Art Terms Explained: Watercolour Painting


As artists, we come across a large volume of terminology whilst exploring, reading and speaking about our resources. In this instalment of the ‘Art Phrases Explained’ sequence, we make clear the indicating of selected frequently-made use of words and phrases, phrases and terms in the context of watercolour portray.



Artist and professional-grade paints have the maximum pigment loads and use genuine pigments instead than imitation hues. The colour is extremely rigorous in the pan or squeezed from the tube, and you will will need fewer of it.


Bead / Beading Up

Watercolours have a inclination to assemble in pools and possess a resistance to the surface area on metallic or plastic surfaces. This can confirm annoying when hoping to mix with them on a palette. The watercolour beads less and significantly less the a lot more you use a palette. Many watercolourists make it a habit to address a new plastic or metallic palette by supplying it a light scuffing all above with a Brillo pad, to protect against beading up. Alternatively, you can choose to use a porcelain palette on which watercolour paints do not bead.


Brush Cleaning soap

Brush cleaning soap is a form of cleanser that is specially formulated with purely natural oils to moisturise and cleanse brush hairs, so that your brushes hold their shape and hairs for for a longer time.


Buckle / Buckling

Buckling (or cockling) happens when moisture soaks into the fibres in paper, producing them to swell and the paper to contort and misshapen. You can avoid this by utilizing watercolour paper blocks, which are glued on all four sides, preserving the sheets taut as you paint on them, or by manually stretching your paper prior to use.


watercolour paper buckling


Cold Pressed Paper

Paper built by pressing the sheet by means of chilly metallic rollers. It has the classic, irregular, softly dimpled surface that is related with watercolour and is the most well-liked watercolour paper surface to function on since it is effectively tailored to several painting techniques. It tends to be much more absorbent than scorching pressed paper which is extra compressed. In the United kingdom this paper is identified as Not, as in ‘not very hot pressed’.


Colour Toughness

Colour energy – also regarded as ‘saturation’ – essentially refers to the ratio of pigment to binder (two substances discovered in watercolour paints). It is a description of how lively/excellent/thoroughly clean the colour appears.


Convenience Colors

A advantage colour is a paint produced up of two or extra pigments that an artist could blend by themselves from two paints but it is prepared combined into a single tube for their benefit. Numerous eco-friendly, orange and violet colors are built from a mixture of pigments.


Dry Brush Strategy

When watercolour paint that is undiluted and thus rather dry or ‘gummy’, is utilized with a dry brush to paper. The result is chalky in visual appearance, and saturated in colour, and usually would make for a spectacular distinction towards more fragile, watery, watercolour washes. A pretty powerful and remarkable strategy for producing textured surfaces inside watercolour painting.


Flat Wash

The use of a one diluted color to go over the white of the paper in a rather unsaturated and uniform way. See ‘washes’ for more facts.



The word movement refers to how mobile the paint is, and how conveniently it transfers from the brush to the paper or surface area. Mediums can be additional to change move.


Fugitive Colour

Refers to non-lightfast paints (see permanence), this kind of as Opera Rose or Rose Madder. They fade, or transform color, when uncovered to sunlight. Usually it is recommended to stick to colours that have been rated of fantastic or very very good lightfastness (they might also have the classification of being ‘I’ or ‘II’) if you are intending on exhibiting or displaying work on a wall, as opposed to trying to keep it in a e-book or portfolio. Recall, even incredibly lightfast paints are rated as “lightfast when saved out of direct daylight.”



A glaze is when a dilute color is utilized throughout the surface of a watercolour portray that has been remaining to dry entirely – the consequence of accomplishing this is to tint the complete place with the color of your wash. See ‘washes’ for much more specifics.



‘Gouache’, ‘body colour’, or ‘opaque watercolour’, is a h2o-based paint consisting of pigment, h2o and gum arabic as the binding agent. The difference among gouache and watercolour is that gouache has possibly a better pigment load or extra chalk to make it opaque, as opposed to watercolour which is translucent. Any preliminary drawings on the paper will exhibit by when watercolour is utilized over them, but with Gouache they will not display virtually as significantly.


Gum Arabic

A h2o-soluble gum that is extracted from two species of the acacia tree, which is used as a binder in the manufacture of watercolour paint. It can also be included to the paint by the artist to maximize transparency and how glossy in visual appearance the paint is.



Granulation in watercolours is an outcome in which instead of a smooth region of color, the pigment particles settle out and make a speckled appearance. When watercolour pigments ‘granulate’, they form little dots and/or teams of flakes that are visually apparent. Some colors have a purely natural inclination to granulate a lot more than other folks, and watercolourists often acquire benefit of them to include texture. There are mediums that can be additional to boost granulation.



