Saturday, September 26, 2015

Merry Monday Christmas Challenge: Treetops Glisten

On yesterday's post, I talked practicing for eight hours on a simple watercolor wash. The real "fault" for my new obsession lays with the Merry Monday Christmas Challenge (just kidding ladies!) Two weeks ago on this blog, I put up my first Christmas card since January. I was playing along with Merry Monday and swore that I wouldn't miss another challenge. So what do they do to my the very next week...they require watercoloring!!

Watercoloring is a problem for me because you lose control. What happens when that water and color is swirling around on that paper is random, at least from my beginner's point of view!  I do have the supplies.  I have taken classes at Online Card Class; and I study the cards, the videos and the supply lists of my favorite cardmakers who have taken the plunge into watercoloring.  I finally decided it was time to let go of the control!

Treetops Glisten

I'm happy with it. I'm definitely not going to tell you that this was my first try at this background; in fact, I'm embarrassed to admit how many tries this took. (I used a color scheme that Kristina Werner used on her blog for this card.)

In my eight hours of playing with watercolors for the first time, I discovered a few things. I went from frustrated with the medium to absolutely thrilled just by watching various videos and trying various products. I want to share my thoughts - from the perspective of an absolute beginner!!

Edited To Add: In the comments Betty Keefe recommends an online class at Craftsy done by Deepti - one of my all-time favorites cardmakers.  I don't know how I missed this class.  (Sorry Deepti, I really do look at every post on your blog - obviously not carefully enough - or just not focused on watercoloring at the time.)  In looking at the overview, it goes from basics to advanced.  I just watched the first class and it would have saved me hours. She talks about paper, about mediums (she uses the Sakura Koi watercolors that I mention later were turning out to be my favorites), she talks about brushes (soft brushes that hold water, just like I discovered in my hours of practice - but she likes Round Size 8 and then shows how to use that brush for various techniques), she even talks about the best palettes!  I haven't even gotten to the act of watercoloring yet and I am practically giddy (which is a word that someone of my age doesn't use very often)!!  
I am settling in for more hours of watching and practicing and am beyond excited to learn from Deepti!!  The class if half price right now - but even before watching, I would guarantee it's worth full price!!

Here are my beginner tips!
  • Using watercolors to color in images is actually quite fun (it's the washes of color that cause a loss of control.) The results are very natural and quite lovely.  I keep hearing that coloring is therapeutic thus the proliferation of adult coloring books. I would agree. The only difference with watercolor is that when coloring images, be very certain that one color is dry before you move on to a color next to it or you will get bleeding (unless you are going for that look!)
  • Kristina Werner's videos show that she tapes her paper to a board (another crafter uses a small cutting board) and then raises the backside of the board by putting it on a couple of ink pads. This causes "movement" of the watercolors as she paints. Fabulous tip!! It adds interest to background washes and it automatically adds the "shading" that is so gorgeous on images as the color moves to the bottom of each colored area.
  • The right paper makes a huge difference. I got lucky this week because Hobby Lobby had art paper 40% off so I got to try a few options.  I fell in love with Canson XL Watercolor paper which is used a lot by the amazing Debby Hughes. It's heavy-weight; the water flows beautifully, and it's textured enough to get the look of watercolor - yet not so textured that you can't stamp on it (with a well-inked stamp!). Tim Holtz Distress Watercolor Paper is a close second - it colors beautifully but is more textured so difficult to stamp on.
  • Brushes also make a difference, but this is apparently a very personal choice. I've watched videos on watercolor washes where I have seen our favorite experts use waterbrushes, flat brushes and "fluffy" brushes. (I'm not an artist, don't know the terminology!) I fell in love with "mop" brushes for the watercolor washes. They hold the water and color well, and because they are soft and fluffy, I easily got pools of color instead of streaks like a harder brush. I now have a variety of sizes.  (Obviously mops aren't so good at coloring in images - I don't have any favorites yet for that.)
  • The different types of watercolor are very interesting.  I have three full sets - this is the third time I've taken a run at watercoloring and each time I would watch the videos and take the classes, then get their most recommended products in the mistaken belief that the product would make me an expert - sad, huh?!  I couldn't say which product I like more - they each have pros and cons. (I didn't play with Distress Inks although easily half of the videos out there work with Distress Ink products and they are gorgeous. Nor did I play with markers, crayons or pencils. Personally, I wanted a palette of watercolors next to me - it just had the feel of being in elementary school and the joy of having my Crayola watercolors next to me!!
    • Peerless Watercolors work beautifully (that's what I used on this card). They come on pieces of paper which is absolutely fascinating to me and are a reasonable way to start given the basic set of 15 colors is only $14 at Simon Says Stamp. The add-on set with another 40 colors is another $29. I also just discovered that you can buy individual sheets at the Peerless website or at Merri Artist (my fave place of Copics). This is good because I used a ton of Robin's Egg Blue (the light blue on my card) and already wanted a bigger supply for blue backgrounds!
    • In the first Online Card Class on watercoloring, Sakura Koi Watercolors seem to be a favorite of the teachers.  My card from yesterday used them. These might be my favorite in my one day of practice with one fairly major exception - each color is really small - so for a wash, you always have to use a small brush to put some color on a plastic/acrylic piece, then use your bigger mop brush to get it from there onto the paper. I love this set for coloring in images. A 24-color set is $36 on Simon Says and it comes with a really nice water brush.
    • Currently Debby Hughes is in love with Zig Kuretake Gansai Tambi paints. A 36 color set (which has some pearlescent paints!) is at Simon Says for $55, but when I saw it on Amazon at $40, I immediately ordered it. The colors are gorgeous and each color is much bigger. They would just take some practice because as they get wetter as you work, they get creamier (remember - not an expert so don't know actual terminology) and you have to be careful not to pick up a glob of paint.  But check out what Debby does with them - gorgeous stuff - and the pearlescents are a nice addition.

