Vibrant Watercolors

made a comment about the luminous/vibrant color of my watercolors. I
thought I’d address that and consider a watercolor class in the future.

Watercolors are my go to tool for color in my art journal. I use them in a few specific manners to get bright vibrant shades.

let’s talk about the brands I use. I adore holbein, windsor and newton, cotman, and Dr PH Martins. I also enjoy using Sargent’s Watercolor
Magic liquid colors. As long as I’m working in my art journal I’m not
concerned with the colors being lightfast.

let’s talk about clean brushes. It’s important that you clear out any
color from your brush to get clean colors. Any spot of an opposite color
to the color you want will dull and muddy the color you are using. I
wash my brushes on a regular basis using plenty of soap. I like to use
generic shampoo as it generates a nice lather and works its way deep
into the bristles. I keep a couple of containers of rinse water on my
desk while I work, one generally is the dirty water container and does
the bulk of my rinse while a second is used to rinse the brush further.

I prepare my colors. If I’m using dried or block colors I moisten them
in advance of use. I use either a spray bottle or a squeeze bottle to
add drops of water to the cake of color and I let it sit to soften the
color. As I work I add more water to lighten the color. If i’m using
tubed color I squeeze out a small amount and add water to it to create a
liquid. With liquid color I add a few drops to a palette and add water
as needed. Often times with tubed colors I’ll add the watercolor to a
cup with a lid and add plenty of water. This gives me a large amount of
liquid color that I can work with. Touching a wet brush to a dry cake of
color will only give a weak shade.

all cases I make sure my brush is clean before I pick up any paint or
dip into a cup. A small amount of blue or purple in the yellow will turn
it green or brownish, and take away from it’s bright color. If I’m
attempting to mix a bright secondary color I try small amounts of the
colors to create it. So if I’m looking for purple I add small amounts of
blue and red together away from their cups and being sure to clean my

of the hardest things for me to learn with watercolor is to USE the
paint and to not skimp. So if I’m covering a large amount of paper with a
single color I need to use more paint than I think I need. Also
watercolors ALWAYS dry lighter than when applied. When the paper is wet
my colors need to be darker than I want the end result to be. If the
color is just right when wet it won’t be when dry, I try and work a
shade or two darker than what I would like the color when dry. the great
thing about watercolor is that I can alway add another layer if I want
to darken the color.

So here are my tips for vibrant watercolors in a nutshell:

  • Properly wet and prepare your colors before you need them.
  • Clean brushes.
  • Use more paint than you think you need, remember that watercolors dry lighter.