Watercolor painting

Watercolor painting

Overview

Watercolor or watercolour (UK
British English
British English, or English , is the broad term used to distinguish the forms of the English language used in the United Kingdom from forms used elsewhere...

 and Commonwealth), also aquarelle from French, is a painting
Painting
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...

 method. A watercolor is the medium
Processing medium
In industrial engineering, a gaseous, vaporous, fluid or shapeless solid material that plays an active role in manufacturing processes - comparable to that of a tool.-Examples:...

 or the resulting artwork
Work of art
A work of art, artwork, art piece, or art object is an aesthetic item or artistic creation.The term "a work of art" can apply to:*an example of fine art, such as a painting or sculpture*a fine work of architecture or landscape design...

 in which the paint
Paint
Paint is any liquid, liquefiable, or mastic composition which after application to a substrate in a thin layer is converted to an opaque solid film. One may also consider the digital mimicry thereof...

s are made of pigments suspended in a water-soluble vehicle. The traditional and most common support for watercolor paintings is paper; other supports include papyrus
Papyrus
Papyrus is a thick paper-like material produced from the pith of the papyrus plant, Cyperus papyrus, a wetland sedge that was once abundant in the Nile Delta of Egypt....

, bark papers, plastics, vellum
Vellum
Vellum is mammal skin prepared for writing or printing on, to produce single pages, scrolls, codices or books. It is generally smooth and durable, although there are great variations depending on preparation, the quality of the skin and the type of animal used...

 or leather
Leather
Leather is a durable and flexible material created via the tanning of putrescible animal rawhide and skin, primarily cattlehide. It can be produced through different manufacturing processes, ranging from cottage industry to heavy industry.-Forms:...

, fabric
Textile
A textile or cloth is a flexible woven material consisting of a network of natural or artificial fibres often referred to as thread or yarn. Yarn is produced by spinning raw fibres of wool, flax, cotton, or other material to produce long strands...

, wood, and canvas
Canvas
Canvas is an extremely heavy-duty plain-woven fabric used for making sails, tents, marquees, backpacks, and other items for which sturdiness is required. It is also popularly used by artists as a painting surface, typically stretched across a wooden frame...

.
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Encyclopedia

Watercolor or watercolour (UK
British English
British English, or English , is the broad term used to distinguish the forms of the English language used in the United Kingdom from forms used elsewhere...

 and Commonwealth), also aquarelle from French, is a painting
Painting
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...

 method. A watercolor is the medium
Processing medium
In industrial engineering, a gaseous, vaporous, fluid or shapeless solid material that plays an active role in manufacturing processes - comparable to that of a tool.-Examples:...

 or the resulting artwork
Work of art
A work of art, artwork, art piece, or art object is an aesthetic item or artistic creation.The term "a work of art" can apply to:*an example of fine art, such as a painting or sculpture*a fine work of architecture or landscape design...

 in which the paint
Paint
Paint is any liquid, liquefiable, or mastic composition which after application to a substrate in a thin layer is converted to an opaque solid film. One may also consider the digital mimicry thereof...

s are made of pigments suspended in a water-soluble vehicle. The traditional and most common support for watercolor paintings is paper; other supports include papyrus
Papyrus
Papyrus is a thick paper-like material produced from the pith of the papyrus plant, Cyperus papyrus, a wetland sedge that was once abundant in the Nile Delta of Egypt....

, bark papers, plastics, vellum
Vellum
Vellum is mammal skin prepared for writing or printing on, to produce single pages, scrolls, codices or books. It is generally smooth and durable, although there are great variations depending on preparation, the quality of the skin and the type of animal used...

 or leather
Leather
Leather is a durable and flexible material created via the tanning of putrescible animal rawhide and skin, primarily cattlehide. It can be produced through different manufacturing processes, ranging from cottage industry to heavy industry.-Forms:...

, fabric
Textile
A textile or cloth is a flexible woven material consisting of a network of natural or artificial fibres often referred to as thread or yarn. Yarn is produced by spinning raw fibres of wool, flax, cotton, or other material to produce long strands...

, wood, and canvas
Canvas
Canvas is an extremely heavy-duty plain-woven fabric used for making sails, tents, marquees, backpacks, and other items for which sturdiness is required. It is also popularly used by artists as a painting surface, typically stretched across a wooden frame...

. Watercolors are usually transparent, and appear luminous because the pigments are laid down in a relatively pure form with few fillers obscuring the pigment colors. Watercolor can also be made opaque by adding Chinese white. In East Asia, watercolor painting with inks is referred to as brush painting or scroll painting. In Chinese
Chinese painting
Chinese painting is one of the oldest continuous artistic traditions in the world. The earliest paintings were not representational but ornamental; they consisted of patterns or designs rather than pictures. Early pottery was painted with spirals, zigzags, dots, or animals...

, Korean
Korean painting
Korean painting includes paintings made in Korea or by overseas Koreans on all surfaces. It includes art as old as the petroglyphs through post-modern conceptual art using transient forms of light...

, and Japanese painting
Japanese painting
is one of the oldest and most highly refined of the Japanese visual arts, encompassing a wide variety of genres and styles. As with the history of Japanese arts in general, the long history of Japanese painting exhibits synthesis and competition between native Japanese aesthetics and adaptation of...

 it has been the dominant medium, often in monochrome black or browns. India, Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

 and other countries also have long traditions. Fingerpainting with watercolor paints originated in China.

History


Although watercolor painting is extremely old, dating perhaps to the cave paintings of paleolithic Europe, and has been used for manuscript illumination since at least Egyptian times but especially in the European Middle Ages, its continuous history as an art medium begins in the Renaissance. The German Northern Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer
Albrecht Dürer
Albrecht Dürer was a German painter, printmaker, engraver, mathematician, and theorist from Nuremberg. His prints established his reputation across Europe when he was still in his twenties, and he has been conventionally regarded as the greatest artist of the Northern Renaissance ever since...

 (1471–1528) who painted several fine botanical, wildlife and landscape watercolors, is generally considered among the earliest exponents of the medium. An important school of watercolor painting in Germany was led by Hans Bol
Hans Bol
Hans Bol , Flemish artist, received his early training from his two uncles who were also painters. He then was the apprentice to a Mechelen watercolorist and tempera painter at the age of fourteen. Because Bol’s watercolors became so widely reproduced, he began creating miniatures on parchment. The...

 (1534–1593) as part of the Dürer Renaissance.
Despite this early start, watercolors were generally used by Baroque easel painters only for sketches, copies or cartoons (small scale design drawings). Among notable early practitioners of watercolor painting were Van Dyck
Anthony van Dyck
Sir Anthony van Dyck was a Flemish Baroque artist who became the leading court painter in England. He is most famous for his portraits of Charles I of England and his family and court, painted with a relaxed elegance that was to be the dominant influence on English portrait-painting for the next...

 (during his stay in England), Claude Lorrain
Claude Lorrain
Claude Lorrain, , traditionally just Claude in English Claude Lorrain, , traditionally just Claude in English (also Claude Gellée, his real name, or in French Claude Gellée, , dit le Lorrain) Claude Lorrain, , traditionally just Claude in English (also Claude Gellée, his real name, or in French...

, Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione
Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione
Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione was an Italian Baroque artist, painter, printmaker and draftsman, of the Genoese school. He is best known now for his elaborate engravings, and as the inventor of the printmaking technique of monotyping. He was known as Il Grechetto in Italy and in France as Le...

, and many Dutch and Flemish
Flemish people
The Flemings or Flemish are the Dutch-speaking inhabitants of Belgium, where they are mostly found in the northern region of Flanders. They are one of two principal cultural-linguistic groups in Belgium, the other being the French-speaking Walloons...

 artists. However, botanical and wildlife illustrations are perhaps the oldest and most important tradition in watercolor painting. Botanical illustrations became popular in the Renaissance, both as hand tinted woodblock
Woodcut
Woodcut—occasionally known as xylography—is a relief printing artistic technique in printmaking in which an image is carved into the surface of a block of wood, with the printing parts remaining level with the surface while the non-printing parts are removed, typically with gouges...

 illustrations in books or broadsheets and as tinted ink drawings on vellum
Vellum
Vellum is mammal skin prepared for writing or printing on, to produce single pages, scrolls, codices or books. It is generally smooth and durable, although there are great variations depending on preparation, the quality of the skin and the type of animal used...

 or paper. Botanical artists have always been among the most exacting and accomplished watercolor painters, and even today watercolors—with their unique ability to summarize, clarify and idealize in full color—are used to illustrate scientific and museum publications. Wildlife illustration reached its peak in the 19th century with artists such as John James Audubon
John James Audubon
John James Audubon was a French-American ornithologist, naturalist, and painter. He was notable for his expansive studies to document all types of American birds and for his detailed illustrations that depicted the birds in their natural habitats...

, and today many naturalist field guides are still illustrated with watercolor paintings.

English school


Several factors contributed to the spread of watercolor painting during the 18th century, particularly in England. Among the elite and aristocratic classes, watercolor painting was one of the incidental adornments of a good education, especially for women. By contrast, watercoloring was also valued by surveyors, mapmakers, military officers and engineers for its usefulness in depicting properties, terrain, fortifications or geology in the field and for illustrating public works or commissioned projects. Watercolor artists were commonly brought with the geological or archaeological expeditions funded by the Society of Dilettanti (founded in 1733) to document discoveries in the Mediterranean, Asia and the New World. These stimulated the demand for topographical painters who churned out memento paintings of famous sites (and sights) along the Grand Tour to Italy that was traveled by every fashionable young man or woman of the time. In the late 18th century, the English cleric William Gilpin
William Gilpin (clergyman)
The Reverend William Gilpin was an English artist, clergyman, schoolmaster, and author, best known as one of the originators of the idea of the picturesque.-Early life:...

 wrote a series of hugely popular books describing his "picturesque" journeys throughout rural England and illustrated with his own sentimentalized monochrome watercolors of river valleys, ancient castles and abandoned churches; his example popularized watercolors as a form of personal tourist journal. The confluence of these cultural, engineering, scientific, tourist and amateur interests culminated in the celebration and promotion of watercolor as a distinctly English "national art". Among the many significant watercolor artists of this period were Thomas Gainsborough
Thomas Gainsborough
Thomas Gainsborough was an English portrait and landscape painter.-Suffolk:Thomas Gainsborough was born in Sudbury, Suffolk. He was the youngest son of John Gainsborough, a weaver and maker of woolen goods. At the age of thirteen he impressed his father with his penciling skills so that he let...

, John Robert Cozens
John Robert Cozens
John Robert Cozens was a British draftsman and painter of romantic watercolour landscapes.-Biography:The son of the Russian-born drawing master and watercolorist, Alexander Cozens, John Robert Cozens was born in London. He studied under his father and began to exhibit some early drawings with the...

, Francis Towne
Francis Towne
Francis Towne was a British watercolour landscape painter.-Biography:Towne was born in Isleworth in Middlesex the son of a corn chandler. In 1752 he was apprenticed to a leading coach painter in London, Thomas Brookshead...

