Create More Vibrant Watercolor Paintings Using these Secret Ingredients

Jun 28

Traditionally watercolors are meant to be used on their own, mostly as a pure medium because if you think about it, back in the days of the grand art masters, there were only very few ways to create drawings and paintings. paintings were painted in oil, drawings were made of charcoal and graphite, and watercolors were mostly used for sketches by many artists, except for a few such as William Turner and John Singer Sargent.
With the evolution of time and technological advancement, more art mediums came into existence, to the point that, nowadays, it is very easy to enhance a painting by using these art mediums. Many mixed media artists create a watercolor base and enhance the painting through oil pastels, inks, collages, etc.

I admire the artists who use that technique. Their paintings are really beautiful to look at. However, I personally prefer to let the watercolors be the hero of the painting, so even if I do mix other mediums with watercolors, I only create subtle enhancements that do not overpower the watercolors. 

So, come along with me and discover the ingredients that make up my secret sauce for creating bedazzling watercolors.

Let Masking Fluid Resist Your Paints

watercolor resist to masking fluid
Both traditional and modern watercolor artists use masking fluid.  It is used to cover and seal areas of paintings where the artist does not want to cover with paint. For example, in this painting, I masked the leaves and stems (seen as faded yellow) before painting the sky background.

Masking fluid comes in a liquid form but dries as a rubbery substance and is easily removed at the end. However, it is known to damage brushes used to apply the fluid. Instead, a ruling pen can be very useful, or, as I’ve discovered more recently, silicon chisel tools used for clay sculpting.

I like to use masking fluid to create sparkles and shine in my paintings. I usually apply it first, let it dry and then carry on with my painting. In the end, I remove it (and you can do that with your finger or with an eraser) leaving behind tiny white dots and lines.

The Magic of Salt

Salt isn’t only fabulous for enhancing flavors while cooking, but it is also amazing at creating unique effects on watercolors. By sprinkling salt on a wet watercolor base, each grain of salt absorbs the wet paint, and when that happens it leaves behind a small glimmer of white shining through the paint layer. 

This is a fabulous technique in multiple types of paintings, and I love using this when painting galaxies, skies, and underwater scenes, and recently observed someone using this technique for painting a slice of watermelon!

Fine Detailing With Acrylic Ink

Just like watercolors, acrylic inks, are very fluid while being opaque and water-resistant.  They should only be used as the final layer over a painting. They are available in a range of colors and can be used very creatively when painted over translucent watercolors.

If you want to have only a subtle effect, then you may want to restrict the color palette and the amount of ink you use. I only use white acrylic ink to add sparkles and reflections to my paintings.

Embellish with Gold Paint

I have totally fallen in love with gold paint ever since I’ve tried using it in my paintings. Gold paint can be in the form of watercolors or acrylics. I have also tried using gold pigment in powdered form mixed in with an acrylic medium, or simply an acrylic paint pen such as Posca.

The gold paint stands out and creates a very beautiful contrast against the watercolor backdrop of the painting.

Final Words of Advice

Watercolors are just as magical and beautiful when used on their own. And from there you can go crazy with adding other media. But, if like me you want to maintain the beauty and fundamentally retain the inherent qualities of watercolors, then these 4 magical ingredients will help you create a watercolor painting with subtle features that enhance your piece of art.

Give it a go and let me know how you found it.

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