July 22, 2011

My All-Time Favorite Top Secret Watercolor Technique

Impress your friends and family and give your watercolors the WOW factor with my All-Time Favorite Watercolor Technique. To create intricately mottled textures in your backgrounds, foliage, and landscapes as pictured below, you need go no further than your kitchen for the top secret ingredient.

It's SALT!
Here's how I created the foliage texture in my latest painting. Give it a try... it's fun!

First I dampen my watercolor paper (Arches 140 lb. Cold Press). Then I start plopping down washes of watery, but color-dense watercolor paint. You will need lots of rich color--remember, watercolor paint fades a bit as it dries...I start out with yellow and a bit of rose.


Next I plop in some thalo blue and let it mix and run and bleed into the yellow to make varying shades of green. Letting colors mix right on the paper will make the greens much more interesting than if you mix one flat color on your palette. It's important to work fairly fast so that the area you are working on stays damp.

Once I have lots and lots of deep colors on the paper and I've let them all run together in interesting ways, I take common table salt and sprinkle it here and there. You can experiment with sea salt and other types of salt--larger grains will produce different effects. Also experiment with the amount-- sometimes less is more.


Now it's time to sit back and relax. Don't touch anything; just let the salt work its wonders. Here's a close-up.



Here it is after 5 minutes. You can see the salt chemically reacting with the paint and creating white "stars" and concentrated speckles of paint:


Here it is after 10 minutes. Fun, eh?


Now wait until it is completely dry and brush off any remaining salt crystals before resuming painting. (You do not want to get salt on your paint brushes or transfer the salt back to your palette-- it will make all of your paint come out blotchy!)

I used this technique to create the background in my latest watercolor illustration. The painting is almost complete and I'll share it when it's done. In the mean time, here is a peek at one corner that I've finished...


Now go forth and have some watercolor fun!

8 comments:

ElfRenee said...

Awesome, I love it!

Fage said...

Wow, I never would have guessed salt!

CrafterGin said...

It's gorgeous. I've used salt with fabric painting, but this looks so much nicer and softer.

Tess said...

Fabulous technique, I love how your background turned out. And that owl is calling to me. Hoo Hoo!

Susan Faye said...

Yes, I love the effects I've seen on silk scarves! Salt works with lots of different watermedia, and the results are different and varied...it takes a bit of experimenting...

WillieburgScrapper said...

This is FANTASTIC! Thank you so much foir sharing. I saw this as a pin on Pinterest and now I know what to try for my next project!

Janiene Bishop said...

Thank you for this awesome tutorial! I did this with my kiddos today and I will definitely be doing it again with them. I posted a blog about our art and I linked your post in my post. Blessings to you!!
Janiene

http://bishopsfamilysite.blogspot.com/2012/08/watercolors-salt.html

Janiene Bishop said...

Thank you for this awesome tutorial! I did this with my kiddos today and I will definitely be doing it again with them. I posted a blog about our art and I linked your post in my post. Blessings to you!!
Janiene

http://bishopsfamilysite.blogspot.com/2012/08/watercolors-salt.html