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How to mount watercolor paper on wood

Do you need to know how to mount watercolor paper onto wood

The good news – it’s easy. The bad news – it’s time consuming and a lot can go wrong. But don’t worry, we’ll walk through the process step-by-step.

Afterwards, we’ll tell you how to preserve your watercolor painting. That’s another article though. I’ll put the link at the end of this article as well.

(Note that this works for both watercolor and gouache, assuming you’re using watercolor paper).

The benefits

After you mount watercolor paper on wood, assuming you’re using a cradled piece of wood, it’s already ready to hang up. You can decide to frame it later. Or, you can hang it up as is.

Either way it’s going to look great. Some folks prefer art framed. Some don’t. It’s personal opinion.

When it’s finished, it will look like this. I used my leather couch as the backdrop.

mermaid after I mount watercolor paper on wood
Mermaid pulling her hair back

Item list

You’ll need the following tools:

  • Something to cut the paper on (I simply use a real large cutting board)
  • An X-Acto knife
  • Cradled wood so it could be hung up immediately
  • An adhesive
  • sandpaper
  • An old brush

The cutting board, you can pick up at a garage sale or a secondhand store. You probably don’t want to use the one you’re eating from. As for the brush, either use an old one or a cheap one. This brush won’t be usable for painting any more. You might already have sandpaper lying around.

Planning

There’s an old saying in carpentry. Measure twice, cut once. You only get one chance at this so you have to make it right.

You’re going to cut your painting and you may lose an inch of margin. I’ve already planned out in advance as I’m actually painting, so I don’t lose anything of value.

You should actually measure with a ruler your painting area vs the piece of wood you’re going to put it on. You’ll have to do this if you decide to frame it anyways.

So have a plan in advance where you’re going to make the cuts. It will save you heartache in the future.

Measure

OK, the fun part. Measure the wood vs measure what part of the painting you’ll be keeping. Note that when I actually make the cut, the painting is already glued to the wood. But I know in advance what I’m keeping and what I’m losing.

This is a very important step. Do not neglect this. You may lose a piece of your painting that you’re emotionally attached to if you don’t plan and measure correctly.

For instance, for a 9″x12″ painting, you’re probably going to buy the 8″x10″ piece of wood. You’ll be losing one total inch horizontally and two total inches vertically. Or vice versa, depending on whether your painting is landscape or portrait.

Clean, then glue the wood

Before I even glue the wood, I make sure it’s pretty clean. You don’t want dirt or dust interfering with the glue. After all, you’re an artist and you want this piece to last for hundreds of years. I can’t speak for you, but I take that mentality quite seriously. I assume you do too.

adhesive used to mount watercolor paper onto wood
I use this as the adhesive and you see the wood in the background

Now, I assume you already know in advance where you’re going to cut. So now glue the wood. I use an old paintbrush.

Very important! Err on the side of too much glue rather than not enough. Trust me on this one. Nothing more annoying than the next day to see a corner pop up because you didn’t use enough glue.

Make sure the edges are glued well. Also make sure you’ve glued the corners well.

What’s the brush for?

The brush is to even things out. If you have way too much glue, you’ll see a little glue bump in your painting after it’s glued and dried. Whereas this may not be a big deal to some folks, it may drive you nuts. Thus, the brush.

So be sure to brush it down and even it out. Make sure there’s an even layer of glue throughout the wood. And do this relatively fast as we’re dealing with glue.

Stick the painting on

Fun part. I hope you planned well.

This is where you actually stick the painting on the glued wood. Like I’ve mentioned already, you’re going to lose the parts of the painting that don’t fit on the wood. We’ll be cutting them off with your knife.

Once you’ve stuck the painting on the wood, make sure it’s on there well. This is where I hope you’ve had preschool experience. Remember preschool?

This isn’t a joke. A lot can go wrong at this stage. If you’ve never had preschool, you should practice gluing paper onto something else. And once again, this isn’t a joke. You can ruin your painting at this stage. You only get one chance to do this.

You’ll need the painting to stick for the next few hundred years. We’re using pretty good adhesive. This is what professional artists use, and it’s the right formula that it won’t damage your watercolor paper either.

The cut

You’ll need to let your painting dry overnight. I put the painting on a wood table and put heavy books over it because I want the gluing stage to work. I’ve made the mistake once of not gluing a corner correctly. Note, once. I’m telling you this so you don’t make the same mistake.

