Are you choosing the right white paint?

White Paint

Yes, not all white paints are made equal.  Keep in mind that all of this may vary depending on the brand and type of paint you’re using, but these are the general guidelines for white paint.

Titanium White.  This is an opaque white.  It’s known to be a bright white and have a high tinting strength.  However, sometimes this can be too much if you’re just wanting to tint it slightly.

Flake White.  Another opaque white, but is slighter warmer than the titanium.

Zinc White.  This is your transparent white.  It’s also a cooler white, so make sure you don’t accidentally cool down an area you wanted to be a warmer tone.  You can use this white to tint color, or add rays of light.

As always, I recommend that you experiment with the different types of white and see what will work best for your style and painting.

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Color, Contrast, and Drawling


Color has isn’t importance, but it’s not as important as you might think.  If your color is close enough and everything else is done right, you’re painting is going to be just fine.  However, if the contrast isn’t high enough, you’ll up with a flat painting.  Contrast is also even more important in paintings that aren’t realistic since you’re not relying on details to tell you about your subject.

If you’re having trouble with contrast, do some black and white pieces in either pencil or charcoal.  That will give a better understanding of light and dark.  Drawling will be more important in realism than other styles, but if something’s drawn in first place, you’re painting will be off.  So don’t be so quick to blame the poor color when it’s likely not it’s fault.

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Want To Improve Your Work?

Improve Art 2

Here are a few ideas to help you improve your work.

This is just my style.  Many artists will say this as an excuse not to improve or take classes.  You don’t have to go to school, but just learning techniques in general is a good idea.  Your style will evolve over time, and not learning a technique to help you with that will only hurt your style in the long run.

Keep you lines clean.  This is especially true when working on watercolor paper.  Using an eraser damages the paper.  Having little sketchy lines everywhere is not attractive.  Sketching it out on tracing paper first and then using transfer paper can be much more effective if you have a hard time with messy lines like I do.

Slow down. Sometimes it’s not that your painting isn’t good.  It just isn’t finished yet.  I can spend hours on an 8×10 watercolor painting.  Make sure you have the color and contrast good enough.  Once I slowed down on my watercolors I noticed a large difference in the amount of detail I could get.

Don’t let frustration stop you.  Sometimes you get so frustrated that your work isn’t good enough that you want to give up, but often times that leads to new inspiration about doing something better.  I was frustrated about my coffee and tea paintings fading over time.  So I came up with the idea of using an acrylic binder and acrylic mediums.  If you’re work isn’t as good as someone else’s, stop and study theirs to figure out why.  You’ll probably see a big improvement once you’re done.

It’s not always you.  Just because things aren’t working out, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s because of an unlearned technique.  Maybe you need better equipment.  I noticed a huge difference when I switched from Canson XL 140lbs cold press watercolor paper to Fabriano Artistico 300lbs soft press watercolor paper.  I had bolder color, and I could get a ton more layers than I could with the Canson.

Do more paintings.  This one is kind of common sense, but the more paintings you do, the better you get.  Keep a journal and write down what worked with this painting and what didn’t.  What did you like and not like?  This will help you know what to do next time.


Mixed vs Layered Paint

Adult Coloring Books

Coloring Book

First of all, thank you to those who have stuck with me during my dry spell of blog posts.  I think I may have found a medication that’s allowed me to feel a little better.  We’ll see how it goes.  Anyway, if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you may have noticed that I have a coloring book.  Some wonderful lady got it for me and it’s been helpful during this period of not really having a brain.  It is very relaxing and not having to to think about what I’m doing too much, just grabbing a color and filling in an already made design is very nice.  I have a few tips for you if you’re wanting to get started with this.

Choosing Your Coloring Book.  There are many to choose from.  The one you go with will depend on personal taste, but if you’re buying online make sure to look in a few pages.  Amazon lets you do this.  The cover doesn’t always give you an accurate representation of what’s actually in the book.  Also, if you’re not quite ready to buy a book yet, you could print out free pages online.  There are Pinterest boards dedicated to this.

What To Color With.  The obvious is colored pencils, but you can also use markers, gel pens, etc.  As long as it has a fine tip.  Adult coloring books tend to have a lot of detail.  It doesn’t have to be artist grade.  You’re just coloring in a coloring book.  Not making sellable art pieces.

Make A Color Chart.  Making a color chart will make it easier to see all the colors you have and choose which one you want, and many things have a bad habit of the casing not looking exactly like the actual color.

Easy To Use Case.  If you’re using colored pencils, the box yours came in may not be very easy to use.  Especially as your pencils get smaller.  You can find colored pencil cases that zip close and keep all your pencils in order.  It’s also very portable.  That way you can easily carry it from room to room.

Have a Nice Pencil Sharpener.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy.  Mine is a simple hand held sharpener and I use a plastic bag to catch all the shavings.  Just make sure it sharpens nicely.  Otherwise, you’ll be frustrated with a sharpener that doesn’t work.

Have a Flat Surface.  That doesn’t mean; color on the table.  Put a hard book under your project.  You could also use you pencil case if it’s sturdy enough.

Have Fun.  You’re not doing a big art project.  There’s nothing for you to worry about.  Pick a color and make it beautiful.

I may make a board on Pinterest of my finished pieces.  So if you’re interested in those.  Check out my Pinterest page.

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Right Side vs Wrong Side Of the Paper

I’ve been experimenting with the “wrong” side of the paper.  It’s basically just the the smoother side of the paper.  It’s suppose to be better for getting finer detail and since I do more detailed work I thought I’d give it a try.  I really like the smoothness of it.  It actually makes me want to try out some hot press paper.  I’ll have to test that out and tell you my experience with that.  I didn’t notice too much of a difference in color, but I was able to get more of the detail I wanted because I didn’t have the grain of the paper getting in my way.  I also noticed that it dried flatter as well, which was interesting.

