If you’re been following this blog for any length of time, you know I frequently post tutorials. The subjects differ, but the focus of all those tutorials is showing you how to do something. This week, I want to share some things not to do when using watercolor paper!
This may seem like an odd topic for a how-to blog, but I can’t tell you how many things I’ve tried that were disasters. Nor can I tell you how many times I’ve wished someone would have warned me before I tried those things.
So I decided to share some experiences with the hope of saving you a few ruined pieces of paper or nearly finished drawings. Are you ready?
Things Not to Do When Using Watercolor Paper
Don’t Forget to Tape Your Paper!
Unless you’re working very small or using a rigid support, you MUST tape watercolor paper to a back board of some kind. If you don’t, the paper will buckle if you use too much water.
If you happen to be using a paper like Stonehenge or Canson Mi-Teintes (both of which can handle modest amounts of water or solvent,) you have to tape them to a back board. That’s the only way they’ll dry flat.
(I have tried working on small pieces of Stonehenge without taping it first. It does dry. It does NOT dry flat.)
Don’t use a misting bottle to blend color
I’m all for saving time whenever possible. Once while working on a small watercolor pencil piece, I tried wetting a piece of paper with a misting bottle. I wanted to drop color onto a wet surface and what could possibly be easier or faster than spritzing the paper a couple of times?
Even at the finest setting, way too much water ended up on the paper.
So much that it pooled on the paper, and ran off the edges. I let the paper dry on a piece of paper towel, but it didn’t dry completely flat.
The place where the water (and color) pooled also left marks I was not able to cover over despite adding several more layers of wet and dry color on top of it. Fortunately, those marks lent themselves to the drawing I ended up doing, but I do not recommend a misting bottle.
Don’t keep blending
As an oil painter, my philosophy was that if one stroke was good, two were better, and there was no harm in three.
The problem is that there can be harm in two or three strokes. It’s called over blending in oil painting.
With watercolor pencils, it’s called destructive.
Once the color is wet, it’s very easy to move around. The best thing you can do is stroke the paper once to blend the color, then leave it alone.
If you happen to be adding color with a brush, you have a little more room for multiple strokes. But in almost all cases, the fewer brush strokes, the better!
Don’t always use little brushes
The best way to minimize the number of strokes you need is to use the largest brush possible for each area.
Small brushes are great for blending small areas or adding details. But small brushes require a lot of strokes for larger areas. The more strokes, the more chances for unwanted edges where strokes overlap.
Also use a soft brush. If you have a naturally light touch, you can probably get away with using a bristle brush, but only if that’s all you have.
And forget a sponge brush! That sounds like the logical choice, but it isn’t. Sponges soak up water. When you’re using water soluble colored pencils, that means a sponge brush will also soak up color. So unless you need to lighten a color, avoid the sponge brushes!
Don’t draw with a dry pencil on wet paper
This is the most important advice I can offer. Why? Because it applies not only to watercolor pencils on watercolor paper. It also applies to paper that’s still wet from a solvent blend.
Absolutely, positively do NOT use a dry pencil on wet paper! Paper is especially delicate when wet. Drawing on it with a dry pencil—especially a well-sharpened dry pencil—can put a hole in the paper.
At the very least, you risk scuffing the surface of the paper.
Yes, you may be able to get some neat affects with this method, but do you really want to risk ruining a drawing? I sure don’t.
Those are five things not to do when using watercolor paper with colored pencils. Those aren’t the only things you should avoid, so if you’ve tried something that ended up disastrously, leave a comment below!