DIY: Watercolor & Wax Paper Jewelry

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Sometimes I come up with a project that I enjoy so much that it’s hard to stop to write a post. This, my friends, is one of those.

It’s a simple combination of watercolor, melting wax, and punching shapes- but it’s oh so satisfying.

 

SUPPLIES

  • Thick paper for Watercolor
  • Watercolor paints and brushes
  • Pencil
  • Straight Edge
  • Paraffin Wax
  • Scraping Tool, like a vegetable peeler.
  • Iron, ironing board, towel or other surface to catch wiley bits of wax
  • Parchment Paper
  • Scissors
  • Large Thick Material Punches (optional but recommended) I used circle punches in 2″ diameter, 1.5″ diameter, and 1″ diameter
  • Small hole punch
  • Thin cord or ribbon
  • Jump Rings (optional)

Step One: Paint it

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Gather your paper, pencil, straight edge, paints and brushes.

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Draw several parallel lines with your pencil to create stripes of varying widths.

Begin filling in each stripe with a color in the order of the rainbow. (ROY G BIV –  Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet).

If you fill a small stripe, use a similar color next to it (Orange red and Red for instance.) It’s okay if your paint is a little irregular, or you have small white spaces.

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Now it’s time to paint the back of your pendant. Draw some non-parallel lines on a new piece of paper, and fill them in with some of the same colors you used on the other side. Leave a little white space as well. Set your paintings aside to dry.

Step Two: Wax it

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Now you will need your ironing setup, parchment paper, and wax. You might have a little wax escape during the ironing process, so it’s a good idea to have a scrap towel or cotton fabric to protect your ironing board. Remember to keep an eye on your ironing so you don’t singe anything!

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Sandwich one of your dry watercolor sheets inside a piece of parchment paper. Shred a pile of wax on top. (You can always add more wax, so this is a good time to play!)

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Turn your iron to it’s lowest setting, and gently melt the wax between the sheets of parchment paper. You will see the paper start to look wet. Continue working the liquid wax into the paper until it starts to be consistently translucent. You may want to add more wax.

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Flip your paper over, and add a pile of wax to the other side. This will be the “glue” that holds your two sides together.

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Lay the other piece of paper on top of that pile…

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shred some more wax on that, and iron again following the earlier instructions.

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Continue to add wax until the papers are translucent and consistently wet looking. When you’re happy with the look, put a little bit of weight on the stack, and let it cool for a couple of minutes.

IMG_6356_waxedpaperjewelryWhen it is still warm, but safe to touch, uncover the paper, and use your finger or a tool to smooth any puddles of wax. (Playing in wax is one of my favorite things!) Now let it cool completely (a few minutes.)

Step Three: Punch it

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I am loving these thick material punches from Fiskars. I have long abused normal paper punches, and they have a habit of breaking at the worst possible moment. These punches go through everything like butter.

IMG_6361_waxedpaperjewelryUse a punch (or scissors) to take shapes out of your waxed paper…

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until you have a nice little pile of shapes to work with. To turn solid shapes into pendants, punch small holes on one or two sides. You can run cord through these holes (or attach jump rings.)

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After you have everything cut out, polish the shapes by using your fingers to rub excess wax off the surface and edges.

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Feed thin ribbon, cord, or chain through the holes in your pendants. You can feed your cord through, wrap it several times, or tie a lark’s head knot. Anything goes! Leave enough room to slip the necklace over your head, and you’re set.

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Double sided rainbow pendants!

Now I want to wax all the paper. Someone stop me before I go too far!

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Watercolor Feather (For Beginners)

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Can you believe it’s almost spring? Here in Portland, the rain clouds have been taking more frequent breaks to let the sun shine and people are preparing their gardens for the new year. One rainy afternoon I felt the urge to get out my watercolors and play. I had fun experimenting with a favorite subject (one that fits our DIY Craft Challenge theme this month), FEATHERS and decided to share a few of my favorite ways to paint one.

This is a great project for those who are just learning how to use watercolors. Be sure to check out my other posts on Watercolor Basic Supplies & Techniques and 8 Watercolor Techniques For Beginners.

