So you want to know how to ink watercolor? It’s actually a very simple three step process. First you draw it in pencil. Then you ink it. Then you erase the pencil after the ink dries.
That’s all there is to it. But, let’s not end this article just yet. You probably need a lot more detail than that.
Drawing your piece
There are two types of artists who use watercolor. Some of us just paint. I’m not that type.
I’m the type that has to ink watercolor. The drawing is the most important and the most difficult part of the entire process for me.
That’s because I do pinup art. You pretty much have to draw a reference for it to be any good.
That said, you could keep the drawing in pencil. Or you can ink your painting.
I’ve done both, and every single painting you see in my Opium Tales store is inked. To my eyes, it looks way better.
But let’s go back to drawing the piece. Some folks use high tech or expensive pencils. I just use plain America’s Pencil HB 2 pencils. They’re good pencils. Then I put those erasers you get in a ten-pack to put over the eraser it comes with. I swear, I probably do just as much erasing as I do drawing.
I strongly suggest you try different kinds of pencils. Try the high tech ones and try the simple ones. There is no right answer here. You need to find the tool you’re most comfortable with. Once you find that tool, you’ll more than likely use the same tool for years.
Inking is the scariest part for me. Drawing is easy. You can always erase. Once you ink, it’s permanent.
Now, the kind of ink to ink watercolor? Good question.
Once again, try different tools until you find the one you like. Now this is very, very important. You need to buy a permanent ink that is waterproof. If you don’t, it will smear all over your painting once you add water. I’ve made this mistake once and I’ll never, ever make it again.
I have one ink brush and I never use it. It’s simply too thick for me.
If you’re doing something with super fine detail, you can’t use an ink brush. However if you’re doing something a little bit more abstract, ink brushes look cool!
I actually love how ink brushes work. But since I’m doing pinup art, I have no place for it. It depends on what you’re doing though. You may love it.
This is what I use. Once again, it needs to be waterproof.
I swear by Sakura Micron pens. I think they’re dang good pens for watercolor and gouache.
Personally, I’m using the 005 because I need very fine lines. You may not need something that fine. Buy a few of these pens and see which ones you like the best.
Note that you need to wait until the ink is completely dry before going to the next step.
Hot tip - Store your pens upside down. They'll last longer that way.
Testing the ink first
Sakura Micron pens won’t run. But, one thing I learned the hard way, not everyone who works at the art store knows everything. I had one employee suggest a “great pen for watercolor” and when I actually started watercoloring, it ran all over the place and completely ruined the painting.
If you’re not sure, test it on your test notebook. You do have one of those, right?
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, they’re these little watercolor notebooks. Strathmore and Moleskin both make decent ones.
I don’t use them for anything other than testing and making notes. You can clearly see that I write in the thing just as much as I actually paint in it. It’s for experimenting only.
Erasing the pencil
Finally, you erase the pencil, leaving behind only the ink. All the shading, depth, shadowing, etc, you do with the watercolors. You won’t need to see any of the pencils.
For this, I either use the eraser I put on the pencil or a gum eraser. Either are fine.
Watercolor is transparent so if you leave behind any pencil, there’s a good chance it will show. Some of the pencil gets wiped away in the water. Some of it does not. So if you don’t want it showing, it’s in your best interest to not skip this step.
Make sure you’re not leaving any eraser residue behind. Wipe that off well, and you’re now free to paint!
I just wrote about the mindset of an artist, which is the difference between the artist who “makes it” versus the artist who doesn’t. This is sort of part II of that.
Some people think there’s something special about producing art. Or the artist is born with some supernatural talent. No, that’s all bullshit.
The difference between the artist who makes it and the artist who doesn’t is the former keeps going whereas the latter quits. The former realizes that he has to keep producing art to get better.
That artist keeps learning and keeps honing his craft. He’s continually trying out new things. You’ll see it in his art. You’ll see the constant experimentation and the constant pushing of boundaries.
Keep producing art and at worst, you’ll have something to write home about
That’s the thing right there. If you keep producing art, at the very worst, you’ll have something to write home about. At the very best, you’ll become a household name.
I’ve lived long enough to see people’s careers take off. Some take off faster than others. Some take longer. Regardless, nobody ever remembers the one who quit.
I can see an improvement from my earlier paintings to my newer ones. The more experimenting you do, the more chances you take, the more you’ll improve. That’s how it works. You have to keep taking chances. You have to keep doing experimenting.
