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Tips for watercolour painting

Watercolour painting milieu

As a rule, when watercolouring, you begin with the subtle, light-coloured shades and gradually work towards the darker ones.

The painting surface itself is part of the composition, shimmering through in some places or, in other places, left in its original white state as a highlight. Watercolour pencils can be used with water to create a very thin or partial wash so that characteristic hatching lines remain visible.

Accessories for watercolour pencils

Colours are often added to a pre-moistened surface or still damp wash so that they run into each other and merge, thereby creating the textures and blends so characteristic of this kind of painting.

The subtlety and delicacy of this painting technique is emphasised still more when parts of the picture are left incomplete, with some of the content merely hinted at, leaving scope for interpretation.

Useful accessories for watercolour pencils:
A quality sharpener with a sharp blade (e.g. STAEDTLER art. no. 512 002), high-quality brushes in the sizes 8, 15 and 20 make a good basic set, two glasses of water (change frequently), paper stomps or, alternatively, cotton buds, tissue paper or tracing paper to protect the finished picture, kneadable eraser for the removal or lightening of watercolour pencil marks (STAEDTLER art. no. 5427).

Painting surface for watercolour painting:
Only highly absorbent kinds of paper are suitable for painting with water-colour pencils. As paper can ripple when brought into contact with water, paper of at least 250g/m2 should be used. There are many different kinds of real hand-made paper, from papyrus, Japanese paper and wood-free types (particularly white) right up to embossed card e.g. linen structure. The characteristics of the paper chosen will have a strong influence on the final painting, especially in the case of very subtle watercolours.

Mixed techniques:
Watercolour pencils are ideal for all kinds of mixed techniques. For centuries now, pen, ink, pencil and charcoal drawings have been watercoloured and used as sketches for oil painting. The combination of watercolours with soft pastel chalks and oil pastels creates contrasting effects and allows for hatching, superimposed highlights and accents.

Painting surface watercolour painting

Basic techniques for watercolour painting:

Watercolour pencils - Dry techniques

Dry techniques:

Hatching: Draw a series thin lines closely together: For special light and shadow effects

Overlaying: Blend by overlaying individual colours

Watercolour pencils - Wet techniques

Wet techniques:

Watercolouring/glazing: Wash colours with a brush - the more the colour is diluted, the lighter it be- comes and the surface shows through.

Dry-on-wet: Use dry lead on moist paper - strokes remain visible but become richer and slightly creamy.

Watercolour pencils - Special techniques

Special techniques:

Scraping or shaving technique: Use a knife to carefully remove the wood casing and then rub the exposed coloured lead against coarse-grained sandpaper. When scattered over a very wet wash, the particles create attractive effects and structures.

Smudging and blotting: Create gentle pastel shades and overlays of colour by smudging or blotting with a dry or moist cloth.

Sgraffito effect: Add structures to thick, wet paint by smearing with a cotton bud or cloth.


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