So I will probably use the other side of the paper from now on.  If you’re doing a style of painting that requires a lot of detail you might like using the other side, but if you’re going for a more impressionistic look the more textured side would probably work better.

If you try it out, let me know how goes for you!  Unfortunately I spilled my rinse water all over my painting so I don’t have a picture to show you for comparison, but I will soon.

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5 Beginning Watercolor Mistakes

There are tons of videos on YouTube about painting, and just about anything you what.  This one is a nice short video demonstrating some the mistakes beginning watercolor artists make when they first start painting.  I talked about some of them in my video last week, but this one adds a few more tips and gives a demonstration.

Watercolor is an interesting medium.  It can be fast at one moment and then slow the next moment.  There’s a lot of planning involved.  Where are things going to be placed?  What is the color going to be?  It’s easier to change these things in oil or acrylic because you can just paint over them, but that doesn’t work so well in watercolor.

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Is Realistic Watercolor Possible?

Varnishing Watercolor Paper

3 Things Not To Do With Your Brushes

Staining vs Non-Staining Colors

Are You Using the Right Watercolor Paper?

Is Realistic Watercolor Possible?

Yes, it is possible.  You just have to be patient with it.  Many people choose watercolor thinking it’ll be faster and easier to use than other mediums, which isn’t always the case.  When going for a realistic style you need to have more of a plan than just seeing what the paint does.  You also need to work in many layers and allow for those layers to dry in between.  Working from light to dark will also help you not go too dark in the beginning and then not be able to get the contrast you need.  Color isn’t as important as an accurate drawing, light, and contrast.  The color can be slightly off and still work as long as you have all those other elements.

It takes practice to achieve this style, so you may want to practice on small pieces first before moving on to larger compositions.  Happy painting!

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Varnishing Watercolor Paper

3 Things Not To Do With Your Brushes

Staining vs Non-Staining Colors

Are You Using the Right Watercolor Paper?

3 Things NOT To Do With Your Brushes

If you have problems with your brushes wearing out, or splaying out and becoming trees, here are three things not to do that will help reduce those problems.

1) Don’t leave them sitting in water.  This will cause your brushes to wear out faster, and all the hairs will fall out.  This is especially annoying when they fall out and stick to your painting.

2) Don’t stand them up to dry.  Lay them flat instead.  If you stand them up, the water collects in the barrel of brush and causes the “trees.”  It’s particularly harmful if there’s still paint left in your water.

3) Don’t leave any paint next to the barrel of the brush.  You want to get as much paint away from the barrel of the brush as possible.  This isn’t as much of a problem for watercolor as it is for oil and acrylic.  Also for oil and acrylic, you want to get long bristles for your small detail brushes, because it will be impossible to get the paint  out that’s collected at the barrel.

What other brush tips do you have?  Let me know in the comments below!

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Staining vs Non-Staining Colors

Are You Using the Right Watercolor Paper?

Are You Using the Right Watercolor Paper


You may think there’s not much difference between watercolor paper, other than some being of higher quality, but that not the case.  There are different textures, weights, and colors.  That’s right, colors.  You thought it was only white, but there’s traditional, bright white, extra white, and absolute white, and depending on the company it can a noticeable or not so noticeable difference.  The color of the paper will effect the look of your painting.  A cream tone paper will give a brown or muddy look to your painting.  While a paper with a blue tint to it will make your yellows look slightly green.  So depending on what you’re trying to achieve, you may choose different papers at different times.

Many people are familiar with the different textures; rough, hot press, and cold press, but they’re not as familiar with what they’re just suited for.  Rough paper is the most grainy, and generally not good for fine detail, but since it is so smooth many people, especially beginners, have problems with paint sliding around.  Cold press is the most popular because it allows for the fine detail, but also has some texture to it.  Also with all of that, there’s a “right” and “wrong” side of the paper.  The “right” side is more textured than the other, so the “wrong” side would allow more fine detail.

Then there’s also weights of papers; 90lbs, 140lbs, 260lbs, and 300lbs.  Thinner paper needs to be stretched so that it doesn’t buckle when painting.  The weight you’ll need in order to not stretch it will be different depending on how you paint, but for many people, they need at least 260lbs.  Stretching a piece of paper isn’t the end of the world, but you may need a heavier weight in order for it to take the amount of layers you want, and if you tend to abuse your papers, you definitely will want a heavy paper.

So now that you’ve figured out the color, texture, and weight, now it’s time to buy the paper, but do you buy a roll, individual sheets, a pad, or a block?  These are the questions you need to ask.  How much paper do you use?  How do you paint and what sizes do you use?  How much are you willing to spend?  Rolls are nice because you can cut the paper to whatever size you want.  So if you’re using a lot of various sizes this might be a better option for you than buying tons of different pads.  Sometimes you get get deals on bulk individual sheets verses buying pads or blocks.  This is usually only an option for the artist grade paper.  Pads are the most commonly used and sold just because they’re convenient and cheap.  They store easy and you can tear off the page or keep it on.  Blocks are more expensive, but they have the convenience of not having to be stretched since they are attached on all sides.  If that’s something important to you, and you’re willing to pay for it, blocks could be an option for you.  However you can’t pull it off until it’s dry, so you can only work on one painting at a time unless you get more than one.

It all depends on your personal preference and style of painting as what paper you use.  I still wouldn’t recommend using anything less than acid-free.  After that, you can use a matte spray varnish if you wish.  If you’re just starting watercolor, finding a cold press 140lbs paper should work out nicely for you.  After that you can try experimenting to see if there’s something you like better.