After awhile, your style will develop to the point that it looks like your work. Not someone else’s. But your work.
I know the exact point I reached that step. That’s when I realized I had to sell it.
And not ironically, I had my first commission. When you start calling yourself an artist, and say it with a straight face, that’s when you become the artist.
I’m always trying something new. I’ve been in dozens of caves before, yet never painted one.
Recently, I’ve been getting into dream sequences. That started when I painted a real life dream. I immediately called Allie and asked for a quick modeling session. She did some Marilyn Monroe poses and I got several paintings out of this quick session.
I’m still in my dream phase. Going back to the cave, I decided to stick a cave somewhere in this girl with a fairy painting.
So the cave has a stream coming out of it. To the left, you’ll see a girl talking to a fairy. Once again, we’ll see the same moon that keeps coming back.
Since it’s dreamlike, I’m intentionally working with a limited color palette. Except for the girl and the fairy. They’re in full color. That trick makes them both pop out and everything else gets pushed back.
Learn by accident
If you keep producing art, you’ll end up learning things by complete accident. For instance, this dual chromatic dream concept. I’m only using two colors – black gouache and Daniel Smith Moonglow watercolor. (Except of course for the girl, the fairy, and the moon).
If you keep producing art, you’ll get the same results. You’ll learn a lot of things by complete accident. You’ll have your “a-ha!” moments where you discover really cool things.
I cannot stress enough that experience trumps talent. That’s why when companies hire, they look for experience. You learn on the job. The same concept applies for art. You learn by doing.
You could take all the classes in the world. But nothing beats real life experience.
The obsessed artist
When you’ve been in this world long enough, you’ll meet this artist. He’s not necessarily more talented than his competition. But he’s nucking futs!
He’s working while everyone else is partying. He’s working while everyone else is sleeping.
Years later, he’s selling paintings for a lot of money. How did this happen?
Put two and two together.
Links to products used:
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Back when I was in my previous band, we had a bass player try out. Super nice guy. We’ll call him Jim.
Anyways, Jim had the absolute best equipment on the planet. So good in fact that if the Rolling Stones’ trailer that carried their bass equipment got lost or stolen, they could have asked to borrow Jim’s equipment. Yup, absolutely top of the line gear.
But, when we asked Jim which covers he knew so we could jam with him, he didn’t know a single one all the way through. You can’t exactly jam partial songs.
Needless to say, Jim didn’t make the band. Like I said, super nice guy though. Had a beer with him. But we didn’t hire him as our bass player.
“What does this have to do with art?”
What does this have to do with art? Everything. Same concept.
You could have the best paint brushes on the planet. You could have the best paints on the planet. All the right gear. A gold plated easel made of the best wood. But if you can’t paint, you can’t paint.
That’s why I strongly suggest that if you’re limited on funds, buy the bare minimum amount of paints and take a lesson or two. It’s more important that you actually know what you’re doing with crappy gear, then having the best gear on the planet and can’t paint.
In fact, there’s a guy who I follow on YouTube that doesn’t even use high end paints. Yet, he’s a big influence on me. I’ve borrowed a technique or two from him. (More like three or four).
If we’re talking watercolors, I suggest buying good paper and decent paint rather than the other way around. I couldn’t tell you the game plan for oils or acrylics though. I can however tell you that you’re better off taking some lessons than buying the top of the line gear.
Get into the mindset of an artist
If you want to really get into the mindset of an artist, first, you have to call yourself one. If you’re still paying the bills as an accountant, but your heart is really oil painting, then when someone asks you what you do, say “artist.” Sure, it doesn’t pay the bills yet, but you have to start believing you’re an artist before you become one. And for Pete’s sake, start calling yourself an artist!
After convincing yourself that you’re an artist, you have to do the work. That means every day, you’re practicing.
My personal work is as a fantasy pinup artist. To keep my skills sharp, I’m sketching a live model at least once a week. I’m constantly working with either Allie or Roxy, despite being at the point where I can sketch a nude woman in five minutes flat.
That doesn’t mean I should ever let my guard down. The best sports teams decline when they start becoming overconfident. They think that nobody can beat them so they start to slack.
The same concept applies to art. You always have to be pushing yourself. Nobody knows every art technique on the planet. You can always hone your skills. There’s always room for improvement. Always.