Watercolour grounds are acrylic-primarily based primers intended to present a suited quantity of absorbency to a area, so that it is ready for watercolour to be used. For instance, they can be used to adapt any universally primed canvas for watercolour portray.


Gummed Tape / Gumstrip

Gummed Tape is a kind of tape employed for stretching watercolour paper. One aspect of the tape is coated with a glue which is water activated, meaning it gets to be sticky when moistened, permitting it to strongly maintain watercolour paper to a board. Not like masking tape it is watertight right after it dries once again and it doesn’t extend.


taping paper to board


Warm Pressed Paper

Incredibly hot Pressed Paper is paper that has been pressed involving incredibly hot steel rollers through production. It is the smoothest of watercolour papers. It tends to be the the very least absorbent of all of the textures and lends alone to really-thorough do the job this kind of as botanical portray.



A hue is the real visual appearance of a colour, i.e. you could possibly explain a river to have a greenish brown hue. But it is also place at the conclusion of the name of colours located in paint ranges where the color is built from a combination of pigments that have been merged to replicate a real pigment. This could possibly be completed to produce a less costly color for college student-quality paints, or to substitute a pigment that is no extended obtainable with a shut different. They are not generally inferior colors, but for the reason that they are made from a combination of pigments to approximate a different colour, they will not work in mixtures the exact as the first.



As watercolour remains soluble in drinking water even immediately after it is dry, it can be reactivated with a damp brush and ‘lifted’ from the area with a rag. This method eliminates some of the pigment from the paper, making the paint show up on the site.


Masking Fluid

Masking fluid is occasionally recognized as ‘liquid frisket’ and is made use of to mask off locations of your function. It is painted on with a brush, silicone instrument or ruling pen and at the time dry you can then paint watercolour more than the top. The masking fluid is then peeled off, leaving untouched simple parts of paper underneath. Valuable for reserving the white of the paper for highlights and other small white places of the portray.


Mass Tone

The appearance of the colour of the paint as it will come from the tube, as opposed to undertone.


watercolour tubes



An additive that is blended with by the artist in get to support control how the paint behaves – including its texture, how it flows, how it lifts from the paper, how quick it dries and its sheen.


All-natural Hair Brushes

Natural hair brushes are built utilizing animal hair, these types of as sable or squirrel. An alternate would be synthetic brushes.


Ox Gall

Ox gall is utilized in watercolour as a wetting agent – ie. It increases stream, cuts down beading up and makes it possible for for larger adhesion on to presently dried layers of watercolour paint. It is created from the gall of cows combined with alcoholic beverages. Numerous watercolours comprise ox gall or a artificial substitute, as an component. Use ox gall sparingly as an additive by placing a number of drops in your clean water container.



Pans are plastic vessels in which dried watercolour is saved. The colour is taken from a pan by dragging a moist brush above it. The paint may well be poured into the pan and still left to dry or extruded like clay and put in the pan as a dried cake. There are two normal measurements: 50 percent pan and total/entire pan, nevertheless there is a modest variation in dimensions in between manufacturers.


watercolour pans



Permanence will take into consideration the effects of several components on the stability and physical appearance of pigments, such as humidity, mild, heat, drinking water, acidity, alkali degrees etc. The permanence of a paint will be indicated on the label utilizing a rating program established by the maker and stated in the manufacturer’s color chart or on their web site. Be mindful that some artists and companies use it as an equal to ‘lightfast’.



A pigment is finely floor colour designed either in a laboratory or from in a natural way coloured rocks. When merged with gum arabic as the binder it tends to make watercolour paint.


Pigment Load

Pigment load refers to the ratio of pigment to binder in a paint. Lower priced paints will typically have a reduced pigment load, so have weaker colour.


Plein Air

‘En plein air’ is a French expression that means ‘in the open air’. In the context of portray, it refers to the act of painting outdoors in entrance of the matter. There is some expert gear necessary to create a modest moveable studio for this form of landscape portray.



Watercolour primers and grounds can be applied to a variety of materials together with canvas, wood, stone, ceramic and plastic to develop a floor that is absorbent sufficient to maintain purposes of watercolour and optimise the visual appeal of colors and marks.


Tough Paper

The most textured paper offered – it is pressed among sheets of textured felt throughout the drying system and is not pressed between smooth rollers. The heavier textured surface area means that granulating effects are increased.



