Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Choosing a travel kit that gets BRILLIANT COLORS.
  There are a hundred little watercolor kits on the market that are easy to pack, convenient, and simple to use for painting small paintings. Some include virtually everything you need except the papers. At first glance, perfect for air travel.

These kits have a few problems, though, the biggest being the difficulty of getting rich color from the paints provided in the pans. You’ve probably experienced this: scrubbing your paintbrush over a dry cake, trying to get the color on your brush, only to produce a thin, anemic wash. Higher quality pan paints are better, but still not as rich as the tubes. Here are some things you can do to get richer color.

PACK YOUR OWN KIT, WITH PAINT TUBES. You can build your own kit with a few tubes of paint that will give you a versatile range of color. The above is a minimal kit, with paint tubes, a palette with a thumb hole, a water spritzer, and a paint brush.  There are several advantages to packing tubes. Even with small paint tubes, you will end up with a lot more paint, a definite plus if you paint a lot. The paint will be easier to manipulate, and more like the paint you use in your studio. The paint on your palette will always be fresh. And the color will be the richest possible, giving you the most control over your paint.

CREATE YOUR OWN PANS. In the above picture, you see blue and yellow commercial pans, and red and green hand-filled pans.  If you already have a kit with dry pans, take the dry caked paint out of some. You can remove some of the used-up colors, or remove colors that you don’t like to use. Fill each pan with a different color of tube paint. Let the paint dry for a few days, until it shrinks down into the pan. Add another layer of paint on top. Repeat, until the pan stays pretty full. You want to do this a week or two before your trip, but not months before, so that the paint doesn’t dry out completely, because tube paints are not make to rewet very easily. Even though this paint is dry-ish, you will still get richer color from these semi-dry pans than from the totally dry cakes.  The pans below are a little too dry.

PREWET YOUR PAINT ON LOCATION. Whatever type of pans you are using you can get more color from them if the paint is softened before you begin to paint from the dry cake. Before you begin painting, spritz your pans with some water, so that the paint can begin to absorb water. Keep spritzing periodically, as you use up the softened paint on the top of the pan.

USE A BIGGER BRUSH.  Most of these kits come with a brush about size one.  Pack a nice round, # 10 or so, with a nice point (like the brush in the top photo.)  This will enable you to transfer more water into your kit, pick up a good load of paint, and still allow you to paint delicate and precise marks.

ANOTHER NOTE ON COLOR:  Unless you purchase a high-quality kit, some of the pan colors may not be permanent.  If you're just painting postcards and sketches, that might not matter to you.  If you plan to create lasting paintings that won't fade, you'd best look carefully at the pigment list, or replace the colors with more permanent tube colors.

Now go forth, and have fun with COLOR!

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