Aquarelle Technique

The aquarelle is a drawing technique which gives you exceptional opportunities when it comes to drawing objects with a lot of light, with a special style of drawing the colors and going from the lighter colors to the darker ones.  There are two main techniques – a wet one and a dry one. You can choose one of them or you can choose to work with both of them at the same time to achieve special effects. Here you will find additional information about the aquarelle technique and the aquarelle paints and drawing tools.


Aquarelle paints

There are two main names we know them by – aquarelle paints and watercolor paints. But since sometimes watercolor paints may be used to refer to other kinds of water soluble paints the right way to call them is aquarelle paints. There is as well one more difference that is really subjective – in some countries watercolor paints is used to refer to watercolors for children or the school level and properties paints. As for aquarelle is used for the more refined and higher quality paints for professionals. Saying all that we have to underline that many of the school paints have really good properties. 

Watercolor paints or aquarelle paints you will find many on the market and they are manufactured by many different firms and come from many places. One of the ways to know which paints are good is to ask the salesmen, but that sometimes can be engaging and you might like to do your research on your own. So you can read some more about the paints in the description of the products. The difference is huge between some aquarelle paints and really not that big between others. But still you will have to choose for yourself what are the paints for you and what watercolor paints suit you the most. 

The professional series and the semi professional series have much more intensive colors and give you a great drawing experience. You can draw with them barely touching the paint with the tip of your brush and that is really amazing and works just wonderfully for the drawings. As well many of the paints have a white low opacity tint that makes the colors a bit foggy. The professionals and semi professional series have clear and transparent colors that give you really amazing opportunities in the drawing process.

The main ingredients of aquarelle paints are pigments, gumum arabicum and honey.  There are of course other ingredients but these are the basic ones.

The aquarelle colors come in different packages like blocks, tubes, pencils and even pastels. So you can get them both in hardened and in liquid form. Every artist prefers different way of working with them. They are all watercolours but you can use them in different ways.

Aquarelle blocks

The aquarelle blocks are small cubes of dry aquarelle paint. It is important to know that quality aquarelle blocks are not pressure dried and pressed but are left to dry on their own. The paint is ready to draw with a single touch of the tip of the wet brush. When the paint is dissolved with water the pigments keep their high quality performance, bright colors and provide a great drawing experience. As for the paints that are pressed like the ones that usually children draw with  - these paints need some time to dissolve and let you use the paint. Please have in mind that there are some paints that are pressed but have a good behavior and properties.

Usually when you work with aquarelle paint you use as well a palette for mixing and dissolving the colors with water and with each other. You usually pick up some paint with one brush and place it on the palette. With a clean brush you take the paint, mix it the way you prefer and then you place it on the paper to start drawing with it. We usually do this to have a better control over what is the precise color we will work with. The pickup brush has always stains and hints from other colors we have used. And by the way we can use that as well in many cases. But if we want to have a clean color we can use two brushes and a palette. You will find many brands some of which - Sonet, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Mondeluz and Shminke.

Aquarelle tubes

These aquarelle tubes are filled with liquid aquarelle paints. Some artists prefer working with liquid paints because you can use the paint in a condition that is the same as the one it was when it was created without having been dried or something else. These paints are usually very good and pleasant to work with. You use them almost always together with a palette for you need a nice clean surface to place them so you can start dissolving and working with the brush on them. They are a little bit more inconvenient to transport since the aquarelle blocks often go with a nice plastic box and the tubes are separate from each other.

Aquarelle pastels

The aquarelle pastels are used mainly to draw on the surface of the paper as a dry drawing and then after the drawing is ready you start diluting and washing it away with water. This is just a basic explanation since you can use these great pastels to create mixed techniques with other water color paints and achieve remarkable results. We can mention here the new Gelatos and Mixed media collection of Marabu which is a great new thing in the watercolor drawing techniques. These lipstick pastels are water soluble, but you work with them as if they are some kind of oil pastels. You can pull color from them with your fingers and you can treat them as tempera paints as well. So they are something really mixed media and you might find them very interesting to work with. Great for big sketches as well.

You can use these by drawing with a brush as if they are some kind of dry blocks of aquarelle paint. You can pick up the paint with a wet brush directly from the pastel top and use them as you please. You can as well cut little pieces of the pastel in the palette and wash them with the wet brush until you get the water colour you need.

Aquarelle pencils

The aquarelle pencils give you the opportunity to work in different ways just like the pastels. You can prepare the whole drawing and then wash it with the brush to achieve the watercolour effect or you can use them and the brush in a simultaneous way.  Here we can mention the monolith blocks of Cretacolor and Koh-i-noor that are actually a whole watercolour stick graphite. You can sharpen it but the main thing is that it is a pencil with no wooden part in it. And this way it is a big aquarelle graphite stick. And these come in a great variety of colours. You can use them to outline, or to add shades of colour, or to use them for the sketching at the beginning of the drawing and have them disappear when you start working with the watercoours. So you are getting a watercolour paint in the shape of a pencil and that will give you a whole new experience of the watercolour technique. There are professional series of watercolour pencils like Albrecht Durer of Faber-Castell.

When we speak of aquarelle blocks, tubes, pastels, pencils they all have similarities and things that make them very different in the working process. So this great variety is created to provide for you an even greater set of drawing materials to choose from to help you  make the drawing process even more interesting and successful and pleasant. Some of these tools have similar qualities or properties and we prefer the ones we like better, the ones we work better and this is what makes it all so interesting and innovative and intriguing.


