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Watercolor Painting Techniques

Batul Nafisa Baxamusa
Are you looking for some watercolor painting techniques? Painting is a very enjoyable art, and you can literary play with colors. Read this ArtHearty post to know about some of the easy-to-practice watercolor painting techniques.
Watercolor painting techniques are a fun way to teach kids the art and crafts of playing with colors and developing beautiful paintings. Many world-renowned and famous painters have used watercolors for creating masterpieces. Watercolor painting started of as cave paintings by the early man.
They used berries and clays mixed with water to paint the walls of the caves with beautiful pictures and paintings that still make us sigh in awe. Then the Europeans and Egyptians used watercolors to create illuminated manuscripts.
The most famous book of the middle ages was by Pal, Herman, and Jean; the Limbourg brothers (Flemish, c.1385 - c.1416). Then came the method of Fresco, by which the pigments are mixed with water and applied to wet plaster.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452 - 1519), and Michelangelo(1475 - 1564)used this method to create large wall paintings and Murals.The Sistine Chapel of the Vatican painted by Michelangelo from 1508 to 1512 is one the best examples of the Fresco.
The Chinese invented paper, the Arabs learned their secret, and paper was imported to Europe. Soon, there were paper mills set up in Italy in 1276 and other parts of Europe by 1495.
Thus, paper was a luxury and watercolor painting on paper took some time to evolve. Albert Durer(1471 - 1528) is considered as the master of watercolor painting techniques and his work is used as preliminary studies.
Other artists like Peter Paul Rubens(1577-1640),Anthony van Dyck(1599-1641), and Jean Honore Fragonard(1732-1806) used watercolors to develop compositions over the next 250 years.
Britain setup the first national school for watercolorists. On 1768, the Royal Academy was founded by the influential topographers of Britain, which helped encourage watercolorists carry the medium beyond the technical background.
Joseph M. W. Turner(1775 - 1851) was one of the greatest painters in the 19th century who created contemplative landscapes and was an influential figure for many artists for many decades to come.
The factual documentation of the new world brought the earliest watercolor techniques to America.Mark Catesby(1679 - 1749) came to Virginia in 1712 and documented many American species of birds and animals using hand-colored engravings.
John James Audubon (1785 - 1851) is famous for creating the famous romantic and analytical depictions of American wildlife. With time, American artists came out of the shadows of the European painting artists and created a niche for themselves.
This was a little history and background on development of watercolor painting techniques. The following watercolor techniques will help make your kids understand the basics of watercolor paintings and even help you develop your coloring skills.
Watercolor Painting Techniques for Kids
Before delving into the details of the water color painting techniques, it is important to understand the types of colors that are used in the art form. There is also a complete section which deals with the techniques that are ideal for your kids to learn the nuances of watercolor painting techniques.
Now let us look into the types of paints that are used.
Types of Watercolors
Watercolor paints are used from pigments mixed with water, gum arabic, and additives. The medium is bound to the paper with the help of gum arabic, that is, a carbohydrate. The paint lasts longer with the help of additives and glides over the paper easily bringing out a more vibrant color.
Then there are transparent paints that are see-through and used for creating thin layers. These thin layers are combined to create luminous colors. The other type of paint is the opaque paint that is not transparent.
It is used to create layers that cover the layers beneath it. They help cover the areas on paper that do not need to be painted with layers of color.
There are non-staining and staining watercolors. The non-staining watercolors settle on the watercolor paper, once the water gets evaporated. Once the color is dried, you can pick up the pigment off the surface and reveal the white paper beneath. These colors can mix well with the non-staining colors.
The staining colors are immediately absorbed into the first few layers of the watercolor paper, before the water even evaporates. After drying, it is difficult to lift the colors off the paper to reveal the white paper beneath. If you do, a stained tint of color can be seen on the paper.
These colors mix well with staining colors and when mixed with non-staining colors, they tend to dominate the overall color of the mixture.
You even have sedimentary watercolors that come in the category of transparent, semi-transparent, semi-opaque, and opaque watercolors. These paints have sedimentary pieces of pigment that randomly settle on the paper. These random pigments create different textures while painting.
These are a bit difficult to layer because of the extra gum arabic. They also tend to settle down in the puddle of color. Thus, you need to remix the color puddle before each stroke.
Non-fugitive and fugitive are other types of watercolor paints that are available. Many paints today are non-fugitive, that is, the colors in the paintings will last a long time. Whereas, the fugitive ones fade over time.
