Information about materials and techniques that you may find useful

As a side note, you know when you choose a title for something {especially pun related}, and you have a little chuckle to yourself about how humorous you are....well, that is like this. As of the third reading, I realise that I am not as witty as I think I am. I am on the same level as the person who came up with 'The Cheese Board' as the company's logo. I'm very sorry. But not sorry enough to change it.



Q: What does 'hue' mean on a tube of paint? 

A: You will sometimes see this in a 'student' range of paints, particularly with Cadmium or Cobalt colours. Certain pigments are very expensive, so they are replaced with something that is close to the genuine colour in order to keep the cost down. However.....

When 'hue' is by a colour in the artist's range, it is often because the genuine pigment is not as stable or lightfast as the alternative, so replacing it is the better option.




 Q: I'm just starting to paint....what colours should I go for?

A: A warm and cool of the primary colours is very useful. For example, a cool yelloe like a LEMON YELLOW will mix an excellent green. A warm yellow like CADMIUM YELLOW will mix a good orange. Athe same applies to reds: CADMIUM RED makes a good orange, ALIZARIN CRIMSON a good purple. For blues, ULTRAMARINE has a purple bias, and PRUSSIAN BLUE  a green bias. COBALT BLUE is also good for greens if you don't want as strong a blue as Prussian. YELLOW OCHRE, BURNT SIENNA and BURNT UMBER complete the mix.


Needless to say, every artist will have different preferences, and will swear by certain colours; PAYNES GREY, COERULEUM, PERMANENT ROSE, RAW SIENNA and PERMANENT MAUVE are very popular, but you can start with a basic selection and still get excellent results.




 Q: Can I use acrylics with oils?

A:  Not to mix directly. You can however, use a thin layer of acrylics prior to painting with oils. 





Q:Why do some oil colours take longer to dry? 

A: It depends on the pigment. Some pigments need very little oil in order to get them to the correct consistency {Prussian Blue or Burnt Umber for example}. Others absorb a lot of oil in the manufacturing process, and consequently, will take far longer to dry {Cadmium Red, Alizarin Crimson}. Colours are referred to as being either 'oil rich' or 'oil lean'.




Q: When can I varnish my oil painting?

A: With 'proper' varnish, not for at least six months. Although oils may feel dry, they will still be going through the drying process. Spray varnish, or exhibition varnish {which is very light} can be used as an interrim solution.



Q: Can I put a thin glaze of oils over a thick layer of paint? 

A: The general rule of oils is 'fat over lean', which essentially translates to a thick layer is acceptable over a thin layer. If you do the reverse, the thin layer will dry much faster, and potentially crack the thicker layer underneath. The only way round this is if the thicker base layer has been dry for a long time {six months or longer}. Yes, artists do break this rule, but it is a bit of a gamble!



Q:How do I mix flesh colour? 

A: This could take up a whole book! {Very} basic recipes given below, with many variations to be had.


 White, raw sienna, alizarin crimson, yellow ochre. To cool, viridian green, cobalt blue.


 White, naples yellow, burnt sienna, raw sienna, alizarin crimson, burnt umber. To cool, ultramarine.


 White, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, burnt umber, cad red light. To cool, chrome oxide green and cobalt blue.


 White, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, cad orange, alizarin crimson, burnt umber, ivory black. To cool, ultramarine.


 White, burnt sienna, burnt umber, cad orange, yellow ochre, alizarin crimson, ivory black. To cool, ultramarine.




Q: What is the difference between student and artist quality paint? 

A: Simple answer.....quality and price! 'Student' paints try and keep within a certain price bracket, so consequently, the more expensive pigments like Cadmium and Cobalt are replaced with a reasonably priced alternative. Also, the concentration of pigment to binder is greater in artist's quality paint, so there is a more intense colour saturation. To use a food analogy, it's a bit like the difference between tomato ketchup and tomato puree....a little goes a long way!



Q: Should I use transparent or opaque colours?


