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Testing matching colors with watercolor

I hope y’all have at least one watercolor journal. This is the most affordable way to do this.

We’ll be doing a simple experiment. We want to test color matching. We simply pair two colors. And see if they work.

For this experiment, it’s a simple exercise in dualchromaticism. If you don’t know what that is, it’s monochromaticism except with two colors instead of just one.

I’m drawing a simple octopus. His name is Charley. Say hi to Charley.

Charley Octopus
This is Charley Octopus. You can just call him Charley

If you want, you can do a simple flower, or even print out Charley. Click here for the PDF.

Dominant color and the accent color

There are many ways you can do this. If we wanted to do the example with Charley, it will be a dominant color and an accent color. The dominant color will be most of Charley. The accent color needs to pop a little.

So you can hypothetically try using a cool color for the dominant color and a warm color for the accent color. I go over warm colors vs cool colors in my color theory article.

Colors that blend

Or the second way to look at it are colors that blend together. Neither pops. They just blend. Like for instance, you can take a purple and a deep blue and see how well they blend. Which purple? Which blue? Depends what you have available.

No guarantee they’ll blend as if you’ve been doing watercolor for awhile, you’ve probably accumulated quite a few blues over the years.

Or just pick two colors without thinking

Sure, sometimes artists overthink things. Sometimes, you should just do things on a whim, without thinking about dominant colors, accent colors, warm colors, cool colors, or any of that jive.

Just paint.

That’s what I’m going to do with my Charley. I’m picking two Daniel Smith colors – Iridescent Ruby and Moonglow.

Now, Moonglow, I absolutely love. It’s one of my favorite colors because I can get it to work in so many different ways. However, of the dozen DS colors I own, Iridescent Ruby is my least favorite. It’s the only DS color I don’t like. I have three from the DS Luminescent collection and love the other two, hate this one.

That’s why I chose these two. One color I love. The other one I hate.

Do they work?

You decide.

Charley Octopus painted
Charley painted

Pick two colors you want to test

Now pick two colors you want to test. Either you feel they work or they don’t.

Note that there are no right answers. Once again, either you feel they work or they don’t.

This is subjective. You may love it. I may hate it. And vice versa.

All that matters is that it’s pleasing to your eyes. Or if you want to sell it, pleasing to someone who’s walking around with a credit card and looking to buy an art piece or two.

So if it’s purely for you, if it passes your own eye test, you’re successful. If you’re planning on selling it, you may want to study a little color theory.

Note that I even take this all with a grain of salt. No two humans are alike and no two humans have the same taste. The painting Interchange sold for $300 million recently and I wouldn’t pay $100 for it, (unless of course I knew it would resell for millions).

So back on topic, I believe the best test of all is the eye test. Either you like it or you don’t.

Pick two colors. And try them out.

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Watercolor isn’t for everyone

I recently changed this website’s tagline. It used to be “we paint beautiful women.” I liked that for awhile. But then, I started thinking that it was too vague.

Beautiful women? Yes. Painting? Yes. But that’s too generic, don’t you think?

Sure, I incorporate gouache with my watercolors. However, I’m mostly a watercolor artist and half this blog is about watercolors. So I decided to change the tagline to “not your Grandma’s watercolors.”

Why that?

Think about it for a minute. It still mentions painting. But watercolors do have a stereotype. When people think of watercolors, they generally think of some old lady painting a seascape. While that’s beautiful and all, it’s kinda boring.

So why not break the stereotype? I’ll keep it opened ended though.

My name is starting to get out there anyways as a pinup artist. Almost nobody does pinups in watercolor. They almost always use oils or nowadays digital art. A computer.

Not me. Give me watercolors because I could do layer after layer. Plus, I like the chaos of the water. I don’t like the perfection of a computer. It’s not human.

The chaos of the water

If you’re a control freak, you’re not going to like watercolors. The water has a mind of its own. You’re constantly either fighting the water or working with it. Sometimes both. At the same time.

