it.

    I think the pallets of watercolour are far easier and less scary than the tubes, though. It's all out in front of you so there's no messy preparing of different colours or clearing up. It'll make it easier to just start.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HAJiME View Post
    Just get off the computer and have a go. I know it's scary but just do it.
    Watercolour isn't scary. It's terrifying. ;-)

    For inspiration, go look up the watercolours of John Singer Sargent and Winslow Homer.

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    Another good thing to keep in mind is that it's easier to turn something into a painting that is finished if you already know how you want the painting to look. If you can visualize the end product, it makes it much easier to actually get there. Or at least I think it's easier.

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    This book is great. It has a nice tutorial on values.

    The Complete Watercolour Course: A Comprehensive, Easy-to-follow Guide to Watercolour
    By John Raynes


    Watercolor Artist's Guide to Exceptional Color is almost a compulsory buy.


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