I can't believe I just came off sounding like I thought I was an expert - I apologize for that - but sometimes a beginner's perspective can be valuable.  I had a truly eye-opening 8 hours with a huge range of emotions, but when I found the paper and the brush, I suddenly knew that I could do it - and for the first time, I truly enjoyed it!


I don't have a good sparkly embossing powder - what I have shows chunks of glitter which breaks up the white. I tried something for this card that I liked - I heat embossed the trees with plain white and immediately dunked it into my container of fine clear glitter, then gave it another quick hit of heat.  I like the subtle sparkle.


  1. It surely doesn't look beginner to me Kim! Thanks for the tips as I am also struggling with the same stuff as you do!

  2. Kim a gorgeous card and I just loved you post. You are someone who always has such useful tips and ideas. I too have struggled with my ability to 'handle' watercolouring. Point and case last night trying to use it for my Coffee Lovers card and after two fails resorted to my safety net of Distress Ink sponging! I have a cheap Michaels set (love the colours), a small sampling of Peerless (from the lovely Donna Mikassa) and the 36 Kuretake. I want to learn but need to give it an honest go like you did, clear the schedule and spend a whole day!! Your post is so useful and I love that you love to share your experiences my friend!! I will try again. Hubby is bringing home my new Zigs in a week which I am sure will be yet another learning curb!! Thank you!

  3. Kim-your card is beautiful!! I love the way you did the background. I need to practice watercoloring my self. However, it really is a patience thing with me. I don't have a lot of time to sit down and "play" so I want everything I make to be something that I love. Unfortunately my watercolor creations are not that. I have Peerless watercolors-have yet to use them but everyone that I see that uses them has just stunning backgrounds. I also have the Gansai but only in the 24 set. I do like the creamy quality of this set but wish I had bought the larger set with some of the pearls. I also have the Zig Clean Markers which I did play with last weekend. It made me into a lover when before I was not. I guess I am going to have to sit down and play like you did, though it pains me to do so. Anyway, thank you for this great post!!

  4. lovely card Kim - and i so enjoyed your take on the watercolor adventures - i have the peerless(least used), zig clean brush markers, and the gansai(both used the most)- also some cheapo crayola which aren't bad. love the canson paper too - thanks for the tip that it's on sale at hobby lobby as i'm out. just started the craftsy class on watercolor taught by Deepti - so far it's the best info on what to use and techniques and it's half price right now - i think this will be my "go to" for learning to become better at this watercolor business. i like playing around with watercolor backgrounds in the evening and letting them dry overnight - fun to see them in the morning.

  5. Love the watercolored backdrop for your trees, very nice! Thanks for playing Merry Monday!

  6. I think your card turned out great Kim and thanks for all of the info!!

  7. Totally love how this card turned out. Beautiful


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