Materials Needed:

• Watercolor paper
• Watercolor paints
• Small + medium size brushes
• Black fine tip pen (I use 0.3 Copic Multi Liner)
• Pencil
• White gouache
• Sea salt
• Feathers (for inspiration)

Prep Your Paper & Sketch

Start by cutting your watercolor paper to three pieces of equal size (I cut mine to be 4″ x 6″). OR you can simply paint all three feathers onto the same page. Then lightly sketch a feather shape with pencil. To do this, first draw an elongated oval shape. Then sketch a straight line down the middle (this will be the stem).
DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Watercolor Feather

METHOD #1: Color Wash + Black Pen

Start by creating a color wash within the feather shape. To do this, first paint your feather shape with a thin layer of clear water only.
DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather
Then prep a few colors by wetting the pigment with water. While the feather shape is still wet, use your brush to drop color randomly onto the wetted surface (I like to use two or three colors for this). Allow the paint to flow together. You can even lift your paper slightly to help it run together.

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

OPTIONAL: Wait a minute or two, and while the paint is still wet, sprinkle some sea salt over the top. Let dry completely, then brush off any remaining salt from the paper.

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

Once dry you can decide whether or not you want to do a second color wash layer. I chose to add some more red/orange paint to the bottom of my feather to achieve a darker, more vibrant hue. Don’t forget to paint a stem!

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

Next get out a fine tipped black felt pen. I use a 0.3 Copic Multi Liner. First draw two lines down the center. You want the lines to come to a point near the top of the feather to create the stem. Next you can begin drawing lines from the stem starting and at the top of the feather and working your way down.

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

Experiment with leaving space between the lines at different intervals. You could also try different mark making techniques like dots, dashed lines, or even illustrated patterns.

TIP: If drawing with pen directly onto your watercolor feather is too nerve-wrecking, you can lightly sketch your lines with pencil first and then go over with pen.

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

METHOD #2: Color Wash + Watercolor Details

Start by sketching your feather shape. I chose to sketch my stem in an arc/curve shape this time. Then create a light color wash by first painting the feather shape with a thin layer of clear water and then dropping paint at random onto the wetted surface.

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

TIP: To paint a lighter shade color wash, all you have to do as add more water to your paint to dilute the pigment.

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

OPTIONAL: Because I like texture, I chose to sprinkle some sea salt over the color wash (just like in Method #1). Let dry completely, then brush off any remaining salt.

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

Next create a second layer with feathery details. First choose a darker color (I chose a dark green) to paint the stem.
DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

Using a small brush, begin to paint whispy lines starting at the stem going out to the edge of your color wash. Experiment by using a few different colors of the same hue.

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

Once you complete your second whispy layer, you can continue to add more color or detail (while the paint is still wet) until you achieve a look you like. Once finished, let dry completely.

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather
DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

METHOD #3: Color Wash + Gouache Details

Sketch your feather. This time I chose to create a slightly more detailed sketch. Start with the basic feather shape and then using your actual feather as inspiration, lightly draw ‘more wild’ feather shape.

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

Fill the feather shape with a color wash the same way we did in the last two methods. Paint the shape with clear water and then use your brush to drop in color at random.

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

Then while the paint is till wet, choose a darker color and add in some stripes. Do this by dropping in the dark color in intervals, leaving gaps in between each ‘stripe’. You can keep adding color until you get a look you like. Then let dry completely.

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

Then add some white gouache to your palette and using a fine tip brush, paint a line down the center of the feather and add in some white dots. Let dry and you’re done!

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

Three ways To Paint A Feather

April DIY Challenge Results!

We had a lot of fun experimenting with watercolor this month. We shared basic supplies, beginner techniques, and experimented in new ways. Of course, our favorite part of the Monthly DIY Challenge is to see what YOU come up with. We were so impressed with everyone’s projects that we’ve decided to award all the submissions!

DIY Challenge Award: Most Inspiring

These whimsical florals painted on old book pages by Aline of Paris, France are just beautiful! We just love her playful style.

April DIY Challenge Results #adventuresinmaking #diycraftchallenge

I love art and craft activities and I have a blog where I post some of my work. I decided to work on this project thanks to one of the inspiration images you posted on your blog!

I like using old paper to paint on and since I had a very old book, I decided to use it and paint some floral and natural ornaments because i love drawing nature. – Aline Savan

DIY Challenge Award: Most Useful

Donna’s watercolor bookmarks are so cute and functional. We love how she experimented with the wax resist technique! Check out a full tutorial of her process on her blog.

