This edge, samples of which can be seen in figure 7, is created by sliding the brush quickly across the surface of your watercolor paper. There are a number of variables however which affect the final result you achieve. If you are using a round brush as in these examples, you can use the point of the brush, the side of the brush with the point touching the paper as well, or use you use just the bulb part of the brush without the point touching the paper. Other variables when using dry brush or broken edge watercolor painting techniques are the angle of the brush to your paper, the texture of your watercolor paper ( Rough, Medium also know as Cold Press or NOT, or Smooth), the brush you are using and the amount of water in your brush (how wet it is). The speed of your brush stroke will also greatly affect the dry brush result.
Dry Brush or Broken Edge brush strokes are great ways to add texture to a scene, such as sparkle on waves at the sea, rough bark on a tree, texture on a road surface, etc, etc. The more you practice creating dry brush strokes the more you will use them to add interest to your watercolor paintings.
Wet on Dry is the watercolor painting technique you use when you want to place a hard or sharpe edge on your painting, though you can also use it to cover an area with a nice clean watercolor wash, see figure 6.
With the wet on dry technique the paper is dry when you lay down your watercolor wash, think of moping a floor and leaving it wet as you wash it.
The trick here is to make sure you have enough moisture on your brush that the paint mixture will freely flow out from the brush and onto your watercolor paper. It should be fluid enough that once on the paper it forms a bead of paint at the bottom edge of your brush stroke. You use this bead to continue painting down the paper to create a smooth clean looking finish.
Use the bead to help paint a smooth wash. The technique for creating a smooth wash is to keep this bead of watercolor paint flowing down the page. After you lay down your first confident brush stroke with a full loaded brush (a fully loaded brush is one that if you hold it vertically with the point facing down, the paint will drip out of it, but if you hold it horizontally it will not drip). You then reload your brush and your second brush stroke just touches the lower edge of this bead of watercolor causing it to flow down the page before creating a new bead at the bottom of this next brush stroke. It is this continuous flowing of water color down the page that leaves behind a nice smooth finish. Think of it like the sand at a beach as a wave recedes it leaves behind a smooth sandy surface.
Now if you create a watercolor wash and while it is still wet you go back into it with another color (this is often referred to as charging by some watercolor artists) then the rules of wet on wet apply.
As the paper dries, during the wet on wet technique, it will arrive at a point where it has lost its shine, now if at this stage you run the point of your brush across this damp section of paper you will see an interesting effect as shown in figure two. As the paper is no longer very wet, at this point it will actually have less water on it than is on your brush. Now what happens is that instead of the watercolor paint just running down the paper, some of it is actually sucked up into the dryer section of the paper – so you can get a whole range of soft to furry effects both up and down from the position of your brush stroke. I use this edge in many places within my watercolor paintings. This is a great edge I use for creating soft connections of a boat’s hull with the water so it looks like it is floating, I use it when creating certain shadow shapes, for quickly creating trees and reflections on a distant lake shore and I also use it in my watercolor landscape paintings to create a tree line on top of a hill. Its uses are almost endless!
When painting with watercolor you need to take advantage of this interaction of water,watercolor paint and gavity, to create the effects you would like to produce.
This is one of the most difficult of edges to conquer as so much depends on timing (how wet is your water color painting), how wet is your watercolor mixture in your pallet and brush, the anble of your board as well as how fast it is all drying; environmental conditions greatly affect your painting and you must be aware of them. When painting watercolor landscapes plein air environmental conditions are even more critical!
We will now look at the wet on wet watercolor painting technique.
A good exercise to understand the potential of using wet on wet techniques is to mix a milk strength mixture of French Ultramarine and Alizarin Crimson. Then tape a quarter sheet of rough textured watercolor paper to your board. Then with a round brush, about a size 16, and your board titled to about 25 degrees, wet the sheet down one side. Use lots of water so there is a shine on the paper.
Wet on wet watercolor painting technique
Now straight away pick up a brush of the pre-mixed watercolor and paint a wide strip across the top of the wet part of the paper about 2 inches from the top. The watercolor immediately starts to run down the page.
Now as you watch this you will notice a number of things. First, the water above the brush stroke you placed on the wet portion of the paper, flows down and gives you a very light soft (indistinct) edge as it washes the watercolor down from the point it was first placed. Secondly you will notice that the watercolor continues to flow and change shape as you watch it, in this way you are letting the watercolor help you paint your painting. Once it creates the particular shape you are after (i.e. when it has flowed far enough down your watercolor paper) you can lay the board down flat and it will stop flowing. Thirdly you should be able to notice that instead of just a single color appearing on the paper, as you had mixed it, the pigments have separated in parts. The French Ultramarine being more of a particle based watercolor will not flow as far as the Alizarin Crimson, which is more like a dye. So now you will see that the top part of this shape is slightly bluer than the bottom.
This type of soft wet on wet or wet in wet edge is very good for giving the impression of rain, soft sunset clouds, and any other effect requiring indistinct shape transitions.
Now obviously there are a number of factors which affect the result you will create with wet on wet techniques. Firstly how wet you wet the paper, secondly the angle of your board – the steeper the angle the quicker and further the watercolor paint will flow, thirdly how thick a mixture you mix with your paint – the more watery it is the further it will flow but also the lighter will be your result, and fourthly how much paint is on your brush.
From practice and observation you will be able to better predict the general outcome of wet on wet techniques.
As watercolor artists, and artists in general, we paint our paintings through the creation of different edge shapes. In this article I will talk about the watercolor techniques that will produce these edges and how to use them to create our watercolor paintings. The examples I give are all made with a round watercolor brush but most can also be produced with other types of watercolor brushes with practice.
What are these edges that we talk about when watercolor painting and how do you produce them.
These edges are known by different names and one or two I will mention probably don’t have a name so I will try and give them one. Here are some of their common terms: Wet on Wet or Wet in Wet, Wet on Dry, Dry Brush or Broken Edge. These are good general terms but also quite limiting so I will expand on a couple of them a little to show their true value to the water color artist.
I have found that watercolor paintings that appeal to me all seem to have the full variety of these edges. If you have a painting which only has sharp edges it can lack subtlety, if everything is made up of soft indistinct edges it can lack direction or a message so, as edges can be considered part of the vocabulary of watercolor painting, then the more edge variety the more rich will be our paintings.
So let us now look at each of these watercolor edge types in turn.