, Michael Angelo Rooker
Michael Angelo Rooker
Michael "Angelo" Rooker was an English oil and watercolour painter of architecture and landscapes, illustrator and engraver. He was also the principal scene painter at the Haymarket Theatre.-Life and work:...

, William Pars
William Pars
William Pars was an English watercolour portrait and landscape painter, draughtsman and illustrator.-Life and works:...

, Thomas Hearne
Thomas Hearne (artist)
Thomas Hearne was an English landscape painter, engraver and illustrator. Hearne's watercolours were typified by applying a wash over a clear outline in fine brush, pen or pencil. His techniques were studied by younger artists such as Thomas Girtin and J. M. W. Turner.-Early Life:Thomas Hearne...

 and John Warwick Smith
John Warwick Smith
John "Warwick" Smith was a British watercolour landscape painter and illustrator.-Life and work:John Smith was born at Irthington, near Carlisle, Cumberland, the son of a gardener to the Gilpin family, and was educated at St. Bees...

. William Blake
William Blake
William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of both the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age...

 published several books of hand tinted engraved poetry, illustrations to Dante's Inferno, and also experimented with large monotype works in watercolor.
From the late 18th century through the 19th century, the market for printed books and domestic art contributed substantially to the growth of the medium. Watercolors were the used as the basic document from which collectible landscape or tourist engravings were developed, and handpainted watercolor originals or copies of famous paintings contributed to many upper class art portfolios. Satirical broadsides by Thomas Rowlandson
Thomas Rowlandson
Thomas Rowlandson was an English artist and caricaturist.- Biography :Rowlandson was born in Old Jewry, in the City of London. He was the son of a tradesman or city merchant. On leaving school he became a student at the Royal Academy...

, many published by Rudolph Ackermann, were also extremely popular.

The three English artists credited with establishing watercolor as an independent, mature painting medium are Paul Sandby
Paul Sandby
Paul Sandby was an English map-maker turned landscape painter in watercolours, who, along with his older brother Thomas, became one of the founding members of the Royal Academy in 1768.-Life and work:...

 (1730–1809), often called "the father of the English watercolor", Thomas Girtin
Thomas Girtin
Thomas Girtin was an English painter and etcher. A friend and rival of J. M. W. Turner, Girtin played a key role in establishing watercolour as a reputable art form.-Biography:...

 (1775–1802), who pioneered its use for large format, romantic or picturesque landscape painting, and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), who brought watercolor painting to the highest pitch of power and refinement and created with it hundreds of superb historical, topographical, architectural and mythological paintings. His method of developing the watercolor painting in stages, starting with large, vague color areas established on wet paper, then refining the image through a sequence of washes and glazes, permitted him to produce large numbers of paintings with workshop efficiency and made him a multimillionaire in part through sales from his personal art gallery, the first of its kind. Among the important and highly talented contemporaries of Turner and Girtin were John Varley
John Varley (painter)
John Varley was an English watercolour painter and astrologer, and a close friend of William Blake. They collaborated in 1819–1820 on the book Visionary Heads, written by Varley and illustrated by Blake...

, John Sell Cotman
John Sell Cotman
John Sell Cotman was an English marine and landscape painter, etcher, illustrator and author, one of the leading lights of the Norwich school of artists.-Early life and work:...

, Anthony Copley Fielding
Copley Fielding
Anthony Vandyke Copley Fielding , commonly called Copley Fielding, was an English painter born in Sowerby, near Halifax and famous for his watercolour landscapes. At an early age Fielding became a pupil of John Varley...

, Samuel Palmer
Samuel Palmer
Samuel Palmer was a British landscape painter, etcher and printmaker. He was also a prolific writer. Palmer was a key figure in Romanticism in Britain and produced visionary pastoral paintings.-Early life:...

, William Havell
William Havell
William Havell was an English landscape painter, one of the Havell family of artists, and a founding member of the Society of Painters in Watercolours.-Life and work:...

 and Samuel Prout
Samuel Prout
thumb|right|Samuel Prout painted by [[John Jackson]] in 1831thumb|right|Market Day by Samuel Proutthumb|right|A View in Nuremberg by Samuel Proutthumb|right|Utrecht Town Hall by Samuel Prout in 1841...

. The Swiss painter Louis Ducros was also widely known for his large format, romantic paintings in watercolor.

The confluence of amateur activity, publishing markets, middle class art collecting and 19th-century painting technique led to the formation of English watercolor painting societies: the Society of Painters in Water Colours (1804, now known as the Royal Watercolour Society
Royal Watercolour Society
The Royal Watercolour Society is an English institution of painters working in watercolours...

), and the New Water Colour Society (1832). (A Scottish Society of Painters in Water Colour was founded in 1878.) These societies provided annual exhibitions and buyer referrals for many artists and also engaged in petty status rivalries and esthetic debates, particularly between advocates of traditional ("transparent") watercolor and the early adopters of the denser color possible with bodycolor or gouache ("opaque" watercolor). The late Georgian and Victorian periods produced the zenith of the British watercolor, among the most impressive 19th century works on paper, by Turner, Varley, Cotman, David Cox
David Cox (artist)
- David Cox Junior :David Cox had a son of the same name who followed his calling as a watercolour painter. He was born in Dulwich, but educated in Hereford. He exhibited in London from 1827, although today he is known mainly through association with his father. He died in Streatham on 4 December...

, Peter de Wint
Peter De Wint
Peter De Wint was an English landscape painter.De Wint was the son of an English physician of Dutch extraction who had come to England from New York., he was born in Stone, Staffordshire. He moved to London in 1802, and was apprenticed to John Raphael Smith, the mezzotint engraver and portrait...

, William Henry Hunt
William Henry Hunt
William Henry Hunt is the name of:* William H. Hunt , United States Secretary of the Navy* William Henry Hunt * William Henry Hunt * William Henry Hunt -See also:...

, John Frederick Lewis
John Frederick Lewis
John Frederick Lewis was an Orientalist English painter. He specialized in Oriental and Mediterranean scenes and often worked in exquisitely detailed watercolour. He was the son of Frederick Christian Lewis , engraver and landscape-painter.Lewis lived in Spain between 1832 and 1834...

, Myles Birket Foster
Myles Birket Foster
Myles Birket Foster was a popular English illustrator, watercolour artist and engraver in the Victorian period. His name is also to be found as Myles Birkett Foster.-Life and work:...

, Frederick Walker
Frederick Walker
Frederick Walker may refer to:*Frederick Walker , explorer*Frederick Walker , painter and illustrator*Frederic John Walker , British naval officer*Frederic Walker , cricketer...

, Thomas Collier
Thomas Collier
For the Baptist preacher see Thomas Collier .Thomas Collier RI was an English landscape painter....

 and many others. In particular, the graceful, lapidary and atmospheric genre paintings by Richard Parkes Bonington
Richard Parkes Bonington
Richard Parkes Bonington was an English Romantic landscape painter. One of the most influential British artists of his time, the facility of his style was inspired by the old masters, yet was entirely modern in its application.-Life and work:Richard Parkes Bonington was born in the town of Arnold,...

 created an international fad for watercolor painting, especially in England and France, in the 1820s.

The popularity of watercolors stimulated many innovations, including heavier and more heavily sized wove papers and brushes (called "pencils") manufactured expressly for watercolor painting. Watercolor tutorials were first published in this period by Varley, Cox and others, innovating the step-by-step painting instructions that still characterizes the genre today; "The Elements of Drawing", a watercolor tutorial by the English art critic John Ruskin
John Ruskin
John Ruskin was the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, also an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist. He wrote on subjects ranging from geology to architecture, myth to ornithology, literature to education, and botany to political...

, has been out of print only once since it was first published in 1857. Commercial paintmaking brands appeared and paints were packaged in metal tubes or as dry cakes that could be "rubbed out" (dissolved) in studio porcelain or used in portable metal paint boxes in the field. Contemporary breakthroughs in chemistry made many new pigments available, including prussian blue, ultramarine blue, cobalt blue, viridian, cobalt violet, cadmium yellow, aureolin (potassium cobaltinitrite), zinc white and a wide range of carmine and madder lakes. These in turn stimulated a greater use of color throughout all painting media, but in English watercolors particularly by the Pre-Raphaelite painters.

Watercolor painting also became popular in the United States during the 19th century; outstanding early practitioners include John James Audubon
John James Audubon
John James Audubon was a French-American ornithologist, naturalist, and painter. He was notable for his expansive studies to document all types of American birds and for his detailed illustrations that depicted the birds in their natural habitats...

, as well as early Hudson River School
Hudson River school
The Hudson River School was a mid-19th century American art movement embodied by a group of landscape painters whose aesthetic vision was influenced by romanticism...

 painters such as William H. Bartlett and George Harvey
George Harvey
Sir George Harvey , Scottish painter, the son of a watchmaker, was born at St Ninians, near Stirling....

. At mid-century, the influence of John Ruskin led to increasing interest in watercolors and particularly in use of a detailed "Ruskinian" style by such artists as John W. Hill Henry, William Trost Richards
William Trost Richards
William Trost Richards was an American landscape artist associated with both the Hudson River School and the American Pre-Raphaelite movement.-Biography:...

, Roderick Newman, and Fidelia Bridges
Fidelia Bridges
Fidelia Bridges was one of the minute population ofsuccessful female artists in the 19th century and early 20th century. She painted small aspects of nature: flowers, birds, and other plants in their natural settings. She first was an oil painter and later took up watercolor painting. She was...

. The American Society of Painters in Watercolor (now the American Watercolor Society
American Watercolor Society
The American Watercolor Society is a nonprofit membership organization devoted to the advancement of watercolor painting in the United States. It was founded in 1866 by eleven painters and, originally, was known as the American Society of Painters in Water Colors...

) was founded in 1866. Major late-19th-century American exponents of the medium included Thomas Moran
Thomas Moran
Thomas Moran from Bolton, England was an American painter and printmaker of the Hudson River School in New York whose work often featured the Rocky Mountains. Moran and his family took residence in New York where he obtained work as an artist...

, Thomas Eakins
Thomas Eakins
Thomas Cowperthwait Eakins was an American realist painter, photographer, sculptor, and fine arts educator...

, John LaFarge
John LaFarge
John La Farge was an American painter, muralist, stained glass window maker, decorator, and writer.-Biography:...

, John Singer Sargent
John Singer Sargent
John Singer Sargent was an American artist, considered the "leading portrait painter of his generation" for his evocations of Edwardian era luxury. During his career, he created roughly 900 oil paintings and more than 2,000 watercolors, as well as countless sketches and charcoal drawings...

, Childe Hassam
Childe Hassam
Frederick Childe Hassam was a prolific American Impressionist painter, noted for his urban and coastal scenes. Along with Mary Cassatt and John Henry Twachtman, Hassam was instrumental in promulgating Impressionism to American collectors, dealers, and museums...

, and, preeminently, Winslow Homer
Winslow Homer
Winslow Homer was an American landscape painter and printmaker, best known for his marine subjects. He is considered one of the foremost painters in 19th century America and a preeminent figure in American art....

.

Europe


Watercolor was less popular on the Continent, though many fine examples were produced by French painters, including Eugène Delacroix
Eugène Delacroix
Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix was a French Romantic artist regarded from the outset of his career as the leader of the French Romantic school...