April DIY Challenge Results #adventuresinmaking #diycraftchallenge

Though I’ve tinkered with watercolors over the years, I wasn’t inspired for this challenge until I learned that April is also National Public Library Month in the US. I had the idea to combine the two and use some simple, yet creative watercolor techniques to make some colorful bookmarks. These watercolor bookmarks are easy to make and a great project for everyone in the family to enhance their enjoyment of reading! – Donna Heron

DIY Challenge Award: Best Practice

This floral bunny silhouette created by Zakkiya of Doha, Qatar is absolutely stunning! Zakkiya is an illustrator and founder of design and illustration company, Inkstruck Studio. You can follow more of her work on Instagram and twitter.

zakkiya-floral-watercolor-silhouette-tutorial

Watercolor is one of my favorite mediums to work with so I got all excited when I saw the theme for this month’s DIY challenge. One of the reasons I created this was to help beginner artists learn an easy way to paint. Generally, it’s all the tiny details that intimidate beginners (I was when I started off). So I decided on creating a silhouette of an animal. In this case a bunny. But instead of leaving it plain and boring, I added floral elements inside thus forming the shape of a bunny but with all floral goodness. The flowers are far from realistic, so even a watercolor novice can attempt and create this. – Zakkiya Hamza

DIY Challenge Award: Most Thoughtful

We were oohing and ahhing over Angela’s twisted vines and handwritten words. Angela wanted to create a piece of art that expressed what her family stands for. What a creative way to display family values!

April DIY Challenge Results #adventuresinmaking #diycraftchallenge

I live in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. I have been making things for as long as I can remember. I have dabbled in carving, sketching, painting, fibre arts and many other mediums. Lately I am in love with yarn, craft and have renewed my passion for painting. It is my dream to start a business that provides retail for local makers and have space for fellow makers to take workshops, as well as have studio space for makers to use our equipment or try out new stuff. – Angela Reddekopp

Thank you for participating in the April DIY Challenge! For those of you who wished they could have joined in the fun, never fear! Our May DIY Challenge begins tomorrow!

DIY: Watercolor Mother’s Day Card + Free Printable

DIY: Watercolor Mother's Day Card + Printable

Mother’s Day is coming up and I’ve been itching for another watercolor project to play with so I decided to try making a fun little “MOM” painting that could double as framable art or a greeting card. I invite you to make your own version using the steps below as a guideline. I’m also offering a free printable greeting card for download!

Step 1: Sketch Letters

Using a ruler, pencil and eraser lightly sketch out letters ” M O M “.

DIY: Watercolor Mother's Day Card + Printable

Step 2: Paint flowers

Then with a fine tip watercolor brush, fill the letters with little flowers and leaves. Take your time with this (I worked on it while watching Alias on Netflix). To start, I painted a few flowers first, then filled the areas around the flowers with leaves and vines.

DIY: Watercolor Mother's Day Card + Printable

Continue this process until you’ve filled in all three letters.

DIY: Watercolor Mother's Day Card + Printable

Click Here To Download A Free Printable Mother’s Day Card

Download the PDF and print out onto white card stock. Cut out and fold in half where indicated on the template. Pair with an A1 size envelope and give to your mom for Mother’s Day!

TOOLBOX: Water Color Masking Fluid

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I love playing with watercolors, I’m going to admit that right now. I love the way the colors run together, the little blotches of pigment, and basically everything else about it. I’m not a watercolor expert, which means that whenever the paint does something unexpected I have the giddy feeling that I just discovered something amazing. (What did I tell you? I love the process.)

My philosophy teacher in high school used to amazing things with watercolor, and I would always try to sneak a look at his paintings before and after class. One day I noticed him using something to cover up portions of the paper while he was working– cut to 15 years later and I finally decide to buy myself a little bottle of masking fluid to play around with. (I bought Winsor & Newton Colorless Art Masking Fluid.)

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Still a little overwhelmed to jump in, I watched this introductory video, decided on a test project; and gathered my brushes, paints, and spirit of exploration.

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A note: the first time I used the fluid, I ruined my brush. It was a cheap brush, granted, but after that I sharpened up and coated the next brush in dish soap before dipping it in the masking fluid. I coated the whole thing in the dish soap, then squeezed the excess out. (This video shows you how.) Trust me. It’s better that way.

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I drew a basic outline of the words I wanted to mask out with pencil. After coating the brush in soap, and gently rolling the bottle of masking fluid to mix it up, I dipped my brush in and saturated it.