A lot of people can’t handle the chaos. They’d rather have something definite. Like oils or acrylics. Or computers.

That’s fine. That’s them. More power to them.

Not me. I’m totally a water person. Nothing I’d rather do than spend the whole day in the Caribbean with a pair of beautiful women. That’s the life right there.

Yeah, I drink too much and I like beautiful women. Sue me. I live my life unapologetically. I’m not going to change because of today’s weak ass political correctness.

Most people can’t keep up. Actually, most is an understatement. Even in my advancing age, I’m having trouble finding people who can keep up with me.

Easy to start, a lifetime to master

Another beauty of watercolor – it doesn’t take much to get going. We live in a tiny ass apartment with literally no space for anything. I paint on the floor. I own a collection of paints, some brushes, and a various assortment of generally hot press watercolor paper. But lately, I’ve been doing a lot of painting onto watercolor boards.

Regardless, it doesn’t take much to get started. I use Kimchi jars for the water jars and I own one single porcelain watercolor palette.

Then I have a collection of pencils and inks. None of this stuff breaks the bank. Also, none of it takes up that much space.

You don’t have to be rich to get started. That’s why I’ve always said that watercolor is a working class’s art form. Just get started.

Roxy as a mermaid
Roxy as a mermaid

Mastering on the other hand, that takes years. Draw and paint every single day for a few years, then get back to me.

Randomness and/or Chaos

I’ve always said there are four types of people. There are water people who are very fluid and can go with the flow in most situations. There are air people who are ethereal. They often make the best artists.

There are earth people who are solid and grounded. They’re like rocks. They’re dependable, and make excellent accountants. Then there are fire people. Uh oh. They range from hot tempered to passionate and can either be the best leaders or the worst psychos.

Those are gross generalizations. We’re all different percentages of each of the four. But you know what? Sometimes it’s fun to play along.

You can already guess who watercolors appeal to. If you can’t handle the randomness and/or chaos of water, watercolor won’t be for you. It’s as simple as that.

The water does what it wants to do. You merely guide it.

I do suggest everyone try it. See if they like it. See if they hate it. Either way, it’s best to at least try it.

Even if down the road I make the switch to oils, I know deep in my heart that I’ll always do watercolors. At least on the side.

For now though, I don’t see myself switching over any time soon.

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Painting on a watercolor board

Opium Tales watercolor board

Am I painting on a watercolor block? Or am I painting watercolor on wood?

The answer? Neither. I’m not painting on watercolor paper either.

What is it then?

It’s called a watercolor board, and I absolutely love painting on one! This specific watercolor board is made by Canson and it’s 16″x20″. It retails for $5.99 and it’s made in France. That’s as much as I know about it.

As for painting on it, I’m using both watercolor and gouache. It doesn’t suck paint. It doesn’t puddle either.

Best of all, I don’t have to prep it in any way. I just simply start painting.

Watercolor boards vs watercolor paper

Easy to draw on?

Anyone who’s been following my career knows how seriously I take inking. I think inking is absolutely essential for my brand of pinup art. And whereas it’s not as easy as hot press watercolor paper for drawing then inking, it’s not that much more complicated. I think it’s about as easy to draw on as cold press.

That’s not enough to make me not want to use on it. It just took awhile to get used to.

Quality of the surface

Someone was saying it’s really watercolor paper glued to a board. If it is, I can’t tell. It seems like it’s its own thing.

The board holds colors really well, just like a watercolor paper. But the biggest benefit of all is it’s simply ready to go.

I like the size. This one specifically is 16″x20″.

I haven’t used any other brands besides Canson, because that’s what the nearby store has. But this really does the trick. I don’t have to fight buckling.

Bucking watercolor paper will drive you nuts if you’re using a lot of water. And I use a lot of water. When I’m painting Allie or Roxy, I’m using seven layers of paint for their skin color. That’s the simple secret what gives them that soft look.