, François Marius Granet
François Marius Granet
François Marius Granet , French painter, was born in Aix-en-Provence; his father was a small builder.-Biography:...

, Henri-Joseph Harpignies and the satirist Honoré Daumier
Honoré Daumier
Honoré Daumier was a French printmaker, caricaturist, painter, and sculptor, whose many works offer commentary on social and political life in France in the 19th century....

.

Unfortunately the careless and excessive adoption of brightly colored, petroleum–derived aniline dyes (and pigments compounded from them), which all fade rapidly on exposure to light, and the efforts to properly conserve the 20,000 Turner paintings inherited by the British Museum in 1857, led to an examination and negative re-evaluation of the permanence of pigments in watercolor. This caused a sharp decline in their status and market value. Nevertheless, isolated exponents continued to prefer and develop the medium into the 20th century. In Europe, gorgeous landscape and maritime watercolors were produced by Paul Signac
Paul Signac
Paul Signac was a French neo-impressionist painter who, working with Georges Seurat, helped develop the pointillist style.-Biography:Paul Victor Jules Signac was born in Paris on 11 November 1863...

, and Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne
Paul Cézanne was a French artist and Post-Impressionist painter whose work laid the foundations of the transition from the 19th century conception of artistic endeavour to a new and radically different world of art in the 20th century. Cézanne can be said to form the bridge between late 19th...

 developed a watercolor painting style consisting entirely of overlapping small glazes of pure color.

20th century



Among the many 20th century artists who produced important works in watercolor, mention must be made of Wassily Kandinsky
Wassily Kandinsky
Wassily Wassilyevich Kandinsky was an influential Russian painter and art theorist. He is credited with painting the first purely-abstract works. Born in Moscow, Kandinsky spent his childhood in Odessa. He enrolled at the University of Moscow, studying law and economics...

, Emil Nolde
Emil Nolde
Emil Nolde was a German painter and printmaker. He was one of the first Expressionists, a member of Die Brücke, and is considered to be one of the great oil painting and watercolour painters of the 20th century. He is known for his vigorous brushwork and expressive choice of colors...

, Paul Klee
Paul Klee
Paul Klee was born in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland, and is considered both a German and a Swiss painter. His highly individual style was influenced by movements in art that included expressionism, cubism, and surrealism. He was, as well, a student of orientalism...

, Egon Schiele
Egon Schiele
Egon Schiele was an Austrian painter. A protégé of Gustav Klimt, Schiele was a major figurative painter of the early 20th century. His work is noted for its intensity, and the many self-portraits the artist produced...

 and Raoul Dufy
Raoul Dufy
Raoul Dufy[p] was a French Fauvist painter. He developed a colorful, decorative style that became fashionable for designs of ceramics and textiles, as well as decorative schemes for public buildings. He is noted for scenes of open-air social events...

; in America the major exponents included Charles Burchfield, Edward Hopper
Edward Hopper
Edward Hopper was a prominent American realist painter and printmaker. While most popularly known for his oil paintings, he was equally proficient as a watercolorist and printmaker in etching...

, Georgia O'Keeffe
Georgia O'Keeffe
Georgia Totto O'Keeffe was an American artist.Born near Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, O'Keeffe first came to the attention of the New York art community in 1916, several decades before women had gained access to art training in America’s colleges and universities, and before any of its women artists...

, Charles Demuth
Charles Demuth
Charles Demuth was an American watercolorist who turned to oils late in his career, developing a style of painting known as Precisionism....

, and John Marin
John Marin
John Marin was an early American modernist artist. He is known for his abstract landscapes and watercolors.-Biography:...

, 80% of whose total output is in watercolor. In this period American watercolor (and oil) painting was often imitative of European Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, but significant individualism flourished within "regional" styles of watercolor painting in the 1920s to 1940s, in particular the "Cleveland School
Cleveland School
The Cleveland School refers to the flourishing local arts community of Northeast Ohio during the period from 1910-1960. It was so named in 1928 by Elrick Davis, a journalist with the Cleveland Press...

" or "Ohio School" of painters centered around the Cleveland Museum of Art
Cleveland Museum of Art
The Cleveland Museum of Art is an art museum situated in the Wade Park District, in the University Circle neighborhood on Cleveland's east side. Internationally renowned for its substantial holdings of Asian and Egyptian art, the museum houses a diverse permanent collection of more than 43,000...

, and the "California Scene" painters, many of them associated with Hollywood animation studios or the Chouinard Art Institute
Chouinard Art Institute
The Chouinard Art Institute was a professional art school founded in 1921 in Los Angeles, California, by Nelbert Murphy Chouinard .-Founder:...

 (now California Institute of the Arts
California Institute of the Arts
The California Institute of the Arts, commonly referred to as CalArts, is located in Valencia, in Los Angeles County, California. It was incorporated in 1961 as the first degree-granting institution of higher learning in the United States created specifically for students of both the visual and the...

). The California painters exploited their state's varied geography, Mediterranean climate and "automobility" to reinvigorate the outdoor or "plein air" tradition; among the most influential were Phil Dike, Millard Sheets
Millard Sheets
Millard Owen Sheets was an American painter and a representative of the California School of Painting, later a teacher and educational director, and architect of more than 50 branch banks in Southern California.-Early life:...

, Rex Brandt, Dong Kingman
Dong Kingman
Dong Kingman was a Chinese American artist and one of America's leading watercolor masters. As a painter on the forefront of the California Style School of painting, he was known for his urban and landscape paintings as well as his graphic design work in the Hollywood film industry...

 and Milford Zornes
Milford Zornes
James Milford Zornes was an American watercolor artist and teacher.-Biography:Milford Zornes was born in rural western Oklahoma, a few miles from the small town of Camargo. His father found farming and stock raising in the area difficult, and when young Milford was seven moved the family to Boise,...

. The California Water Color Society, founded in 1921 and later renamed the National Watercolor Society, sponsored important exhibitions of their work.

Although the rise of abstract expressionism
Abstract expressionism
Abstract expressionism was an American post–World War II art movement. It was the first specifically American movement to achieve worldwide influence and put New York City at the center of the western art world, a role formerly filled by Paris...

, and the trivializing influence of amateur painters and advertising- or workshop-influenced painting styles, led to a temporary decline in the popularity of watercolor painting after c.1950, watercolors continue to be utilized by important artists such as Joseph Raffael
Joseph Raffael
Joseph Raffael is an American contemporary realist painter.His paintings are almost all presented on a very large scale.He lives with his wife, Lannis Raffael in the south of France....

, Andrew Wyeth
Andrew Wyeth
Andrew Newell Wyeth was a visual artist, primarily a realist painter, working predominantly in a regionalist style. He was one of the best-known U.S. artists of the middle 20th century....

, Philip Pearlstein
Philip Pearlstein
Philip Pearlstein is an American painter, and part of the contemporary Realist school.-Biography:Pearlstein was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He studied at the Carnegie Institute of Technology and received his Masters in art history at New York University. He was a friend of Andy Warhol from...

, Eric Fischl
Eric Fischl
Eric Fischl is an American painter, sculptor and printmaker.-Early life:Fischl was born in New York City and grew up on suburban Long Island; his family moved to Phoenix, Arizona in 1967...

, Gerhard Richter
Gerhard Richter
Gerhard Richter is a German visual artist. Richter has simultaneously produced abstract and photorealistic painted works, as well as photographs and glass pieces, thus undermining the concept of the artist’s obligation to maintain a single cohesive style.- Biography :Gerhard Richter was born in...

, Anselm Kiefer
Anselm Kiefer
Anselm Kiefer is a German painter and sculptor. He studied with Joseph Beuys and Peter Dreher during the 1970s. His works incorporate materials such as straw, ash, clay, lead, and shellac...

 and Francesco Clemente
Francesco Clemente
Francesco Clemente is an Italian and American contemporary artist. Influenced by thinkers as diverse as Gregory Bateson, William Blake, Allen Ginsberg, and J Krishnamurti, the art of Francesco Clemente is inclusive and nomadic, crossing many borders, intellectual and geographical.Dividing his time...

. Modern watercolor paints are now as durable and colorful as oil or acrylic paints, and the recent renewed interest in drawing and multimedia art has also stimulated demand for fine works in watercolor. As art markets continue to expand, painting societies continue to add members and aging baby boom
Baby boom
A baby boom is any period marked by a greatly increased birth rate. This demographic phenomenon is usually ascribed within certain geographical bounds and when the number of annual births exceeds 2 per 100 women...

ers increasingly retire to more contemplative hobbies, watercolor on both the amateur and professional levels continues to become more and more popular.

Paint


Watercolor paint consists of four principal ingredients:
  • pigments, natural or synthetic, mineral or organic;
  • arabic gum as a binder to hold the pigment in suspension and fix the pigment to the painting surface;
  • additives like glycerin, ox gall
    Ox gall
    Ox gall is gall, usually obtained from cows, that is mixed with alcohol and used as the wetting agent in marbling, engraving, lithography, and watercolor painting. It is a greenish-brown liquid mixture containing cholesterol, lecithin, taurocholic acid, and glycoholic acid....

    , honey
    Honey
    Honey is a sweet food made by bees using nectar from flowers. The variety produced by honey bees is the one most commonly referred to and is the type of honey collected by beekeepers and consumed by humans...

    , preservatives: to alter the viscosity, hiding, durability or color of the pigment and vehicle mixture; and
  • solvent, the substance used to thin or dilute the paint for application and that evaporates when the paint hardens or dries.


The term "watermedia
Watermedia
In art, watermedia is the general term for media that are distinguished from oil or other media by being diluted with water when used. Watermedia include watercolours, gouache and acrylic, amongst others...

" refers to any painting medium that uses water as a solvent and that can be applied with a brush
Brush
A brush is a tool with bristles, wire or other filaments, used for cleaning, grooming hair, make up, painting, surface finishing and for many other purposes. It is one of the most basic and versatile tools known to mankind, and the average household may contain several dozen varieties...

, pen
Pen
A pen is a device used to apply ink to a surface, usually paper, for writing or drawing. Historically, reed pens, quill pens, and dip pens were used, with a nib of some sort to be dipped in the ink. Ruling pens allow precise adjustment of line width, and still find a few specialized uses, but...

 or sprayer; this includes most ink
Ink
Ink is a liquid or paste that contains pigments and/or dyes and is used to color a surface to produce an image, text, or design. Ink is used for drawing and/or writing with a pen, brush, or quill...

s, watercolors, tempera
Tempera
Tempera, also known as egg tempera, is a permanent fast-drying painting medium consisting of colored pigment mixed with a water-soluble binder medium . Tempera also refers to the paintings done in this medium. Tempera paintings are very long lasting, and examples from the 1st centuries AD still exist...

s, gouache
Gouache
Gouache[p], also spelled guache, the name of which derives from the Italian guazzo, water paint, splash or bodycolor is a type of paint consisting of pigment suspended in water. A binding agent, usually gum arabic, is also present, just as in watercolor...

s and modern acrylic paint
Acrylic paint
Acrylic paint is fast drying paint containing pigment suspension in acrylic polymer emulsion. Acrylic paints can be diluted with water, but become water-resistant when dry...

s.