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Bit by bit, I covered the words with the masking fluid.

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All the lines are covered in the fluid now. I’ll be able to erase the pencil lines once everything is done.

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I let the masking fluid dry COMPLETELY before I began to paint with my watercolor. (The dry masking compound feels like rubber cement. You’ll know it’s dry when it is only slightly shiny, and your finger does not stick to it.) The watercolor will not stick to the mask, so you will be able to see what you’re working with.

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When I had finished my first layer of paint, I let it dry COMPLETELY, then added a little more masking to what would be the little abstract windows in the buildings.

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Then I let those dry COMPLETELY (do you see a theme here?) before I went in and darkened all the fields of color.

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When I was done working around my masked areas, and everything was dry, I lightly rubbed the masking agent off with the tips of my fingers. (This alone is worth the trouble. I love pulling glue off of things.)

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Once the mask was off, and I did a little erasing, I had crisp white lines to work with.

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The masked areas were pale enough to let me add a little light yellow watercolor. I love the way the white letters stand out.

Tips to remember

• Test out the water color paper you’re going to be using before you start your artwork. Some of the papers I tried stuck to the masking fluid terribly, and I had to tear the paper to get the dried mask off.
• Coat your brush in soap, or you will ruin a brush, and most likely the piece of paper you’re working on. The first brush started to pull the drying mask fluid back off the paper, and it totally ruined one of my projects.
• Let everything dry COMPLETELY before moving from fluid to paint, or paint to fluid. The fluid will cling to wet paper, or your wet paint and make a wet mess.
• Remember to have fun! Let that childish sense of wonder take over for an afternoon… and when you’re done experimenting, send us the outcome! April’s DIY Challenge is Watercolor, after all.

DIY: 8 Watercolor Inspired Projects

Since the theme for this month’s April DIY Challenge is watercolor, we decided to dig through our archives to find our favorite watercolor inspired posts. We hope you’ll enjoy revisiting these ideas!

1. DIY Watercolor Affirmation Cards

DIY: Watercolor Affirmation Cards #tutorial

2. DIY Watercolored Business Cards

Watercolored Business Cards

3. DIY Dip-Dyed Treasure Bags

DIY: Dip-Dyed Treasure Bags #craft #gift #dye

4. DIY Appearing Leaf Drop-Dyed Tissue
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5. DIY Hand-Dyed Paper Flowers

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6. DIY Dip-Dyed Paper Butterfly Garland

DIY: Dip-Dyed Paper Butterfly Garland #craft #recycled #decoration

7. DIY: Tie-Dye Tissue Paper

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8. Free Printable Watercolor Gift Wrap

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TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge
After sharing my thoughts on basic watercolor supplies and techniques last week, I thought it might be fun to show you some more techniques to try. There are a lot of fun ways to use watercolor and today I’m going to show you 8 of my favorite techniques that are perfect for beginners (or any skill level).

You can try one or two of these ideas, or make your own page of all 8 techniques. To do this, use a pencil and ruler to measure out 8 rectangles on your watercolor paper. Label each box with each technique as shown in the photo below.

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

Note before you start: I would recommend allowing each rectangle to dry completely before moving onto the next technique. You can use a hair dryer to speed the drying process along.

Technique #1: Salt

Salt is my absolute favorite technique to use in creating textured backgrounds. I keep a small container of sea salt with my supply kit. To use the salt first choose one or two colors and paint the first rectangle (or area) completely. Then, while the paint is still wet, sprinkle the salt over the top. Let the paint dry completely and then use your fingernail to flake away the salt.

Note: The wetter your painted area, the more your salt will spread. Try letting the paint dry partially (enough that water won’t run when you move your paper but still has a sheen) and notice the difference in texture you create.

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

Technique #2: Tissue

Fill in the next rectangle with a wash of color(s). For best results you’ll want the surface to be wet and saturated with color.

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

Crinkle a piece of tissue paper and place it on top of the wet paint. Being careful to cover the entire area, position the tissue over the wash and gently press down onto the paper with the palms of your hands. Allow to dry slightly (but not completely or the tissue could become glued to the watercolor paper) then carefully lift the tissue from the paper.

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

Technique #3: Alcohol

This technique is sorta fun to do. Fill the next rectangle with a watercolor wash.

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

While the paint is still wet, dip a Q-tip into rubbing alcohol and drop it onto the wet paint. For best results let the alcohol drip from the Q-tip (rather than touching the q-tip to the paper).