Every modeling session, I’m getting a fraction of a percent better. That doesn’t seem like much to outsiders but I know how important it is to improve every single week. I have to stay hungry. Even when I sell my first seven figure painting, I’m not going to slack.
Of course, you can use this mindset for anything. But we’re specifically talking art. You and I are artists. That’s the aspect of our lives we want to improve.
Keep busting ass, my friend. Don’t ever let your guard down. There’s always some aspect of your artistic resume that you can improve.
If you’re coming here to learn about stretching watercolor paper, I’m the wrong person to ask. I’m way too lazy to do that.
“But you work 10 hour days, Roman.”
Yeah, that still doesn’t mean not I’m lazy. And, I wouldn’t call art working. It’s something I love doing. Remember how Brett Favre used to play football? He never called it work. He loved the game.
That’s exactly how I see art. It’s not working. Or another example – that 80s song Money for Nothing. “That ain’t working. That’s the way to do it.”
But stretching watercolor paper? That’s work. That’s something I’d rather not do. Rather, I’ll give you two alternatives to stretching watercolor paper.
Painting on a watercolor block
If you’re like me, you’d rather do something other than damping watercolor paper and leaving it over night with some clamps or what not. Geez, to be honest, I don’t even know how to do it. I don’t care either. I’d rather spend my time painting.
Or, if you don’t want to use a watercolor block, you can tape it down with masking tape. Another fine alternative to stretching watercolor paper.
Note that when you tape it down, you’re pretty much going to lose the part that you tape. Which is great if you’re either chopping a little off when you mount it on wood or if you’re losing a little bit under the framing.
Just keep that in mind though. You’re going to lose the part that you’re taping. See example below.
Taping it down is easy. My wife owns a pretty nice wooden artist board that I use rather than an easel. I’m weird. I literally paint on the floor. I’m more comfortable doing that than an easel.
Anyways, you tape down the watercolor paper with masking tape. Note that this will actually damage crappy watercolor paper. I’ve never had a problem with Arches archival quality paper though. The masking tape comes right off without ripping it.
Let’s discuss losing that part you taped in more detail
You don’t actually lose it. Since it’s covered with masking tape, you cannot paint on it. If you have something in your painting that “goes off the painting,” then it’s going to look bad. For instance in the painting above, her mermaid tail is mostly off the painting.
However, this is a complete non-issue in this case. I mounted this painting on wood which requires me to cut off about an inch of margins on all sides in order to fit the wood. I had that planned in advance so it was a complete non-issue.
You need to keep this stuff in mind when you’re planning in case you’re actually going to do something with your watercolor art. If you’re just keeping it for yourself, then it doesn’t matter. But if you plan to give it to your best friend or put it up for sale, then you need to plan accordingly.
No, not everyone knows everything about fantasy. You may be a kid who’s just getting into fantasy RPGs for the first time in your life. Or, you may be an adult who has just gotten the itch for fantasy literature. For all I know, you just got out of a cult who limited your interaction with the outside world.
I don’t know who reads this blog. Regardless, I love you. And I really mean that.
I’ve always been an artist/musician, and yes, we’re the feeling types. I never play the holier than thou game. I’m not better than you or more important.
By the same token, I don’t hang out with people who think they’re intrinsically better than me either. I don’t play that game.
So whether you’re the resident expert at all things fantasy or you’re a complete newbie, welcome. I want you here either way.
The history of a succubus
I’ll need to do more research. But I do know a few things. I know a lot of Bible scholars say that Lilith was the first succubus. Did succubi go back even before the Bible? I don’t know.
Most famous mention of a succubus? Well, not exactly a succubus. Rather, her male counterpart. An incubus.
Merlin, the greatest magician of all time, was fathered by an incubus. That’s one reason he was destined for so much power.
What is a succubus?
A succubus is a female demon. Different stories give her different powers.
Generally, they seduce men in their dreams. I’ve heard that if they successfully seduce you in your sleep, you’ll die in your dream and they get your soul.
I also heard they’re not quite that powerful. If you’re a writer, it’s your world. You can choose how powerful you want to make them.
Regardless, they are dream demons.
There was even a Pope who they claimed got his power from a succubus.
Succubi were popular scary stories during the Middle Ages. Gary Gygax with his Dungeons and Dragons brought the character back big time.