Mounting

I’m the wrong person to ask here. I’ve mounted watercolor on wood for most of the works I have for sale. But for this, it’s too thick to cut with with my X-Acto knife. Yeah, maybe I could, but I’d really have to work and I don’t want to do that.

So, so far, I’ve finished three paintings on this. The first one, I’ll give away because I don’t think it’s my best work by any means. It’s nice. But not up to par.

But the other two, I’ll get professionally mounted. Then I’ll put them up on the store.

So the answer – no, it’s not as easy as mounting watercolor paper because it’s really thick. You can’t bend the board without ruining it. You already know you can bend and fold watercolor paper (well, sort of – if you know what you’re doing). With the watercolor board, you’ll ruin it if you did that.

“Would you recommend it?”

Well, let’s just put it this way. I’ve done two of these in a row and I’m just about to go out and buy yet another board today. I’m also going to buy some absinthe and paint while on it. But that will be on watercolor paper and not the next board. I don’t have an idea for the next board. I just know I want to paint on it again.

Can you handle 16″x20″? It doesn’t fit on my wife’s art board though, so I’m literally painting right on the floor rather than on top of the art board.

Yeah, I know, I’m a freak. I don’t sit down while painting and paint on an easel like a normal person. I got a messed up back and painting on the floor is way easier for my back.

This is what happens when you play violent sports as a young person. It catches up to you. Not at all knocking them though. It’s why I’m so competitive today, which is a not a good thing for an artist, but a great thing! I see so many artists with loads and loads of talent who quit because they’re all butt hurt that they didn’t get famous overnight. But that’s another story for another day.

This one’s $5.99 retail. Try it out. It’s expensive for one’s daily habits. But considering I sell my works, I’d rather pay for something I want to work on.

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DIY Watercolor Postcards

You have an old friend. Or an older relative.

You used to exchange letters. Now you don’t.

Email made everything easier. Too easy. Nobody writes letters anymore.

Well, I got a solution for you. You know how to do watercolors, right? Otherwise, you’re in the process of learning watercolors. That’s why you’re here. I have a watercolor blog and I write everything from how I do skin tones in watercolor to painting watercolor on wood.

Or this could be your first time here. In that case, hi, my name’s Roman and I do fantasy pinup art using a combination of watercolors and gouache.

But let’s get to something really fun. Let’s give that old friend or old relative something to remember. Something to treasure. Something that nobody else knows how to do.

Let’s make DIY watercolor postcards

Easiest thing in the world. You’ll only need your watercolor supplies you already have. You could use pretty much any sized watercolor paper. 140 lb is a perfect thickness for postcards.

This is where it gets super duper simple. I love using 7″x10″ paper:

  1. Whip out your ruler
  2. Measure to get to the middle
  3. Draw a line in the middle with your pencil
  4. You now have two watercolor postcards!

Yes. It’s that simple.

Paint on one side. On the other side, measure once more half and draw a line with pencil. So, on the right side, you’ll stamp and address it. On the left side, you’ll write what you need to write.

Please see IMPORTANT note below if you're using postcard stamps

And of course, sign it “With love, (your name).”

Oh. Don’t forget to stamp it or else the post office won’t deliver it. They’ll be pleasantly surprised to see something done by hand explicitly for them. That’s above and beyond what anyone else does.

You’re now their favorite!

Ideas

Play to your strengths. Except, I’m not exactly going to send a nude pinup postcard through the mail. So, here’s a quick bird I did for Grandma. She loves birds.

DIY watercolor postcards bird
140 lb watercolor paper is perfect for DIY watercolor postcards

Oh, did I mention, Grandma is turning 102 next year? How cool is that?

You can do birds, flowers, dragons, whales, fish, people you know, places, dogs, cats, horses, unicorns, fairies, a vase with several flowers, a country house, a castle, or even a musical instrument. The possibilities are endless.

Since these are small works though, keep it simple. I’d keep it to one item and a lazy background or none at all.

DIY watercolor postcards back
The US Postal Service has some good looking stamps. Your words go on the left, address and stamps go on the right

IMPORTANT!