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

Technique #4: Crayon

You can use a crayon to create a ‘wax resist’ technique. First draw your design with a white crayon making sure to press firmly onto the paper.

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

Using a white crayon on white paper makes it difficult to see what you are drawing. Tilt your paper to the side to get a glimpse of your design.

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

Next apply your color wash. The paint will ‘resist’ the areas covered with crayon.

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

Technique #5: Pen & Ink

Another favorite technique of mine. Using a fine-tip permanent pen, draw or doodle your design.

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

Then, fill in color as you would a coloring book. Remember to switch to a smaller round brush to paint in small areas.

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

Technique #6: Water Drops

Apply your color wash. Then load your brush with water (or another color) and let the paint drip onto the wash while it’s still wet. You can gently shake your brush down towards the paper to help the dripping along.

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

Technique #7: Splatter

This technique is a lot of fun, but makes quite a mess. I suggest covering any areas of your paper that you don’t want to be splattered. Load your brush with paint then hold it over the top of your paper. With the other hand, tap your brush and watch the paint splatter onto your paper. Rinse your brush, choose your next color and splatter away.

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

Technique #8: Transparency

Because watercolors have a transparent quality you can create beautiful layers and density in your work. To play with transparency, it’s best to start from light to more saturated color. I chose to paint some drop shapes.

Using your first, lighter color cover the area with shapes. Let dry completely, then choose a slightly darker or more saturated color and paint more shapes, overlapping first layer. You can repeat this process as many times as you like.

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

I hope this post inspires you to try one or two new techniques. Don’t be afraid to just go for it and have some fun! And stay tuned for more watercolor inspired tutorials and DIY projects on Adventures-In-Making for the entire month of April!

TOOLBOX: 8 Watercolor Techniques for Beginners #watercolor #tutorial #diycraftchallenge

Share your watercolor experiments with us! Join our community and submit your creations to our April DIY Challenge. Your project will be featured in our monthly gallery and you could even win a special award!

Update 4/16/15

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to check out: Basic Watercolor Supplies & Techniques.

TOOLBOX: Watercolor Basic Supplies & Techniques

Watercolor is one of my favorite mediums and since we are exploring this theme all month with our DIY Challenge, I thought I’d put together an introductory post for anyone interested in trying watercolor for the first time.

Paper

TOOLBOX: Watercolor Basics
There are three different types of watercolor paper available: hot press, cold press and rough. Cold press paper is what I use most often as it has a beautiful texture to it (whereas hot press paper is smooth). Watercolor paper is much thicker than ordinary paper which is very important to prevent buckling while painting. 140 lb is the typical weight of most watercolor paper. There are thicker options out there if you are planning to use heavy washes, but 140 lb paper works just fine for me.

Watercolor paper comes in single sheets, spiral pads and blocks. I use a Strathmore spiral pad for experimenting and practicing. Then when I’m ready, I’ll switch to my Arches block to create my final painting. I do this because Arches is quite expensive. Plus I like to carry my Strathmore pad with me if I’m painting on the go.

TOOLBOX: Watercolor Basics

Block paper is just what it sounds like. An Arches block comes with 20 sheets of paper that are sealed together into one big block. Use an x-acto knife to carefully slice a single piece of paper off the block. Usually, I’ll paint directly on the block and slice it off when I’m finished. But you can also cut it off beforehand. To prevent buckling while painting I recommend using artist’s masking tape to tape down your paper onto a hard surface while painting.

Paper Brands We Recommend:

Strathmore
Arches

Brushes, Etc.

TOOLBOX: Watercolor Basics

There are three different types of watercolor brushes: rounds, flats and mops. All are made in a variety of sizes. The best brushes are made of natural fiber, most commonly sable. Kolinsky sable pointed rounds are prized for their ability to keep a fine point, which is very useful for detail work, but they are also very expensive. I’ll admit I tend to stick with synthetic brushes and usually will stock up on cheap student brushes rather than investing in the professional quality options. Maybe some day soon I’ll treat myself to a fancy new brush but for now these cheap brushes suite me just fine.

I use round brushes in a variety of sizes 90% of the time. If I’m doing a big wash, I’ll switch to a flat brush, but otherwise I use round brushes for all my painting.

