Traditional art: Watercolors I

Traditional art: Watercolors I


Today I would like to tell you about one of my favorite traditional art techniques:


I love them because, being a water technique, you can do authentic wonders and everything is very beautiful.

For those who do not know, watercolor is a technique that is done on paper and pigments that dissolve in water are used. When we talk about watercolors, we can refer to said technique, to the tools or to a painting made with watercolors.

The first watercolors are considered to have emerged a century before Christ in China, and are linked to the invention of paper, where water-based paints were applied. Were the Arabs who brought watercolor to Europe in the 12th century. However, it didn’t stand out much as a technique, since it was used almost mainly to make sketches for oil paintings, landscapes and botany drawings. Some pioneers of watercolor were Albrecht Dürer and Raffaello Santi.

And what do you need to paint watercolor? Obviously: watercolors.

You can buy stick or tablet watercolors. The truth is that there is not much difference between them. The only thing that changes is the format (the stick ones are in liquid state, while the tablet ones are solid state). However, both have their positive points:

  • Sticker watercolors are sold separately, but you have the opportunity to choose the colors you want. In addition, there is usually much more variety and, in the case of wanting to take the paints to paint outdoors or on a trip, you can fill several tablets with that paint.
  • Tablet watercolors are perfect for painting outdoors and, if you are just starting out, you may want to have several colors on hand from the beginning.

If you want to get started in watercolor, I recommend that you try several watercolors, until you find the ones you like the most.

Here is a list of several watercolors that I have tried and that could serve as a reference:

  • Art Creation: They are perfect for beginners. The ones I tried were in tube, but you also have them in tablet format.
  • Koi: I tried them quite a while ago. They are not bad at all, and you can find them in sticker or tablet format.
  • Van Gogh: I tried these when I went to class. I liked them very much. You can find them in stick and tablet format.
  • Rembrandt: The ones that made me fall in love the most, because of the color they have on paper.
  • Winsor & Newton: These are the ones I’ve been using for five years in tablet format. Simply fantastic. I love the color palette that they have, as it is very, very varied. They gave me the case with several tablets and one of the good things about it is that there is a lot of space to make mixtures and it has a hole for you to leave a brush. They are in stick and tablet format.

Good. You already have your set of watercolors. What else are you going to need?

Some brushes for paint.

The ones that I normally use are several of different thicknesses of synthetic hair, because they are easier to clean and are cheaper than those of marta hair or similar.

You also have the possibility of acquiring brushes that already come with a water cartridge. They are plastic brushes that have a tube where you can add water. This is great if you do a lot of outdoor painting or want to take your paints on the road, but don’t want to carry a glass of water around with you. It’s really handy.

We will talk at another time about brushes, the great variety that exist and how to clean and care for them so that they last longer.

Last but not least: you need paper. The paper is very important. Not just any type of paper is suitable, since, being a technique with water, it needs to have a minimum weight and be made of a particular type of material. In this case, I recommend the cotton paper or, at most, mixed, with a grammage of no less than 300 g/m². However, you have available papers with more or less grammage. If you use more grammage, the watercolor tends to dry more slowly, so it can be useful if you want to entertain yourself with details, work more calmly… or if you are working with watercolors in summer. Trust me. It’s frustrating to work with watercolors in the summer, because everything dries out too quickly. For this, it is better to use a paper with more grammage.

The one I use, for example, is a 200 g/m² mixed Canson brand. What about this kind of paper? Well, to use them, you have to have certain knowledge and skill with the humidity of watercolor, since, being so light, if you are not careful, the paper wrinkles very easily.

To prevent this from happening, you have two options:

  • Moisten the paper with water on both sides. This will prevent the paper from wrinkling on one side only.
  • Fix the paper with tape on a rigid surface, such as a table or on the work table itself. Personally, I recommend on a wooden table, because I tend to turn the blade a lot and, thus, it is more comfortable for me.

In case you do this, I recommend also removing the excess glue from the tape, so that when you peel the paper off, it doesn’t tear.

If, when you finish your work, the paper is still wrinkled, you can moisten the paper and do presion with some books. 

Watercolor, being such a versatile material, is a very interesting experience if you are starting to illustrate. That’s because it can be very rewarding or very frustrating, depending on the goal you have in mind.

Even so, I recommend letting go and enjoying the watercolors.

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