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Thread: Ink-And-Watercolor Tips

  1. #1
    Community Leader Gidde's Avatar
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    Default Ink-And-Watercolor Tips

    So, I've pretty much decided I have a major bug for physical maps, since I started experimenting with them during my hiatus from the guild (when family is over and all crisis-ridden, they don't judge one for having a sketchbook in hand, but they do judge for being upstairs on the computer).

    To that effect I've been doing a lot of experimenting with different materials for ink-and-watercolor (since that particular style is my passion), and I thought I'd post my lessons learned. Thread will be ongoing as I discover more, but this stuff is expensive, so if I can help some folks save money by buying the right stuff to begin with, I'll be happy

    References:
    Handprint.com guide to watercolor pigments -- this is THE most awesome resource. It's a bit intimidating at first, but this is how you find out if the stuff below applies to a certain paint you're thinking about buying.

    Ink DOES run. The only ink i've found (and I've only tried "waterproof" inks) that actually stays put when you then make the paper wet and/or brush over it with watercolor is Speedball's black calligraphy ink. Other colors by Speedball run. Other brands of acrylic "waterproof" ink run. So if you're going to use anything but that ink (or one you've found and TESTED) paint first, then ink.
    Note: I use ink and dip pen. If you're using actual pens or markers or whatnot this doesn't apply -- but still, do NOT trust that it won't run just because it says permanent or waterproof. Most aren't.

    Pencil won't erase. Once you paint over pencil with watercolor, it's there for good. For some reason, the watercolor seals it or something. Erasing it does nothing -- but it will mess up your paint. So unless you're going to paint dark or ink it, erase to a "ghost" before you paint it.

    Granulating paints >>> non-granulating paints. It turns out that for artistic mappy stuff, the texture imbued by granulating paints makes a HUGE difference in the end product. Check at handprint (above) to see if a paint is granulating.

    Staining paints > lifting paints. Other watercolor map makers may disagree I suppose, but I've found that glazing (painting layer over layer) is the easiest way to paint after being used to using layers on a digital map. But if you don't use staining paints, they mix instead of layering, and it ends up looking muddy.

    Paper matters. When I started, I grabbed cold-press watercolor paper because that's what the art store carried. I've found that cold-press sucks for the way I paint maps. Not only does the MAJOR texture make it really difficult to use a dip pen, but it soaks the liquid and dries FAST. So I can never get a sea painted without lots of horrible drying-lines and just general screwups. I have some new paper coming in tomorrow and I'll post up how that works.

    Have scrap. And not a sketch book. Have scrap paper next to you that matches the exact paper you're using. (I use the back of failed projects, ripped into smaller sections). Because a dip pen will work perfectly on sketch paper and then blob like the dickens on your watercolor paper and then your project is ruined. Test the pen on the scrap, adjust as necessary, test again, THEN touch your real project.


    More to come after tomorrow when I get my new paints and paper and can do some more experimenting

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    Community Leader Gracious Donor Jaxilon's Avatar
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    Love it, great idea for a thread. I have to agree with the scrap paper point as well. I did a lot of experimenting on scrap before I touched my Stonehart map.

    I would also like to hear what brushes you like. I bought a cheap pack of brushes because I had none and the first time I attempted to use them the stupid hairs were coming out and getting stuck to my paper. Total waste imo. Let that be a lesson to ya...don't go for cheap brushes. I know why I like expensive pens over run of the mill ones and now I know why I must have excellent brushes. Interestingly I really like the brushes that have the water in the handle and you squeeze. I bought a Koi water colors 'pocket field sketch box' kit and it works great with my water color pencils. I just need a greater variety now.

