Michele Webber

Original Artwork by Suffolk Artist Michele Webber

10 Basic Watercolour Facts

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START TO UNDERSTAND HOW WATERCOLOURS WORK... by reading a few basic facts:

1)  Watercolour paint is a mix of pigment (natural or synthetic) and gum Arabic, a natural ‘glue’ made from the sap of the Acacia tree.

2)  Watercolours are transparent, although there is a slight opacity to some of them.

3)  White (opaque) paint is never used in traditional (known as ‘pure’) watercolour painting. To lighten colours add more water, for white just leave the paper unpainted.

4)  There IS a type of watercolour that is opaque, it is known as Gouache or ‘Designers Gouache’ as it used to be used for hand painting advertisements, before computers. Although it can be intermixed with transparent watercolours, as can many other media, Gouache is considered a separate medium.

5)  Most manufacturers offer two ranges of watercolours, called ‘Artist’s’ and ‘Students’; Artist’s paints are the finest quality, Students are a lower quality, often containing bulking agents and fillers.

6)  Watercolour paints come in ‘Pans’ (hard blocks) or ‘Tubes’. There is little difference in the quality, it is mainly the consistency that varies which does affect the application.

7)  Watercolours vary in consistancyfrom colour to colour as many still contain natural pigments. Some are strong (called Staining colours), some are weak. Some are clear and transparent, some slightly textured ‘granulating’ and opaque.

8)  Colours with the same name, for example ‘Cerulean Blue’, will vary between brands as each manufacturer uses their own recipe.

9)  Some colours (known as ‘fugitive’) may fade very quickly. Modern synthetic alternatives are almost always available. On your watercolour tube/packaging you will find information about  light-fastness and transparency, often in the form of a star or number rating. If you can't find it or don't understand it the manufacturer or their website will help you.

10) Watercolours dry up to 50% lighter after application, this needs to be allowed for when mixing colours.

WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT WATERCOLOURS? Click the image below to read a more in-depth article I have written, on a site called Squidoo:

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** Important note ** this article was originally published on Squidoo, which has now been sold to HubPages (thanks Seth Godin). As a result of the automatic site move the article may contain bits that are missing or don't look right.  This articles will be re-formatted and re-published on my own site, but meantime please bear with me.

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My SAA Watercolours Starter Set, with my unique colour mixing guide.


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8 x 14 ml tubes of watercolour, storage tin and foolproof colour mixing guide to get you started with confidence!


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