Single Pigment Colours

Sure colors of paints that only incorporate a person pigment. It is easier to mix shiny and vibrant colors utilizing solitary pigment colours and color mixing is much more predictable. Artist quality paint ranges have as quite a few single pigment colors as they can. But when a “hue” is required to switch a pigment that is no for a longer time out there, or a mixture of pigments has been located that can give a lightfast option to a fugitive colour, or a risk-free alternate to a toxic color – then these search-alikes are ordinarily created of more than a person pigment. Common artist mixes are also offered as “convenience colours”, these kinds of as some greens, violets and oranges. Having said that, some colors can only be built with a mix of pigments – well-liked colors this sort of as Quinacridone Gold have to be blended as the unique pigment is no for a longer period out there.



Watercolour paper need to be absorbent ample to stabilise the paint, but not so absorbent that the colour turns into uninteresting. ‘Sizing’ is a procedure that delivers a tiny drinking water resistance, so that the paint does not sink way too significantly into the paper, and partially sits on the surface. Watercolour paper can be sized internally, externally, or each, with gelatine, starch, or a synthetic dimension. Inner sizing is when the dimensions is added to the drinking water and pulp combination just before the paper has been built. Exterior sizing is when the shaped sheets of paper are pulled via a dimensions tub. Some papers are both externally and internally sized which boosts the soaked toughness of the paper.



Staining refers to how considerably of the pigment will not carry from the paper soon after getting blotted with a moist sponge. Some pigments are additional staining than others and some brand names will list this characteristic for their paints.



Watercolour sticks are dried and extremely-pigmented watercolour in a thin brick or crayon kind. They can be applied in the very same way as pans or they can be used as a drawing tool, held and used in the very same way you would use a crayon or pastel.


Extend / Stretching

To extend watercolour paper is a method of planning it prior to painting. It entails soaking the paper in h2o until finally it swells and expands prior to correcting it to a board (generally with gumstrip about the edges) then letting it to dry right before portray. This technique is utilised to steer clear of buckling. There are also watercolour stretching frames.


University student-Quality

Student-quality watercolour paints have a decrease focus of pigment in them and use more cost-effective imitations pigments for the extra high-priced colors. As this is the most costly component in paint, this permits university student-quality paints to be much more reasonably priced. They are most acceptable for inexperienced persons as very well as pupils and professionals on a budget and use less costly imitations pigments for the a lot more highly-priced colors.


Synthetic Brushes

Artificial brushes are an inexpensive and really hard-putting on alternative to Organic Hair Brushes. They are manufactured using synthetic supplies, as opposed to animal hair.


Jackson's Raven Mop Brush

Jackson’s Raven Mop brush, a artificial alternative to squirrel brushes.


Transparency / Opacity

The measure of how much light is in a position to go through an used paint and interact with the surface beneath. Clear paints look much more luminous on a white assist due to the fact they enable a more substantial proportion of light-weight to strike the floor they are laying on. Opaque paints block this reflection from transpiring, and can be made use of to protect levels of color underneath. Watercolour paints are generally clear colors.



Tubes contain moist watercolour that can be squeezed on to a palette to paint with or into vacant pans.



Undertone is the bias attribute of a colour when utilized across a surface area in a skinny movie, e.g. Ultramarine blue would be mentioned to have a reddish-blue undertone.



A ‘wash’ refers to the method of generously making use of diluted watercolour paint on to a floor or an current portray resulting in a semi-clear layer of colour. Washes are normally used with a broad brush with all-natural hair that can maintain a whole lot of fluid. See Flat Clean and Glazed Wash for illustrations.


Watercolour Block

‘Watercolour blocks’ are pads of watercolour paper that are glued on all 4 sides, keeping the sheets taut as you paint on them. They are not as limited as stretched watercolour paper, but buckle/cockle fewer than unfastened paper and are handy to use. Following the painting has dried you clear away the sheet from the block by jogging a uninteresting knife all all over less than the edge.


watercolour pencils


Watercolour Pencils

Watercolour pencils are watercolour paint in a pencil structure. They are easy, functional and transportable painting equipment that are cleanse and easy to use. They can be employed dry as frequent colored pencils, or like pans (extracting colour applying a soaked brush), or they can be dipped into drinking water and drawn with, making intensely saturated marks. You can also attract with them onto wet paper and they are specifically beneficial for introducing great strains.



Additional Reading:

A Guideline to Watercolour Painting – What You Want to Get Began

Introducing the New A. Gallo Handmade Watercolours

Is Watercolour Better in Pans or Tubes?

Watercolour Painting for Beginners: What You Want to Get Started

Anything You Require to Know About Watercolour Paper

Artwork Conditions Spelled out: Oil Painting



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