    I don't know anything about paint pigments so I'm interested to hear what you find. I did however pick up a box of Gouche Paints that I am itching to try out. Of course, now that I have my new tablet I'm trying to get used to that so not sure what I'm going to do next.
    “When it’s over and you look in the mirror, did you do the best that you were capable of? If so, the score does not matter. But if you find that you did your best you were capable of, you will find it to your liking.” -John Wooden

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    Guild Adept Gracious Donor Lyandra's Avatar
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    So I can never get a sea painted without lots of horrible drying-lines and just general screwups. I have some new paper coming in tomorrow and I'll post up how that works.
    When I tried to paint a map using watercolors that was my problem too. On your Gaelynta map you seemed to have solved it though?

    I'm really glad you started this thread. I would love to make more watercolor maps, but till now after every attempt at it, I was depressed and hated the fact that I couldn't achieve the effect I was after. I hope your expertise will help me. Thanks for sharing what you've learned.

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    Community Leader Gidde's Avatar
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    Thanks for the encouragement! I really wasn't sure if there'd be any interest.

    On brushes: I too bought a cheap (well, i think it was more a medium) set, and then I've supplemented that with more from the expensuve racks. In particular I bought a good mop (large oval) brush and a good teensy brush for detail. Pretty sure i got red sable for each. I haven't yet had any trouble with hairs falling out.

    @ lyandra: More worked-around than solved. If you have granulating paint you can disguise the issue with sea-like swirlies, but if you look close at gaelynta there are still a bunch of spots that set my teeth on edge they're so bad.


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    Community Leader Gracious Donor Jaxilon's Avatar
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    I expect this explains why you see a lot of what I call smokey looking backgrounds. Where instead of blocking in the entire background they do just a little and have it curl away sort of like smoke.

    This was my first watercolor painting of any size and besides having the hairs issue mentioned above I had the same problem with blocking in the flower. It's not a complicated image but I learned a lot. For instance, that you can't erase the pencil lines after you watercolor over them. Man! That was just not cool. I could probably improve this image if I was to ink it but I probably won't since it was just an exercise. (I will admit that it looks better irl than the scan here but you can see what I'm talking about).

    The background was starting to actually eat away at the page even though I was using watercolor paper so there is a limit to how soupy you can go. I also did not have a good "mop" brush which is what I am keeping an eye out for now but I'm not going to buy any cheapo brush.
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    “When it’s over and you look in the mirror, did you do the best that you were capable of? If so, the score does not matter. But if you find that you did your best you were capable of, you will find it to your liking.” -John Wooden

    * Rivengard * My Finished Maps * My Challenge Maps * My deviantArt

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    Community Leader Gidde's Avatar
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    That looks awesome, Jax! And I bet you're right about the smoky backgrounds. Man I can't wait to break out my new paper tonight and get painting!


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    Community Leader Gidde's Avatar
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    Got my Aquarius II paper and new paints yesterday (finally! it took them like 9 days). The AqII is pretty much everything I hoped it would be. It's much smoother than cold press and so I can use even my finest dip pens on it (they just scratched the cold press all to hell). It's also a LOT thinner and absorbs liquid differently, so everything takes longer to dry and lifting works a lot better. Longer to dry may sound like a negative, but it allows very smooth washes for both land and sea.

    Unfortunately ink also takes longer to dry and I was impatient so I had a bit of ink runnage in my little experiment. Wet in wet tends to fan a LOT so you have to be careful. But color pulls (think Gimp/PS smudge tool) extrenely well.

    On buckling: supppsedly you can paint on AqII without stretching. I suppose you could say this but it does wave up a bit. I'm prpbably going to tape it down in the future, but not the massive tape job one needs for stretching; just something to keep the edges down since edge curlung is the most annoying part of the slight waving the paper does.

    The paints are awesome. I got Daniel Smith PrimaTek in Serpentine and Transparent Yellow Ochre and they are both extremely close to the website's swatches and look great on the paper.

    I'll probably scan last night's experiment tonight, but no judging lol ... it was total "let's see what happens if I do this..." so it looks like crap.