A: They both have merit. If you are painting using thin glazes to create depth of colour, then transparent paints will give a cleaner mix. This is perhaps best illustrated in botanical watercolour work. If a thick layer of paint is required, opaque colours may work better. You can of course, combine the two quite's just a matter of a little experimentation!



Q: What is the difference between the surfaces of watercolour papers?

A: Watercolour paper comes in three finishes; Hot-Pressed, Not {a.k.a. Cold-Pressed} and Rough.

Hot Pressed

 This has a very smooth finish and is suitable for detailed or botanical work, particularly where crisp, clean lines are required.


 This  is the general workhorse of the watercolour world; it has a slight texture to it, and is suitable for most types of work.


 As the name suggests, this paper has a greater texture than the others, and is particularly suited to a looser style of work. For example, where a 'hit and miss' technique is used, where the brush only touches the raised parts of the paper.....think of sunny highlights on water, or foliage on trees. It also gives an interesting finish when granulating colours are used, as the denser part of the pigment sits in the 'troughs' of the paper.



Q: How do I stretch watercolour paper?

A: Immerse the paper under running water for about 30-40 seconds, taking great care not to the area you are going to paint on. If you do, they can show up as finger marks. When soaking the paper, it is vital not to contaminate it with residue detergents found in areas like bathroom and kitchen sinks. They attack the sizing, causing the paper to become absorbant, almost like blotting paper.

 ~ Place the  sheet on a sturdy, waterproof board {not MDF!}.

~ Moisten some gummed tape and place round all four edges.

~ Blot excess water with a clean paper towel and leave to dry overnight on a slight tilt. Don't be tempted to speed things up with a hairdryer!





Q: Why does my watercolour paper go 'wobbly' when I apply paint?

A: When applying water {paint} to paper, it moves and buckles {known as cockling}. This is because appling moisture to the sheet causes one side to expand slightly. The other side remains dry due to the sizing in the paper, and does not expand. To counteract this, the paper does the only thing it can, and bows and buckles.

Q: What can I do to avoid this?

A: The general rule of thumb: the wetter the wash you do, the more likely it is that you will need to either stretch the paper, or buy a heavier weight that will withstand the wash. A minimum weight of 300gsm {140lb} is recommended.


Q: During stretching, why does the tape pull away from the paper when it's drying ?

A: It's possible the tape has been oversoaked removing too much of the glue from it. Alternatively, there is a problem with the absorbancy of the paper through accidental contamination with detergents, causing the tape to have trouble sticking to the paper.


Q: The paper acts like blotting paper after soaking, why is this? 

A: The most likely explanation if contamination with detergents {see above}. Another reason could be that the paper has been soaked for too long and the sizing has been washed out. 


 Q: Why are there dark marks appearing in the wash as I stretch the paper?

A: This can usually be attributed to finger marks from handling the paper when wet. Touch only the edges while you are stretching it.



Q: Why are thin white lines/marks appearing when I apply a wash?

A: This is normally caused by a puddle of water being left to dry on the paper. As it dries, it leaves a tide mark which shows up when you paint over it.



Manufacture of Watercolour Paper

 There are three methods of manufacture of artist papers: 'hand-made', 'mould-made', and the standard 'fourdrinier' machine-made {used to make cartridge paper/newsprint etc}. High quality artist papers are made on a mould machine, which provides all the appeal of hand-made paper, but without the inevitable variations from sheet to sheet.


Materials in Watercolour Paper

 Watercolour papers are made from two basic types of material. The highest quality will be made from cotton, which offers excellent stability and archival properties. The second main raw material is cellulose pulp that is chemically created from wood. Some artist papers contain a mixture of the two, providing a compromise between quality and economy.


Q: What is the difference between the grades of pencils?

A: Graphite pencils come in a huge range, varying from 10H to 9B. In short, H stands for hardness, and B stands for blackness. Graphite is mixed with clay, and the ratio determines how soft or hard the pencil will be. More clay equals a firmer pencil, capable of giving a very crisp, clean line. More graphite ensure a dark smudgy pencil, suitable for blending and shading.