If you have read my previous posts, follow me on instagram or twitter, you are aware that I really enjoy using watercolour pencils, because they are kind of like watercolours for dummies lol in this I mean the user has much more control over the medium and can manipulate and blend the medium with a lower chance of getting a ‘muddy’ image. Now don’t get me wrong, they are not fool proof; trust me I have made some ‘happy little accidents’ and some not so ‘happy little accidents’ with these as well, but it is with these accidents that one learns how to correctly use medium.
Some of the mistakes & lessons I have learned from using the watercolour pencils that can transition to when using ‘official’ watercolour paints are as follows:
- Blocking in colour: I would start by illustrating a subject (usually lightly with a pen, occasionally pencil) and would then proceed to block in all my colours. Once the colours were all in place, using the brush that came with the set, I would add water to start blending the colours.
Problem: If you block in all your colours then try to add water to blend, ALL the colours start to blend together. So if there is an orange fading to yellow section and blue fading to purple section side by side the water may start to bleed into each section (this can happen if either too much water is used or if for instance the yellow section is still wet and you start to blend the blue section that is beside it), resulting in a colour(s) you may of not wanted.
Solution: Colour in 1 area, blend with water and allow this section to dry before adding colour to the next section; preventing 2 wet colours from becoming 1 unwanted colour or mud puddle.
- Adding Black: Be sure to do this last, once all the layers are dry.
Problem: If you add black to the colours before blending the colours in with water, that section will become very dark and muddy.
Solution: Allow all the layers to dry, add small amounts of black to areas you want to have shading (remember to build up, do not add too much at once). Another option is to use a scrap piece of paper: add black to the scrap paper, wet it with your brush (adding as much or as little water to it in order to get the desired transparency) and do a wash over the desired areas.
- Substrate: Watercolour paper obviously works best when using watercolour, it is made to handle the medium; hence its name. But some sketchbooks claim they can handle wet mediums.
Problem: When paper becomes wet it can begin to warp or tear and water just sits on top, flowing all over.
Solution: Test the substrate to see if it actually handle wet mediums; if it tests are good, still be cautious not to use too much water, some of lower limitations than others. Use the appropriate substrate for the job, watercolour paper (thought not all created equally) is probably the best to use when using the medium…it’s all in the name after all.
- Using too much water: This can really mess up your substrate, technique and final outcome you are trying to achieve (unless this is the outcome you are looking for).
Problem: Tearing, pilling (paper starts to ball up on the surface and in paintbrush bristles) & warping that can cause pooling.
Solution: Use a scrap piece of paper or paper towel to remove any excess water from your brush. Allow layers to dry completely to prevent pilling of the paper which can lead to tearing. Using good quality watercolour paper tends to prevent some warping, but if this is not in your budget or you want the paper to stay as flat as possible, just tape it down to a board with masking or painters tape (be sure to remove some of the tackiness of the tape by sticking it to your pants or shirt a couple of times before taping down the paper to prevent tearing your substrate when removing the tape); a flat, secure surface also prevents the water and pigments from pooling.
- Be Patient: When working with watercolours it is very important to be patient, allowing for areas/layers to dry.
Solution: Have another project you can work on or do something else like read a book/article, laundry, go for a walk, etc.
- Practice, Practice, Practice!
you can tell which illustration had more experimentation and which is more polished in my Bear Watercolour Illustration post.