The term watercolor refers to paints that use water soluble, complex carbohydrates as a binder.
Originally (16th to 18th centuries) watercolor binders were sugars and/or hide glues, but since the 19th century the preferred binder is natural gum arabic
Gum arabic
220px|thumb|right|Acacia gumGum arabic, also known as acacia gum, chaar gund, char goond, or meska, is a natural gum made of hardened sap taken from two species of the acacia tree; Acacia senegal and Acacia seyal...

, with glycerin and/or honey
Honey
Honey is a sweet food made by bees using nectar from flowers. The variety produced by honey bees is the one most commonly referred to and is the type of honey collected by beekeepers and consumed by humans...

 as additives to improve plasticity and dissolvability of the binder, and with other chemicals added to improve product shelf life.

Bodycolor refers to paint that is opaque rather than transparent, usually opaque watercolour, which is also known as gouache
Gouache
Gouache[p], also spelled guache, the name of which derives from the Italian guazzo, water paint, splash or bodycolor is a type of paint consisting of pigment suspended in water. A binding agent, usually gum arabic, is also present, just as in watercolor...

. Modern acrylic paints are based on a completely different chemistry that uses water soluble acrylic resin as a binder.

Commercial watercolors


Watercolor painters before c.1800 had to make paints themselves using pigments purchased from an apothecary or specialized "colourman"; the earliest commercial paints were small, resinous blocks that had to be wetted and laboriously "rubbed out" in water. William Reeves (1739–1803) set up in business as a colourman about 1766. In 1781 he and his brother, Thomas Reeves, were awarded the Silver Palette of the Society of Arts, for the invention of the moist watercolor paint-cake, a time-saving convenience the introduction of which coincides with the "golden age" of English watercolor painting.

Modern commercial watercolor paints are available in two forms: tubes or pans. The majority of paints sold are in collapsible metal tubes in standard sizes (typically 7.5, 15 or 37 ml.), and are formulated to a consistency similar to toothpaste. Pan paints (actually, small dried cakes or bars of paint in an open plastic container) are usually sold in two sizes, full pans (approximately 3 cc of paint) and half pans (favored for compact paint boxes). Pans are historically older but commonly perceived as less convenient; they are most often used in portable metal paint boxes, also introduced in the mid 19th century, and are preferred by landscape or naturalist painters.

Among the most widely used brands of commercial watercolors today are Daler Rowney, Daniel Smith, DaVinci, Holbein, Maimeri, M. Graham. Reeves, Schmincke, Sennelier, Talens, and Winsor & Newton.

Thanks to modern industrial organic chemistry, the variety, saturation (brilliance) and permanence of artists' colors available today is greater than ever before. However, the art materials industry is far too small to exert any market leverage on global dye or pigment manufacture. With rare exceptions, all modern watercolor paints utilize pigments that were manufactured for use in printing inks, automotive and architectural paints, wood stains, concrete, ceramics
Ceramic colorants
'Ceramic colorants' are added to a glaze or a clay to create color. Carbonates and oxides of certain metals, characterize most colorants including the commonly used cobalt carbonate, cobalt oxide, chrome oxide, red iron oxide, and copper carbonate...

 and plastics colorants, consumer packaging, foods, medicines, textiles and cosmetics. Paint manufacturers buy very small supplies of these pigments, mill (mechanically mix) them with the vehicle, solvent and additives, and package them.

Color names


Many artists are confused or misled by labeling practices common in the art materials industry. The marketing name for a paint, such as "indian yellow" or "emerald green", is often only a poetic color evocation or proprietary moniker; there is no legal requirement that it describe the pigment that gives the paint its color.

To remedy this confusion, in 1990 the art materials industry voluntarily began listing pigment ingredients on the paint packaging, using the common pigment name (such as "cobalt blue" or "cadmium red"), and/or a standard pigment identification code, the generic color index name (PB28 for cobalt blue, PR108 for cadmium red) assigned by the Society of Dyers and Colourists (UK) and the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (USA) and known as the Colour Index International
Colour Index International
Colour Index International is a reference database jointly maintained by the Society of Dyers and Colourists and the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists. It was first printed in 1925 but is now published exclusively on the web...

. This allows artists to choose paints according to their pigment ingredients, rather than the poetic labels assigned to them by marketers. Paint pigments and formulations vary across manufacturers, and watercolor paints with the same color name (e.g., "sap green") from different manufacturers can be formulated with completely different ingredients.

Transparency


Watercolor paints are customarily evaluated on a few key attributes. In the partisan debates of the 19th century English art world, gouache
Gouache
Gouache[p], also spelled guache, the name of which derives from the Italian guazzo, water paint, splash or bodycolor is a type of paint consisting of pigment suspended in water. A binding agent, usually gum arabic, is also present, just as in watercolor...

 was emphatically contrasted to traditional watercolors and denigrated for its high hiding power or lack of "transparency"; "transparent" watercolors were exalted. Paints with low hiding power are valued because they allow an underdrawing or engraving to show in the image, and because colors can be mixed visually by layering paints on the paper (which itself may be either white or tinted). The resulting color will change depending on the layering order of the pigments. In fact, there are very few genuinely transparent watercolors, neither are there completely opaque watercolors (with the exception of gouache); and any watercolor paint can be made more transparent simply by diluting it with water.

"Transparent" colors do not contain titanium dioxide
Titanium dioxide
Titanium dioxide, also known as titanium oxide or titania, is the naturally occurring oxide of titanium, chemical formula . When used as a pigment, it is called titanium white, Pigment White 6, or CI 77891. Generally it comes in two different forms, rutile and anatase. It has a wide range of...

 (white) or most of the earth pigments
Clay earth pigment
Clay earth pigments are naturally occurring minerals, principally iron oxides, that have been used since prehistoric times as pigments. The primary types are*ochre*sienna*umber...

 (sienna
Sienna
Sienna is a form of limonite clay most famous in the production of oil paint pigments. Its yellow-brown colour comes from ferric oxides contained within...

, umber
Umber
Umber is a natural brown clay pigment which contains iron and manganese oxides. The color becomes more intense when calcined , and the resulting pigment is called burnt umber. Its name derives from the Latin word umbra and was originally extracted in Umbria, a mountainous region of central Italy,...

, etc.) which are very opaque. The 19th-century claim that "transparent" watercolors gain "luminosity" because they function like a pane of stained glass laid on paper – the color intensified because the light passes through the pigment, reflects from the paper, and passes a second time through the pigment on its way to the viewer—is false: watercolor paints do not form a cohesive paint layer, as do acrylic
Acrylic paint
Acrylic paint is fast drying paint containing pigment suspension in acrylic polymer emulsion. Acrylic paints can be diluted with water, but become water-resistant when dry...

 or oil
Oil paint
Oil paint is a type of slow-drying paint that consists of particles of pigment suspended in a drying oil, commonly linseed oil. The viscosity of the paint may be modified by the addition of a solvent such as turpentine or white spirit, and varnish may be added to increase the glossiness of the...

 paints, but simply scatter pigment
Pigment
A pigment is a material that changes the color of reflected or transmitted light as the result of wavelength-selective absorption. This physical process differs from fluorescence, phosphorescence, and other forms of luminescence, in which a material emits light.Many materials selectively absorb...

 particles randomly across the paper
Paper
Paper is a thin material mainly used for writing upon, printing upon, drawing or for packaging. It is produced by pressing together moist fibers, typically cellulose pulp derived from wood, rags or grasses, and drying them into flexible sheets....

 surface. Watercolors appear more vivid than acrylics or oils because the pigments are laid down in a more pure form with fewer fillers (such as kaolin) obscuring the pigment colors. Multiple layers of watercolor do achieve a very luminous effect because of less fillers obscuring the pigment particles.

Pigments characteristics


Staining is a characteristic assigned to watercolor paints: a staining paint is difficult to remove or lift from the painting support after it has been applied or dried. Less staining colors can be lightened or removed almost entirely when wet, or when rewetted and then "lifted" by stroking gently with a clean, wet brush and then blotted up with a paper towel. In fact, the staining characteristics of a paint depend in large part on the composition of the support (paper) itself, and on the particle size of the pigment. Staining is increased if the paint manufacturer uses a dispersant to reduce the paint milling (mixture) time, because the dispersant acts to drive pigment particles into crevices in the paper pulp, dulling the finished color.

Granulation refers to the appearance of separate, visible pigment particles in the finished color, produced when the paint is substantially diluted with water and applied with a juicy brush stroke; pigments notable for their watercolor granulation include viridian
Viridian
Viridian is a blue-green pigment, a hydrated chromium oxide, of medium saturation and relatively dark in value. It is composed more of green than blue. Specifically, it is a dark shade of spring green, the color between green and cyan on the color wheel...

 (PG18), cerulean blue (PG35), cobalt violet (PV14) and some iron oxide
Iron oxide
Iron oxides are chemical compounds composed of iron and oxygen. All together, there are sixteen known iron oxides and oxyhydroxides.Iron oxides and oxide-hydroxides are widespread in nature, play an important role in many geological and biological processes, and are widely utilized by humans, e.g.,...

 pigments (PBr7).

Flocculation refers to a peculiar clumping typical of ultramarine
Ultramarine
Ultramarine is a blue pigment consisting primarily of a double silicate of aluminium and sodium with some sulfides or sulfates, and occurring in nature as a proximate component of lapis lazuli...

 pigments (PB29 or PV15). Both effects display the subtle effects of water as the paint dries, are unique to watercolors, and are deemed attractive by accomplished watercolor painters. This contrasts with the trend in commercial paints to suppress pigment textures in favor of homogeneous, flat color.

Grades


Commercial watercolor paints come in two grades: "Artist" (or "Professional") and "Student".
  • Artist quality paints are usually formulated with fewer fillers (kaolin
    Kaolinite
    Kaolinite is a clay mineral, part of the group of industrial minerals, with the chemical composition Al2Si2O54. It is a layered silicate mineral, with one tetrahedral sheet linked through oxygen atoms to one octahedral sheet of alumina octahedra...

     or chalk
    Chalk
    Chalk is a soft, white, porous sedimentary rock, a form of limestone composed of the mineral calcite. Calcite is calcium carbonate or CaCO3. It forms under reasonably deep marine conditions from the gradual accumulation of minute calcite plates shed from micro-organisms called coccolithophores....

    ) which results in richer color and vibrant mixes.
  • Student grade paints have less pigment, and often are formulated using two or more less expensive pigments. Artist and Professional paints are more expensive but many consider the quality worth the higher cost.

Reserves


As there is no transparent white watercolor, the white parts of a watercolor painting are most often areas of the paper "reserved" (left unpainted) and allowed to be seen in the finished work. To preserve these white areas, many painters use a variety of resists, including masking tape, clear wax or a liquid latex, that are applied to the paper to protect it from paint, then pulled away to reveal the white paper. Resist painting can also be an effective technique for beginning watercolor artists. The painter can use wax crayons or oil pastels prior to painting the paper. The wax
Wax
thumb|right|[[Cetyl palmitate]], a typical wax ester.Wax refers to a class of chemical compounds that are plastic near ambient temperatures. Characteristically, they melt above 45 °C to give a low viscosity liquid. Waxes are insoluble in water but soluble in organic, nonpolar solvents...

 or oil mediums repel, or resist the watercolor paint. White paint (titanium dioxide
Titanium dioxide
Titanium dioxide, also known as titanium oxide or titania, is the naturally occurring oxide of titanium, chemical formula . When used as a pigment, it is called titanium white, Pigment White 6, or CI 77891. Generally it comes in two different forms, rutile and anatase. It has a wide range of...

