Watercolor painting

A watercolor (from Latin aqua " water ") is a custom-built with water-soluble, non-opaque color image. The of a binder ( gum arabic ) and color pigments existing transparent inks are diluted with water and applied with a brush on paper, parchment, or other materials. In contrast to the painting surface Gouache and Tempera shines through the colors throughout. Color mixtures are generally formed by the superposition of different painting transparent layers of paint. White is found where the paper base is omitted.

  • 3.1 glazing
  • 3.2 Lavieren 3.2.1 History Technology
  • 3.2.2 Wet-on - wet technique


Painting with water soluble colors is one of the oldest painting techniques at all. Even the cave painting is created using simple brushes and water and fat dissolved hematite or charcoal. Out of Egypt painted papyrus is obtained, and from the Asian region images and calligraphy with water-soluble inks. In general, these watercolors were " opaque " or were thickened with opaque, white color, such as in the medieval wall painting and miniature painting.

The watercolor painting in the strict sense ( more transparent as a painting technique using colors) has evolved continuously since about the 9th century AD. First, this translucent water colors were used for the coloring of ink drawings and woodcuts. Painters such as Albrecht Dürer and Rembrandt have to study watercolors mainly or used for preparation of oil paintings. As an independent and valuable works of art watercolors were not considered. By Dürer numerous private studies with watercolor and gouache painting with watercolors but experienced a significant appreciation.

But to a wide recognition came only in the 18th century, began as an English painters such as William Turner, to use water colors not only for the design of drawings, but developed images directly on the painting surface. In particular, Turner, who is still regarded as one of the foremost watercolorists, led the watercolor painting to technical mastery. When in the course of the 19th century won the plein air painting in importance, established a broad rediscovery of painting with water-soluble inks. In England Watercolour Societies promoted the use of this technique. Many painters have created watercolors as independent works of art. In addition to Dürer and Turner here are mainly Eugène Delacroix, Paul Cézanne, Emil Nolde and Christian Modersohn mentioned. Maria Sibylla Merian, who also used the technique of Aquarellierens for their work, the 500 - mark note was even once dedicated.


In the watercolor painting numerous techniques are used, but their names are not uniform. In general, the techniques are variations of two basic techniques: glazing and maneuvering. They are based, in turn, is a way of dealing with painting surface, brush and color. From them arises with all the differences in detail the characteristic features of a watercolor.

Painting surface

The painting surface is most commonly used paper. With the rapid development of paper manufacturing in the 15th century one of the decisive preconditions had been created that the watercolor painting as an art form could develop at all. Today usual watercolor papers go back to English papers of the 18th century. The suitable for watercolor paper must absorbent, provided with a rough texture, and still be smooth enough that dissolved in the water color pigments can distribute and adhere evenly. The usual paper weight is 180-400 grams. In addition to industrially produced paper and handmade paper, handmade paper and Japanese paper is concerned. Less common are textile painting surfaces such as silk or canvas. Watercolor -like images on non absorbent surfaces require the use of alternative colors (eg acrylic) or special adhesives and binders. A variant of the usual painting surfaces are relief-like substrates, which are prepared by using pastes structure.


Painting is usually with a brush, which is guided in different ways over the paper (variable line strengths, swabs, rotation). As a natural material to brush Sable have been successful, because they stay in shape despite high elasticity (thin tip), absorb a lot of color and light can give back. Recently, special watercolor brushes are added from thin synthetic fibers. In addition to these hair brushes with a fine point and fanned hair brush for large-scale work, and bristle brushes are used. A natural sponge - usually used to moisten the paper - can be used to scale Painting like to become blurred.

Main brush movement is the stroke of the brush, so the paint with a brush. Even if the surface painting is typical of the watercolor painting, watercolors can only consist of brush strokes. One speaks in this case of a brush drawing. The brush drawing itself already constitutes a precursor of modern watercolor painting, as a monochrome drawing with diluted ink. Drawn with water colors, the image requires a fast, improvising work.

If the ink is transferred to the paper with a lot of liquid, the color is distributed evenly on the paper to give to the little trap doors can collect more color than the increases in the fine paper texture. This gives the typical watercolor impression. However, the brush is made ​​with a little water quickly over the paper, the color remains lie on the high spots. In this case one speaks of granulation. If the color spotted with a fine brush to the paper, this is called stippling, a technique that gave his name to the pointillism.

Use of color

Of great importance for the watercolor painting is the work with the primary colors. While there are all colors mixed ready to buy cups and tubes, but purists in the watercolor painting mix any color you need according to the rules of color theory itself Preferably, the mixture of colors through the glazing, so the layers overpainting is. Although the colors can be mixed in the water, but this method takes the watercolors their typical, radiant glow.