Tip #1: You will ruin your brushes if you leave the brush end sitting in a glass of water. I’d recommend storing them in a jar brush side up. If you want to store them in a closed container make sure they are dry to avoid molding.

Tip #2: Rinse your brushes under running water after each painting session. If you find any traces of dried paint near the metal band, use a little soap to rinse them clean. Dry gently on a paper towel or cloth and reshape with your fingers.

Tip #3: Sponges, cotton balls and cotton swaps are extremely helpful tools in watercolor. They can be used to apply color or I like to use them to correct mistakes and clean up any extra watery areas. Cotton swaps are especially helpful if you want to create small highlights.

Paint

TOOLBOX: Watercolor Basics

There are two different types of watercolor: liquid tubes and solid pans. One is not better than the other, so it really comes down to your personal preference. I like to use a pan set as my base color palette and then I buy tubes whenever I want to try out new colors. Winser & Newton is an excellent brand that I use often (I love the Artist’s Watercolor Compact Set perfect for traveling). The paints shown in the image above are Schmincke brand which are very pricey but worth it for their amazing quality. Schmincke is my personal favorite because the pigment of their paints is so saturated and vibrant. I was lucky enough to receive this set at a birthday gift. Professional quality watercolors (like Winser & Newton and Schmincke) are expensive but think of it as a one-time investment. A basic pan set will last you a lifetime!

Professional Brands we recommend:

Winser & Newton
Schmincke
Holbein

If investing in a professional watercolor set is not an option for you never fear! Feel free to try out a student brand. I recommend starting with Winser & Newton Cotman. Student brands differ from professional brands in that they can have a lower concentration of pigment, have less expensive formulas and smaller range of colors available. That said, they are still a great option for anyone just starting out with watercolor.

Palettes

Palettes are great for mixing colors. If you have a paintbox set, then you can use the palette included with the box. But if you are using tubes, you’ll need a separate palette or pan. Palettes come in all shapes and sizes. I use a small plastic palette in addition to my paintbox.

Colors

TOOLBOX: Watercolor Basics

You can use as few or as many colors as you like. Some artists use only a handful of colors and mix whatever shades they like. My Schmincke paintbox comes with 24 colors so that’s what I use as my base palette. I also have a few additional tubes I love and use in addition to my paintbox.

Techniques

So you’ve gathered your supplies and are ready to paint. Great! Here are some basic painting techniques to try out.

TOOLBOX: Watercolor Basics

Blending

Blending is my favorite part of watercolor. I’d suggest experimenting with blending different colors together. To do this, first paint a shape or squiggle line with plain water only. Then dip your brush into the paint and add it to the watered area. Watch it spread, then clean your brush and choose a second color. Apply this to the opposite end of your watered area and watch the colors blend together. You can move your paper side to side to help the watercolor run together.

Marks

Next I would try out all your different brushes. Experiment with different mark-making and see what you come up with. Draw circles, dashes, lines, and dots. Try mixing lots of water with your paint and then try the opposite by applying paint with a dry brush. Play with different textures, shades and colors.

Layering

My favorite part of watercolor is the process of creating different layers. I’ve painted a simple flower to give you a taste of what layering is like. First use a pencil to lightly draw a flower. I found a photo of a flower for reference. Once your pencil drawing is finished, carefully cover the entire thing in water and then apply a ‘base’ layer. This will be the bottom layer that we will then build from. I blended two different colors to create my base layer.

TOOLBOX: Watercolor Basics

It’s very important that you let each layer dry completely before moving onto the next. I use a hair dryer to speed the drying process along.

TOOLBOX: Watercolor Basics

Once your base layer is completely dry you can begin adding in more detail. Start with one petal at a time, using your photo as reference for shading and color.

TOOLBOX: Watercolor Basics

TOOLBOX: Watercolor Basics

I hope this post demystifies watercolor for any beginners out there and gives you a place to start. Don’t be afraid to experiment and play! I also recommend checking out a great watercolor series by The Alison Show.

Be sure to share any painting experiments with us by entering our April DIY Challenge!

Update 4/16/15

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to check out: 8 Watercolor Techniques For Beginners

Toolbox: Drawing with Gouache and a Nib

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A while back I took a calligraphy class from Tara Bliven, and it opened up a whole new world of drawing tools. Not only did I get to try out new tools and techniques, it was the first time a pen and nib really worked for me. (Sometime I’ll give my whole “It’s tough being a lefty” rant.) As a lefty I need to use a special Oblique Pen Point Holder to write left to right– but with a little practice I learned to use a plain pen and nib to draw with gouache.