 PW6 or zinc oxide
Zinc oxide
Zinc oxide is an inorganic compound with the formula ZnO. It is a white powder that is insoluble in water. The powder is widely used as an additive into numerous materials and products including plastics, ceramics, glass, cement, rubber , lubricants, paints, ointments, adhesives, sealants,...

 PW4) is best used to insert highlights or white accents into a painting. If mixed with other pigments, white paints may cause them to fade or change hue under light exposure. White paint (gouache
Gouache
Gouache[p], also spelled guache, the name of which derives from the Italian guazzo, water paint, splash or bodycolor is a type of paint consisting of pigment suspended in water. A binding agent, usually gum arabic, is also present, just as in watercolor...

) mixed with a "transparent" watercolor paint will cause the transparency to disappear and the paint to look much duller. White paint will always appear dull and chalky next to the white of the paper; however this can be used for some effects.

Brushes


A brush consists of three parts: the tuft, the ferrule and the handle.
  • The tuft is a bundle of animal hairs or synthetic fibers tied tightly together at the base;
  • The ferrule is a metal sleeve that surrounds the tuft, gives the tuft its cross sectional shape, provides mechanical support under pressure, and protects from water wearing down the glue joint between the trimmed, flat base of the tuft and the handle;
  • The lacquered wood handle, which is typically shorter in a watercolor brush than in an oil painting brush, has a distinct shape—widest just behind the ferrule and tapering to the tip.

When painting, painters typically hold the brush just behind the ferrule for the smoothest brushstrokes.

Hairs and fibers


Brushes hold paint (the "bead") through the capillary action
Capillary action
Capillary action, or capilarity, is the ability of a liquid to flow against gravity where liquid spontanously rise in a narrow space such as between the hair of a paint-brush, in a thin tube, or in porous material such as paper or in some non-porous material such as liquified carbon fiber, or in a...

 of the small spaces between the tuft hairs or fibers; paint is released through the contact between the wet paint and the dry paper and the mechanical flexing of the tuft, which opens the spaces between the tuft hairs, relaxing the capillary restraint on the liquid. Because thinned watercolor paint is far less viscous than oil or acrylic paints, the brushes preferred by watercolor painters have a softer and denser tuft. This is customarily achieved by using natural hair harvested from farm raised or trapped animals, in particular sable, squirrel or mongoose. Less expensive brushes, or brushes designed for coarser work, may use horsehair or bristles from pig or ox snouts and ears.

However, as with paints, modern chemistry has developed many synthetic and shaped fibers that rival the stiffness of bristle and mimic the spring and softness of natural hair. Until fairly recently, nylon brushes could not hold a reservoir of water at all so they were extremely inferior to brushes made from natural hair. In recent years, improvements in the holding and pointing properties of synthetic filaments have gained them much greater acceptance among watercolorists.

There is no market regulation on the labeling applied to artists' brushes, but most watercolorists prize brushes from kolinsky (Russian or Chinese) sable. The best of these hairs have a characteristic reddish brown color, darker near the base, and a tapering shaft that is pointed at the tip but widest about halfway toward the root. Squirrel hair is quite thin, straight and typically dark, and makes tufts with a very high liquid capacity; mongoose has a characteristic salt and pepper coloring. Bristle brushes are stiffer and lighter colored. "Camel" is sometimes used to describe hairs from several sources (none of them a camel).

In general, natural hair brushes have superior snap and pointing, a higher capacity (hold a larger bead, produce a longer continuous stroke, and wick up more paint when moist) and a more delicate release. Synthetic brushes tend to dump too much of the paint bead at the beginning of the brush stroke and leave a larger puddle of paint when the brush is lifted from the paper, and they cannot compete with the pointing of natural sable brushes and are much less durable. On the other hand they are typically much cheaper than natural hair, and the best synthetic brushes are now very serviceable; they are also excellent for texturing, shaping, or lifting color, and for the mechanical task of breaking up or rubbing paint to dissolve it in water.

A high quality sable brush has five key attributes: pointing (in a round, the tip of the tuft comes to a fine, precise point that does not splay or split; in a flat, the tuft forms a razor thin, perfectly straight edge); snap (or "spring"; the tuft flexes in direct response to the pressure applied to the paper, and promptly returns to its original shape); capacity (the tuft, for its size, holds a large bead of paint and does not release it as the brush is moved in the air); release (the amount of paint released is proportional to the pressure applied to the paper, and the paint flow can be precisely controlled by the pressure and speed of the stroke as the paint bead is depleted); and durability (a large, high quality brush may withstand decades of daily use).

Most natural hair brushes are sold with the tuft cosmetically shaped with starch or gum, so brushes are difficult to evaluate before purchasing, and durability is only evident after long use. The most common failings of natural hair brushes are that the tuft sheds hairs (although a little shedding is acceptable in a new brush), the ferrule becomes loosened, or the wood handle shrinks, warps, cracks or flakes off its lacquer coating.

Shapes


Natural and synthetic brushes are sold with the tuft shaped for different tasks. Among the most popular are:
  • Rounds. The tuft has a round cross section but a tapering profile, widest near the ferrule (the "belly") and tapered at the tip (the "point"). These are general purpose brushes that can address almost any task.
  • Flats. The tuft is compressed laterally by the ferrule into a flat wedge; the tuft appears square when viewed from the side and has a perfectly straight edge. "Brights" are flats in which the tuft is as long as it is wide; "one stroke" brushes are longer than their width. "Sky brushes" or "wash brushes" look like miniature housepainting brushes; the tuft is usually 3 cm to 7 cm wide and is used to paint large areas.
  • Mops (natural hair only). A round brush, usually of squirrel hair and, decoratively, with a feather quill ferrule that is wrapped with copper wire; these have very high capacity for their size, especially good for wet in wet or wash painting; when moist they can wick up large quantities of paint.
  • Filbert (or "Cat's Tongue", hair only). A hybrid brush: a flat that comes to a point, like a round, useful for specially shaped brush strokes.
  • Rigger (hair only). An extremely long, thin tuft, originally used to paint the rigging in nautical portraits.
  • Fan. A small flat in which the tuft is splayed into a fan shape; used for texturing or painting irregular, parallel hatching lines.
  • Acrylic. A flat brush with synthetic bristles, attached to a (usually clear) plastic handle with a beveled tip used for scoring or scraping.

A single brush can produce many lines and shapes. A "round" for example, can create thin and thick lines, wide or narrow strips, curves, and other painted effects. A flat brush when used on end can produce thin lines or dashes in addition to the wide swath typical with these brushes, and its brushmarks display the characteristic angle of the tuft corners.

Every watercolor painter works in specific genres and has a personal painting style and "tool discipline", and these largely determine his or her preference for brushes. Artists typically have a few favorites and do most work with just one or two brushes. Brushes are typically the most expensive component of the watercolorist's tools, and a minimal general purpose brush selection would include:
  • 4 round (for detail and drybrush)
  • 8 round
  • 12 or 14 round (for large color areas or washes)
  • 1/2" or 1" flat
  • 12 mop (for washes and wicking)
  • 1/2" acrylic (for dissolving or mixing paints, and scrubbing paints before lifting from the paper)

Major watercolor brush manufacturers include DaVinci, Escoda, Isabey, Raphael, Kolonok, Robert Simmons, Daler-Rowney
Daler-Rowney
Daler-Rowney is a fine art materials manufacturer based in Bracknell, United Kingdom. It sells a wide range of artist products such as paints, artist surfaces, brushes and a range of accessories.-History:...

, Arches, and Winsor & Newton. As with papers and paints, it is common for retailers to commission brushes under their own label from an established manufacturer. Among these are Cheap Joe's, Daniel Smith, Dick Blick and Utrecht.

Sizes


The size of a round brush is designated by a number, which may range from 0000 (for a very tiny round) to 0, then from 1 to 24 or higher. These numbers refer to the size of the brass brushmakers' mould used to shape and align the hairs of the tuft before it is tied off and trimmed, and as with shoe lasts, these sizes vary from one manufacturer to the next. In general a #12 round brush has a tuft about 2 to 2.5 cm long; tufts are generally fatter (wider) in brushes made in England than in brushes made on the Continent: a German or French #14 round is approximately the same size as an English #12. Flats may be designated either by a similar but separate numbering system, but more often are described by the width of the ferrule, measured in centimeters or inches.

Watercolor pencil


Watercolor pencil is another important tool in watercolors techniques. This water-soluble color pencil allows to draw fine details and to blend them with water. Noted artists who use watercolor pencils include illustrator Travis Charest
Travis Charest
Travis Charest is a Canadian comic book penciller, inker and painter, known for his work on such books as Darkstars, WildC.A.T.s, Grifter/Shi, WildC.A.T.s/X-Men: The Golden Age and The Metabarons...

. A similar tool is the watercolor pastel, broader than watercolor pencil, and able to quickly cover a large surface.

Paper


Most watercolor painters before c.1800 had to use whatever paper was at hand: Thomas Gainsborough was delighted to buy some paper used to print a Bath tourist guide, and the young David Cox preferred a heavy paper used to wrap packages. James Whatman first offered a wove
Wove paper
Wove paper is a writing paper with a uniform surface, not ribbed or watermarked.The papermaking mould's wires run parallel to each other to produce laid paper, but they are woven together into a fine wire mesh for wove paper...

 watercolor paper in 1788, and the first machinemade ("cartridge") papers from a steam powered mill in 1805.

All art papers can be described by eight attributes: furnish, color, weight, finish, sizing
Sizing
Sizing or size is any one of numerous specific substances that is applied to or incorporated in other material, especially papers and textiles, to act as a protecting filler or glaze....

, dimensions, permanence and packaging. Watercolor painters typically paint on paper specifically formulated for watermedia applications. Fine watermedia papers are manufactured under the brand names Arches, Fabriano, Hahnemuehle, Lanaquarelle, The Langton
Daler-Rowney
Daler-Rowney is a fine art materials manufacturer based in Bracknell, United Kingdom. It sells a wide range of artist products such as paints, artist surfaces, brushes and a range of accessories.-History:...

, The Langton Prestige
Daler-Rowney
Daler-Rowney is a fine art materials manufacturer based in Bracknell, United Kingdom. It sells a wide range of artist products such as paints, artist surfaces, brushes and a range of accessories.-History:...

, Saunders Waterford, Strathmore, Winsor & Newton and Zerkall; and there has been a recent remarkable resurgence in handmade papers, notably those by Twinrocker, Velke Losiny, Ruscombe Mill and St. Armand.

Furnish


The traditional furnish or material content of watercolor papers is cellulose
Cellulose
Cellulose is an organic compound with the formula , a polysaccharide consisting of a linear chain of several hundred to over ten thousand β linked D-glucose units....

