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10 Basic Watercolour Facts

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Starting to Understand How Watercolors Work...

After reading through these tips you may also like this video too:

  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.

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  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 consistancy from 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.

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