Before buying a watercolor paint, check the 'Lightfast' readings on the paint by the manufacturer. The tube with 'I' written on the side is 'Excellent' and 'V' means 'Fugitive'.
Basic Painting Supplies
Before you begin your painting, you should gather all your supplies. You will need student grade paints in case of watercolor painting for kids. You will need one 5ml tube of:
  • New Gamboge
  • Permanent Rose
  • French Ultramarine Blue
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Sap Green
Then you will need some paint brushes for painting the color on the watercolor paper. You will need to buy 1 each of:
  • No. 5 round (less sharp point)
  • No. 6 round
  • No. 8 round
  • No. 10 round
  • One inch flat (2.5cm)
Then you will need a sturdy watercolor palette to hold your colors. Buy a palette with deep wells, and provide enough mixing areas for all puddles of watercolor. You can choose one that comes with a lid. 
To paint your paintings, buy a medium textured paper that will help you create deep values of color, give the necessary highlights and bring out the needed roughness. You can choose either masonite, foam core or plexiglass as a board to attach your paper and support your hand while painting.
Choice of Subject
The first subject that you choose should not be a very complex one. Choose a simple subject like a bowl of fruits, flower vase, or a simple sunset. Study your subject for a while and using a light pencil sketch, draw the outline of the subject in free hand on the sheet of watercolor paper.
Let your imagination free, and create a sketch from your own perspective.
Before you begin painting, the first step to carry out is the flat wash. You need to wet the area of paper you need to cover by the wash. Then mix sufficient amount of pigment that will fill the entire area. Then apply the pigment in a slopping surface with slightly overlapping horizontal bands from top to bottom. Once you complete the wash, let it dry.
To make the washes watercolor techniques for kids interesting, ask you kids to dip the brush in the puddle of color and paint a stripe across the paper. Then, dip the brush in water and without dipping in more paint, paint a second stripe below the first one. Try the same step for the third strike and the kid will find the paint getting lighter. This is known as graded wash.
This painting with watercolors is similar to a wash, but is done with a thin, transparent pigment. The pigment is applied over dry wash to adjust the color and tone of the underlying wash. You can ask the kids to use non-staining, transparent pigments like Rose Madder, Cobalt Blue, and Auroline.
These colors help achieve glazing effects, layer after layer and get the desired effect. Ensure each layer is dry before applying the next layer.
Wet in Wet
In this, the pigment is applied over wet wash. Just ask the kid to paint a wet square of plain water in the paper. Then dip the brush in color and paint over the wet square of plain water. Paint another line beside the square on the dry paper.
You can explain this watercolor technique as a stroke to achieve soft undefined shapes to slightly blurred marks. This depends on the wetness of the paper. This wet in wet techniques is used to create subtle background regions on the paintings.
Dry Brush
This is the opposite of wet in wet. Dip the brush slightly in water and load it with a lot of color pigments. Drag the brush on a completely dry paper. This helps create crisp and hard-edged marks on the paper. These colors come forward and can be used on areas that need to be highlighted.
Lifting Off
This is another painting technique using watercolors. Ask your kid to paint a nice square using any color they wish. Then, rinse your brush and squeeze out all the water from the bristles using your fingertips. Use this dry brush to pick up color from the colored square.
They will find a white spot appearing from beneath the colored square. This technique is used to make up for some errors while painting and add some effect to the wet color background. The lifting of also helps create hard edges lines and shapes. 
You should avoid using staining colors like Prussian Blue, Alizarin, Windsor Red, Yellow, or Blue.
Dropping in Color
In this watercolor technique you need to introduce a color to a wet area of paint. Ask the kids to paint a square using watercolor. Then over this watercolor square, paint another color. This will lead to blending, bleeding, and feathering of the watercolors without interruption. You can get vibrant color gradations that are unpredictable and add to the essence of the painting.
Using Wax
You can add little details to your watercolor painting by using a crayon, oil pastel, or even with a candle. Draw the desired picture or shape using a wax crayon and paint over it using watercolor. The watercolor will stick to the paper with the wax and your drawing will remain highlighted. This is a fun way for children to experiment using watercolors, crayons, and oil pastels.
You will find that these tips are not only helpful for kids, but for grown-ups as well who are trying a hand with these techniques. The use of watercolors is a fun way to play with colors and bring your imagination to life.