Get The Most From Your Watercolor Paper

Feb 13, 2022

Lessons Learned – Get the most from your Watercolor Paper

In 1995 I had the opportunity to meet workshop instructor Tony Couch. I attended a week-long workshop in Alexandria Bay NY on the St. Lawrence River. If you have read about me in my bio, you already know the river is my happy place. Meeting Tony was amazing. I had watched a video loaned to me beforehand. Now I was going to see him in work wonders. I was all eyes and ears during his demonstrations. This workshop was the best thing to happen to influence my art knowledge. In the video he wet the paper fully on both sides before applying the paint. Now I would see this happen in front of me. But, more than that he talked about planning his work. Sketching and using a value pattern. All this would be the afternoon lecture on this, the first day. He was using a 34 x 20 sheet cut from a roll. He didn’t buy sheets of 30 x 22 as most artists.

What does this method accomplish for the painter?

Watercolor paper is a sponge. ( Arches 140 cold pressed for this writing) Its one of the three we use as Tony says. The other two are the brush and the cellulose sponge which is used to control the amount of water in the brush. The cellulose sponge must be damp to work. The key is to take control of the paper’s absorbency. Pre-wetting dry paper before painting will dry rather quickly once the water gets into the fibers.  If the paper is filled with water, this extends the drying time from a soaking wet through dry keeping the paper “workable”. Of course, certain stages of the painting are accomplished at different times as in most works. With the moisture “in” the paper, beginning washes blend easily and shapes of saturated colors mix like butter. Large expansive washes can be achieved without the paper fully drying during the process. The paper can remain damp for hours providing flexibilities that are lost on dry paper that is pre-moistened. The paint from the palette should be soft like toothpaste and have plenty in the wells. “Squeeze out paint like you are rich” its said. This preparation, combined with damp tube paint, a damp brush and confidence, you too will get the most from your watercolor paper.

Fine Art Print of an antique wood boat

Smugglers Gap, 13 x 19 on Arches 140lb paper

In the above image I have used the paper prep with fresh colors and manipulating the moisture in the brush, thus the paint. As the work progressed, I paid attention to the mark the brush made. The mark would show me how wet or dry the paper was at any time. When the sheet is dry, or “dry enough” I would add fine lines and other markings.  I think you will agree that this work is not your typical watercolor. To see this performed watch my you tube video on my channel. The link on this web site will take you there. My channel is under paulallentaylor.

Learn more about Tony Couch: