Painting with Carol

Techniques, tips and tricks for watercolours and acrylics

Archive for the 'Watercolours' Category

Ruling Pen

March 06th, 2008 | Category: Painting techniques, Watercolours

When I was a young thing, before such things as computers, I worked on a drawing board as a draughtswoman. The only pen we used for drawing plans was called a “ruling pen”; it used ink and we filled the pens from a bottle with a dropper attached to the lid. So it was only natural for me to use a ruling pen as one of my tools for painting.

ovalrulingpen2.jpgA ruling pen has a small wheel on the side that you can either tighten for fine lines or loosen for much thicker lines. I mostly use it with masking fluid to give me fine lines that you simply can’t get with a brush. For instance, I use it for the veins in leaves or if I were to paint the long flowing hair of a fairy or even a child and I needed to bring some light on a few strands of hair.

To use the masking fluid, I just pour some of the masking fluid into a film container as I find it easier to handle. Then I dip the tip of the pen in, making sure that I don’t go as far as the mechanism - otherwise the rubber latex can wrap around it and I have found it almost impossible to remove. Paint can also be used in the pen as long as it’s the consistency of ink. When it comes to cleaning, try not to immerse the pen in water as it will rust.

I know that you can still buy ruling pens as separate items from The Art Scene as that is where I buy most of my supplies. Check at home before you buy one, as you may find that you already have one in an old drawing set from an old technical drawing class at school (there was nearly always a ruling pen amongst them).

If there is anything else you would like to know about them don’t hesitate to ask me questions in the comments.


Paints and colour

February 27th, 2008 | Category: Painting techniques, Watercolours, colour

This is a big subject to tackle. I could write pages and pages about it. But if you are anything like me, you can only take in a little information at a time. If I am faced with pages of information I don’t read it properly. I wonder if this means I only use the artistic side of my brain?

Anyway I have decided that I will write a little at a time as required for the projects we do together. There is a basic vocabulary used when talking about colour and when I first started to paint, I found it difficult to know one from the other. Every colour has three characteristics:

  • Hue
  • Value
  • Intensity

If you attend a class or a workshop you will hear your teacher speak of “hue” - this simply means it is the name of the colour. It allows us to distinguish one colour from another.

“Value” is the most important of the three. It simply means the lightness or darkness of a colour - however, if the value of the colour is wrong then the colour is wrong.

“Intensity” just means the brightness of the colour as it comes freshly from the tube; mix any other colour with it and you change it’s intensity. Brilliant Red has a high intensity value, for example, but if you were to add a touch of green to the red it would make it less intense. You can lighten the hue of watercolours by just adding water. I have tried to simplify it as much as I can but if at any stage you are unable to understand what I write, please don’t hesitate in asking me. If you’re wondering about something, it’s a safe bet others are too - and it will also be a help to me.

Colour may seem to be a difficult subject but I have found the more you paint and mix your own colours the more fun it can be. You will find the best thing about painting is playing and learning about it. I have reached the stage now after so many years of painting where I can look across a field and I feel confident enough to know I can mix any colour to suit the colours in the grasses, trees, or anything else needed for a painting. Of course, that only comes with experience and practice. I will go more in to colour as it is required.


Gum blossoms pattern packet

February 26th, 2008 | Category: Carol's paintings, Pattern packets, Watercolours


I’m working on uploading a pattern packet of this design so that you can try it out for yourself. Stay tuned.

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All The Extras

February 26th, 2008 | Category: Art supplies and equipment, Watercolours

If you take up a hobby of any description you will need extra “stuff”. I just love that word “stuff” - I have so much of it much to the disgust of my family. Here’s a quick list of some of the stuff you’ll need for watercolours:

  • Razor blades for scratching highlights which of course we will go in to when we paint together.
  • A fine mist water spray. Chroma has the best one I have found so far. You’ll need it to quickly wet the paper down.
  • Don’t through away your old toothbrush as you can use that for splattering.
  • A synthetic sponge and a natural sea sponge. I often use sponges for different effects.
  • Paper towels and tissues are very much apart of a watercolour artists list of things to have, I couldn’t live without tissues for different effects and blotting up mistakes.
  • A ruling pen. I use this all the time and often I am asked what it is. It can be bought at The Art Scene. My camera has died but I will take a photo of the “Ruling Pen” for all to see when I get it back; I think you will find it self explanatory.
  • An eye dropper for measuring out water when I mix my paints.
  • A soft and hard pencil for quick sketching.
  • Along with a pencil of course goes a pencil sharpener.

I am sure there is so much more. I will enter them in as I think of them.

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Using masking fluid

February 21st, 2008 | Category: Painting techniques, Watercolours

I like to think that everyone can be successful when they start to paint with watercolours, so I introduce art masking fluid with the first painting. There is a school of thought that one should never use masking fluid - that you should be able to introduce light in to a painting with out it.