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    Community Leader Gracious Donor Jaxilon's Avatar
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    I can't wait.
    “When it’s over and you look in the mirror, did you do the best that you were capable of? If so, the score does not matter. But if you find that you did your best you were capable of, you will find it to your liking.” -John Wooden

    * Rivengard * My Finished Maps * My Challenge Maps * My deviantArt

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    Guild Adept Gracious Donor Lyandra's Avatar
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    Can't wait to see it too Gidde.

    Jaxilon: Your first try at watercolors? Wow, you've got some talent there.

    Thought I would share my first try at mapping with watercolors. I made this piece about a year ago. I didn't go for swirls to hide the ugly places on the sea, but wavy lines, I guess they look acceptable too. The colors look better in reality. Again no labels - sorry, I have to work on that. This piece is an experiment, I tried painting using different techniques and different sized brushes... I'm in no way satisfied by the result, but I am still fond of it. Till now I only tried watercolors alone, never combined with ink, I'm actually looking forward to trying it out. Oh, and I hope it's ok with you Gidde to post our watercolor experiments here? I would not want to usurp your thread.^^
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    Guild Adept loogie's Avatar
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    Watercolour is a great medium to work with (and pretty much the most difficult to master)... It requires a very different method of planning in most cases which is something many of us have trouble dealing with... Planning is key, being that you MUST plan out your entire paining from start to finish really before you put paint to paper. Watercolours are mainly transparent, and many of them stain, and therefore missplaced brush can mark your painting forevermore... don't think i have a painting that doesn't have a woops or two in em...

    Having done watercolours for awhile now, taken a couple of classes (here there are some examples of my paintings this far) I'll try to mention some things I've found as well..

    Unfortunately, I find that in most cases, it's important to have quality specimines for ALL your tools, be it paper, paint, or brush... Paper is the most important by far, a high rag content is important to have... Arches tends to be one of the best, but also has the highest price... I usually get a higher lb paper... 120lb is what i use.. still curls a bit with water, but for the most part it's ok when it's on a block (those pads that have glue around all sides instead of just one)... 300+ lb is recommended for single sheets, or you should see about stretching the paper on a board... Crappy paper tends to have the paint soak in to the paper badly, or not-adhere correctly.. overall it has really bad effects... on a 12x16 size pad, i would probably be prepared to spend at least $40... it's worth testing out those in the lower ranges tho, but they are usually hit or miss.. right now i have a few pads of a cheap brand called Fluid(from Curry's) that has seemed to work well.. they were on sale and i got a bunch of pads of different sizes, all of em under $15, which was nice... they aren't 4 sided glued blocks, but they are 2 sides, so its a bit better... i reiterate, paper is VERY important... we did testing in school, and found many of our classmates had to just go buy a better paper cause their bargain buys were just so bad.

    Next important i'd say is paint... while you can get by when buying cheaper paints, some of them are really bad... Mainy, if possible, you should find out how many pigments are in your paints... it's best if there is only one pigment, but some have up to 4-5 to get some of the colours... You'll really see this if you try to mix a colour with another, the more pigments in the colour, the more likely they are to separate.. we noticed it was common with blues, for instance mixing with red to get purple.. a lot of the cheaper blue paints would create a very odd mix of purple, uneven, even separating into small blue and red clumps... but it'll happen with other colours too.. Some brands that seem to be easier to find, aren't too bad in price, and seem to be quite good (their ENTIRE line is single pigment) is called DA VINCI... They are out of the states, and they have a TON of colours, all of which are single pigments... the prices will vary on each tube, but overall they aren't to bad... M. GRAHAM & Co is another option, again all the colours are single pigment, another reason i like them is they use honey in their mixes, it's used to help keep the paints from drying out.. i dunno it just makes me feel good using an old-school style paint... winsor and newton is probably the widest known and easiest to find.. and for pretty much any case they are good too.. they aren't all single pigment, and they can be more expensive, but they are good... (their paper sucks however)... usually i'd try to stay away from any brands "Student" variety, for W&N it's called Cotman.. basically it's cheaper, and therefore less quality...

