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       "Watercolor dries approximately
        three times lighter than
        the color shown when wet."

 

 
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    example of Transparent/Opaque


Properties of Watercolor Painting

  • Watercolor Paints
  • Transparent and Opaque
  • Non-Staining and Staining
  • Sedimentary Colors
  • Non-Fugitive and Fugitive
  • Samples of popular colors
  • Insteresting Watercolor Facts

The beauty and uniqueness of watercolor lies within it's properties, each containing characteristics not found in any other painting medium. Colors so transparent they visually appear to glow on the paper, while others deposit sediment into the hills and valleys of your paper.

Watercolor Paints
  You might have heard, or read, that watercolor is often a difficult medium to work with. True, it can have a mind of its own, but understanding what its capable of doing is what makes it such an exciting medium to work with. You can let it have free rein and watch what it does, or you can have complete control over it. Yes, believe it or not, you can control its behavior through the use of technique.

When you hear that a painting was done in watercolor, your first reaction might be that it must be light and loose. True, you can make paintings that are light and loose. But did you know that you can also make a painting take on the look of photographic realism through the art of layering? Below are two examples of what I was just explaining.
squirt of Manganese Blue pigment
Watercolor paints are available in two forms; tube, and pan, with tube being the most popular.
 

Transparent and Opaque
 

Transparent is just as the word describes. Transparent watercolors allow the light to shine through to the watercolor paper and in turn lets the white of the paper reflect back. The colors look clean, crisp, and appear to glow.

an example of transparent and opaque watercolor

Watercolor paints fall into these two main categories with some being in-between and described as Semi-Transparent and Semi-Opaque.
 
Opaque colors block the light from coming through to the watercolor paper. Instead, the light bounces off the pigment. This can make the colors appear to look dull, even though some of the opaque's are quite vibrant in color.

Painted samples of transparent and semi-transparent colors
 
Aureolin
New Gamboge
Raw Sienna
Burnt Sienna
Rose Madder Genuine
Permanent Rose
Cobalt Blue
Viridian
Hooker's Green (H)
Sap Green (H)


samples

 
 

Painted samples of semi-opaque and opaque colors
 
Cadmium Yellow
Cadmium Orange
Cadmium Scarlet
Cadmium Red
Cobalt Violet
French Ultramarine Blue
Cerulean Blue
Manganese Blue (H)


samples

 
 

Painted samples of colors that contain white and black
 
Yellow Ochre
Raw Umber
Burnt Umber
Sepia
Mars Violet
Payne's Gray
Neutral Tint
Lamp Black


samples

 
 
Non-Staining and Staining
 
Non-Staining watercolors will settle on the surface of your watercolor paper after the water has evaporated. These colors, once dried, allow you to lift the pigment off the surface to reveal the white of the paper underneath. These colors mix extremely well with other non-staining colors.

samples of a non-staining and staining watercolor

If you are new to watercolor, I would recommend beginning with non-staining colors, then slowly introduce staining colors into your palette.
 
  Staining watercolors will immediately absorb into the first few layers of the watercolor paper before the water has had a chance to evaporate. These colors, once dried, are difficult to lift to get back to the white of the paper and will leave a stained tint of the color. Staining colors mix extremely well with other staining colors, but when mixed with non-staining colors they have a tendency to stain the non-staining color and can dominate the overall color of the mixture.

Painted samples of staining colors
 
Winsor Yellow
Scarlet Lake
Winsor Red
Permanent Alizarin Crimson
Winsor Violet
Winsor Blue
Winsor Green


samples

 
 

Sedimentary
 

Sedimentary watercolors also fall into the Transparent, Semi-Transparent, Semi-Opaque, and Opaque categories. What makes these watercolor paints so unique are the sedimentary pieces of pigment that randomly settle into the papers texture while painting.

examples of three sedimentary watercolors

These colors make wonderful and beautiful washes, but they can be a bit difficult to layer due to the extra amount of gum binder. These granules will also settle to the bottom of your puddle of color. Remixing your puddle before each brush stroke should help you achieve consistent amounts of the sediment.
 

Non-Fugitive and Fugitive
 

A good majority of the watercolor paints made available today are "non-fugitive". In other words, the color that you see in your painting will last over time. Some watercolors, known to be "fugitive", are not so lucky and will fade within a short duration.

labels on tube colors

The paint manufacturer usually places a "Lightfast" reading on the side of the tube with I as "Excellent" and V being "Fugitive".
 
A few watercolor facts:
  • The whites that you see in watercolor are actually the white of the paper.
  • Dries approximately 3 times lighter then the color you see when it is wet.
  • Will dry too quickly in hot and dry conditions.
  • Will dry much slower in humid conditions.
 


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