Couple of comments I would like to share about watercolors.

Watercolor Painting & Sketching Group, Community, and Blog Forums Watercolor Tips & Tricks Couple of comments I would like to share about watercolors.

  • Before I can start in my personal comments, for those who have not know me through my posted art pieces or have not read my “DoodleWash” guest artist resume; let me introduce myself.  In a very brief way, my name is Walter Pierluissi (Walt) and I am originally from Puerto Rico where I studied art with Maestro Azaustre (a Spaniard Oil Artist who lived in PR in the no70’s).  In my late teens, I also studied in an art school that was close to my grandparents home for few years, then I stop pursuing my Art and decide to studied Accounting at Catholic University of Puerto Rico.  I started developing my abilities with acrylics back in the mid 1980’s; but since 2009 I shift my interest to watercolors, and since then I have been learning this medium by watching YouTube videos, and a lot of hours in practicing it.

    I have never considered myself anything more than an amateur in the arts, just because I learn every day something different… So, I always will be a student… and you all are my teachers in my amazing journey on the Watercolors.

    Now let me share with you some interesting things I have learn through my 10 years with this medium.

    1. Watercolor can be very unpredictable.  It’s takes quite some time to understand how the pigment will react and flow in the water… So, to control the pigment you need to understand how water flows, specially over the surface you are using.  And water will flow different depending on the kind of paper.  We have a good variety of watercolor papers but by far the best is 100% Cotton, just because is where water flows more naturally and the absorption is just right; also, it will let you work all techniques of watercolors.  Other kind of papers, especially cellulose, I used them for practicing my color mixes.   So, by choosing the right paper you might be able to master your control over the watercolor faster; and even you will be able to predict where the water will go in your painting.  Another little detail is the weight of the paper, which I always use 140 pounds as a minimum requirement for me; lighter weights will not handle the overlayers of washes you will need to do in order to acquire the intensity you want in your painting.

    2. Well, I touch the issue of over-layering of washes… Let me explain… Watercolors is pigment mixed with gum Arabic basically, that you add water in order to layer it over a paper surface.  Well, when is wet it will have a more intense color then when its dries.  You will need to apply various layers on top of the old in order to achieve the intensity you need… Now if you don’t wait until the previous layer dries to apply the next, you will actually dull your first layer, or will create strange looking pockets that you might not want; unless you want to achieve clouds in the sky and maybe these pockets will work.  I remember someone comment that there are no mistakes in paintings, that always there a way to fixed them; but I have learned that in watercolors this rule not always work.  So, planning your painting ahead of time is a very good idea to do with the watercolor art.

    3. Watercolor professional grade paint could be very expensive.  I use this quality paint when I intent to sell my piece… But for practicing and when I am journaling, I use good quality student grade paint.  And believe me, today we have an immense array of watercolor paints in the market, at fabulous prices. On these good grade student paint, I do prefer the Van Gogh watercolor line, and also the Sakura Koi in tubes (the one from japan), but there are others very good too like White Nights Russian watercolors which are really affordable for an artist quality paint.  So, do your homework and search, sometimes you could find pretty decent offers on eBay or another artist store in the internet.  Now, if you have a mid-quality watercolor paint in tubes, you might want to add a little of glycerin and honey to your paint, it will help with the moist and the brightness of that mid-quality student grade paint.  I would use definitely like 2 drops of glycerin and 1 of honey per half pan of color.

    4. In terms of Brushes, that’s an immense variety of them in the market.  There are very expensive ones and others that are not so expensive but good quality like the Princeton Neptune, which are my favorite brushes… I try to use synthetic brushes as much as I can, just because I am against killing animals.  Squirrel is the best hair for watercolor brushes, it hold a good amount of moisture and let you just drive the color on the paper… but it lose stiffness… that’s why the Neptune, they are a mixture of Squirrel and synthetic, and it will serve both ways, holding moisture and a little stiffness for the details.   But also, there are other brushes you can get, all depends on the results you want to achieve.  Brushes are my obsession: I do have over 400, not all for watercolors.  But you not need to have a large amount, I suggest these:  Round 0,2,4,6,8,12,16.    Flats ¼ inch, ½ inch, 1 inch and maybe 2inch for large washes.  I will always have also a rigger brush for lining… And try to get a combination of holding moisture with some stiffness.

    Watercolor Art requires Planning, Patience, and Layering.  One of the problems I have notice in my years comes with the videos I watched while learning the medium.   When you see a video of an actual painting, the majority of them are edited and cut down in time; the actual time of painting and layering is not shown… it gives the impression that the art has been done in minutes and in reality, it has taken long hours.  In reality it will take anywhere between 2 to 4 hours in time, but not consecutive hours, because you have to give time for a layer to fully dry before applying another layer.  IT TAKES PATIENCE to do watercolors.

    When I see a watercolor piece that looks dull and the colors are not vibrant… I always say, this is an unfinished art piece… The Good still yet to come…

    Here are my personal steps when I decide to do a painting:

    1.  Thinking on the theme and subject that I want to paint.

    2.  Planning and sketch the idea on a piece of paper and present the shadows and the lights with pencil.

    3. Transfer the idea into the watercolor paper, with very soft and light pencil, avoiding to do strong marks because the water will go into the marks and that area will be darken no matter what I do… so avoid marking the watercolor paper unless you want that effect on your painting.

    4. Start painting with light tones the areas that are going to be the farthest points of your painting… You will have to wait for the layer to dry in order to apply another layer with a more intense version of that color.

    5. Always work from the farthest point to the nearest one.  Always remember that the farthest the object is the lighter and dull will be the tone of your paint… unless you are presenting a sunset type of painting and you want that background to overpower the whole piece.

    6. Once you have layer all the various planes of the painting; sit down and contemplate your piece as a whole. At this point you will notice where you need to intensify the color in your piece and you will start layering an intense version of it, or sometime a darker tone over the already painted. Watercolors are transparent, so use water to dilute the intensity, so you can see the background through the layer you are applying.  That’s the magic of watercolors.

    7. Repeat step 7 as many times you need until achieve the effect you expect…

    8. Sign your art piece and SHOW the world your art with a sense of: mission accomplished… YOU HAVE CREATED ART, be proud and happy about it… ENJOY IT…

    You have fulfilled the most sacred task of all … you have expressed the Creator’s gift to humanity, the ability to express the desires of our soul though art.


    Walt….. 9/5/2019

    Just a Friend

    Thankyou for your insights into watercolors, I found the idea of always being a student really interesting and I have just discovered this concept.  Invaluable information regarding allowing the paper to fully dry as I tend to rush in a bit too soon and lovely to be reminded.


    Great observations and tips about watercolor.

    Good tips and sharing, thank you..

    Thanks to you all for reading my thoughts

    Walt, thank you for your thoughts about watercolor.  I enjoy painting the prompts on doodlewsh each day, but do get discouraged when I see the work that you and other artists do. I have enjoyed seeing the work you do for Doodlewash.  It inspires me, and   I will try some of the hints that you mention in your comments.

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