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Creating a Masterpiece

Dec 25, 2007
One of the advantages of watercolor painting is that it calls for but little in the way of equipment. We shall consider briefly the materials needed before you can start to work.


Brushes are of great importance. Cheap ones on the whole are of doubtful value. As one needs but few brushes, he should buy the best. Those of red sable hair are generally so considered. The round, sharply pointed type is probably the most popular, but flat square ones can also be useful at times. A rectangular space such as a door or window shutter, for instance, can often be painted using a stroke of a flat, sable brush about three-fourths of an inch wide.

One generally needs about three round red sable brushes - small, medium and large. For any given piece of work, it is best to use the largest size brush practical. Small brushes require too frequent dipping and can lead one into finicky ways. For bold sketching (such as outdoor work) and for laying large washes (as on skies and backgrounds), so big a brush is needed that one sometimes feels forced to use a cheaper substitute for sable, such as imitation sable, camel hair or squirrel.

The Number 17 camel hair "dabber," for instance, costs a fraction of the price of a red sable brush the same size. However, since camel hairbrushes lack spring and seldom hold their points well, they are not recommended except in the large sizes for bold work.

For certain types of work, particularly for scrubbing out high lights, stiff bristle brushes are sometimes used.

Care of Brushes

With proper care, good brushes will give years of service. Rinse them frequently, as you use them, and wash them thoroughly when you put them away. Don't leave them standing for long periods in paint or water - and don't allow them to dry in cramped positions.

Watercolor Paper

The most desirable papers for watercolor painting are usually handmade and imported, the best known perhaps being Whatman from England, Arches from France, and Fabriano from Italy. These papers are handmade
of the very best rag stock, following traditional methods handed down through the years from father to son (not at all practical here in the United States); their properties are toughness, long life, surface texture, which cannot be matched by the very best machine-made papers, whether American or imported. A good handmade paper will withstand a considerable amount of soaking, scrubbing and erasing and will age with little deterioration.

The weight (thickness) of watercolor paper is important. Thin papers should generally be avoided, especially for large work, since they buckle when wet and are inclined to split if stretched. Weights vary from a light "72 lb." to the extremely heavy "300 lb." and, occasionally, even "400 lb."

Some papers are smooth; these are identified by the phrase, "hot pressed," or "HP." The more popular surfaces, however, have a grain or "tooth." "Cold pressed" or "CP" indicates a slight grain; "rough" or "R," a heavier tooth. These last two have an indescribably sympathetic texture, excellent to work on and pleasing to look at.

Watercolor papers come in several sizes, but the most popular is the "imperial," approximately 22" x 30". This is a convenient size for the averagee painting and it can be halved or quartered for sketches. Papers are also available in spiral-bound pads and in blocks that are convenient for sketching.

Now when you have purchased the paints you need, you have everything required for your painting. Good luck!
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