There actually is an official size for postcards. I like using 7″x10″ blocks because they’re easy to work with. But, when you split two postcards out of a single watercolor paper, you’ll have to use the standard (full postage) stamps. You can’t use postcard stamps.

These are the rules straight from the USPS site:

  • Rectangular
  • At least 3-1/2 inches high x 5 inches long x 0.007 inch thick
  • No more than 4-1/4 inches high x 6 inches long x 0.016 inches thick

The thing is, I don’t care. We buy standard stamps by the boatload and have zero postcard stamps.

If all you have are postcard stamps, you’re simply going to have to follow their rules and measure accordingly.

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How to fix mistakes in watercolor

How does an artist fix his or her mistakes in watercolor? Well, I got good news and bad news.

First, the bad news. You sort of don’t.

Well, not entirely. But this isn’t a medium like digital art where you can simply fix it digitally. It’s a bit more involved than that.

Also, you can use watercolor ground to fix mistakes, but I don’t necessarily recommend that either. When you paint over watercolor ground, you still see it. Watercolor is transparent.

Unless, you hack it by putting a little bit of similarly colored gouache directly over the watercolor ground, then painting with watercolor on top of the gouache. That’s a hack. But it works. And it’s also a lot of work and easy to screw up.

So that’s the bad news. Then what’s the good news?

Well, there are a few things you can do still. Keep reading.

Water down the mistakes

My favorite thing to do is water down the mistakes. Look closely. You’ll see I painted over the lines. But, it’s OK. It actually gives the painting character.

example of how to fix mistakes in watercolor
Look closely at the white. Most watercolor artists don’t mind as it gives the painting character

I’ll explain what I did.

Make sure you got all the paint off your brush. Then, have a piece of paper towel handy. This is where you don’t want to use the bargain brand paper towel. I found that there are paper towels that are downright shitty. Buy the good stuff.

Tear off a strip of paper towel and have it handy. Now with only water on your brush, water down the mistake while quickly wiping the water with the paper towel.

Do this enough that the mistake becomes to watered down that it’s no longer a problem. I’ve found two times is enough.

Note that if you also do the next step, you still may want to do this step.

Paint over them

As I just mentioned, you probably should water down the mistake before painting over it. That would make it a lot less noticeable.

Now that it’s nice and watered down, simply paint over it. You may have to layer a few times to cover it. Also note that the stronger the color (generally darker, but not always), the more work it takes to paint over the mistake.

I’ve done this so many times that you won’t even notice when I’ve done it. You get good at this technique simply by doing.

I strongly advise you to paint every chance you get. It’s experience anyways that makes you improve.

You’ll have your share of mistakes. And that’s OK. They happen.

Just get good at cleaning them up well enough that they’re not that big of a deal. Don’t be a perfectionist either. Perfectionism doesn’t have much place in watercolor. Watercolor is a different beast entirely. You pretty much let the water do its thing.

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How to store watercolor paints

How to store watercolor paints if you paint often. This is not for someone who wants to store their watercolor paints long-term. You’ll have to find another article on that.

I’m not that guy since I’m always painting.

I want to keep this short. And I also want to write for a narrow audience. If you’re like me – you’re always painting, then this article is for you.

I draw every single day. Even on vacation, I’m drawing.

When I’m back, I’m still drawing, but even more. Then of course painting every single chance I get.

In the palette

How I store watercolor paints in the palette is very simple. When they’re wet, dust falls in them. You obviously need them uncovered when you paint. But as soon as you finish painting, cover them up with whatever you have available. I practice drawing so much that I have a lot of extra drawing practice papers laying around. That’s what I’m covering my palettes with (as shown).

Most of your plastic palettes and many of your metal palettes already have covers. I use only porcelain palettes. I cover them with paper.

how to store watercolor paints
Of course, don’t let it show like this. I’m just showing the palette underneath

Your main enemies are dust, dirt, and hairs. Once those get in the palette, you might as well wash off a layer. Or if it’s not worth saving, then wash off all the paint from your palette and try again. And watercolor paints aren’t exactly cheap. Plus, it’s just morally wrong to waste, even if you can afford to.