Other materials

Gummum arabicum

The Gummum arabicum is used in aquarelle to keep some areas of the drawing temporarily blank from paint.

Gummum arabicum in aquarelle

If you want to keep a zone in the painting white and clean while you are creating the background this is a great way to achieve it. You place a layer of the gum Arabica and you let it dry very well. After it is dry you can start drawing freely and the paint cannot go on the places where the Arabica is. When the background is ready you can let everything dry very well and carefully remove the layer of the gum. So this is a great way to draw white flowers, light objects and many others by not having to care about edges for they are covered carefully in advance and no paint can go there. It is important to remember that if you are going to use this Gummum arabicum you must use as well a special rubber brush for this liquid destroys hair brushes for seconds. And some brushes are too precious to make experiments with.

Serviettes or a fabric towel

When you are drawing an aquarelle painting it is important to have in hand some paper serviettes or a cotton fabric towel for you will need from time to time to dry your brush and to clean it from excessive paint drops or dirty water. This will be very helpful especially if you have the habit to use your cotton T-shirt to do this. Sometimes it is more important to get the brush dry than to keep the t-shirt clean so keep a napkin in hand.

The water

One of the most important things in watercolour drawing is the water itself. Yes you can always take muddy water from a dirty pond and draw, but it will blur and dustify the brightness of colours. This is why if you want to get the best out of the paints to have clean water in a clean jar, and not one but at least two. And if you can you can change this water more often to keep the colours from getting muddy and grayish. Sometimes artists use the dirty water as an effect, they can use the dirty brush as an effect but this is only in some moments and cases. The rest of the time the water and brush stay quite clean and under control. Usually when you have two jars with water you will use one of them to wash the brushes and the other to take clean water from. A great example is the use of the yellow colour that will never be as yellow if you take the brush out from a bluish jar of water.


When you draw an aquarelle painting it is really important to have a white palette in hand so you can mix the colours and see approximately the way they will be on the paper. We have seen darker palettes and wooden pallets and color palettes but all these are good for other kinds of paints and not aquarelle. The palette must be easy to clean from the paint and must have at least 5-6 compartments so you will have a few places to keep the main colours you are working with and a few places to mix them. Some aquarelle paint kits have a plastic box and this one is usually made so that you can actually use it as a palette. This is very helpful and gives you both the aquarelle paints and the palette in one instead of buying them separately. The paints are easy to take out and take in so you can wash the palette with water and make it clean again.


The pencils are very useful when you work on an aquarelle drawing since everything you do on this one is final and the options to clean or to change are really not that big. So this is why when you draw a watercolour you will need to create the pencil sketch before you start working with the water paints. Usually people work with graphite of different hardness of the lead stick but when you place the watercolours and they are dry you need to clean the traces of the pencil with a rubber. As for now you can use an aquarelle pencil and in the process of working and drawing this pencil will actually wash away in the drawing and so leave no trace of ever have been there. And this is really useful. You can use graphite pencil aquarelle stick or you can use any aquarelle pencil in any colour you like.



Brushes for aquarelle

When you choose brushes for aquarelle it is very useful to know that artists have many brushes but usually use some of them, just a bunch, for certain things and others for other things. So what is the brush? This is the edge of you thouching the paper and so the tip of the brush is representing you as an artist as a being and state of control. The better you choose your brush the better you will perform while you are drawing. If the brush is too soft for your hand you will pressure it too much, should the brush be too tight for your personality you will let it control you. So when you choose the brush you actually choose the way you will touch the paper. It is really very important and in time you will realize that to have quality paints is not really enough. You must have a quality touch point with the paper to achieve the best these paints and paper can give you. But until then you need to start from somewhere.  And a few good brushes will do the job and will help you start looking for your brushes. Do not expect to find the best brush for you on the fist time. Just accept that you need to try out different ones to find your match.

Wide flat synthetic brush

You use this one very often to just wet the paper when you create backgrounds, skies and any base for wet technique. This brush is flat and cut perpendicular in front so it will cover a wider space of the paper. The hair is synthetic because it must be gentle and not spoil the aquarelle paper surface and keep it from getting any scratches or lines. Synthetic brushes are moderately soft and even as a pressure. So how wide is a personal choice but you must be thinking around or above 4 cm. Some artists use the widest brush possible, but some artists use two sizes simultaneously so they can choose which one is better for the drawing at hand. You can have one that holds less water and one that holds a lot of water. Some artists have one flat and one round for the bsis because the round brush leaves a diferent staining trace and sometimes this is very valuable.

Big round brush

This brush is used to dissolve the paints with the water. It is usually a softer brush but not randomly soft. There are brushes that give you this effect but if they are too soft, although they can hold a lot of water the control rate is too low. And also if the brush is too soft it will pick up too much paint as well. So you are looking for a brush not too hard and not too soft. It might be a synthetic but it might be as well a real hair. This will be your choice. You will use it to pick up paint from the block and bring it to the palette, you will use it to mix colours, and to wash away paint. You can use it as a second base brush we mentioned above but being a round one it will give you other options. If this was a lecture on drawing brushes we would be talking a lot about this one and the flat basis brush for they are the ones you will use the least carefully but they will make out the most of the background and they will have a great influence on the way the drawing will start off. So they are really very important.

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