Watercolour Paints and Equipment - Introduction to Watercolour Painting Part 1
Robin Capon - Posted on 06 Jun 2012
What is watercolour?Watercolour, as the name implies, is a water-soluble type of paint, which means that the colours are mixed with water to create different strengths of colour and paint consistency. In one form or another, watercolour has been used since the Middle Ages.
Why choose watercolour?• The colours are easy to mix and apply.
• You can build up effects quickly – without too much delay while the paint dries.
• Watercolour painting requires very little in the way of essential equipment.
What is the difference between Artists’ and Student quality watercolour paints?
• Artists’ quality paints are the more expensive, because they are made with a higher proportion of good quality pigments, resulting in stronger and more luminous colours.
• In Student colours, the expensive pigments, such as the cadmiums, are often substituted by cheaper alternatives, denoted by the word ‘hue’ on the label. Nevertheless, Student colours are perfectly reliable and are a good choice to begin with.
What do I need to buy?
• Three 8ml tubes of Student quality colours: a red, blue and yellow. Look for cadmium red hue, cobalt blue hue and cadmium yellow pale hue. These should cost you about £1.50 each.
• A round synthetic-hair watercolour brush. Start with a No. 12 and look for a brush that has a good pointed tip to the hairs and thus will give fine lines and marks as well as broad washes. Cost, about £5.
• Paper. Choose a watercolour pad, such as an A4 spiral-bound 140lb (300gsm) Not surface Bockingford pad, about £10. Alternatively, you could buy a large sheet of watercolour paper, 22x30in. (56x76cm) and cut this into small sheets. Cost about £1.60.
Prices will vary from shop to shop, but you should be able to start painting your own watercolours for an outlay of about £10.
What else do I need?
• A water pot – a jam jar is ideal.
• An old white china plate or saucer to use as a palette, on which to mix your colours.
• Some kitchen roll to clean the brush and palette.
How do I start?
Watercolour works best if the approach is kept simple. The basic technique relies on applying thin washes of colour, one over another, to build up variations of tone and colour.
For the light areas, whites and highlights, the paper is left untinted, something that is known as reserving the lights.
Some artists like to start with a faint pencil drawing to plot the main shapes of the composition. Others prefer to work directly in colour. But whichever approach you adopt, it does need some forethought and planning, because it is seldom easy to go back and change things in watercolour.
Watercolour suits most types of subject matter, especially landscapes (including buildings and townscapes) and flower studies. It is perfect for capturing mood and atmosphere, and because of this, and the fact that the necessary equipment is small and lightweight, it is often used for painting landscapes on the spot.
Part two in this series outlines the following simple watercolour painting exercises to get you started:
- EXERCISE 1 Working with a single colour.
- EXERCISE 2 Testing out different tints and tones.
- EXERCISE 3 Making a colour wheel.
- EXERCISE 4 Trying a simple line & wash sketch.
- EXERCISE 5 Painting a simple landscape.