Art Terms Explained: Watercolour Painting

As artists, we encounter a wide amount of terminology whilst exploring, looking at and conversing about our components. In this instalment of the ‘Art Phrases Explained’ series, we demonstrate the which means of specific frequently-employed text, phrases and conditions in the context of watercolour portray.



Artist and skilled-quality paints have the optimum pigment loads and use legitimate pigments fairly than imitation hues. The colour is pretty powerful in the pan or squeezed from the tube, and you will require less of it.


Bead / Beading Up

Watercolours have a tendency to assemble in pools and possess a resistance to the surface area on steel or plastic surfaces. This can establish discouraging when hoping to combine with them on a palette. The watercolour beads significantly less and considerably less the far more you use a palette. Many watercolourists make it a habit to deal with a new plastic or metallic palette by offering it a light scuffing all about with a Brillo pad, to prevent beading up. Alternatively, you can pick out to use a porcelain palette on which watercolour paints do not bead.


Brush Cleaning soap

Brush soap is a style of cleanser that is specially formulated with natural oils to moisturise and cleanse brush hairs, so that your brushes maintain their form and hairs for more time.


Buckle / Buckling

Buckling (or cockling) takes place when moisture soaks into the fibres inside of paper, creating them to swell and the paper to contort and misshapen. You can stay clear of this by making use of watercolour paper blocks, which are glued on all 4 sides, holding the sheets taut as you paint on them, or by manually stretching your paper prior to use.



Cold Pressed Paper

Paper built by pressing the sheet via cold metallic rollers. It has the common, irregular, softly dimpled floor that is related with watercolour and is the most well known watercolour paper surface to perform on for the reason that it is nicely tailored to many portray ways. It tends to be far more absorbent than warm pressed paper which is extra compressed. In the Uk this paper is called Not, as in ‘not incredibly hot pressed’.


Colour Strength

Color power – also recognized as ‘saturation’ – essentially refers to the ratio of pigment to binder (two components found in watercolour paints). It is a description of how vibrant/excellent/clean up the colour seems.


Advantage Colors

A usefulness colour is a paint created up of two or far more pigments that an artist could combine themselves from two paints but it is prepared mixed into a single tube for their convenience. A lot of environmentally friendly, orange and violet colours are designed from a combination of pigments.


Dry Brush Method

When watercolour paint that is undiluted and as a result somewhat dry or ‘gummy’, is applied with a dry brush to paper. The influence is chalky in overall look, and saturated in colour, and frequently will make for a spectacular contrast from a lot more delicate, watery, watercolour washes. A really effective and dramatic technique for developing textured surfaces in watercolour painting.


Flat Wash

The use of a single diluted color to deal with the white of the paper in a rather unsaturated and uniform manner. See ‘washes’ for extra particulars.



The phrase flow refers to how cellular the paint is, and how conveniently it transfers from the brush to the paper or surface area. Mediums can be extra to alter stream.


Fugitive Color

Refers to non-lightfast paints (see permanence), these kinds of as Opera Rose or Rose Madder. They fade, or alter colour, when exposed to daylight. Typically it is encouraged to adhere to colors that have been rated of fantastic or quite fantastic lightfastness (they may possibly also have the classification of getting ‘I’ or ‘II’) if you are intending on exhibiting or displaying work on a wall, as opposed to maintaining it in a ebook or portfolio. Bear in mind, even really lightfast paints are rated as “lightfast when saved out of direct daylight.”



A glaze is when a dilute colour is applied throughout the surface of a watercolour painting that has been remaining to dry entirely – the outcome of undertaking this is to tint the entire spot with the color of your clean. See ‘washes’ for far more specifics.



‘Gouache’, ‘body colour’, or ‘opaque watercolour’, is a water-centered paint consisting of pigment, drinking water and gum arabic as the binding agent. The change in between gouache and watercolour is that gouache has either a better pigment load or additional chalk to make it opaque, as opposed to watercolour which is translucent. Any preliminary drawings on the paper will demonstrate as a result of when watercolour is utilized over them, but with Gouache they will not clearly show almost as much.


Gum Arabic

A drinking water-soluble gum that is extracted from two species of the acacia tree, which is used as a binder in the manufacture of watercolour paint. It can also be extra to the paint by the artist to raise transparency and how shiny in look the paint is.



Granulation in watercolours is an outcome where by instead of a sleek region of color, the pigment particles settle out and create a speckled visual appearance. When watercolour pigments ‘granulate’, they kind tiny dots and/or groups of flakes that are visually obvious. Some colors have a organic inclination to granulate more than many others, and watercolourists at times choose gain of them to incorporate texture. There are mediums that can be included to boost granulation.