I’ve used the same mixes for literally weeks. I’ve never had any problems doing this. But then again, I’m painting every chance I get.

I only have two models – Allie, and Roxy. Allie’s the blonde and Roxy’s the brunette. Their skin colors are almost exactly the same. So even if I’m alternating painting them, I’m still using the same skin color mix. I’ll use it for weeks and it won’t be a problem.

I also keep a mix of Roxy’s hair color. I get her hair color by mixing 50/50 Perylene Red with Hooker’s Green. Since I don’t like to do things multiple times, I make a decent sized mix and leave it in the palette until I run out.

You really can keep your paints in a palette for a long time, assuming you’re painting often. Just keep your palette covered when you’re not painting.

What about pets?

We have a dog. You may have dogs or cats. Both have fur. And for some odd reason, their hairs always end up in your paint. So definitely keep those palettes covered. I guess that’s one advantage of having a pet snake.

We don’t have one of those because I don’t know anything about snakes. The one time I drew a snake, I just grabbed some random pictures of snakes and combined them. It’s a weird hybrid snake that doesn’t exist anywhere in this world. I do fantasy pinups anyways, so my animals don’t have to exactly exist.

Of course keep the paints away from your pets. Some pets love to get into things. My dog luckily knows not to touch my watercolor stuff. She’s very smart and just knows. She also instinctively knows when we’re playing a board game not to step on the board or even the pieces, even though we play on the floor.

But what about mold?

What about it? Like I said, this article is if you’re painting all the time. Mold takes awhile to develop. You’re not going to get mold if you’re painting daily and washing out your palettes every once in awhile.

That may be different if you’re in a tropical country. If so, please comment below with your mold experience. I’m all ears, and you’ll be doing other readers a favor. Where I live, it’s dry enough that if you’re painting often enough, you never have to worry about mold.

The tubes

I keep my tubes away from sunlight. I keep them in a plastic container in my room. We never let the temperature go above 78 degrees in the summer and never let it go below 60 in the winter. My paints seem to last forever that way.

Just make sure you remember to seal them after pouring out some of your paint into your palette. You don’t want to leave them open. Unused paints will sometimes dry out. If they do, you have to add water to the palette and mix it up well. It’s a lot of extra work.

And that’s it. You should have no problem storing your paints as long as you keep the tubes closed and your palette covered. (And you actually paint and not leave them untouched for forever).

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How to paint the moon with watercolor

Note that this article assumes you already know basic watercolor techniques. I’m going to gloss over the basics and assume you know them. So if I don’t go into detail for everything, that’s why.

I always use the moon as a background prop and a source of light. I’ve never really painted it as itself.

However, I can at least explain how I paint the moon with watercolor.

First, let’s make sure we’re legal. All my images on this entire site were shot by me unless otherwise specified. Whenever I post something not shot by me, I make sure I have legal authority to do this.

This may sound hoaky to some but I don’t care. I always try to do the right thing, even if no one is watching.

So let’s use a picture for reference. If you’re a good photographer, shoot the moon yourself and use it as a reference. My photography is mediocre, so I’ll use someone else’s.

The moon shot by Tomruen

I got the above moon from a user Tom Ruen from Wikipedia. It’s licensed Creative Commons so that means I can legally use it. I just have to give our new friend Tom the credit.

Paint the moon with watercolor

I’ll take that picture and draw it with pencil, then ink it. Then, I’ll use only one color. I really think monochromatic painting is the way to go when you paint the moon with watercolor. It gives it that moon look.

You could give it more. But I don’t. I intentionally keep it at this level.

how to paint the moon with watercolor
How I paint the moon with watercolor

Also note that the drawing is fast. I didn’t go into full detail. It doesn’t look exactly like Tom’s photograph.