The next morning, grab your painting. It should be glued on the wood well. Congratulations! You’ve been successful at the hardest part. However, before we pop open the champagne, we still have to make the cut.

This is where I hope you’ve had high school art. If you’ve never used an X-Acto knife, you need to practice first. Don’t take this step lightly because if you screw up the initial cut, you better be really good with sandpaper.

Now put the painting face down onto your cutting surface. Cut with your X-Acto knife around the edges, as close to the edge as you possibly can. Once again, if you’ve never used an X-Acto knife before, practice on something that isn’t important first. You get one chance to do this.

Once this is done, simply sandpaper the edges and it’s ready to be preserved. Oh, wipe away the dust with a soft brush. I assume you already have plenty of those.

After you mount watercolor paper on wood

You’ll now need to preserve your watercolor painting. I wrote a separate article for that since I don’t like to cram too much information into one article. I don’t know about you, but my head hurts if I get too much information. That’s why I like to break things down.

After I’ve preserved my paintings, I make a cold, hard decision. If it’s an A, I put it on the store. If not, I give it to a friend.

I sincerely hope this helps and let me know if you have any questions.

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What is a Selkie?

Life is funny. I had Jin N Tonic over last night modeling for me. I let her choose three poses straight from Gil Elvgren, of whom I’m a huge fan of.

She choose her three poses, and I drew them straight onto the watercolor paper.

In three hours, we ended up with pretty solid sketches for 7 paintings. I already finished inking one and got a lot of it done.

Anyways, after the modeling session, the three of us went out for Moroccan food. They had two damn good belly dancers there, including one who won the Best of Bay Area competition.

So back to the painting I started, I had already started painting it when my wife said “that reminds me of a selkie.”

Immediately, I changed the tone of the painting. I drew a seal skin on the rock by the nude woman since she had just changed out of it.

“So what is a selkie then?”

My bad. Let me rewind.

A selkie is a Scottish legend of a seal/woman creature who can change into either form. When she sheds her seal skin, she becomes a beautiful nude woman. Then she puts it back on and becomes a seal.

Now, if a man is bold enough, he can attempt to steal her seal skin and she will be a woman forever. Then, he could woo her into marriage.

Yes, quite different from my normal femme fatale female creatures. This one isn’t one. She’s not going to trick you or kill you. Rather, she’s one you have to trick then woo.

It’s also interesting that the Scottish believe killing seals is bad luck. That may or may not be tied to the legend of the selkie. Or, there may be some overlap.

Selkie statue in Kalsoy, one of the  Faroese islands
Selkie statue at Mikladalur. Photo by Siegfried Rabanser

So going forward, I’ll be painting several selkies. Jin was wearing a red wig. She’s really into wigs.

If you’ve been following this blog for awhile, you’ll know my main two models are Allie and Roxy. I’ve known Jin for a few years now and I finally got around to painting her.

When you see the red-headed selkie paintings, they’re neither Allie nor Roxy. These ones are of Jin.

And now that you know what a selkie is, if you’re a Dungeon Master, definitely use one in your campaigns. Most people have never even heard of them.

Or if you’re an artist or a writer and have no idea what to paint/write about, there you go!

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How to avoid muddy watercolors

So you need to know how to avoid muddy watercolors? Well first off, what is muddiness?

It’s one of those you’ll know it when you see it issues. Muddiness looks like, well, mud all over your watercolor painting. Once your watercolor painting becomes muddy, it’s time to throw it out.

“Seriously Roman?”

Yes, seriously.

A lot of things can cause muddiness. Unfortunately, there are too many to list. But at least I can give you the main reasons so you can learn how to avoid muddy watercolors.

Change your water often

I have two jars – one for the first rinse and one for the final rinse. When changing between colors, make sure you use both jars. Then, when the first jar has too much paint, change it.

Not changing your water often enough can contribute to muddiness.

Paint either totally dry or wet to wet

This is counterintuitive in a way. But if you want to avoid muddy watercolors, it’s something you need to learn to do.

Either paint wet on wet or wet on completely dry. Don’t half ass this.

What I mean is you either need to paint wet on wet or you have to wait until the paper is completely dry before you continue. When the paper is in that in between state is when you’re going to have the problems.

Using cheap paper

It’s funny. Awhile back, I wrote about several reasons not to use cheap watercolor paper. And you know what? I mentioned all these reasons, but forgot to include muddiness.

