Watercolor painting is the process of using paints made of water
soluble pigments. As a result of selective color absorption, pigments
change the color of the light they reflect. Although paper is the
material of choice for watercolor painting, it is also done on
papyrus, bark, leather, canvas, fabric and wood.
Different countries have developed different techniques for this art
medium. In East India, inks are used and the painting is called scroll
painting or brush painting. In China and Japan, the main colors used
are black and brown, but even when other colors are used the painting
Although it has been used for centuries for manuscript writing,
botanical and wildlife paintings are the oldest forms of watercolor
paintings. It was during the Renaissance that this medium became the
accepted form for botanical illustrations and it reached its peak in
the naturalist guides of the 19th century. For women, training in the
art of watercolor painting was one of the forms of education in the
18th century. Many professions also realized its value, such as
surveyors, mapmakers, military personnel and engineers because of the
ability of depicting terrain and fortifications.
The paint used in watercolor painting consists of four main properties:
- Colorant - the pigment
- Binder – the substance used to suspend the pigment and allow it to
affix to the surface of the material
- Additives – substances that help make the pigment more durable and
help alter the color of the pigment
- Solvent – the substance that dilutes the paint and then evaporates
when it dries.
Natural gum arabic is the preferred binder for these paints with
glycerin and honey added to improve the plasticity and dissolvability
of the binder. Other additives help to improve the shelf life of the
paint. Bodycolor is a watercolor used for painting people. It contains
a heavy pigment concentration to make it as opaque as possible.
Another technique is gouache, which is opaque because of the addition
of a colorless material, such as chalk.
Some of the methods used in watercolor painting include staining and
granulation. The paint used for staining is difficult to remove from
the material once it has dried, but when it is wet, the artist can
lighten the colors buy removing some or all of the stain. Granulation
is the appearance of separate pigment articles that are visible in the
painting. Other techniques include washes and glazes, In washes,
diluted paint is applied to a specific area of the painting to produce
one unified color. Glazes refer to the application of one color paint
over another so that the first color does come through. Wet in wet
refers to painting an area where the paint is still wet to produce a
There are two grades of paints – artist and student. Student grade
paints have less pigment and are cheaper than the artist variety.
There is also a variety of brushes used for various effects.