All the dark blue lines on this piece were done with a pointed pen, the rest is watercolor.

What’s so great about drawing with gouache?

• You can draw any color you can mix, for cheap. Instead of buying half a million different markers, buy a primary set of gouache and mix the colors you love.
• Gouache colors are opaque, which means you can do light lines on a dark background.
• Skinny paintbrushes are a pain. Although some people *ahem, Rachel* seem to be able to make magic with a brush, I have no luck doing fine lines with a paintbrush. A pen works much better.
• Gouache mixes wonderfully with your watercolor projects (#diycraftchallenge)
• The quality of line you get with a pointed pen is awesome.
• You look like a total bada** when you’re using a pointed pen. Trust me.

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For this piece, I put down a dark blue background in watercolor, then used gouache to add the white words and flourishes.

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There is a little learning curve when you’re working with a pen and ink, and practice makes perfect. I like to do little doodles on scrap paper to practice my lines, play with color, and generally mess around.

Supplies

• Gouache– like this Winsor & Newton set.
• A pen holder– like this one from Speedball
• A pointed pen nib– I used a Nikko G pen for this project, but Tara also recommends the Brause EF 66 which is better if you’re not as heavy handed as I am.
• A dropper of distilled water.
• A couple of ratty paintbrushes for “ink” application, mixing, and cleaning.
• The rest of your usual painting tools– a paint tray or plate, a jar of water, paper towels, paper, pencil, etc.

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To start, I put a drop little bit of gouache into my paint tray…

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and add a couple of drops of distilled water. I add just a little bit of water to start, because it’s easier to add more water to make the consistency I want.

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I mix my water with my paint until it’s consistent (using a cheap kids paintbrush). I like to play with different degrees of “wateriness,” more water means that the “ink” will be thinner and less opaque. Typically I used a mixture that’s about 3 parts paint, 1 part water.

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To apply the paint/ink to the pen, I saturate a paintbrush, and slowly slide it against the backside (concave side) of the nib. The ink will cling to the nib and seem to fill it partially. When it seems full (this part takes some practice) I will gently point and shake the pen downward towards the tray to get any extra blobs of ink out before I start drawing. In some cases (like today), I will actually drop the extra bits of paint onto my paper, for fun.

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Then it’s time to draw. I place the nib gently again the paper, concave side down, at an angle. Then I slowly pull the nib along, rather than pushing like a lefty with a ballpoint. (If you’re having trouble, check out one of the amazing tutorial videos on youtube- like this one.)

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Unlike a normal pen or marker, a nib like this will need to be refilled rather frequently (using the brush method above.) I try to keep an eye on how much ink/paint I have in my nib so that I don’t run out in the middle of a line. When you’re using the nib, you’ll notice that the tip is made up of two pointed pieces. When there is enough ink, it looks like one point on the end, but when they start separating, I probably need more ink.

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Periodically, I stop to rinse and scrub my pen. I dip it in my jar of water, and use a clean brush to scrub any dried bits of ink/paint off of it. Then I dry it gently with a rag or paper towel, reink, and go back to work.

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For this doodle, I had both white gouache and blue gouache in my paint tray, and I went between the two when I was reinking.

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Can you see why I like drawing with gouache? The possibilities!

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I was inspired to pull out my gouache today by the April DIY Challenge: Watercolor. We’d love to see what the theme inspires in you, so pull out your favorite medium and tools and share with us!

April DIY Challenge: Watercolor

April DIY Challenge: Watercolor #diycraftchallenge #watercolor #adventuresinmaking

April DIY Challenge: Watercolor

Watercolor is a favorite medium of ours and what better way to celebrate Spring than playing with colorful paint. Whether or not you consider yourself an ‘artist’, watercolor is a wonderful way to experiment and create no matter your skill level. So get our your favorite paints and make something inspired by the beauty of watercolor.

HOW TO ENTER

Click here for details on how to enter your project to the DIY Challenge! Don’t forget to share your projects with everyone on Instagram using #diycraftchallenge.

The challenge officially begins today, April 1, 2015 and ends on April 29th, 2015. We will post our favorite projects + announce the award winners on April 30th. Have fun and happy crafting!

Need more inspiration?

Take a look out our Pinterest board for more watercolor project ideas.