Thursday, October 20, 2016

5 Tips for Technique: Lifting Watercolor Pigment

Lifting watercolor pigment, 5 tips for this techniqueLifting Color From Select Areas

A trio of precious lambs, one of my works in progress, is the inspiration for tips shared today.  It makes perfect sense that watercolor painting is about laying down pigments on paper.  There's another technique that's also very crucial for bringing the piece to life.  

Lifting back color.  

This isn't possible with oils or acrylics once they've dried on the canvas.  Watercolor pigment, once dry on paper, can still be lifted to see more of the paper surface.  Lifting back to completely white is possible by scraping with a razor blade.  Some pigments are more staining than others.  The results will vary depending on which pigment is being lifted.  It's easy to do a search and learn more about your pigments; you should do this before choosing your pigments for a project.  If you think you might like to lift back color further into the project, plan for it.
The technique of lifting color has become key in my methods for creating depth in my artwork.  The highlights and the shadow are key components for developing form on a flat surface.  Would you like your subject to pop off the paper?  Are there areas you'd like to highlight?  Get ready, here we go!





Art photo reference of baby lambs for artwork, 1 of 3.




I've been able to visit area farms to see the baby lambs quite a few times.  They are beyond adorable!  I've taken photos before but this set of three photographs seemed ideal for creating a watercolor painting.  The original sketch and an ink drawing were completed this past summer.  Once the sketch is finished, once it's transferred to watercolor paper, I can get brushes going with some pigment.




Art photo reference of baby lambs for artwork, 2 of 3.




I am using several art reference photographs for this artwork.  I studied the photos to choose three lambs that would be just right for this composition.  Aren't they just the cutest lambs ever?  The bold red barn sets them off in a great way.  I've had a desire to focus on lambs for years; so glad I made time to begin this fall.  The adventure has begun!




Art photo reference of baby lambs for artwork, 3 of 3.




On this current painting, the bold red colors of the barn really set off the main subject, the lambs.  The shiplap boards appeared so flat and I wanted to give them more definition.  By looking at the photo on my tablet, I could see that the light is hitting the surface at the top of each board.  There's a shadow just under the board as it overlaps the board below it.  I would like to take some pale blue (cerulean) into those sunlit areas.  If I paint the pale blue over the red, the blue highlight will blend in and get lost...making that area darker, not lighter.  There's an optical illusion to be created here.  I need to lift back those areas before adding any color for highlight.




Watercolor painting of lambs before lifting watercolor from select areas.




How do I go about lifting watercolor pigment?


Here's what you need to prepare to lift back color from a painting:
Clean water in a rinse container
Several paper towels
Synthetic flat brushes 3/4 inch and 1/2 inch widths
Scrubber brushes (Cheap Joe's Fritch Scrubber #2 and #4, Cheap Joe's Level Lifter 1/2")
-You can use a flat brush with stiff bristles




Getting ready to lift back watercolor pigment:  the necessary supplies.




Heavier watercolor papers, like 300 lb. and higher, can take this technique much better.  Lighter weight papers, 90 lb. and 140 lb., are going to break apart more easily.  Many watercolor techniques are more successful on a heavier paper.  Keep this in mind before you begin.

I just recieved an art supply order this week.  In the order, a few Cheap Joe's scrubber brushes, which are specifically made for this purpose.  I can't believe how well they work!  I wish I'd tried them sooner.  They make this technique so much better.




Flat synthetic brushes and scrubber brushes.

Tips For Lifting Watercolor Pigment


1.  Wet the selected area with a synthetic flat brush and let it sit for 10-15 seconds.  
     Give the water time to soften the paper so the color will lift more easily.  This 
     lessens the damage to the paper.  (IF you have painted on this paper recently,
     allow it to dry completely before you begin these steps.)  

2.  Do not use your nice brushes.  Your sables and other natural hair brushes will be 
     damaged if you use them for this technique.  It's too hard on them and they will lose 
     their nice fine points.

3.  Using a stiff bristled brush (like the scrubber or level lifter), dip the brush in water.  
     With even pressure, firmly run this brush through the wet area.  Be patient, not too rough.

4.  Clean the scrubber brush in water often.  This prevents color being transferred 
     back on to the paper.  Go back over the area again.

5.  Lay a folded piece of clean paper towel down on that select area.  Press fingers down 
     into the paper towel and then lift.  There will be paint transferred to the paper towel.  
     Be cautious and aware that you use a clean section of paper towel each time.  
    Otherwise, you may accidentally transfer pigment back onto the paper.

Additional thoughts:
Before painting into the areas where you've lifted color, let the paper dry.  There are quite a few times when it's the best idea to wait until the paper dries.  If in doubt, let it dry.  If you should get paper fibers loosened, just lightly brush them away.  If your paper becomes rougher from this process, when it is dry, take the curved back of a spoon and rub on the paper surface.  This will smooth down the fibers on the surface again.  



Now here are the same tips as photo demonstration:




Laying down water in select areas with a flat synthetic brush.
Laying down water in select areas with a flat synthetic brush.





Removing pigment from synthetic brush before proceeding.
Removing pigment from synthetic brush before proceeding.





Using a scrubber brush, I carefully lift pigment from wet area.
Using a scrubber brush, I carefully lift pigment from wet area.





With a clean area of paper towel, I firmly press to lift back watercolor pigment.
With a clean area of paper towel, I firmly press to lift back watercolor pigment.





Showing the pigment transferred to the paper towel.
Showing the pigment transferred to the paper towel.





Studying the results after lifting watercolor pigment from select areas.
Studying the results after lifting watercolor pigment from select areas.





Select areas lifted, I can now go back in with a pale cerulean blue to accent the highlights.
Select areas lifted, I can now go back in with a pale cerulean blue to accent the highlights.



For specialty art supply items like the scrubber brushes, I order from Cheap Joe's Art Stuff.



Thanks for stopping by today!  I've enjoyed sharing these tips with you.  Let me know if you've got questions, or if I needed to elaborate on anything for you.  It's a great technique to understand and use for better watercolor paintings.  Have a look around before you go!  There are quite a few other helpful posts which might be useful as well.

With a love for creating daily, I'll be back again soon.

- Christy



2 comments:

  1. Wonderful art! I think in any medium, including photography 'white' is so hard to portray. Thank you for sharing your skills!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Nanqueen! You are so right! I'm finding that the whites are the biggest challenge.

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