Yes, you’re way more likely to have muddiness problems with cheap paper than with quality paper. But keep reading. Cheap paper is only one culprit.

Reds, greens, and browns

It’s these three colors you have to be careful with. It’s actually quite funny. Mixing some of nature’s most natural colors give you the best chance to get a muddy watercolor painting.

Well, call me Captain Obvious then. Obvious, but often forgotten.

Cheap paints without enough pigment

In my post about budgeting watercolors, I mention some of the downsides to using cheap paints. To make a profit, they got to cut corners somewhere, so they’ll often use less pigment.

Not enough pigment and you’ll end up with too much smear and not enough paint. Well, take one guess what that leads to.

So like I’ve said, this is by no means a complete list. However, these are your main reasons. Not changing your water often enough, painting with the wrong amount of wetness, cheap paper, natural colors, and cheap paints.

Oh, and before I forget, I better give you the sixth. Not knowing when to quit. Sometimes, artists keep on piling on more paint and that will muddy the painting. Sometimes, you need to just call it done. Don’t totally overdo it.

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Qualities of good pinup art

I’ve been studying what good pinup art is for awhile now. Although I’ve been studying the Pre-Raphaelite masters like John William Waterhouse lately, I’ve always been a fan of good American pinup.

American pinup artists during the so-called Golden Age of Pinups made their money in ads. The ads only had a few seconds to catch the reader’s eye. They had to really stand out.

Those ads would be called sexist today so we don’t see them anymore.

Which is sad because it hurt both the models and the artists. A lot of them were actually pretty good.

Post Golden Age, my favorites were Frank Frazetta and Olivia. I was a huge Frazetta fan. I even enjoyed that movie Fire and Ice he did with Ralph Balski.

But what makes good pinup art?

Good pinup art is of course subjective. You and I may prefer entirely different artists. And that’s perfectly ok.

But all good pinup art has most or all of these qualities.

The women are either sexy or gorgeous

A dear friend of mine years ago scolded me for calling her cute. “That’s something you say to a child.” We were dressed up to go out, and she was wearing a lovely long, black dress.

She wanted me to call her either beautiful, sexy, or gorgeous. Grown up women words. After all, she was about to turn 20. (This was decades ago).

So yes, there’s a difference between cute, beautiful, lovely, striking, sexy, and gorgeous. John Updike explained why striking is a backhanded compliment at best. You’ll never hear me call a girl I find attractive “striking.”

Now sexy or gorgeous, that’s the essence of good pinup art.

Lighthearted

Pinup art often has a bit of humor to it. It’s lighthearted. If you look at Gil Elvgrin for instance, a lot of his models get accidentally partially disrobed. It’s cute.

It doesn’t take itself too seriously. I’ve worked with two models since I started painting. We’re always having a good time. The modeling sessions are never tense.

When I get a third model, she has to laugh. I don’t want a cold model with no feelings. She’s got to be human.

A celebration of femininity

In these parts, girls are taught that femininity is a weakness. That’s got to be the dumbest belief on the planet. Men have started wars over beautiful women. Femininity is something to be proud of, not ashamed of.

From Elvgrin to Olivia, you could tell how much the artists absolutely love women. Frazetta loves women. He was an old school family man who died married to the same woman forever.

If you’re a misogynist, you cannot produce good pinup art. You just can’t. And yes, this includes women who secretly hate women. It will show in your art.

Seduction

Here’s a hot tip. The majority of folks who buy pinup art are either men or women who pick it up for their husbands. My wife bought me a Gil Elvgrin book back while I was still learning to draw.

The art had to catch your eye. Right away.

Since a lot of these early ones were ads, they only had a few seconds to make a man want to read them.

Frazetta’s art ended up on a lot of book covers. Sometimes men would buy the book for the cover and not even read the thing.

Olivia made a pretty good living selling her art to men’s magazines. Online killed off men’s magazines but Olivia to this day has a rabid cult following.

What do all her models have in common? They’re deeply seductive. Olivia gets it. She gets it so well that she’s famous around the world for her pinups. You’ll know her work in seconds.

That’s what I’m focusing on

You learn what works by simply looking what works. I’ll happily list my influences. Only Olivia is alive today.

Those qualities are the very qualities I emulate. I sketch with live models, then transfer my work into paint.

Both of my models are drop dead gorgeous in real life. They’re head turners. Jaw droppers. Whatever the phrase is now.

