Watercolor Care and Overview
As with any art medium, taking proper care of the supplies is a must – and luckily, it’s also pretty easy! Since watercolor cakes have the tendency to dry and crack, you can slow down this process simply by storing them away in a wood or metal box. For watercolor tubes (also known as liquid watercolor), just make sure that the cap is placed back on after each use.
To care for the brushes is almost as easy and equally as important. Start by rinsing the bristles in clean water and remove excess water by either gently pressing them with cloth or shaking them dry, and then gently smoothing the bristles with your fingers. If there is color on your fingers after you smooth the bristles, they’re not clean so it’s time to break out the soap. Re-wet your brushes, put the soap on the bristles, and then use your palm to work it into a lather. Rinse the brushes and lie them flat on an absorbent paper or cloth. Once they’re dry, store them in a container with the bristles up. Don’t dry your brushes upright as water will seep down into the ferrule and cause the handle to swell and spread the bristles. That’ll affect the shape of the brush, which could change the whole look of future artwork!
As we discussed earlier, we all know what causes most classroom watercolor pallets to meet their untimely demise. Not only do they dry out, but there always seems to be that kid who takes a brush and runs it through one color after another until each vibrant square is left a muddy mess.
Who can blame them? It’s mesmerizing to watch one color run into the other and swirl around into another hue. We, as teachers, also have to foresee this cross-generational instinct to mix colors and make it work for us and not against our supplies.
Mixing colors is one of the most gratifying activities when it comes to painting. So instead of discouraging this behavior, include it in your lesson. Students love to help, so ask them to help create a wide range of different colors when you begin setting up.
Liquid watercolor is a much better option to do this with than traditional watercolor. It may not be as familiar to some so we’re including tips for use, as well as pros and cons for liquid water that we’ve discovered along the way.
- Color range: There is a large range of colors that can be mixed easily. The possibilities are endless!
- Cost efficient: Liquid watercolor comes in long-lasting, concentrated bottles of dye-like paint. The more water you mix with the watercolor, the lighter the color.
- Metallics and glitter: Liquid watercolor comes in metallics like pearl, gold, silver, and bronze. They can be used alone or mixed with colors.
- Easy to Use: There are no water cups required! Just place two brushes in each paint cup. We recommend one small and one large bristle brush for each. Add brushes as needed. No need to rinse brushes between uses.
- Easy clean-up: Liquid watercolor paint easily washes off brushes and cups. When students are finished, they can easily clean the brushes by simply rinsing the bristles. Place lids on the paint cups filled with watercolor and store. It’s that easy!
- Temporarily stains skin: Liquid watercolor will wash off eventually, but you will be colorful for a bit.
- Temporarily stains surfaces: Difficult to wash off tables. You can circumvent this issue by placing paper or plastic over the table- or desktop to eliminate temporary surface stains.
- Black is not very dark, even in concentrated form. Simply complement with black markers or permanent markers!
- Red is sometimes a little pink in hue.
- We do not recommend the neon liquid watercolors. They’re gooey, yet thin at the same time.
How to Get Started
- Place a little bit of concentrated watercolor in a no-spill cup and add water. Remember, the more water added, the lighter the color will be. Add drops of other colors to create a color of your own!
- Put brushes in paint cups and begin.
Tips from the an Art Teacher
- Mixing complementary colors together will result in brown or gray. Complementary color combinations are: yellow and violet, blue and orange, and red and green.
- Place paper or plastic under your painting to eliminate temporary surface stains.
- Explain to students that the brushes think of the cup as their “home” and they may take trips to your paper, but always want to come back “home.” This will cut down on the possibility that students will accidentally mix colors.