On Celtic Fairy Stuff
Preparing Your Canvas for a Watercolor Painting
Fabulous Fabrics Without Breaking the Bank
The Sun, Part II
Preparing Your Canvas for a Watercolor PaintingBehind the Art
by Annie Rodrigue
I simply love watercolor! Itís a newfound passion for me, so thatís why Iíve decided to write about this media in particular in the following article. Now that weíve covered some basics on how to choose a subject for our creations, letís focus on actually starting the painting. Weíre not going to paint just yet though! Before that, we need to prepare our canvas. Weíve got sketches but nothingís been penciled on watercolor paper yet.
Letís first start with the type of paper we want to use. There are a lot of varieties and if you havenít done much watercolor before, it might be a good thing to know what you need to look for.
Rough surface, cold-pressed, or hot pressed?
These are the first options you need to look at.
The rough surface paper has a very strong grain. Itís hard to ink on this kind of paper, so if you are planning on having a inked line, this isnít the paper for you. Itís usually the paper that is used for sketching. The water will run easily and it makes blending colors very easy. It is ideal for outside sketching. (Because watercolor usually dries faster outside with the wind, itís better to have a paper that stays wet longer, which makes blending faster and easier.)
The cold pressed also has a grain to the paper, but compared to the rough surface paper it is a lot smoother. Inking on this paper is also easier. Blending colors is made easier as well, but it is also much more accurate than the rough surface paper (which tends to bleed a lot). It seems to be the type of paper preferred by many watercolor artists.
The hot pressed paper is a little trickier. If you do not want any grain on your paper, this is the one to choose. You have to keep in mind though that blending with hot pressed paper is much more difficult. After some practice, it is possible to have a nice equal blend, but if too much water is added to the paint, it will not blend perfectly. Itís the paper that I work with. I find that scanning watercolor paintings isnít easy when there is a grain to the paper. That is why I use the hot pressed. But it is important to test them all out to see which gives the result you are looking for.
90 lbs, 140 lbs, or 300 lbs?
This, on the other hand, is much easier to answer. The heavier the paper, the less chance you have that it will curl. 90-pound paper curls a lot if you add water and I donít recommend it for big paintings. It can be good for sketching but thatís pretty much it. 140-pound paper is a good option. Itís cheaper than the 300-pound option, and even though it does curl with a lot of water, itís always possible to press your work to make it flat again. 300-pound paper is the cream of the crop. It doesnít really curl even if you use a lot of water; the only downside is the price. For 22 by 30 inches, the 300-pound can go up to $15.00 a sheet!
Other types of paper?
Yes, you can use other papers. I can suggest two other options, but the possibilities are endless. First, Hi-art boards (#27). Hi-art boards are really thick, so they do not curl up even with a lot of water. The downside of this paper: Colors fade a bit and itís also very difficult to blend the pigments, even tougher than with hot pressed watercolor paper.
The second option would be Strathmore illustration boards. These illustration boards are really smooth, almost silky. The watercolor wonít try too fast so blending is made easy, though this paper will curl with a lot of water (similar to 140lbs watercolor paper). Iíve also noticed that the colors stay much brighter with this type of board. Itís a very nice paper to use.
How to transfer your sketch onto the paper
There is more than one solution depending on the equipment you have at your disposal. The one I prefer to use: the light table. Unfortunately, this option will not work with every type of paper. For 90-pound and 140-pound papers, using a light table work fairly well. But 300-pound paper is too thick and the light doesnít get through.
When this happens, I do a carbon copy of my sketch on my watercolor paper. Do not use real carbon paper for this! You will not be able to erase if afterward and it will ruin your work. First go to the copier and make a nice copy of your final line art. (Using a scanner is perfectly okay too.) On the back of this copy, use a pencil (preferably a HB or B type pencil) and pencil everywhere! From there you can retrace your drawing over your watercolor paper. Be sure to tape your copy and watercolor paper carefully together so that it doesnít move or the result might be a little disappointing. Once youíve traced everything, chances are you will have to touch up the lineart a bit. Youíre done! You are ready to ink.
Preparing the paper before inking and painting
Unlike some other types of media, watercolor makes its canvas curl when you add water. So, to prevent it from curling too much while you paint, you have to tape the paper to a strong wood board or table. I use wood boards that are made specifically for watercolor works: Itís a 11 by 14 board with foam in the middle. Itís perfect to carry around because itís so much lighter than a normal wood board would be. I suggest you buy one if you paint with watercolor regularly.
Use good tape to hold your sheet of paper. Sometimes the water runs under the tape and it wonít stick after a while--just add more on top. Do not use blue tape (or magic tape type), which doesnít stick for a long period of time because of the water.
I have also heard that some artists will take the canvas and plunge it into a bathtub full of water and wait for it to be all wet; tape it while it is still soaked and dry it. The paper will stretch while itís drying. When the artist works on the canvas afterward, it doesnít curl. However, I havenít tried it because I was too scared the pencil would fade while I soaked the canvas.
Next month will be about brushes--the effects we can achieve with them and how to take care of them!
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