My goal is simply to produce good pinup art
My fantasy pinups range from classic silliness to downright sexy to femme fatale and you can tell I love boobs

They also know how to be sexy. But in our sessions, we’re lighthearted. When the sessions begin though, they know full well how to pose sexy.

And last but no way the least, I absolutely love femininity. I’ve always been a sucker for a beautiful girl. If you could convey that feeling into your art, you can produce good pinup art.

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Three free mermaid templates

Every once in awhile, you design something but you don’t really like the end result. This happens to me all the time.

I drew up these three mermaids but the actual paintings were less than satisfactory. So, I’m giving away the templates as templates.

They’re PDF files, so all you have to do is print them out. Color them. Practice with them. Or, you can even put some watercolor paper through your printer.

OK, I’ve never done the watercolor paper through the printer before. I have no idea how effective that is. However, I’ve heard quite a few people have done that before.

Regardless, use them anyway you want. Just if you end up selling them, please give me credit for the drawing. You did everything else.

I don’t want any money. They’re yours. I just want credit for the drawings. I did use real live models for these.

mermaid01.pdf

mermaid02.pdf

mermaid03.pdf

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Budgeting watercolor – Most important expenditures in watercolor

There’s always that guy. He’s got thousands of bucks laying around and expects everyone else to have money for expensive equipment. Then of course, he plays holier than thou when some of your equipment is less than gold plated.

Well, I’m not that guy. I realize people have budgets. (I’m definitely with you there). That’s why I write articles like “the most important expenditures in watercolor.”

So, I’m going to prioritize things. I have no idea what your budget is. I’ll just state my argument for the most important expenditure in watercolor. Then, I’ll say what the second most important is. Then, I’ll list the next one. And so on.

That way, you could decide by your budget what you’re going to spend money on.

Also, feel free to disagree. I’m not Michelangelo. I’m just a guy who sells pinup watercolor paintings on the side. I still have a day job.

But, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a guy who loves watercolors as much as I do. That’s my authority right there.

I absolutely love them! Every single day, I wake up early and paint. Then, I rush home and paint. On the weekends, I paint. Actually, you’re simply not going to find someone who loves watercolors more than I do.

Expenditures in watercolor in order

Paper

There are only two times I will suggest that you get cheap watercolor paper. When you first start out. And, for your watercolor journal.

When you first start out, you don’t know what you’re doing and you’re going to throw away the first ten paintings anyways. So that doesn’t matter.

As for your journal, nobody’s going to see it besides you. That’s where you do your testing, your experimentation, and also where you take a shitload of notes. My journals actually have more text than paint. I’m always writing in them, describing in detail what to do and what not to do.

But when you first get serious with watercolor, you will need real paper. This isn’t an option.

Cheap paper is cheap paper and it will ruin your paintings. If you have to spend money on one expensive thing and only one expensive thing, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any artist who uses watercolor who would argue with me. Everyone agrees with me for a reason. Cheap paper ruins your work.

Almost everyone uses Arches and it’s for a damn good reason. It’s the standard archival quality watercolor paper.

Arches is not the only archival quality paper. It’s just the one everyone uses. I strongly suggest starting off with that paper when it’s time to get serious.

You may end up liking other papers better. That’s totally fine. Everyone has personal preferences.

But, nobody dislikes Arches. At worst, they say they prefer X brand because of Y quality.

Paints

Of the expenditures in watercolor, paints rank second. Cheap paints use less pigment and are often less quality controlled. Here’s the thing – if you want to make money selling a product, you have to charge more than it costs to produce the product.

If you sell a high end product, you can charge a lot. However, if you’re trying to sell a cheap product, you’re going to have to cut corners to make a profit.

With cheap paints, they’re using less pigment. That’s how they make a profit.

You can get by with cheap paints and only the high end watercolor snobs will know the difference if you’re really good. Quality paints are not as important as quality paper. But they’re still important. But once again, if you’re good, you could fool most people with cheap paints. Most people can’t tell the difference.

I swear by Daniel Smith and Winsor and Newton paints. Both brands kick ass. I have no complaints with either brand. In my personal opinion, Daniel Smith paints have a more modern edge to them. Winsor and Newton paints look like they’re from the 1800s. That’s just my personal opinion, but I’m a guy who has lots and lots of paints.

For gouache, I’m falling in love with M Graham. They simply make pretty freaking good gouache.

