Watercolors are my go to tool for color in my art journal. I use them in a few specific manners to get bright vibrant shades.
First let’s talk about the brands I use. I adore holbein, windsor and newton, cotman, and Dr PH Martins. I also enjoy using Sargent’s Watercolor Magic liquid colors. As long as I’m working in my art journal I’m not concerned with the colors being lightfast.
Secondly, let’s talk about clean brushes. It’s important that you clear out any color from your brush to get clean colors. Any spot of an opposite color to the color you want will dull and muddy the color you are using. I wash my brushes on a regular basis using plenty of soap. I like to use generic shampoo as it generates a nice lather and works its way deep into the bristles. I keep a couple of containers of rinse water on my desk while I work, one generally is the dirty water container and does the bulk of my rinse while a second is used to rinse the brush further.
Then I prepare my colors. If I’m using dried or block colors I moisten them in advance of use. I use either a spray bottle or a squeeze bottle to add drops of water to the cake of color and I let it sit to soften the color. As I work I add more water to lighten the color. If i’m using tubed color I squeeze out a small amount and add water to it to create a liquid. With liquid color I add a few drops to a palette and add water as needed. Often times with tubed colors I’ll add the watercolor to a cup with a lid and add plenty of water. This gives me a large amount of liquid color that I can work with. Touching a wet brush to a dry cake of color will only give a weak shade.
In all cases I make sure my brush is clean before I pick up any paint or dip into a cup. A small amount of blue or purple in the yellow will turn it green or brownish, and take away from it’s bright color. If I’m attempting to mix a bright secondary color I try small amounts of the colors to create it. So if I’m looking for purple I add small amounts of blue and red together away from their cups and being sure to clean my brush.
One of the hardest things for me to learn with watercolor is to USE the paint and to not skimp. So if I’m covering a large amount of paper with a single color I need to use more paint than I think I need. Also watercolors ALWAYS dry lighter than when applied. When the paper is wet my colors need to be darker than I want the end result to be. If the color is just right when wet it won’t be when dry, I try and work a shade or two darker than what I would like the color when dry. the great thing about watercolor is that I can alway add another layer if I want to darken the color.
So here are my tips for vibrant watercolors in a nutshell:
- Properly wet and prepare your colors before you need them.
- Clean brushes.
- Use more paint than you think you need, remember that watercolors dry lighter.