Anyways, I’m writing about succubi because I’m currently working on a painting with a succubus lead. Just in case some folk don’t know what she is.
The legend goes something like this. The succubus enters a man’s dream at night. She starts off as a beautiful young woman. Since men have different views of what constitutes beauty, she definitely meets your standards (an incubus for the ladies).
If you can resist her, you’ll start to see her as she really is. Not all at once, but more like a process. You’ll start to see horns, a tail, scales, and other demonic deformities.
When she becomes unattractive to you, she loses any control over you. Then she had to find another victim to haunt.
So stay strong men. And of course ladies if an incubus enters your dreams.
If you cook, you’re most likely one of three people. The first person took cooking classes until he felt confident enough to venture out on his own.
The second person watched someone else. This person she watched could be anyone, from a parent to an older sibling to even a friend or lover. But the point is, she watched and repeated until she felt confident enough to venture out on their own.
The last person is self-taught. He stole concepts from here and there but mostly experimented on his own until he got so good, he now invites all his friends over and they absolutely love his cooking.
What does this have to do with beginning watercolor?
Um, everything. You’re more than likely one of those three people. You learn by either taking classes, watching someone else, or experimenting on your own.
None of these methods are better than each other. They totally depend on the person. You need to know who you are, and which method would work best for you.
If you’re the student, don’t buy anything. Instead, enroll in a beginner watercolor course or two.
Your teacher will either give you a list of supplies to buy or she will supply them herself. Either way is great.
For the student, I have no advice for you at all other than to follow the course to a T. Ask appropriate questions. And most importantly, do your homework. Do these things and you’ll improve.
This method is great. Blues, the music, not the color, came from this. Cats would jam and improvise until they got really good.
Musicians inspired and stole from each other. The ones who played the most improved the most.
The same concept applies for the beginning watercolor painter. Hang out with fellow artists. Copy their methods. The more people you steal from, the more unique your style will become.
I started off as a guitarist by doing exactly this and I got good enough to play some pretty cool cover tunes live within only two years.
This method works, especially for an extrovert or people person. You’ll just have to find the right people to learn from.
And lastly, we have the self-taught master. As I’ve said, none of these methods are necessarily better than the other. You just need to do the one that works for you.
If you’re the experimenter, then do the following. Look online at people’s art. Find out what paints the people you like use. Buy them.
Get some brushes. Which ones? Depends on what you do. Artists love to argue over stupid shit. I just say get the brushes that make the most sense for what you do. I use different brushes than the average watercolor artist since I paint pinups rather than the usual scenery/flowers/birds/buildings that everyone else seems to paint.
Get two jars. I use kimchi jars. You can use spaghetti sauce jars. It doesn’t matter.
Get yourself some paper towels, and get to work.
Remember, your first ten paintings will suck. Don’t get discouraged. The key is, you keep painting.
Hot tip - total hours is more important than years practiced.
This means exactly that. The guy who practices five hours a day in only one year will smoke the guy who painted one hour a week for five years. You improve by honing your craft. It’s the same as everything from playing piano to working on cars to watercolor painting. The one who puts the most hours in will improve the fastest.
A mix of all three
And there’s always that one guy who’s a mix of any two or maybe even all three. That’s totally fine too. If you’re that person, then apply all these concepts.
Good luck, my friend. If you keep with this and get really good, then maybe my grandkids will be buying your paintings and putting them up on their walls.
Once you get past your first 10 paintings, I strongly suggest you start using real watercolor paper. That’s paper you can push. You won’t be fighting the paper so much.
You’ll know what I mean once you pass your first 10.
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OK, I have to make an assumption here. There are two types of people who will look up how to protect a watercolor painting and come across this article. The buyer of course wants her watercolor painting she just bought from the artist to last a lifetime. I’m assuming you’re not the buyer. I’m assuming you’re the artist.
If you’re the artist, this is who this article is for, not the buyer. So let’s go over how to protect a watercolor painting, from the artist’s perspective. For after all, if you’re a professional artist, your art is your legacy.
You’re insanely talented. Your artwork is so good that we all want it to not only outlive you, we’d love to know it will be around for literally hundreds of years.
The problem with colors are they fade. This is a problem all art mediums face. Even the great Leonardo da Vinci faced this.
Alright, let’s go over how to protect a watercolor painting. You’ll only need two things – varnish and wax. I’ll note the specific ones I use.