In the image composition will generally be initiated with delicate and bright color schemes and worked in darker colors back. It also included the painting surface with the composition, partly translucent, partly also unchanged, standing still. The color can with plenty of water and very thinly or vice versa applied with little water ( granulation ). Often color is set in the pre-wetted surfaces or still wet colored parts of the image so that bleeding colors, while the characteristic of this style of painting structures. This different effects with different image effects are achieved.

Basic techniques


The most important basic techniques of watercolor painting is the glaze; their application sets itself suggested by the use of special, " translucent " colors. When glazing the highly diluted with water color is applied to the dry painting surface. The paint dries very quickly through the thin application and can be removed after drying with further paint layers paint over. Is always the same color is used, arise darker and lighter areas. The glaze can have both a color- enhancing as well as a color- depressant effect. With different colors are caused by the different glazes new shades. The color layers can be over and create side by side. The glazing technique is characterized by sharp edges and requires high precision and accurate knowledge of the effect of different coloring techniques.


The second basic technique is the maneuvering. Initially falls below the curve technology, for other wet -on-wet technique. It is controversial whether these techniques are variants of the washes or by two independent techniques. The answer to this question depends on whether one speaks in watercolor painting of two or three basic techniques. Here, both techniques are understood as variants of washes.

Course technology

It is undisputed that the course of art, a water wash (from Latin lavare " [ ver] washing") is in the strict sense. In the course of art, a color is applied to the canvas that it is uniformly paler or slowly changes into a different hue. These first color is applied to the painting surface and then spread with a washed and brushed evenly moistened with clear water running out on the canvas. In general, the painting surface will be dry, but a more powerful - but also unkontrollierbareren - effect is achieved on a damp canvas. Here, the transition to the wet-on- wet technique is reached.

Wet-on- wet technique

In the wet-on- wet technique is painted on the inside wet painting surface or in a still wet paint, which causes colors to encrypt and run into each other. This technique is not only in watercolor, but also with other painting techniques. Some watercolorists reject the use of the wet-on- wet technique, because it is only slightly controllable. Others see in this technique, a mastery of dealing with painting surface, paint and brushes.

Other techniques

Other techniques are either variants of the basic techniques or combining techniques. The modern watercolor painting combines different techniques with each other. In addition to pure watercolor methods are principles of drawing, calligraphy and the use of opaque colors, especially gouache, but also acrylic, added.

  • Of greater importance are the original methods of correction of color - lifting and scraping paint. Commonly the watercolor painting is considered to be uncorrectable. Through the transparent inks are corrective procedures such as painting over is not possible without destroying the character of watercolor. Limits can be reached either by color but later wetting and lifting off with a sponge or cloth, or by scraping the dry color. Both techniques can also be used specifically for image making.
  • The white background is often deliberately left standing. Where this is not possible because of the brushwork, a temporary or permanent covering of the paper with tape, frisket or wax permit free work with the brush.
  • Splashes of color or the sprinkling of color contribute greatly to a slight, improvised impression. The sprinkling of color, optionally partially COVERED paper can be used to texture of faces.
  • Watercolor and drawing are already historically closely related. In the monochrome brush drawing numerous watercolor techniques already being used or drawings and watercolors are combined, for example by the pencil or charcoal sketch aware by the watercolor shines through. After completion of the watercolor work, the drawing can be completed in ink. A classic shape is painting over a monochrome sketch brush with water colors ( background music ).
  • The combination of watercolor with pastel colors has a contrastive effect and allows hatching, patch brightnesses and accents.
  • For graphic lines and accentuating picture elements in the watercolor image Watercolor pencils can be used.
  • The Raspeltechnik in which is spread with the help of sandpaper pigment a watercolor pencil lead on the still wet watercolor image for background design and color nuances.
  • An unusual surface effect achieved the technique watercolor on canvas. The watercolor is in this case applied impasto or glaze on the treated with aqua base canvas.
  • Watercolor paint can be mixed in the order with different agents: acacia makes the color impasto and makes for a fine sheen of color; Ox bile and glycerol are used to delay the ink drying (glycerol is in a small amount always already contained in watercolor ); Alcohol speeds drying and ensures a stress of the brush stroke.
  • By coating of salt on still wet color interesting effects can be achieved, for example, the appearance of snow.
  • Watercolor paints can also be used together with acrylic paints (so-called Mixed Media ) then allow a nationwide painting over the dried watercolor paints.