Working With Watercolor Saturation

To create a unique image, experimentation will often reveal new options to you as a Crimson Testwatercolor painter.

Unique among the paint categories is watercolor. Its beautiful texture and capabilities cannot be matched by oil or acrylic. Ironically oil paints can now be purchased as water soluble and acrylics have always been that way, except that they don’t quite have the elegance of watercolor or the durability of oil paints.

Gouache and India inks are at the opposite extremes. India ink’s sister media is liquid watercolor. I don’t know enough about the liquid form of watercolor to say how different they really are. Gouache nearly has the stability of acrylics, but is easier to create transparent layers than acrylic (you want the viewer to think it is oil).

Systematic instruction is not usually my style, but I want to present a case for the capabilities of watercolor when it comes to saturation.

You will notice that I am using the paste form of watercolor, notably by its thick application in places.

This form makes the most versatile use of the media. Watercolor pencils, liquid watercolor, and block watercolors have their own unique capabilities. I will discuss them in other posts in the future.

In the case of this demonstration saturation refers more to the proportion of water that is in the pigment. I did a single color (monochromatic) study because it allowed me to see how the water dried in response to the saturation.

Test Pigment Capabilities

Left Stripe: Water Saturation

Right Stripe: Body Color (Unsaturated Pigment)

Use a pigment stripe to test how it looks when it hits different saturations of water.

I tried two tests because I was not convinced that the first one was thick enough.

A. Thick water (large bead): Pigment almost explodes when it hits the water.

Suggested use: Clouds, bodies of water (use sparingly)

B. Half dry water: The Pigment absorbed but did not explode.

Suggested use: Shadows, atmosphere

C. Light wash: Barely noticeable and dries quickly.

Suggested use: Reflections, faces

A test of any kind will demonstrate a new capabilities. With these new options choose which technique to use to get a desired affect.


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