Hello crafty friends! I am excited to be finally posting this tutorial on how I set up my desk, the paints I use and all the other coloring supplies I use to create my cards. This is going to be a longer post then normal for me, So please grab some coffee or a cup of tea and join me as I share my watercolor process. 🙂 (Affiliated Links applied)
This is honestly the question I get asked the most so I thought we would begin with this one! I first began watercoloring two years ago in Australia. I took a few watercolor online classes that helped me begin and which I highly recommend. If you can’t afford to take a class, that’s okay, check out YouTube for heaps of information for free! I started out with half-pans and a watercolor palette. Over the years, I discovered that the half pans and also the watercolor pans ruined my paint brushes, especially the tips of my watercolor brushes. This year and after many, many purchases and returns, I discovered two brands that I love to use…my Mijello studio palette and also my smaller travel watercolor palette.
The Mijello palette is made out of glass and the watercolor paints will not stain the palette as plastic or enamel palettes will. I have also found that my brushes last about twice if not three times longer when I do not dip them into a half pan. It is important to me to have a beautiful tip on the end of my brushes especially when I am working with stems and fine botanical lines.
Here is a list of my absolute favorite paints and my favorite watercolor palettes. 🙂
Getting To Know Your Watercolors
It is key to play around with and learn about your watercolors when you purchase them. I purchase all my watercolors in 5ml tubes or larger, as one tube contains at least 2-3 half pans of paint. This leaves you with years worth of watercolor paint in each tube. When I receive my new watercolor tube, I create a new color swatch. Each swatch is cut 2 x 3 inches and has a line drawn across the top with a sharpie marker. The sharpie marker line tells me how transparent/opaque each color is. This also helps me with blending with other colors, how many layers I need to apply to achieve the look I am after and so much more. You can read about watercolors and transparency here.
When creating my color swatch, the left side is the darkest layer (little to no water add to my paint) and the right side is my lightest layer with heaps of water added to my color. I begin with making sure I have a tiny amount of water on my brush and then gradually adding water as I blend the color to the right end which contains heaps of water on my brush and little to no color. When I watercolor, I put a swatch up to my subject/photo to see what colors pop out of my subject. This helps me with blending two or more colors together to create the perfect color. I highly suggest that you do this with each of your watercolor tubes as it will help in the future with watercolor matching.
Setting Up My Palette
It has taken me many years to create my palette. One of the keys to purchasing watercolors for me is if the colors are lightfast. Meaning in the light will they fade or stay their true color? It is important to know this especially for watercolors that are going to be hung on your wall for display. Please make sure to check out your manufacturers guide lines for all this information.
When I created my watercolor palette, I organized the colors as if I was looking at a flower. This works best for me while working with botanical colors. All the reds, pinks and purples are together in one area as a floral petal. And all the blues, greens and yellows are in another area when I am working with stems.
Other Coloring Mediums
One of my absolute favorite of all time mediums is Distress Inks. These stamp beautifully but also leave you the ability to blend, add a bit of water and move around the ink before it settles into the paper. If you have not purchased these, I highly recommend you do for beautiful coloring of your images.
If you don’t like ink pads or don’t have room to store them, then please use Distress markers. These will create the same great coloring image. The key here is to not use your marker directly onto your paper but to scribble a bit of ink onto a acrylic block and then lift the ink up onto one of your brushes and then color. It creates the same beautiful effect as an ink pad would. You can also color directly onto your stamp image with the markers to create a create outline. And it is so fun when you grab multiple markers to color your stamp before stamping it onto cardstock. Other markers that I absolutely love are Zig Clean Color, Tombow Brush Pens and also Koi Coloring Brush Pens. These are also amazing for calligraphy and coloring in your bullet journal. (Please note these are not colorfast and will fade, so please store your cards in a dark location before sending them to family and friends.)
My Watercolor Desk
Here is a photo of my watercolor desk. I sit next to a window to give me natural light from outside. I also have a high powered natural light to illuminate my work space so that I can color in the evening or in the wee hours of the morning while everyone is sleeping. I use an iMac as a reference for all the photos that I take. Here you can see all my brushes, I am using a makeup brush stand that I bought at Burlington for $3. I also use little square plates to blend my colors. This keeps my main watercolor palette nice and clean. I seem to need clean lines to create with. 🙂 You can see in the background all my papers that are cut into 6×6 sections, all my 12 x 12 paper, Copic Markers and at the top of my shelf is where I store all of my ribbons. My kids sit at the other side of the table and work on homework while I continue to paint after they come home from school.
Here are some of the key watercolor supplies that I don’t want to forget to mention as well! First is paper towel. Lots of paper towel! This helps to dab off excess water from your brush before you apply it onto your paper. Or if you are more environmentally friendly make sure you get a very white cloth that you don’t mind getting stained with your watercolors.
Arches watercolor hot or cold press paper. Yes it is my favorite. But other favorites are Fabrino Artistico hot press and Langtons hot press paper. And for quick and easy watercoloring with cards my favorite is Canson XL paper.
Brushes. This has been a hard one to figure out for me personally but over time I have learned that my favorite are miniature watercolor brushes. These do not hold as much watercolor on the brush and are perfect for coloring onto your cards. Most stamp sets I find are pretty small and we need smaller brushes to create beautiful coloring. These also allows for precision and to create those very fine lines on stems, branches, etc. My favorite sizes are a #3, #1 and #00.
If you want more information about paper, crafty supplies, etc on how I create my cards, please hop on over to my FAQ section here.
I truly hope that this information helps you in setting up your perfect watercolor desk and create beautiful watercolors in the future. I apologize for the length of this post but I truly wanted to share ALL my information! I thought I would finish with a few watercolor projects that I have done with this palette, in my crafty space and with the materials I have mentioned above. If you have any questions about my process, please leave me a comment below.