You don’t have to use the same brands. These are just the brands I use and I think they’re excellent. I also love the way my paintings look after they’ve been waxed. But first things first.
When the average person thinks of varnish, they think of wood varnish. Same concept.
We’ll be adding a protective layer of varnish directly over the painting.
Note that varnish is bad for your lungs. Luckily for me, I used to swim. I can hold my breath for a long time.
Always, always, always varnish outside. You don’t want your family breathing this stuff.
Take your painting outside. Note to read the bottle carefully. You don’t want to do this when it’s really humid outside as it won’t work correctly.
Shake the bottle vigorously for two whole minutes. You want it shaken enough that you can do the whole shebang with only one continuous spray.
I get the painting in position over a big piece of cardboard. You can use a moving box if you have to. Then, I hold my breath and shoot. I really pack it on.
Wait at least several hours. Varnish has a real strong smell to it and if it’s outside for a few hours, it won’t be so bad when you bring it back in. Just don’t leave it out overnight. And if it starts to get humid, you’re going to have to bring it in. I’m not sure where you’re at, but when I lived in the South, it seemed like the weather changed on a whim.
After I brought my painting inside, I still wait overnight to wax it. This is the wax I use.
I made a mistake. I bought a bottle that was too small. I’ll be going through this sooner than later. Next time I buy this stuff, I’m buying the bigger bottle of Dorland’s Wax Medium. It’s great stuff!
After the varnish is totally dry, I take a soft cloth and a nice sized chunk of wax, and smear the wax over the painting. I let that go overnight, then put on a second layer of wax the next day.
So yes, preserving your artwork is a three night process. But the thing is, you don’t have to watch the varnish dry and the wax settle. I’m always doing the next piece of art while waiting for this one to get ready.
You might be wondering why you waxed it after already applying the varnish. The wax gives you an added sealant for protection. It also gives your painting some extra luster.
After all, our goal is for your beautiful painting to last hundreds of years after we die.
After waiting yet another night after the second layer of wax, it’s time to buff the wax. I simply use a paper towel.
After buffing the painting, the wax really makes it shine. You’ll love how it looks. For my pinups, the girls really pop when waxed. Whether you also paint people, or wildlife, flowers, scenery, or whatever, the wax really makes the colors pop while also adding additional layers of protection for your watercolor painting.
Note - you don't have to do this, but I always do. I always add wax over the wood as well. It gives an extra bit of protection to the wood as well as your painting.
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I don’t know about you, but I forget stuff all the time. No, I’m not getting senile. I’m always trying to do too many things at once.
So I live and die by post it notes. They’re my reminders to do pretty much everything.
I make a new list every day of things I need to knock off. Sometimes it’s a few things and sometimes it’s a lot. Depends on the day.
Anyways, this is my second time talking about writer’s block or creative’s block this month. Since I paint women, I’m making a character list for myself. You’re more than welcome to use this list too if you’re anything from an author to a painter to a dungeon master. This may just inspire you to add a creature or two to your upcoming novel, screenplay, or fantasy campaign.
Human like fantasy femme fatales
Right away, we have mermaids, fairies, witches, sirens, dryads, nymphs, and naiads.
I assume you already know what mermaids, witches, nymphs, and fairies are. Just in case you don’t know the others, sirens are a mythological creature from Ancient Greece. They had such a beautiful song that sailors would be so captivated by it that they’d forget what they’re doing and crash into the rocks and die.
Some cultures had overlaps between sirens and mermaids. And some cultures even said they’re the same thing.
Dryads and Naiads
Dryads are forest spirits who literally live inside a tree. They’re rather lonely creatures and will lure a young handsome man into their tree to live with them forever.
Don’t you love that word forever? It’s used so often in fairy tales and live songs.
Naiads are beautiful water spirits. They live in freshwater only. Naiads are fascinating creatures in Greek mythology. Often jealous, they blinded one young man and fused with another.
Sometimes they’re worshipped. Other times, they’re scary stories. And other times, they’re lovers of Kings.
Semi-human fantasy femme fatales
You’ve heard the story of the Sphinx. Since the Egyptian Sphinx is a male, I’ll talk about the Greek Sphinx instead.
She has the head of a beautiful woman, the body of a lion, the wings of an eagle, and the tail of a snake. She’s quite dangerous as she riddles you, and if you cannot answer the riddle, she’ll eat you.
