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!
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.