I can’t suggest low end paints because I’ve never used them. I only suggest products that I’ve used.

Brushes

Brushes are not the most important expenditures in watercolor
We use used Kimchi jars for both our brushes and for the watercolor water

I have a confession to make. I use archival quality paper only and only really good paints. But my brushes are the store brand. That’s where I cut the costs.

After over a hundred paintings, only now can I tell you that cheap brushes act like cheap brushes. That said, they’re a pretty good weak link. Nobody, not even the top of the top watercolor snobs, could tell you which brushes you used by looking at your paintings.

So brushes are the perfect place to cut costs if you had to cut costs.

However, when I make a little bit more money, I’m going to reward myself with some good brushes. I can’t recommend which ones because I’ve only used the cheap ones.

Miscellaneous

I use Kimchi jars for my water. You could use spaghetti sauce jars, or jelly jars, or whatever.

If you’re flat broke, you can use jar lids for your mixing palette until you can afford a real mixing palette. I know that sounds lame, but I know what it’s like to be flat broke and have to make due with what you got available.

I do buy good paper towels as paper towels help you rescue mistakes. Bad paper towels suck. I learned that one the heard way. They don’t absorb enough water and if you have a bad spill, you’re going to wish you bought good paper towels.

I use plain old masking tape when not painting on a watercolor block. Regular masking tape works great as long as you’re not painting on cheap watercolor paper. It will rip cheap watercolor paper. From experience.

You don’t have to buy expensive/fancy masking tape.

So there you have it. If you only have money for one expensive item, buy good watercolor paper. If you have the money for good watercolor paper and good something else, reward yourself with good paint. And if you’re rich, buy good brushes as well.

Actually if you’re rich, please buy my paintings so I can also have good brushes.

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You need a watercolor journal

You should have at least one watercolor journal.

I’m not going to get into which watercolor journal is better. To me, it’s an exercise in absurdity. I’ve rarely seen anyone sell their journals. Rather, most of us use them either for traveling or experimentation.

Travelers may want something like a decent pouch or other features. To be honest, I’m the wrong person to ask here.

When I travel, I get heavily into drawing, not watercolor. When I first started watercolors, I heard from an old man that he wishes he spent more time drawing. In fact, he said that he should have spent his first year drawing two hours for every hour painting.

That stuck with me. Painting has always been easier than drawing. So I focus on drawing. The painting for me is easy.

A Watercolor journal for experiments

You’re going to make a lot of mistakes. That’s a good thing. Show me someone who is perfect and I’ll show you someone afraid of taking risks.

If you’re going to get better at anything, you have to take risks. That goes from everything from life to sports to art.

A watercolor journal gives you the cheap opportunity to take risks and not cry about ruining something you spent a lot of money on.

Strathmore makes pretty cheap journals. I think I bought mine on sale at the art store for under $5. Moleskin makes ones that are a little bit more expensive. But still, wrong mindset to even think that way. You’re saving money by making your mistakes in a watercolor journal rather than the real deal.

That’s what I’m getting at. Do your experiments there. Make your mistakes there.

For instance, I talked about testing inks in a journal. Also, I do my initial mixing in a journal first. I learned how to make black, brown, and pink in a journal. Black is a mix of blue and red with a little yellow. Brown is red and green, about 50/50. I make my pink by watering down red.

Whereas a watercolor journal may not necessarily have high end watercolor paper, it’s still watercolor paper. Since I’m using the thing for experiments anyways, I’m not doing the seven layers of wet on wet I do for skin tones. It’s always simple stuff.

I even test colored pencils with watercolors in the journal. One of these days, I’ll incorporate colored pencils more. I rarely use them, despite having some pretty decent ones.

The funny thing though – my journal literally had more words than paint. I’m always writing detailed notes for everything I try in that thing. Makes a great reference for the future.

One more thing. You know how watercolors are transparent and gouache is opaque? Well, some colors are more transparent than others. Some mixes will become somewhat opaque. You can learn this cheaply in a notebook rather than learning it the hard way on a real painting.

Definitely get one. It will save you money, and also may prevent a bit of heartbreak. So much better to ruin a page from a journal rather than the real deal.

watercolor journal
My journals are almost all experimentation

“What’s the difference between a watercolor journal and a watercolor notebook?”

Nothing. Those terms are used interchangeably. They’re both watercolor books that artists use for either outdoor painting or experimentation. Or both.