Oedipus finally defeated the Sphinx by answering her riddle. Afterwards, she got so mad that he got it right that she killed herself.
The riddle? What has four legs in the morning, two legs in the day, and three legs at night. The answer? Man.
A baby crawls on all fours. Learns to walk on two legs. And needs a cane in his old age.
Have you ever seen Fantasia? Walt obviously did his homework.
Romans saw them as hideous creatures but the early Greeks saw them as beautiful women with wings. In Fantasia, they were the Roman version – hideously scary and dangerous.
A succubus is the female version of an incubus. Both slip into the dreams of their respective opposite sex and if they successfully seduce you in your dream, you die and they get your soul.
Lilith, Adam’s first wife before Eve, supposedly was a succubus.
At first inspection, they’re beautiful young women. But as you really look into them, you can start to see demonic deformities. Yet another reason not to close your eyes when making love, right?
Alright friends. I think that should be enough to get you started. One of these days, I’ll write a sequel to this article.
I named this article “watercolor vs gouache” but in reality, watercolor and gouache are friends. They play nicely together. They even share the same paper for their main choice of surface.
But, you should know when to use one and when to use the other. Each has her own advantages and disadvantages.
So since this is a sequel to that previous article, assuming you’ve read it, I finally bought the good stuff. I’ve always been using mostly Daniel Smith watercolors with a little bit of Windsor and Newton thrown in there. But for gouache, since I’ve barely used it other than that glitter in Allie’s or Roxy’s eyes, I’ve used the cheap ass stuff. No longer.
I’ve read tons of online reviews and decided on this one:
I paint pinups. I work with two live models – Allie and Roxy. Allie is the blonde. Roxy is the brunette.
They’re both drop dead gorgeous in real life and I love painting them both. I first start off with sketches. Then I paint.
Stylistically, I love painting women with watercolor since I could do layers after layers. After over a hundred paintings to my name (most you’ll never see), I got really good at layering.
Watercolors are fantastic for layering. Since watercolors are transparent, you can still see the bottom layers. That’s why you specifically have to paint light to dark. If you don’t, the dark will drown out the light.
When I paint my models, I use seven layers of paint, wet on wet. When complete, my pinups look fantastic. The more you paint with watercolors, the better you get with layering and colors. You’ll fall in love with your ability to layer. I can guarantee that the more you paint with watercolors.
I have a confession to make to you. I live in a tiny ass apartment with my wife. I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t a consideration when I decided on watercolors over acrylics and oils.
Let’s actually get straight to the point. That was my main consideration.
Our apartment is so tiny that we don’t have room for anything. If my models weren’t friends of mine, they’d probably tell me where I could put my paint brushes. I literally paint on the floor. I don’t even own an easel. They barely have room to pose.
Watercolors are the easiest paints of all to clean up. They also wash right off your brushes. If you get decent brushes, they’ll last for years. You don’t have to buy brush cleaner. You just clean them off with water.
Easy to reuse
OK, time for another confession. When I mix skin colors, I use the same mix for at least three or four paintings.
The paint dries after I finish a painting. And when I start on the next painting, I simply re-wet the paint and it’s exactly the same color as before. So if I’m painting Allie three or four times in a row, which I often do, I can make a batch of the same skin color for all those paintings.
Geez I’m getting personal here. I’m very odor sensitive. If someone stinks or is wearing too much cologne or perfume, I’ll know it before anyone else knows it. I can’t see worth shit but my nose is stronger than most people I know.
I hate the smell of solvents. I hate that smell almost as much as I hate burnt automatic transmission fluid. It’s one of my least favorite smells on the planet.
Watercolors don’t ever need solvents. You don’t need solvents for spills. You don’t need solvents for your brushes. So you don’t need to air out your home when you’re painting and/or cleaning up.
Strengths of gouache
Gouache on the other hand is opaque. I’ve heard it compared to acrylics. Some folks even refer to gouache as “opaque watercolor” for after all, it’s technically more a subset of watercolor than its own thing.
Gouache has its own character
I only have one painting to my name that is mostly gouache. And you know what? I already love gouache!
It doesn’t layer as well as watercolor. But, it’s great for covering up. If you’re going to combine gouache and watercolor, it’s probably best to paint the gouache first.
Gouache reacts differently to water than watercolor does. It gets funky with too much water. You’re going to be using less water and more paint.