But you know what? If you are successful with your first painting you are likely to want to continue.

Art masking fluid is a rubber latex solution. It is used to mask out an area you do not wish to paint. For instance, if you would like to paint a rose you would either trace or sketch the rose, then you would carefully block it in with the masking fluid, making sure the paper is covered well. If you can see the paper through the masking fluid, then you will need to add another coat.

Allow it to dry before you apply the required washes over the paper for the background. Masking fluid can be used before any painting has been done - this will ensure that any highlights can be kept white. Masking Fluid is available in a clear or slightly yellow tint and I have even seen it in a blue colour. It can also be introduced at any stage of the painting - providing the surface is thoroughly dry before it is applied.

I like to use the brand Art Spectrum which has a yellow tint to it this makes it easier to see when applying it. Of course, you can buy other good brands of masking fluid at your favourite supplier.


  • Don’t use your good brushes when applying the masking fluid, but use a brush with a good point.
  • Continually condition your brush with liquid detergent before you dip it in the fluid as it is inclined to clog the brush.
  • Leave a small amount of liquid detergent in the brush before applying
  • Wash your brush frequently.

I like to paint over the sketch lines as I find the masking fluid will remove them. It is important that the masking fluid is dry before you remove it - even when it’s dry it will have a wet sticky look so touch it with the tip of your finger to check. Gently rub away the masking fluid with a clean fingertip or an eraser.

Masking fluid can also be used for textured effects and splattering - the list goes on and on there is just so much for you to learn, it is so exciting. I think I will leave that for when we are actually painting a project together.

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Water Containers

February 14th, 2008 | Category: Art supplies and equipment, Watercolours

When painting with watercolours it is so important to use clean water at all times. I think the reason is obvious, as any colour at all in the water will stain the paper or even change the intended colour.

I mostly use a double sided container that I bought in the days when I was painting Folk Art. I use one side for washing out my brush and the other side for painting. But you don’t even need a special container. Two containers will do - one for washing your brushes, the other to dip clean brushes into as you paint.

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Choosing the right watercolour paper

February 13th, 2008 | Category: Watercolours

Watercolour papers are offered in a perplexing variety of sizes, weights, textures and prices. There are a number of good quality brands available. I mostly use Arches, however Whatman, Fabriano, Saunders Waterford and so on are all very good papers. I think you should experiment yourself, as it depends on what you are going to paint. You will find that professional-quality watercolour paper is expensive, but I think it is certainly worth it. Watercolour paper comes in a variety of surfaces so you should choose the right surface.

There are three textures available:

  • rough
  • hot-pressed
  • cold-pressed.

Rough paper has the most ‘tooth’ - ridges on the paper - and if I am painting landscapes, this is the paper I use. For instance, if I am painting water I will use the side of my brush. The paint then adheres to the elevations and will leave sparkles on the surface of the water. However, like everything it takes practice to achieve this effect.

I use hot-pressed paper if I am painting fine detailed work as it has a smooth surface.

Cold-pressed is ideal for beginners as it has enough tooth for repeated washes but it’s texture will still allow you to create sparkle in your painting. I mostly use cold-pressed paper.

Then there’s the weight of the paper. I mostly use 300 gsm; professional watercolour paper can come in different weights, as little as 70 or 90 gsm. I have found, though, that the lighter the paper the more you are likely to have trouble with it warping if you are new to painting. The weight is determined by a ream which is usually 500 sheets. A standard size sheet of paper is 22 x 30 inches.

I could write pages about paper! I haven’t even got into stretching the paper or anything like that. Sometimes the best way to learn is to try it out and if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment here.

Happy brush strokes!

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How to get started: start with a simple subject.

January 17th, 2008 | Category: Watercolours

If you have not painted with watercolours before it can be a bit daunting - so much has been written about “what not to do”. My aim is to make watercolours simple, (to take the mystery out of it all). I think that if your first painting is a success, you will certainly want to continue painting.

Choose a simple subject, a single flower such as a daisy from your garden is perfect. If you are unable to sketch, take a photo and have it enlarged, then trace it. I will discuss the various types of watercolour paper to use and how to transfer the subject to the paper in an upcoming post.

Have fun, that is what painting is all about!

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I’m back

November 08th, 2007 | Category: On the road, Watercolours, Workshops

I have just returned from a very successful painting tour of Victoria. I taught in Bendigo, Brewster, Geelong, Melbourne and Rosewood. It was the perfect time to go as all the spring and summer flowers are in full bloom - whatever did we do before digital cameras? I have posted some pictures on Flickr but I have also pasted them in here so you can find them easily.

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The Hay Shed

October 28th, 2007 | Category: Carol's paintings, Watercolours

This is just a quick post to show you the Hay Shed.

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