Try a New Hobby: Watercolors

The Bear Truth staff will now be trying a new activity each week and writing about how it went. This week, I tried my hand at watercolors to see if I would enjoy creating art with this medium. Here's how I got started!

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Photo by Amber Wright

These are the supplies I used to explore watercolor techniques.

By Amber Wright, Co-Editor-In-Chief

Watercolors are a beautiful medium that can be used to create stunning artwork. Although many people find watercolors difficult to master, simply trying out some beginner’s techniques or painting the sky is extremely fun! I explored working with watercolors this week, and here’s how you can get started as well!

First and foremost, you will need a watercolor palette, a brush, and some watercolor paper. Last year, I was given a watercolor palette with 36 colors, including a brush and paper, so that is what I used. You can buy a simple eight-color palette on Amazon for around ten dollars, and a watercolor sketchpad can cost as low as six dollars. You do not need expensive supplies or a ton of colors to get started.

An important note to understand before beginning is the behavior of water while painting. Water on the paper will always flow towards drier areas of the paper, carrying the pigment. Additionally, water dries and evaporates quickly. This means that your opportunity of playing with the paint is sometimes short, so having more water in your paint mixes can give you more time to work with.

Wet-on-wet

Wet-on-wet watercolor technique.

I started off by trying several different watercolor techniques. The wet-on-wet method is a basic technique generally used for landscapes, skies, or soft color washes. Essentially, you will be wetting your paper with water before adding paint to the paper.

I “painted” two rectangles of water on the paper and added the pigment using strokes on the top rectangle, seen in the photo above. On the bottom rectangle, I added the paint by dabbing the brush on the paper. Notice how the watercolor diffuses nicely across the paper as it dries. This technique creates a rather soft, blended look.

Wet-on-dry

Wet-on-dry watercolor technique.

Next, I tried out the wet-on-dry technique, which is used to create more precise and defined shapes. On your pallet, mix some pigment with water until you reach a hue you are satisfied with, then apply it to your paper. You can also simply wet your brush, gather some pigment on the brush, then put it on your paper. Notice how this technique creates more defined lines.

For this technique, make sure you add pigment to your brush frequently because your brush dries more quickly as you apply the paint to the dry paper. I love how this technique gives you a bit more control over your strokes and how the pigment dries on the paper.

Making Gradients

This is the gradient technique partway through.
The gradient watercolor technique.

Next, I created gradients using watercolors. For this, you will be creating a smooth transition between two colors. Make sure the colors are close together on the color wheel, otherwise the result will be muddy. I created gradients using green and blue, red and orange, and orange and pink. Some other good combinations include yellow and green or blue and purple.

Start off by mixing two separate colors side by side on the palette, as pictured above. The paint should be half water and half pigment. Paint your starting color (I used green) on one part of the paper. Next, add a small amount of the other color (I used blue) to the green on your palette. The result should be a slightly darker/bluer green. The transition from a green to a greenish-blue should be smooth and subtle.

Little by little, keep adding more blue to your original green mix on the palette. By the end of this gradient, your original mix should be completely changed into a pure blue. Most of the work for this technique is done in the palette, so this is an excellent exercise for blending pigments. Practice this as many times as you need to feel more comfortable with this. I did three gradients.

Various techniques

Various household objects can have beautiful effects on watercolors.

Lastly, I explored various small/quick techniques that serve to add texture or details to your artwork. You can use a ton of different household objects to create textures on watercolors by painting the pigment/water on the paper, then adding an object on top.

For the picture above, I used the following items: salt, rubbing alcohol, colored pencils, a bottle cap, a sponge, tissue, and saran wrap. You can simply sprinkle salt on top of the paint for a beautiful effect. Be creative with what you use!

Watercolors are so versatile and can be used in so many different ways. I had a lot of fun exploring different techniques and I can’t wait to try some of them out on actual pieces of art. I hope you try out watercolors yourself!