, a structural carbohydrate found in many plants. The most common sources of paper cellulose are cotton, linen, or alpha cellulose extracted from wood pulp. To make paper, the cellulose is wetted, mechanically macerated or pounded, chemically treated, rinsed and filtered to the consistency of thin oatmeal, then poured out into paper making moulds. In handmade papers, the pulp is hand poured ("cast") into individual paper moulds (a mesh screen stretched within a wood frame) and shaken by hand into an even layer. In industrial paper production, the pulp is formed by large papermaking machines that spread the paper over large cylinders—either heated metal cylinders that rotate at high speed (machinemade papers) or wire mesh cylinders that rotate at low speed (mouldmade papers). Both types of machine produce the paper in a continuous roll or web, which is then cut into individual sheets.

Weight


The basis weight of the paper is a measure of its density and thickness. It is described as the gram weight of one square meter of a single sheet of the paper, or grams per square meter (gsm). Most watercolor papers sold today are in the range between 280gsm to 640gsm. (The previous Imperial system, expressed as the weight in pounds of one ream or 500 sheets of the paper, regardless of its size, obsolete in some areas, is still used in the United States. The most common weights under this system are 300lb (heaviest), 200lb 140lb, and 90lb.) Heavier paper is sometimes preferred over lighter weight or thinner paper because it does not buckle and can hold up to scrubbing and extremely wet washes. Watercolor papers are typically almost a pure white, sometimes slightly yellow (called natural white), though many tinted or colored papers are available. An important diagnostic is the rattle of the paper, or the sound it makes when held aloft by one corner and shaken vigorously. Papers that are dense and made from heavily macerated pulp have a bright, metallic rattle, while papers that are spongy or made with lightly macerated pulp have a muffled, rubbery rattle.

Finish


All papers obtain a texture from the mould used to make them: a wove finish results from a uniform metal screen (like a window screen); a laid
Laid paper
Laid paper is a type of paper having a ribbed texture imparted by the manufacturing process. In the 19th century its use diminished as it was largely supplanted by wove paper...

 finish results from a screen made of narrowly spaced horizontal wires separated by widely spaced vertical wires. The finish is also affected by the methods used to wick and dry the paper after it is "couched" (removed) from the paper mold or is pulled off the papermaking cylinder.

Watercolor papers come in three basic finishes: hot pressed (HP), cold press (CP, or in the UK "Not", for "not hot pressed"), and rough (R). These vary greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer.
  • Rough papers are typically dried by hanging them like laundry ("loft drying") so that the sheets are not exposed to any pressure after they are couched; the wove finish has a pitted, uneven texture that is prized for its ability to accent the texture of watercolor pigments and brushstrokes.
  • Cold pressed papers are dried in large stacks, between absorbent felt blankets; this acts to flatten out about half of the texture found in the rough sheets. CP papers are valued for their versatility.
  • Hot pressed papers are cold pressed sheets that are passed through heated, compressing metal cylinders (called "calendaring"), which flattens almost all the texture in the sheets. HP papers are valued because they are relatively nonabsorbent: pigments remain on the paper surface, brightening the color, and water is not absorbed, so it can produce a variety of water stains or marks as it dries.

These designations are only relative; the CP paper from one manufacturer may be rougher than the R paper from another manufacturer. Fabriano even offers a "soft press" (SP) sheet intermediate between CP and HP.

Sizing


Watercolor papers are traditionally sized
Sizing
Sizing or size is any one of numerous specific substances that is applied to or incorporated in other material, especially papers and textiles, to act as a protecting filler or glaze....

, or treated with a substance to reduce the cellulose absorbency. Internal sizing is added to the paper pulp after rinsing and before it is cast in the paper mould; external or "tub" sizing is applied to the paper surface after the paper has dried. The traditional sizing has been gelatin, gum arabic or rosin, though modern synthetic substitutes (alkyl ketene dimer
Diketene
Diketene is an organic compound formed by dimerization of ketene. Diketene is a member of the oxetane family. It is used as a chemical reagent in organic chemistry. It is a colorless liquid and heating regenerates the ketene monomer...

s such as Aquapel) are now used instead. The highly absorbent papers that contain no sizing are designated waterleaf.

Dimensions


Most art papers are sold as single sheets of paper in standard sizes. Most common is the full sheet (22" x 30"), and half sheets (15" x 22") or quarter sheets (15" x 11") derived from it. Larger (and less standardized) sheets include the double elephant (within an inch or two of 30" x 40") and emperor (40" x 60"), which are the largest sheets commercially available. Papers are also manufactured in rolls, up to about 60" wide and 30 feet long. Finally, papers are also sold as watercolor "blocks"—a pad of 20 or so sheets of paper, cut to identical dimensions and glued on all four sides, which provides high dimensional stability and portability, though block papers tend to have subdued finishes. The painter simply works on the exposed sheet and, when finished, uses a knife to cut the adhesive around the four sides, separating the painting and revealing the fresh paper underneath.

Permanence


Finally, the best art papers are designated archival, meaning they will last without significant deterioration for a century or more. Archival means that the papers are made entirely of high alpha cellulose or 100% cotton or linen fiber (that is, they are lignin
Lignin
Lignin or lignen is a complex chemical compound most commonly derived from wood, and an integral part of the secondary cell walls of plants and some algae. The term was introduced in 1819 by de Candolle and is derived from the Latin word lignum, meaning wood...

 free
, as lignin
Lignin
Lignin or lignen is a complex chemical compound most commonly derived from wood, and an integral part of the secondary cell walls of plants and some algae. The term was introduced in 1819 by de Candolle and is derived from the Latin word lignum, meaning wood...

 causes darkening and embrittlement under light exposure), pH neutral (meaning there is no residual acidity left from the chemical processing of the pulp), buffered (a small quantity of an alkaline compound, usually calcium carbonate, is added to the furnish to neutralize the effect of atmospheric acids), and free of any artificial paper brighteners or whiteners (e.g., ultraviolet dyes). The content designations "100% cotton" or "100% cotton rag" have little significance to the actual quality or handling attributes of the paper. (A wide range of papers using alternative plant fibers, some of them not archival, are available from Asian manufacturers; some watercolor painters even employ sheets of printable plastic, sold under brand names such as Yupo and Polyart.) Synthetic paper has a high ph value and works well with all watermedia paint

Quality test


A useful test of paper quality is simply to burn a small piece of the paper in an ashtray: pure cellulose completely burns away to a wispy, whitish gray ash. The absorbency of a paper is assessed by licking it. The mechanical strength of the paper is assessed by repeatedly folding it back and forth along a single crease. The stability of the paper (amount of cockling when soaked) and its response to lifting paint (the paper should not shred or tear) is best tested by making a painting on it.

Stretching


All cellulose fibers absorb moisture and expand along the length of the fiber when wet; this produces the familiar buckling or warping called cockling. Evenly wetted, machinemade papers typically curl along one dimension, revealing the curvature of the cylinder they were formed on; some mouldmade papers and all handmade papers cockle in a random, uneven pattern. Handmade papers typically have four natural deckles (feathery, uneven edges) left by the paper mould; mouldmade papers have two natural deckles along the edges of the web, and two simulated deckles produced by cutting the sheet with a jet of compressed water; machinemade papers have no deckles.

In the 19th century, before modern high quality and heavy weights of paper were available, watercolor painters preferred to "stretch" papers before painting on them, to minimize or eliminate cockling and to provide a firm painting support. The paper was first completely immersed in water for 10–15 minutes, then laid completely flat on a board. The paper edges were fixed with gummed tape, starch glue or tacks, and the paper was left to dry. (As paper dries it shrinks, producing a high tension across the paper surface; when painted on, this tension takes up the expansion produced by the paper cockling, so that the paper remains flat.) When the painting was finished, the gummed or glued edge of the paper, including the deckle (which was considered unsightly) was trimmed away. Many watercolor painters still stretch their papers, but because natural deckles are appreciated today for their decorative, handmade effect, the modern preference is to work on unstretched papers, either by using a heavier weight of paper, by allowing paper to dry out before it becomes too saturated, or by exploiting the artistic effects that cockling can produce.

Techniques



Watercolor painting has the reputation of being quite demanding; it is more accurate to say that watercolor techniques are unique to watercolor. Unlike oil or acrylic painting, where the paints essentially stay where they are put and dry more or less in the form they are applied, water is an active and complex partner in the watercolor painting process, changing both the absorbency and shape of the paper when it is wet and the outlines and appearance of the paint as it dries. The difficulty in watercolor painting is almost entirely in learning how to anticipate and leverage the behavior of water, rather than attempting to control or dominate it.

Many difficulties occur because watercolor paints do not have high hiding power, so previous efforts cannot simply be painted over; and the paper support is both absorbent and delicate, so the paints cannot simply be scraped off, like oil paint from a canvas, but must be laboriously (and often only partially) lifted by rewetting and blotting. This often induces in student painters a pronounced and inhibiting anxiety about making an irreversible mistake. Watercolor has a longstanding association with drawing or engraving, and the common procedure to curtail such mistakes is to make a precise, faint outline drawing in pencil of the subject to be painted, to use small brushes, and to paint limited areas of the painting only after all adjacent paint areas have completely dried.

Another characteristic of watercolor paints is that the carbohydrate binder is only a small proportion of the raw paint volume, and much of the binder is drawn between the hydrophilic cellulose fibers of wet paper as the paint (and paper) dries. As a result, watercolor paints do not form an enclosing layer of vehicle around the pigment particles and a continuous film of dried vehicle over the painting support, but leave pigment particles scattered and stranded like tiny grains of sand on the paper. This increases the scattering of light from both the pigment and paper surfaces, causing a characteristic whitening or lightening of the paint color as it dries. The exposed pigment particles are also naked to damaging ultraviolet light, which can compromise pigment permanency.
Watercolor paint is traditionally and still commonly applied with brushes, but modern painters have experimented with many other implements, particularly sprayers, scrapers, sponges or sticks, and have combined watercolors with pencil, charcoal, crayon, chalk, ink, engraving, monotype, lithography and collage, or with acrylic paint.

Many watercolor painters, perhaps uniquely among all modern visual artists, still adhere to prejudices dating from the 19th century rivalry between "transparent" and bodycolor painters. Among these are injunctions never to use white paint, never to use black paint, only to use transparent color, or only to work with "primary" color mixtures. In fact, many superb paintings flout some or all of these guidelines, and they have little relevance to modern painting practice.

Perhaps only with the exception of egg tempera, watercolor is the painting medium that artists most often compound themselves, by hand, using raw pigment and paint ingredients purchased from retail suppliers and prepared using only kitchen utensils. Even with commercially prepared paints, watercolor is prized for its nontoxic, tap ready solvent; lack of odor or flammability; prompt drying time; ease of cleanup and disposal; long shelf life; independence from accessory equipment (jars, rags, easels, stretchers, etc.). Its portability makes it ideal for plein air
En plein air
En plein air is a French expression which means "in the open air", and is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors.Artists have long painted outdoors, but in the mid-19th century working in natural light became particularly important to the Barbizon school and Impressionism...

 painting, and painters today can buy compact watercolor kits—containing a dozen or more pan paints, collapsible brushes, water flask, brush rinsing cup and fold out mixing trays—that fit neatly into a coat pocket.