Gouache also pops. You’ll know what I mean when you use it.
I’m not a cheap person when it comes to my art. My car is a piece of shit and I don’t care. I never even repaired the dents. But for certain things, like food, tipping my bartenders and servers, and my art, I’m spending the money.
That said, it’s pretty nice when even the high end stuff is cheap. Gouache retails cheaper than watercolors. If money is a consideration, you might want to consider starting with gouache. I’m talking artist grade vs artist grade, not the good stuff for one vs the cheap stuff for the other.
Before cartoons went digital, artists used either gouache or acrylic paints for the cels. Plus, a lot of commercial artists used gouache.
Why? It’s fast. You have timelines. When under the gun, you want something fast. Gouache is perfect in those regards.
Easier to get started with
No, not the same concept as speed. I’m talking about for the very beginner.
With watercolors, I’ve said your first ten paintings will end up in the garbage. Half that with gouache. Gouache simply has easier concepts. I picked it up right away. Watercolors took awhile to pick up.
I’m not implying gouache has no technique by any means. However, if you want to at least get started with the basics, you’ll pick them up faster with gouache than you will with watercolor.
Weaknesses of watercolor
Transparency – strength that is also a weakness
Whereas I listed transparency as a strength, it’s also a weakness. For instance, if you make a mistake, you can’t just cover it up like you can do with other mediums.
Some folks use pencil as a guide. I actually ink. I actually love the look of watercolor over ink. If I do a bad job at inking, I can’t cover it up with watercolor. In that particular case, I either have to use gouache or watercolor ground to cover up the mistake.
Also, to get dark, you have to really pile on the paint. For instance, I painted four layers of wet on wet black to get this black to look like this.
Other people’s stereotypes
“Who cares what other people think?”
I do when I’m trying to sell my work. Some folks have a negative connotation to watercolors. They see it as a lesser medium to oils.
I completely disagree with them. But let’s not pretend it’s not there.
A lot of great art from the Romantic era was actually done with watercolors. The artists painted in the field with watercolors since it’s easy to transport.
Now, I could say “easy to transport” as a strength but I’ve never painted outside and I don’t ever want to give someone advice that I have never done. That would be like me telling you how to ski on an advanced slope. I’ve never done it.
I’d be either lying or regurgitating what other people have said. I don’t do that. If I’m giving you advice, it’s from my own personal experience.
But back to other people’s stereotypes, I’m hoping to help my fellow watercolor artists here. You can do more with watercolors than most people realize. I think once people see my pinups, they’ll realize how diversified and powerful watercolors really are.
You can avoid muddiness with experience. However, if you don’t have enough experience, you can really turn a painting muddy with watercolors. There are no easy ways to fix muddiness. It looks really bad.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure how else to explain it. It’s one of those “you’ll know it when you see it.”
Concepts take a long time to master
I feel like watercolor has some concepts that really take a long time to master. For instance, the whole concept of how water changes the colors. It’s an easy concept to understand. However, it’s a complicated concept to execute.
I got good at it with a lot of practice. For instance, look at the witch above. That paint for the inside of her nails is actually the same color for the outside of her nails and her lips. Yet, it appears like I’m using three different colors.
The difference? The amounts of water. This is something that you really have to practice a lot to execute properly.
That’s why I suggest buying a watercolor journal. Be sure to use it often and take lots of notes. I swear I have just as many words in the journal as I do actual painting examples. And I need every single word in there.
You’re going to do a lot of experimenting. Washes take a long time to master. Controlling the water takes a long time to master. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Advanced watercolor artists are more than likely thinking to themselves that I left out a dozen other concepts.
Weaknesses of gouache
Colors are straightforward
When you’re used to watercolors, gouache can be too straightforward. What you paint is what you get. It’s not something you’re going to layer. Blends don’t have as much depth as blends do with watercolors.
I’ll put this more in computer terms. Think about how you can take two colors with watercolor and when you blend them, you actually get eight colors if you look very closely. Now, I’m making that number eight up. But it’s for effect.
Whereas, you do exactly the same thing with gouache and you get three. Once again, I’m making that number up for effect.
What I’m getting at is you’ll get more colors when blending with watercolors than you will with gouache. Colors are more straightforward.
Now don’t get me wrong. You can still create tons of colors with gouache. But the actual numbers you’ll create when you blend will be less than you’ll get when you do exactly the same techniques with watercolors.