    And finally, if you are strapped for cash (or just don't want to buy great stuff when your not sure you want to commit to watercolour) brushes are the first thing i would say you can get away with going cheaper... generally there are 3 types of brush... synthetic (non-animal brush fibers)... semi-synthetic (a mix of synthetic and non synthetic).. and natual (usually sable, kolinski sable is the best, tho some different brush types are made from goat hair, even squirrel).. brushes have the highest range in price, from the $15 roll of 50+ brushes, to the $6 brush, to the $30 brush, even single brushes for $150+! I'll let you know that there is a BIG difference.. using an expensive brush is definitely better... but it's not something you can't do without... The price is generally tied to a brushes ability to be soft, yet spring back to straight, and it's ability to hold water.. the kolinski sable is pretty amazing with the ammount of water it'll hold.. you'd find yourself redipping your cheaper brushes 5-6 times more in a single stroke of a kolinski, which in watercolour is important when time is of the essence... again it's not required, just REALLY handy I have a general range of the cheaper brushes, a number of synthetics, a few cheap kolinski brushes, and a size 12 synthetic round brush that was a bit more expensive, but turned out to be a really nice brush)... beginning, i would stay away from the bargain $15 packs of 20+ brushes, genrally they aren't that great... but i've found a large round (size 10-14) is a great brush, it can do fairly fine work, and still do large swaths... mine is an Escada i think? I found most of the Cotman (W&N) round brushes had trouble keeping shape, but i'm sure they'd do in a pinch...

    So, as far as spending moneys, go PAPER>PAINT>BRUSHES... and it's easy enough to go for cheaper brands at first, and work up to more expensive stuff if you like watercolour.



    As for painting you need to start with your lightest colours first.. there's no going lighter after you've put down dark... so, if it's white.. you have to skip that area... plan your paintings out from start to finish before you go.. don't worry to much about pencil.. keep your lines light, but don't worry bout erasing em.. even professional paintings have pencil lines you can see, it's not an uncommon occurance... DON'T STOP A PAINTING CAUSE YOU THINK IT LOOKS BAD!!!! every bit of painting is experience, which will help you later.. and a general rule of thumb is that a painting doesn't start coming together and actually looking correct until the last 10-20% of the work... also... take a break, look at a painting from a distance, take a picture of your painting.. these are all ways that tend to show you a different perspective, and generally help you to see how your painting looks.. i don't know how many times i've gone back to a painting and thought "geez, that looks quite good!"

    As for inking, i've never used pens... they aren't really meant to be used for inking rewetting.. it could be worth a try to do the watercolour, and to ink on top of it... If your doing inking before hand, i'd recommend using indian ink with a calligraphy pen... it won't run unless the paint is actually wet when you start, and with the right tip you can get a much finer line than pretty much any pen.. dipping it is kinda annoying, but you get used to it... also be careful with indian ink.. it will NOT come out of clothes, or pretty much anything else.. and spills just keep coming up with more and more ink as you scrub... it's ok to get it on your brushes, but remember to wash it off.. the worst it will do is probably just dye your bruses.. that being said it's still not recommended using it with your good brushes, just in case...

    your pictures are looking great! the only suggestion i could give is maybe to try using more water in your brush, a lot of your strokes seem very dark which is something you rarely want with a watercolour... if your looking for the deep colours and such, it'd be worth looking into other types of painting, watered down acrylics or water-soluable oils can get a watercolour look with it being much easier to get those deep colours... watercolour isn't suited to that in most senses, and tends to be much more toned down... experimentation is the best bet.. try putting water down on the paper before you even add paint (it works quite well, it'll suck up paint, but keep it within the bounds of the water, a good way of doing flowers and such (looks cool too, watching the water tension pull paint around the page)... making gradients by starting with paint, then instead of refilling the brush with more paint, you refill it with water, further diluting the paint in your brush.. keeping it going more and more transparent... pretty much every technique in watercolour takes practice, and if you really like the art, taking classes are invaluable experience.. all in all keep it up! and good luck!
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