If you want to, more power to you. But that’s not the focus of my painting. My focus are always the girls since I’m a fantasy pinup artist, not an astronomer.

Now the technique is very simple. Paint in the part that’s darker using a monochromatic technique. Keep the rest white.

The white will make the moon stand out more. It’s after all your light source for the painting.

For the actual color of the moon, use a more “neutral” color like Payne’s Gray. In this case, I really watered down indigo.

Depth

Note the trick of depth. It looks like some parts are deeper than others. The moon is 3D in real life after all. It’s not just a flat circle in the sky.

Once again, if you don’t know what monochromatic painting is, you need to read that article and practice the exercise. It explains in depth how to paint with only one color.

And that’s the key word there – depth. You want your moon to have depth to it. Some crevices are deeper than others. Let all your watercolor techniques work in your favor. Think the farther away from the lines, the deeper the craters. You can note how deep or how shallow the craters are in my picture very easily. That’s one of the most important parts of making the moon look like the moon.

You can exaggerate the depth like I do, or you can make it more realistic like Tom’s photograph. That’s up to you.

I do fantasy. My moon has really deep craters. It may even have scary creatures like Georges Méliès’s 1902 movie.

Even if you make the moon your central focus point, you can still use exactly what I said. Don’t paint the white part and monochrome the rest. Simply draw it with a lot more detail. You can choose to make it as realistic or as fantasy as you want. That all depends on your watercolor style.

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Confidence with your watercolor colors

If you’re wondering how to become more confident with your watercolor colors, we’ll give you a simple to-do-list. After all, mastering colors is such a huge part of watercolors.

You want to become confident with your watercolor colors. Once you have a solid grasp of what they can do, you’ll feel more comfortable exploring other areas of your watercolor painting.

Experience

Confidence comes with experience. That goes for anything. If you practice shooting a basketball free throw 10,000 times, you’re going to be better at it than someone who’s only done it 10 times in his life.

Repetition is everything. The more you paint, the better you’ll get. This also applies to playing a musical instrument and even painting. You simply have to put the time in if you want to get good.

Practice technique in a watercolor journal

If you’re rich, you can get away with practicing on watercolor paper. But not everyone has an unlimited budget. That’s why I strongly recommend a watercolor journal. You can do all your experimenting there, and they cost a lot less than quality watercolor paper.

Here for instance, you’ll see what I did with the brand new Winsor and Newton paints I bought.

Testing my watercolor colors
Yeah I know. I should have been a doctor with that handwriting

I’m not really a brand stickler. Most of my paints are Daniel Smith. However, the closest store to me only carries Winsor and Newton so if I need something right now, I’ll get those paints. But if I can make a trip to the local Blick store, I can get Daniel Smith paints.

Opium Tales fantasy pinup art
Those same two colors used in an actual painting

For gouache, I have M Graham. I bought those on a whim mostly because I wanted to see what a honey based paint is like. Yes, it’s different. But more on that another day. Let’s get back to the topic on hand.

You change the tone of the paint with the amount of water. Like for instance, I get nipple pink from my red simply by using mostly water. You’ll especially need to know your water usage when you start painting skin tones.

Practice monochromatic painting

You should do at least one monochromatic painting. I already wrote an entire article on how to do that. The quick rundown though – you use one and only one color.

This will force you to really know that one color. You get your variations in the color by the amount of water you use and also your brush technique.

When you force yourself to do an exercise like this, you’ll really master that color. You’ll know everything about it.

It might be a good idea to do a monochromatic painting in each one of your favorite paint colors. If you have a lot of paints, you don’t have to do one with every single one of your paint colors. However, definitely consider doing one for each one of your favorites.

How nicely do your colors play with other colors?

You’re going to do washes. You’re also going to mix colors. So let’s take these two things one at a time.

The wash

Sometimes, you’re only going to do a wash with one color. In this case, this is irrelevant. But when you get around to doing a wash with more than one color, you need to know how your colors run into other colors. Do they look good? Do they look bad?