Washes and glazes



Basic watercolor technique includes wash
Wash (painting)
thumb|Example of a wash drawing by [[R. G. Skerrett]].A wash is a painting technique in which a paint brush that is very wet with solvent and holds a small paint load is applied to a wet or dry support such as paper or primed or raw canvas. The result is a smooth and uniform area that ideally lacks...

es and glazes. In watercolors, a wash is the application of diluted paint in a manner that disguises or effaces individual brush strokes to produce a unified area of color. Typically, this might be a light blue wash for the sky. There are many techniques to produce an acceptable wash, but the student method is to tilt the paper surface (usually after fixing it to a rigid flat support) so that the top of the wash area is higher than the bottom, then to apply the paint in a series of even, horizontal brush strokes in a downward sequence, each stroke just overlapping the stroke above to pull downward the excess paint or water (the "bead"), and finally wicking up the excess paint from the last stroke using a paper towel or the tip of a moist brush. This produces an airy, translucent color effect unique to watercolors, especially when a granulating or flocculating pigment (such as viridian or ultramarine blue) is used. Washes can be "graded" or "graduated" by adding more prediluted paint or water to the mixture used in successive brush strokes, which darkens or lightens the wash from start to finish. "Variegated" washes, which blend two or more paint colors, can also be used, for example as a wash with areas of blue and perhaps some red or orange for a sky at sunrise or sunset.

A glaze is the application of one paint color over a previous paint layer, with the new paint layer at a dilution sufficient to allow the first color to show through. Glazes are used to mix two or more colors, to adjust a color (darken it or change its hue or chroma), or to produce an extremely homogenous, smooth color surface or a controlled but delicate color transition (light to dark, or one hue to another). The last technique requires the first layer to be a highly diluted consistency of paint; this paint layer dissolves the surface sizing of the paper and loosens the cellulose tufts in the pulp. Subsequent layers are applied at increasingly heavier concentrations, always using a small round brush, only after the previous paint application has completely dried. Each new layer is used to refine the color transitions or to efface visible irregularities in the existing color. Painters who use this technique may apply 100 glazes or more to create a single painting. This method is currently very popular for painting high contrast, intricate subjects, in particular colorful blossoms in crystal vases brightly illuminated by direct sunlight. The glazing method also works exceptionally well in watercolor portraiture, allowing the artist to depict complex flesh tones effectively.

Wet in wet



Wet in wet includes any application of paint or water to an area of the painting that is already wet with either paint or water. In general, wet in wet is one of the most distinctive features of watercolor painting and the technique that produces a striking painterly effect.

The essential idea is to wet the entire sheet of paper, laid flat, until the surface no longer wicks up water but lets it sit on the surface, then to plunge in with a large brush saturated with paint. This is normally done to define the large areas of the painting with irregularly defined color, which is then sharpened and refined with more controlled painting as the paper (and preceding paint) dries.

Wet in wet actually comprises a variety of specific painting effects, each produced through different procedures. Among the most common and characteristic:
  • Backruns (also called blossoms, blooms, oozles, watermarks, backwashes or runbacks). Because the hydrophilic and closely spaced cellulose fibers of the paper provide traction for capillary action, water and wet paint have a strong tendency to migrate from wetter to drier surfaces of the painting. As the wetter area pushes into the dryer, it plows up pigment along its edge, leaving a lighter colored area behind it and a darker band of pigment along an irregular, serrated edge. Backruns can be subtle or pronounced, depending on the consistency of the paint in the two areas and the amount of moisture imbalance. Backruns can be induced by adding more paint or water to a paint area as it dries, or by blotting (drying) a specific area of the painting, causing the wetter surrounding areas to creep into it. Backruns are often used to symbolize a flare of light or the lighting contour on an object, or simply for decorative effect.

  • Paint Diffusion. Because of osmotic imbalance, concentrated paint applied to a prewetted paper has a tendency to diffuse or expand into the pure water surrounding it, especially if the paint has been milled using a dispersant (surfactant). This produces a characteristic feathery, delicate border around the color area, which can be enhanced or partially shaped by tilting the paper surface before the water dries, shaping the diffusion with surface water flow.

  • Pouring Color. Some artists pour large quantities of slightly diluted paint onto separate areas of the painting surface, then by using a brush, spray bottle of water and/or judicious tilting of the painting support, cause the wet areas to gently merge and mix. After the color has been mixed and allowed to set for a few minutes, the painting is tipped vertically to sheet off all excess moisture (the lighter colors across the darker ones), leaving behind a paper stained with random, delicate color variations, which can be further shaped with a wet brush or added paint while the paper is still wet. A popular variation uses separate areas of red, yellow and blue paint, which when mingled and drained produce a striking effect of light in darkness; areas of white are reserved by first covering them with plastic film, masking tape or a liquid latex resist. (The technique was actually invented, and used for similar effect, by J.M.W. Turner.)

  • Dropping In Color. In this technique a color area is first precisely defined with diluted paint or clear water, then more concentrated paint is dropped into it by touching the wet area with a brush charged with paint. The added paint can be shaped by tilting or stroking; backruns can be induced by adding pure water or concentrated paint, or the color can be lightened by wicking up paint with a moist brush. A striking, tesselated effect is produced when many precisely defined and interlocking areas are separately colored with this randomly diffusing technique.

  • Salt Texture. Grains of coarse salt, sprinkled into moist paint, produce small, snowflake like imperfections in the color. This is especially effective when the color area is a wash that displays the texture more clearly. It should be remembered when using salt that salt will rot the paper eventually. A similar effect can be produced by spraying a moist (not shiny but still cool to the touch) paint area with water, using a spray bottle held two or three feet above the painting surface, or by sprinkling a wet paint with coarse sand or sawdust.

  • Cling-film technique. The use of kitchen cling-film to create special effects in watercolor painting. A wash of watercolor is applied to paper and cling-film is laid over the wet pigment. The cling-film is then manipulated manually using fingers to form a series of ridges that resemble ripples in water or long grasses. Once the pigment is completely dry, the cling-film is removed and the texture is revealed in greater clarity.


Watercolor painters also learn to apply paint to paper and then, when the paint has dried to the right point, brush along the edge of the paint with a flat, mop or sky brush charged with a moderate amount of clear water. This new area of water pulls the wet paint outward in a diffusion fan that is controlled by judging the wetness of the paint and the amount of water applied; if excessive water is used, this brushing produces both an outward diffusion and a backrun into the drying paint. This method is useful to produce transitions in value or color within narrow bands, such as the locks of hair in a portrait head.

Drybrush


At the other extreme from wet in wet techniques, Drybrush
Drybrush
Drybrush is a painting technique in which a paint brush that is relatively dry, but still holds paint, is used. Load is applied to a dry support such as paper or primed canvas...

 is the watercolor painting technique for precision and control, supremely exemplified in many botanical paintings and in the drybrush watercolors of Andrew Wyeth
Andrew Wyeth
Andrew Newell Wyeth was a visual artist, primarily a realist painter, working predominantly in a regionalist style. He was one of the best-known U.S. artists of the middle 20th century....

. Raw (undiluted) paint is picked up with a premoistened, small brush (usually a #4 or smaller), then applied to the paper with small hatching or crisscrossing brushstrokes. The brush tip must be wetted but not overcharged with paint, and the paint must be just fluid enough to transfer to the paper with slight pressure and without dissolving the paint layer underneath. The goal is to build up or mix the paint colors with short precise touches that blend to avoid the appearance of pointillism. The cumulative effect is objective, textural and highly controlled, with the strongest possible value contrasts in the medium. Often it is impossible to distinguish a good drybrush watercolor from a color photograph or oil painting, and many drybrush watercolors are varnished or lacquered after they are completed to enhance this resemblance.

Scumbling (in the 19th century, called "crumbling color" or "dragging color") is an unrelated technique of loading a large, moist flat or round brush with concentrated paint, wicking out the excess, then lightly dragging the side or heel of the tuft across the paper to produce a rough, textured appearance, for example to represent beach grass, rocky surfaces or glittering water. The amount of texture that can be produced depends on the finish or tooth of the paper (R or CP paper works best), the size of the brush, the consistency and quantity of the paint in the brush, and the pressure and speed of the brush stroke. Moist paper will cause the scumbled color to diffuse slightly before it dries.

Diluting and mixing watercolor paints


When using watercolors, it is important to use the full range of paint consistency. The densest possible color is obtained by using the paint as it comes from the tube. The lightest color is obtained by using paint heavily diluted with water, or applied to the paper and then blotted away with a paper towel. Generally, paint directly from the tube should be used only with drybrush application: if the paint is used to completely cover the paper it typically dries to a dull, leathery appearance (called bronzing). Usually one part tube paint must be diluted with 2 to 3 parts water to eliminate bronzing in paint applied with a large brush to dry paper; with 4 to 6 parts water to produce the most saturated color; and with still more water to produce delicate tints of color and to enhance pigment textures (granulation or flocculation). The main point is to take advantage of the complete range of paint effects that are produced at different paint consistencies.

Tube paints are normally used with a flat palette that provides compartmentalized paint wells (for holding separate paint colors) and a large mixing area for mixing or diluting paints; pan paints are arrayed in enameled metal paint boxes that provide shallow mixing areas in the folding cover or in a fold out faceted tray. With tube paints, the excess paint remaining in the palette paint wells should be cleaned out only if the paint has become dirtied with another paint; otherwise the paints should be allowed to dry out promptly and completely, as this prevents mold from forming. Despite the common misconception, there is no visual difference between the viscous paint packaged in tubes and the dried paints in pans. Tube paints left to dry in paint wells are used in exactly the same way as pan paints—the painter simply drips or sprays water over the paint a few minutes before starting work. The only notable difference is that some tube paints, such as viridian or cerulean blue, produce a gritty, uneven paint mixture when left to dry and then rewetted.

There are three finesses to color mixtures with watercolors. First, the raw or "pure" paint in the paint wells should never be discolored with any other paint. To ensure this, colors are mixed by picking up the desired quantity of dissolved paint from the prewetted paint well, using a moist, clean brush, then applying the paint onto the flat mixing area of the palette. Then the brush is rinsed before picking up any other paint. Once all paints are on the mixing area, they are mixed and/or applied to the painting.

Second, colors can be mixed in at least four ways: (1) by completely mixing together on the palette the paints that exactly match a desired color; (2) by loading together in a large brush the separate paints that approximately match the desired color, then letting these partially mix as the paint is applied to the paper; (3) by laying down first a single paint color, then "dropping in" the remaining paint colors with the brush while the painted area is still wet; (4) by glazing the paints as separate layers, one over another. Each technique has its purpose—the first provides color accuracy (for photorealist painting), the second provides color variety (especially in dark colors), the third produces many "wet in wet" effects between wetter and drier paint areas (for greater color expressiveness), the fourth can produce a variety of luminous, iridescent or "broken color" effects, similar to mixtures with pastel chalks.