Watercolour grounds are acrylic-centered primers developed to deliver a suited amount of money of absorbency to a area, so that it is completely ready for watercolour to be utilized. For case in point, they can be made use of to adapt any universally primed canvas for watercolour portray.


Gummed Tape / Gumstrip

Gummed Tape is a form of tape utilized for stretching watercolour paper. Just one aspect of the tape is coated with a glue which is h2o activated, meaning it becomes sticky when moistened, making it possible for it to strongly maintain watercolour paper to a board. Contrary to masking tape it is water resistant just after it dries once again and it does not extend.


taping paper to board


Incredibly hot Pressed Paper

Warm Pressed Paper is paper that has been pressed in between scorching metal rollers through creation. It is the smoothest of watercolour papers. It tends to be the minimum absorbent of all of the textures and lends alone to extremely-thorough do the job such as botanical painting.



A hue is the real look of a colour, i.e. you could explain a river to have a greenish brown hue. But it is also put at the finish of the identify of colours discovered in paint ranges where the color is made from a combination of pigments that have been merged to replicate a genuine pigment. This could possibly be performed to produce a less expensive colour for university student-grade paints, or to substitute a pigment that is no extended out there with a near different. They are not always inferior colours, but because they are developed from a combination of pigments to approximate one more color, they will not perform in mixtures the exact same as the first.



As watercolour continues to be soluble in drinking water even just after it’s dry, it can be reactivated with a soaked brush and ‘lifted’ from the floor with a rag. This procedure removes some of the pigment from the paper, creating the paint show up on the website page.


Masking Fluid

Masking fluid is from time to time regarded as ‘liquid frisket’ and is utilised to mask off regions of your perform. It is painted on with a brush, silicone tool or ruling pen and at the time dry you can then paint watercolour over the prime. The masking fluid is then peeled off, leaving untouched simple parts of paper beneath. Helpful for reserving the white of the paper for highlights and other compact white spots of the portray.


Mass Tone

The visual appeal of the color of the paint as it will come from the tube, as opposed to undertone.


watercolour tubes



An additive that is mixed with by the artist in buy to assistance control how the paint behaves – like its texture, how it flows, how it lifts from the paper, how rapidly it dries and its sheen.


Normal Hair Brushes

All-natural hair brushes are manufactured utilizing animal hair, these kinds of as sable or squirrel. An choice would be synthetic brushes.


Ox Gall

Ox gall is made use of in watercolour as a wetting agent – ie. It increases circulation, cuts down beading up and lets for bigger adhesion on to previously dried layers of watercolour paint. It is created from the gall of cows combined with alcoholic beverages. Several watercolours include ox gall or a synthetic substitute, as an component. Use ox gall sparingly as an additive by putting a several drops in your cleanse water container.



Pans are plastic vessels in which dried watercolour is saved. The color is taken from a pan by dragging a soaked brush above it. The paint could be poured into the pan and still left to dry or extruded like clay and put in the pan as a dried cake. There are two conventional sizes: 50 percent pan and whole/total pan, nevertheless there is a little variation in sizing concerning models.


watercolour pans



Permanence normally takes into consideration the outcomes of a lot of things on the security and visual appearance of pigments, such as humidity, light, heat, water, acidity, alkali degrees and many others. The permanence of a paint will be indicated on the label making use of a rating technique established by the maker and discussed in the manufacturer’s color chart or on their internet site. Be conscious that some artists and producers use it as an equal to ‘lightfast’.



A pigment is finely floor color produced possibly in a laboratory or from obviously colored rocks. When mixed with gum arabic as the binder it makes watercolour paint.


Pigment Load

Pigment load refers to the ratio of pigment to binder in a paint. Reduced priced paints will normally have a lower pigment load, so have weaker color.


Plein Air

‘En plein air’ is a French expression that means ‘in the open air’. In the context of painting, it refers to the act of portray outdoors in entrance of the topic. There is some expert devices essential to produce a little transportable studio for this form of landscape painting.



Watercolour primers and grounds can be utilized to a wide variety of materials such as canvas, wood, stone, ceramic and plastic to create a area that is absorbent enough to maintain purposes of watercolour and optimise the physical appearance of colours and marks.


Rough Paper

The most textured paper obtainable – it is pressed amongst sheets of textured felt all through the drying method and is not pressed concerning clean rollers. The heavier textured surface area usually means that granulating outcomes are improved.