Some people like the term journaling. Some people like the term note-taking. They mean the same thing in this context.

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How does an artist create his or her own distinctive art style?

So, how does an artist achieve his or her own distinctive art style? I actually think this is an excellent question.

As always, there’s more than one way to do it. However, this three step process is as good as any.

Know thyself

If you don’t really know yourself all the way through, then how do you expect to create art in your own distinctive art style? You need to be honest with yourself. What do you truly love? What do you truly hate?

List them both.

Also list what you like and dislike. Less strong words, but almost as important. List what you’re indifferent to.

Actually, that’s the strongest word of all – indifference. If you love my work, that’s awesome. If you hate my work with a passion, that’s almost as awesome. Seriously. I want it to generate strong feelings.

But indifference to my work? That would bum me out.

Anyways, enough about me. Let’s talk about you. How well do you know yourself?

Also, let’s include the love of your life. Let’s include the one who got away. Remember family members who you’re BFFs with. What do you love about them the most?

Also the ones who drive you nuts. Why do they drive you nuts?

Know what you’ve done, what you won’t do, what you’ll no longer do, and what you really want to do.

I’m sure you can add a lot to this list. This is by no means complete. If you feel that you don’t know yourself enough, you need to spend more time introspectively.

Steal

There’s an old saying that the good artists borrow, the great artists steal. Know what you like. And practice it without shame.

Of course, you’ll have to know copyright laws. I’m only talking about for practice. For reals, when you’re selling your work, it has to be an original piece.

you can see that I have already created my own distinctive art style
You could tell I’ve spent way too much time in art galleries

However, my original pieces have stolen from so many different artists that they look like they’re entirely original. You catch my drift?

Steal profusely, so much that nobody can tell you’ve stolen from anyone. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but the more artists you steal from, the more unique your work will start to appear.

This is especially true in music. You could tell when someone has a million influences. They sound original. Weird how it works, but that’s how it works.

Theme your entire life

You’ll get called weird by some and interesting by others. But who cares? Ignore that first set. Focus on the second set as those will be the ones who will be buying your art anyways.

Get so into your theme that you theme your entire life. The way you act. The way you dress. Decorate your whole house in your theme. Everything – do it in your theme.

The artwork will flow like a big ass river. You’ll be called obsessed. Good. Best possible compliment for an artist.

Beethoven was obsessed. So was Michelangelo. All the great ones were.

So know yourself. Steal. And theme your entire life. Do those three things and I can assure you, you’ll start to develop your own individual style. Oh and also one more – work your ass off.

Why this matters

So the artist asks why. That’s the question the artist should always ask!

We’re art buyers. We’ve bought over six figures of art so far, from galleries, from auctions, and even straight from the artists. We can tell you which artists make it and which ones don’t.

Most get lost in the crowd. You know who doesn’t? The ones who paint from their souls, because everyone’s soul is unique. And that requires developing your own distinctive art style.

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How to ink watercolor

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.

Dryad at Night, not painted yet
“Dryad at Night”, inked but not painted yet. I prefer ink to pencil as I love the look afterwards

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 the piece

Now the fun part. If you mess up the inking, you’ll need to use a little bit of watercolor ground to fix it.

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.

tools to ink watercolor
Some tools I use to ink watercolor

Ink brushes

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.

Ink pens

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.

Strathmore watercolor notebook example
Two example pages of my Strathmore watercolor notebook

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

two succubi
Notice all that pencil. All that pencil needs to be erased or else it may show up in the final painting

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.

Using this succubus painting as an example how to ink watercolor
“She comes in peace”, inked but not painted yet

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!


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Just keep producing art

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.

Experimenting

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.

keep producing art
Working on another dreamlike 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.

A few who made it

Over the years, my wife and I have bought a lot of art. We’ve bought art from art galleries, from auctions, from street fairs, and from the actual artists. We’ve met a few artists who actually make a pretty good living doing their art.

It’s funny because I was surprised that one successful artist we met, I won’t say her name, has a shitty website. But, that’s not how she operates. She’s a crazy hard working woman in real life who puts lots and lots of miles on her vehicle and aggressively goes from place to place to plant her art everywhere she can.

She’s just not an online person. She sells in person. Yet, she’s a damn good saleswoman, despite her weak online presence.

You have to be one or the other. Or of course both. But if you’re going to make it as an artist, you’re simply going to have to go farther than your competition.