Nobody knows what you’re talking about
A friend of mine is a digital artist. He and his friend are working on a game as we speak. My friend is doing the artwork. I’ve seen some of his work and it’s actually pretty good.
When I told him that I just bought a gouache set, he said “what the fuck is gouache?”
Commercial art stereotype
And of those who do know what you’re talking about when you mention gouache, many of them only think of commercial art. Which, I think there’s nothing wrong with.
I may get chastised for this, but I don’t romanticize the starving artist. Sometimes artists have families. And families need to eat.
If you take a job making art for a corporation so you can actually eat, I get it. I’m not one of those people who plays holier than thou and think artists have to follow some strict moral code or take a vow of poverty.
But those people are out there. They think everything commercial is bad, and the only way to make it as an artist should be to sell your own work privately, and not working for The Man.
Whatever. I’m not one of those people.
Those people also thumb their noses at gouache for this very reason. Gouache at one time was the most common medium for print ads. If I’m not mistaken, digital art surpassed gouache long ago.
So they see it as a less than serious medium. Which is a shame since there is some really cool gouache work out there. I happen to love Olivia De Berardinis for instance, who makes some pretty dang fine pinups with gouache.
Gouache is harder to get off brushes
I have two Kim-chi jars when I paint with watercolors. One I use to wash the brush. The second I use for the final rinse.
With gouache, I still use the same method. However, it takes a lot more swishing to get all the gouache paint off the brushes than it does with watercolor.
Is this a big deal? Not really. You’re just going to have to work harder at keeping the brushes clean. But it’s definitely noticeable.
Note – this may not necessarily be a gouache thing and might be an M Graham thing. M Graham is honey based, and if that’s the reason why it’s harder to get off the brushes, it’s the brand, not the type of paint.
Can you mix them?
I did. The sky you see here is actually M Graham Cobalt Blue gouache combined with Daniel Smith Moonglow watercolor. I like how it turned out.
Watercolor vs Gouache – Final verdict
You already know what I’m going to say about the whole watercolor vs gouache debate. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I use both.
I finally bought some good quality gouache as pictured up above and I love it. You can see what I use watercolor for and what I use gouache for. When I want to layer something heavily, I’m using watercolors. When I want opaque, I use gouache. So it totally depends on what I’m working on.
A note about affiliate links – as an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. This is as absolutely no cost to you, and helps keep my bills paid. I will never recommend a product that I do not use myself. And thank you.
We’ve all had those days whether you’re a writer, a composer, or an artist. You sit down. You got work to do. And nothing comes.
The muse has left the building and you’re badly trying to summon her back.
Well, my friend, fret not. What you need is a list.
This list will work for you whether you’re trying to compose that song that will make you famous or you’re working on the Great American Novel.
How to use this list
Here’s the trick. Actually take a pen and paper and write down the answers.
Every lyric you have, every word you write, every painting you paint, it all comes from your head. When you are uninspired, the problem revolves around the lack of communication between your brain and your medium. Your hands are the in between and once you start getting ideas to go to your hands, your inspiration will come right back.
Sound crazy? Actually, it’s not. It’s a mental block.
Try it. It’s a brain trick I’ve learned over the years. I guarantee it will work.
1. Who is the love of your life?
2. Who is the one that got away?
3. Who hurt you the most?
4. Who did you hurt the most?
5. What did you want to be when you grew up?
6. Who was your idol as a kid?
7. Who was your idol as a teen?
8. Who was your first crush?
9. Who was your first kiss?
10. Where were you when you had your first kiss?
11. What was the most painful argument you’ve ever been in?
12. Did it resolve?
13. If it resolved, how? If not, why not?
14. Who is the person who has passed on that you miss the most?
15. What would you tell them if you’re allowed one more day with them?
16. Where would you take them?
17. Why is that place so meaningful to you?
18. Whether or not you’re married, describe your dream wedding?
19. Who will you want to be there?
20. Who do you not want to be there?
21. What happens to us after we die?
22. Why is your best friend your best friend?
23. What is something your best friend knows that nobody else knows?
24. If you have unlimited money, describe your dream vacation
25. If you have unlimited money, describe your dream home
Did you notice something about this list? It’s not a simple yes or no list. I made your brain wake up.
Now, you’re ready to write, paint, or compose the next big hit!