Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Watercolor Paints & Papers

Hi Susie -I have a few questions please. Which is better tube paint or hard paint?
And does it matter which paper you use thick or thin? Thank you for your time. Gary

Hi Gary - thanks for your questions!

  1. Which is better tube paint or hard paint? Both are good. It's a personal choice as to which is better. It depends on the style and techniques you are striving to achieve. Most watercolorists do prefer working with moist watercolor paint and many will only use freshly squeezed paint. I guess I'm probably in the minority because I do like working with dry paint. I painted with wet paint for over twenty years because I'd read somewhere or heard someone say that colors were brighter when you used fresh paint. I took a workshop with Zoltan Szabo (one of my watercolor heroes!) and discovered that he used dried paint and his work was wonderfully colorful so I decided to try the dried paint. I found my niche. Working with dried paint allowed me to get the color saturation and value I wanted without making "blossoms". Water control is often a problem with new painters and this seemed to be a helpful tip for my student too.
    I do use tube paint to fill my wells and allow it to dry rather than the pre-formed watercolor cubes (called pans) that some manufacturers offer.
  2. And does it matter which paper you use thick or thin? I believe (and preach!) the most important factor to successful watercolor painting is the paper you use. There are several paper manufacturers and that produce high quality watercolor papers. Again it is a personal choice. Thicker watercolor papers (i.e 300#) hold more water so they stay wet longer and allow longer painting time. The thinner medium weight but highly adequate 140# watercolor paper is probably the most popular choice because due to availability and price. The thinnest 80# or lighter watercolor papers don't take much water so they are best suited for drier watercolor techniques and other mediums such as markers, pastels, or colored pencils.

All watercolor paper is not the same! Different brands use different fibers and sizing. Some are better than others for different applications. Experiment to find the type of watercolor paper that works best for your painting style.

I recommend and use Arches 140# Cold Pressed watercolor paper. It an economical medium weight paper with a very durable surface and works well for most watercolor techniques. I like to use it for my workshops because it is very forgivable...and allows for moderate scrubbing and corrections when needed.

HINT: Don't settle for cheap paper! Life's too short to use bad paper. Find the brand and type that works best for you. Even when learning to paint. Too many people try to learn how to paint on student grade "cheaper" paper and literally work them self into bad habits and never achieve the desired results.

I hope that helps! Happy painting!

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