Solitary Pigment Colors

Particular colours of paints that only contain one particular pigment. It is easier to blend vibrant and vivid colors making use of one pigment colours and colour mixing is far more predictable. Artist quality paint ranges have as a lot of single pigment colours as they can. But when a “hue” is essential to switch a pigment that is no extended offered, or a mixture of pigments has been found that can give a lightfast choice to a fugitive color, or a safe alternate to a harmful color – then these seem-alikes are commonly manufactured of more than 1 pigment. Typical artist mixes are also bought as “convenience colours”, these as some greens, violets and oranges. Nonetheless, some colours can only be designed with a combination of pigments – well known colours these as Quinacridone Gold have to be mixed as the unique pigment is no lengthier readily available.



Watercolour paper ought to be absorbent more than enough to stabilise the paint, but not so absorbent that the colour gets dull. ‘Sizing’ is a procedure that presents a minimal water resistance, so that the paint does not sink too much into the paper, and partly sits on the surface area. Watercolour paper can be sized internally, externally, or both, with gelatine, starch, or a artificial sizing. Internal sizing is when the dimension is additional to the drinking water and pulp mixture prior to the paper has been produced. Exterior sizing is when the shaped sheets of paper are pulled via a dimensions tub. Some papers are the two externally and internally sized which boosts the damp power of the paper.



Staining refers to how substantially of the pigment will not elevate from the paper after staying blotted with a damp sponge. Some pigments are extra staining than other individuals and some brand names will checklist this characteristic for their paints.



Watercolour sticks are dried and very-pigmented watercolour in a slim brick or crayon variety. They can be utilised in the exact way as pans or they can be used as a drawing device, held and used in the same way you would use a crayon or pastel.


Extend / Stretching

To extend watercolour paper is a technique of making ready it prior to portray. It involves soaking the paper in h2o until eventually it swells and expands prior to fixing it to a board (usually with gumstrip close to the edges) then permitting it to dry in advance of painting. This technique is employed to steer clear of buckling. There are also watercolour stretching frames.


College student-Grade

Student-grade watercolour paints have a decrease concentration of pigment in them and use more cost-effective imitations pigments for the more highly-priced colors. As this is the most expensive ingredient in paint, this enables student-grade paints to be more economical. They are most suitable for inexperienced persons as well as pupils and pros on a spending budget and use more cost-effective imitations pigments for the much more costly colours.


Artificial Brushes

Synthetic brushes are an inexpensive and difficult-wearing choice to Organic Hair Brushes. They are produced applying artificial resources, as opposed to animal hair.


Jackson's Raven Mop Brush

Jackson’s Raven Mop brush, a synthetic alternative to squirrel brushes.


Transparency / Opacity

The measure of how a lot light-weight is able to move by means of an applied paint and interact with the surface area beneath. Transparent paints seem far more luminous on a white help mainly because they allow a bigger proportion of gentle to strike the area they are laying on. Opaque paints block this reflection from occurring, and can be utilised to deal with levels of colour underneath. Watercolour paints are generally clear colors.



Tubes include moist watercolour that can be squeezed onto a palette to paint with or into empty pans.



Undertone is the bias characteristic of a color when applied across a surface in a thin movie, e.g. Ultramarine blue would be explained to have a reddish-blue undertone.



A ‘wash’ refers to the strategy of generously applying diluted watercolour paint onto a surface or an current painting resulting in a semi-clear layer of color. Washes are ordinarily utilized with a wide brush with all-natural hair that can keep a large amount of fluid. See Flat Wash and Glazed Clean for examples.


Watercolour Block

‘Watercolour blocks’ are pads of watercolour paper that are glued on all four sides, retaining the sheets taut as you paint on them. They are not as restricted as stretched watercolour paper, but buckle/cockle less than unfastened paper and are practical to use. Following the portray has dried you eliminate the sheet from the block by managing a dull knife all close to less than the edge.


watercolour pencils


Watercolour Pencils

Watercolour pencils are watercolour paint in a pencil format. They are hassle-free, adaptable and transportable portray instruments that are clear and uncomplicated to use. They can be employed dry as common colored pencils, or like pans (extracting colour employing a moist brush), or they can be dipped into h2o and drawn with, creating intensely saturated marks. You can also attract with them onto wet paper and they are specifically practical for introducing fantastic strains.



Further more Reading through:

A Tutorial to Watercolour Painting – What You Want to Get Started off

Introducing the New A. Gallo Handmade Watercolours

Is Watercolour Better in Pans or Tubes?

Watercolour Painting for Inexperienced persons: What You Need to have to Get Begun

All the things You Need to have to Know About Watercolour Paper

Art Terms Explained: Oil Painting


Alice G. Collins

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