Third, watercolors should be used confidently: applied with a single stroke or joined strokes, then left alone to dry. Color muddiness or dullness typically comes from excessively brushing wet paint after it has been applied to the paper, or adding new layers of paint onto paper that has soaked water into its pulp (capillary action draws the paint inside the paper, dulling the color, rather than letting it dry on the surface). Overbrushing and "color soaking" are the most common flaws of novice watercolor paintings.

Minimal palettes


Palette is also the term for a specific selection of paints (or "colors"). Though commercial watercolor brands typically include up to 100 or more paint colors in tubes, subtractive pigment mixtures can produce a complete range of colors from a small number of specific paints. Indeed, as a matter of economy, convenience or technique, painters have often preferred palettes comprising the smallest practical selection of paints.

The smallest practical palette consists of one dark neutral paint, typically including a carbon black
Carbon black
Carbon black is a material produced by the incomplete combustion of heavy petroleum products such as FCC tar, coal tar, ethylene cracking tar, and a small amount from vegetable oil. Carbon black is a form of amorphous carbon that has a high surface-area-to-volume ratio, although its...

 pigment or, in works before 1800, a sepia ink. As this single paint can only communicate value gradations from full strength (dark) to white paper, it produces monochrome images, often supplemented and sharpened by an underdrawing or additions in pen and ink.

A familiar choice is the "primary" palette consisting of a magenta (traditionally but inaccurately identified as "red"), yellow and cyan (traditionally "blue") paint, each representing a subtractive primary color. This palette can mix all possible hues, though the purple, orange and green mixtures are characteristically rather dull or dark, and most color mixtures require use of all three paints. The primary palette is therefore useful to demonstrate that compactness also affects convenience (the difficulty involved in mixing any common color) and color saturation (generally, the paint mixture gamut or total number of unique colors it is possible to mix with a palette). Note that Leonardo, in his notebooks, cited red, yellow, green and blue (along with white and black) as the "painter's primaries", though he may not have had a specific palette in mind; but replacing the cyan paint with a deep blue paint (such as ultramarine blue), and adding a green paint, greatly improves the saturation of both purple and green mixtures in a compact four paint selection, and allows a dark neutral or black to be mixed directly, using only red and green.

In the 19th century a six paint "split primary" palette was introduced and is still advocated today as a solution to the mixing limitations of the three paint "primary" palette. It is based on the three traditional subtractive primary colors (red, yellow and blue), each in a "warm" and "cool" version (specific pigments listed as examples for each color choice):
  • "warm" yellow: Cadmium Yellow Medium (PY35)
  • "cool" yellow: Cadmium Lemon (PY35)
  • "warm" red: Cadmium Scarlet (PR108)
  • "cool" red: Quinacridone Carmine (PV19)
  • "warm" blue: Ultramarine Blue (PB29)
  • "cool" blue": Phthalo Blue (Green Shade) (PB15).

This selection was advocated so that bright or saturated mixtures could be produced by related primary colors, e.g. the brightest orange is the mixture of a yellow with some red in it (warm yellow) and a red with some yellow in it (warm red); the brightest green is the mixture of a yellow with some blue in it (cool yellow) with a blue with some yellow in it (cool blue). This palette is nearly always justified with the specious argument that paints are "impure" carriers of "primary color", a misunderstanding of subtractive color mixture that appears in Michel-Eugene Chevreul's "Simultaneous Color Harmony and Contrast" published in 1839.

A modern approach to the six paint palette (trademarked in the printing industry as a "hexachrome" palette) jettisons the "impure paint" rationalization and simply focuses on obtaining the largest gamut from a limited selection of available pigments. This leads to a more equal spacing of paints around the hue circle, and the inclusion of a green paint. As a result the mixture of any two paints adjacent on the hue circle usually produces the most saturated color mixtures for every hue between them (specific pigments listed as examples for each color choice):
  • yellow: Cadmium Yellow Pale (PY35 or PY37) or Benzimidazolone Yellow (PY151 or PY154)
  • red orange: Pyrrol Orange (PO73) or Cadmium Scarlet (PR108)
  • magenta: Quinacridone Magenta (PR122) or Quinacridone Rose (PV19)
  • blue violet: Ultramarine Blue (PB29)
  • cyan: Phthalo Turquoise (PB16) or Phthalo Cyan (PB17)
  • green: Phthalo Green (PG7 Blue Shade or PG36 Yellow Shade).

Both the "split primary" and "hexachrome" palettes obtain dull or darkened colors, including a "neutral" (dark gray or black), by mixing together paints or colors on opposite sides of the hue circle—especially orange or scarlet with cyan, and carmine or magenta with green.

As a matter of convenience, painters typically also add one or more paints made with an iron oxide pigment (the so called "earth" pigments) and sold under the marketing names yellow ochre, raw sienna, raw umber, burnt sienna, burnt umber and/or venetian red. Exactly the same brown or ochre colors can be matched with either of the six paint palettes, but it is tedious to do. As dark colors also require inconvenient mixing, most painters prefer to add a premixed dark neutral paint containing a carbon (black) pigment and a tinting pigment to produce a slight color bias, usually sold under the marketing names indigo, payne's gray, neutral tint or sepia.

Paint lightfastness


A final consideration is lightfastness, or the ability of a pigment to retain its original color appearance under exposure to light. This is usually indicated as a numerical rating, from I (high lightfastness) to III or IV (low lightfastness), on the paint tube or in the paint technical information available from the manufacturer. Lightfastness is a crucial issue with watercolors, because the paint pigment is not surrounded by a protective dried binder (as in oil or acrylic paints) but is left exposed on the surface of the paper. Watercolors acquired in the 19th century a market reputation for relative impermanence that continues to suppress their price today, and painters who admire this medium will make choices to improve its market status: in fact, lightfast watercolor paints on archival papers are more durable than any oil painting on canvas. The most stable painting medium is pastel, but modern lightfast watercolors are now more stable than oil or acrylic mediums.
Unfortunately, paint manufacturer lightfastness ratings are not always trustworthy. However, because they have been demonstrated to be impermanent in watercolors, certain pigments (paints) should never be used under any circumstances. These include: aureolin (PY40), alizarin crimson (PR83), genuine rose madder (NR9), genuine carmine (NR4), genuine vermilion (PR106), most naphthol reds and oranges, all dyes (including most "liquid watercolors" and marker pens), and paints premixed with a white pigment, including paints marketed under the names naples yellow, emerald green or antwerp blue. Most of these are colorants invented in the 19th century or before that have been superseded by far more durable modern alternatives, and these are usually sold as "hue" paints (e.g., "alizarin crimson hue" is a modern pigment that resembles alizarin crimson). Industry labeling practice is to include a lightfastness rating on the paint packaging, and painters should only use paints that have a lightfastness rating of I or II under the testing standards published the American Society of Testing and Materials (now ASTM International).

See also



  • Acrylic paint
    Acrylic paint
    Acrylic paint is fast drying paint containing pigment suspension in acrylic polymer emulsion. Acrylic paints can be diluted with water, but become water-resistant when dry...

  • Acrylic painting techniques
    Acrylic painting techniques
    Acrylic painting techniques are different styles of manipulating and working with polymer-based acrylic paints. Acrylics differ from oil paints in that they have shorter drying times and are soluble in water. These types of paint eliminate the need for turpentine and gesso, and can be applied...

  • History of painting
    History of painting
    The history of painting reaches back in time to artifacts from pre-historic humans, and spans all cultures. It represents a continuous, though periodically disrupted tradition from Antiquity. Across cultures, and spanning continents and millennia, the history of painting is an ongoing river of...

  • Oil paint
    Oil paint
    Oil paint is a type of slow-drying paint that consists of particles of pigment suspended in a drying oil, commonly linseed oil. The viscosity of the paint may be modified by the addition of a solvent such as turpentine or white spirit, and varnish may be added to increase the glossiness of the...

  • :Category:Watercolorists

History

  • Andrew Wilton & Anne Lyles. The Great Age of British Watercolours (1750–1880). Prestel, 1993. ISBN 3-7913-1254-5
  • Anne Lyles & Robin Hamlyn. British watercolours from the Oppé Collection. Tate Gallery Publishing, 1997. ISBN 1-85437-240-8
  • Christopher Finch. American Watercolors. Abbeville Press, 1991. ASIN B000IBDWGK
  • Christopher Finch. Nineteenth-Century Watercolors. Abbeville Press, 1991. ISBN 1-55859-019-6
  • Christopher Finch. Twentieth-Century Watercolors. Abbeville Press, 1988. ISBN 0-89659-811-X
  • Eric Shanes. Turner: The Great Watercolours. Royal Academy of Arts, 2001. ISBN 0-8109-6634-4
  • Martin Hardie. Water-Colour Painting in Britain (3 volumes: I. The Eighteenth Century; II. The Romantic Period; III. The Victorian Period.). Batsford, 1966–1968. ISBN 1-131-84131-X
  • Michael Clarke. The Tempting Prospect: A Social History of English Watercolours. British Museum Publications, 1981. ASIN B000UCV0XO
  • Moore, Sean. Ultimate Visual Dictionary.Dorling Kindersley, 1994. ISBN 0-7513-1050-6

Tutorials & Technique

  • Rex Brandt. The Winning Ways of Watercolor: Basic Techniques and Methods of Transparent Watercolor in Twenty Lessons. Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1973. ISBN 0-442-21404-9
  • David Dewey. The Watercolor Book: Materials and Techniques for Today's Artist. Watson-Guptill, 1995. ISBN 0-8230-5641-4
  • Donna Seldin Janis. Sargent Abroad: Figures and Landscapes. Abbeville Press; 1st edition (October 1997). ISBN 978-0-7892-0384-7.
  • Charles LeClair. The Art of Watercolor (Revised and Expanded Edition). Watson-Guptill, 1999. ISBN 0-8230-0292-6
  • Royal Watercolour Society. The Watercolour Expert. Cassell Illustrated, 2004. ISBN 1-84403-149-7
  • John Ruskin. The Elements of Drawing [1857]. Watson-Guptill, 1991. ISBN 0-8230-1602-1 (Reprints from other publishers are also available.)
  • Pip Seymour. Watercolour Painting: A Handbook for Artists. Lee Press, 1997. ISBN 0-9524727-4-0
  • Stan Smith. Watercolor: The Complete Course. Reader's Digest, 1995. ISBN 0-89577-653-7
  • Curtis Tappenden. Foundation Course: Watercolour. Cassell Illustrated, 2003. ISBN 1844030822
  • Edgar A. Whitney. Complete Guide to Watercolor Painting. Watson-Guptill, 1974. [Dover Edition ISBN 0-486-41742-5]

Materials

  • Ian Sideway. The Watercolor Artist's Paper Directory. North Light, 2000. ISBN 1-58180-034-7
  • Jacques Turner. Brushes: A Handbook for Artists and Artisans. Design Press, 1992. ISBN 0-8306-3975-6
  • Sylvie Turner. The Book of Fine Paper. Thames & Hudson, 1998. ISBN 0-500-01871-5
    • Michael Wilcox. The Wilcox Guide To The Best Watercolor Paints. School of Colour Publications, 2000. [ISBN 978-0-9679628-0-1]

External links