5 Simple Solutions for Common Watercolor Problems

It’s one thing to pick up a brush and start learning how to paint with watercolor, but what happens when there’s a problem? You defer to the experts!

Birgit O’Connor, who has a variety of watercolor workshops at ArtistsNetworkTV, explains in her book Watercolor Essentials how to solve common problems that you may encounter when applying a wash. Here’s more. ~Cherie

Watercolor painting techniques | Birgit O'Connor, ArtistsNetwork.com

Watercolor painting by Birgit O’Connor

Common Problems with Watercolor Washes by Birgit O’Connor

Hard Waterlines
Reapplying water to an area before it is completely dry can dilute color and carry the pigment to the outside edges, where it will accumulate, leaving unwanted hard lines. The obvious solution is to allow areas to dry completely before reapplying water or color. If you do form a waterline, try to soften it with a scrub brush or reapply water and glaze over it.

Grainy Washes
Mineral pigments and sedimentary colors tend to create grainy washes. Leaving your palette uncovered allows dust particles to accumulate, which may result in unwanted texture. Using a hair dryer to dry the damp pigment can flatten the sediment in the wash.

Warping and Buckling Paper
Watercolor tends to pool on lighter weight papers, often causing warping and buckling. Keep tilting your paper and moving the color to prevent pooling. A hair dryer will speed up the drying process. Hold it approximately 10 inches (25cm) away from the paper and keep the airflow moving evenly, or you can end up with areas that have dried too quickly, leaving unwanted lines.

Excess Water
To help control the drying time, remove excess water with a clean natural-hair brush. These are more absorbent than synthetic brushes. You can also use the tip of a paper towel, but don’t press too hard or you may lift color, leaving an uneven dry area.

Backwashes and Blooming
Two areas drying at different rates can create back- washes and blossoming. During the drying process, water from the wetter, slower drying area seeps into the drier area, resulting in a blossom. Sometimes these are “happy accidents,” but they can also be a disaster.
If you have a very wet painting, try to keep an eye on it until it is almost dry–you never know what you will come back to. If a blossom has started to form, reapply water and pigment while it is still damp to even out the area. Remove the excess water and let dry.

Worth Noting:
• Hard waterlines appear when an area is overwet and the pigment travels out to the edges. (above, left)
• Absorb water with a brush tip. A natural-hair brush acts like a sponge and will lift excess water out of an area. Natural hair is more absorbent than synthetic fibers. (above, middle)
• Absorb water with paper towel. The edge of a paper towel easily lifts out excess water. (above, right)

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