Also, which color will dominate? Once again, you could try all this out in a watercolor journal without wasting a painting. It’s best to know this stuff in advance.

Dominance and submissiveness

Yeah, I kind of wrote that headline as a joke since I’ve been in Metal bands. Nope, none that you’ve ever heard of. The most we ever made in one night was $43. Not exactly enough to quit our day jobs.

But on a serious note, watercolor colors are rarely equal. When you mix, especially when you want a color that’s halfway between the two colors you’re mixing, one will almost always take dominance over the other.

So keep in mind when mixing, mix small amounts first. It’s no fun wasting a lot of paint and learning this the hard way.

Run out of your watercolor colors

“What?”

Yes, seriously. Paint so much that you actually start running out of certain colors. You’ll soon realize which colors really matter to you and which ones you could live without.

For me, it keeps changing. I wrote my 7 color watercolor palette article back in February. It’s now June, and I’m not even sure if that’s my top 7 any more. I’m experimenting and playing around with colors so much that that’s all subject to change.

Whereas I was totally in love with the Daniel Smith color Moonglow, now I’m falling in love with Winsor and Newton’s Indigo instead.

You’ll experience this. You’ll have a favorite watercolor color, then something else will come along and replace it. Humans are funny this way. We’re always changing, and growing.

Heck, I used to love drinking gin. You couldn’t pay me to drink that stuff any more. People change.

But the lessons are the same. I’m quite confident in Moonglow now that I’ve used it in so many paintings. Now I’m starting to get confident in Indigo.

Be sure to use your paints. That’s the only way you’re going to master your colors.

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4 Random Watercolor Observations

Here are four random watercolor observations. I’ll probably do an article on random watercolor observations every three or four months. I’ll always add more as I learn more. As should you.

Paper first, paints second, brushes third

I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again. When budgeting watercolors, you need to spend your money first and foremost on good watercolor paper. I’ve had bad watercolor paper destroy otherwise decent creations.

The good news though was that this was early on. None of these paintings were good enough to sell anyways. But had I ruined a watercolor painting by using cheap watercolor paper today, I’d be bummed.

Second, you’re going to need at least professional level paints. Cheap paints have cheap pigmentation since they have to cut corners somewhere to make a profit. That’s the number one rule of business – make a profit. If you’re going to use high end supplies for your colors, you’re simply going to have to charge more. And vice versa.

You can fool buyers with cheap paints. But you won’t full yourself. You’ll find yourself doing a little bit extra work to make cheap paints behave the way you want them to.

As for cheap watercolor brushes, I got away with using cheap watercolor brushes until only a week ago. I’m totally in love with these good brushes now. No, I still don’t own elite end brushes (ranging over $100 a brush). But at least these intermediate brushes are a huge upgrade over what I had before.

You’re going to like more than one brand of paints

I started off with Daniel Smith paints. To this day, I love that brand.

But as time went on, I bought other brands here and there. I wanted to branch out. And you know what? As long as you’re not using the low end watercolor paint, you’re good.

random watercolor observations
The longer you paint, the more paints you’ll just end up with

I’ve come to love Winsor and Newton as well. Even Blick brand artist grade paints are quite good. I bought those because Blick had a sale at a price I simply couldn’t refuse. I had to try them.

For gouache, I’ve bought cheap gouache and it sucks. Big time. Then I decided to take gouache seriously and brought M Graham. I absolutely love those paints! They’re made with honey so you have to treat them slightly differently. You’ll see what I mean when you paint with them.

You’re going to throw some works away

If you want to get better at anything, not just watercolor, but anything, you’re going to have to take some risks. This applies to everything from art to sports to cooking to investing to anything else I can think of.

This is why I’m so adamant about having a watercolor journal. You could do your experimenting in that thing without breaking the bank.

Still, a lot of your works will suck. Even when you’ve been painting for awhile.

I say – keep going. Get them out of your system.

I also say to take risks. Lots of risks. Do things that are out of your comfort zone.

Recently, I painted a gouache sunset. It was terrible. It ended up in the trash. If you saw it, you’d see why.

Did I learn anything from it? Of course!

Ironically, you often learn more from your failures than your successes. I’m not a psychologist, so I can’t tell you why that is. I just know that at least for me, it is.

The painting becomes the easy part

I remember when I first started painting, I read somewhere from a very talented old man watercolor artist that he wished he practiced two hours of drawing for every one hour of painting.

Now I get it. The painting becomes the easy part.

But drawing? You’re always having to hone those skills. Drawing really does take a lifetime to master.

At least once a week, I get together with my two models Allie or Roxy and do a live figure drawing. These live figure drawings end up in my pinup art. Actually, they’re the backbone of my pinup art.

Keep drawing every chance you get.

My wife and I went on a three week vacation recently and I took my drawing pad with me. Both Allie and Roxy did me a big favor and left me some nude selfies to work with.

Every day, we had at least an hour of downtime. I practiced my drawing and some of those sketches ended up in my art when we got back.

Your random watercolor observations?

Do you have anything random you could tell me? Or share with our readers?

Spill it! Would love to hear it.

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Finally got decent watercolor brushes

I don’t have money coming out of my ears. That’s why I have to budget my watercolor supplies accordingly.

I’ve had awesome paper, awesome paints, but very cheap brushes. I’ve been able to get away with cheap brushes for only so long. The current painting I’m working on, I’ve had enough.

I finally saved up enough money to get decent brushes. And you know what? I’m loving it!

I’ll readily admit that decent watercolor brushes are the least important of the big three expenditures. I strongly suggest that if you only have money for one, get good paper since cheap watercolor paper should only be used by students. Good paints are the second most important expenditure.

But decent watercolor brushes do make a difference.

What makes a good watercolor brush?

In the whole scheme of things, what actually makes a good brush? Its looks?

Of course not. I don’t think anyone would care how it looks.

How it fits in your hands?

Now we’re getting closer. That matters. But it’s not really what we’re going for.

How the paint leaves the brush onto your painting surface?

Bingo! That’s the most important aspect when evaluating the top tier brushes vs mid tier brushes vs low end brushes.

Tips

The tips matter. Big time.

You’ll immediately notice that you can actually use the tips more and they’re more accurate. Before I had decent watercolor brushes, I had to continually switch to my small brushes for fine details.

Now I don’t. I’m using the larger brushes for pretty much everything. That’s one way you can tell an experienced watercolor artist – they prefer their big brushes. I’ve talked to some old time watercolor artists and that’s all they use.

I personally do a lot of fine detail. I’m really loving not having to use the small brushes so much. It may not sound like a big deal until you’re under a time crunch.

Rewetting your brushes

The other thing with the better brushes. I don’t have to rewet good brushes as often. They retain their wetness longer.

Is this a big deal? Once again, to a beginning watercolor artist, not so much. To an artist under a time crunch? Yes.

You want time savers. Plus, it’s annoying when you have to keep repeating brush strokes because your brush sucks.

What I got

Blick carries a lot of good products. I enjoy shopping there.

Their mid-range generic brushes are actually quite good. One day, I’ll buy the top tier brushes. I’m just not there financially.

It’s like Costco’s generic brand Scotch is actually quite good. It’s more than likely one of the higher tier single malt labels, but bought in enough bulk that they got a decent price on it and could relabel it as Costco brand.

finally have decent watercolor brushes
I finally have good watercolor brushes and a huge upgrade to what I had before

Same thing with Blick. Their watercolor paper is actually one of the better papers. I actually use it or Arches. I enjoy Blick’s hot press white when I’m doing pure pinups.

That’s what I’m getting at. So it more than likely is a higher tier brand that Blick bought in bulk and can sell for a decent price. I think I only paid around $25 a brush.

Like I said, when I have more money, I’ll buy the top tier. But for now, these are pretty good brushes and a huge upgrade over what I had before.