This is going to be a multi-part post! I'm not sure yet how many parts it's going to be. When I started, I was planning to do only one post but it's too long and detailed for that. Hopefully the others won't be quite as long.
More than a month ago, I signed up to take on Online Card Class which would be exploring watercolor mediums. This class is taught by a few of my favorite papercrafters in the industry, including my absolute favorite, Jennifer McGuire. I never knew there were so many ways and supplies to watercolor! I'm going to get into a few of them with today's post.
These observations are from my practice after the classes. By now, I have completed two of them. Let me preface everything by saying that I do not have any kind of art background. In fact, I never took art classes in school because I was never considered to be artistic in the very least. So these thoughts come from a true novice.
There are so many mediums for watercolor that I never even knew or thought about. Yesterday's class used Water Based Markers. Who knew there were so many watercolor markers out there? Not me although in the last 6 months, I had discovered Distress Markers which are quickly becoming my favorite because of their transparent color and ease of use. A couple other types that were explored are ZIG Clean Color Real Brush Markers which actually have a real brush tip, Spectrum Aqua and Tombow Markers. The ZIG Clean Color Brushes are available in multi-packs of up to 60 as well as individually. There are about 80 colors in all but so far they don't have a complete set available. The same is true of Distress Markers. The Tombow and Spectrum Aqua Markers are sold in groups of colors. The were no requirements to purchase anything for the class and we were encouraged to use what we already had on hand. For me, that was Tim Holtz Distress Markers. Any water based markers work for this technique although Tim Holtz Distress Inks seem to work particularly well. They are made to activate and reactivate with water so they are a great choice for watercolor. Copic Markers are alcohol based and do not work for this technique.
Earlier this summer, I purchased a set of 12 Tim Holtz Distress Markers using a coupon at an area Arts & Crafts kind of store. I wasn't sure I would like them, so I didn't want to get too many or invest too much money to begin with. I'm fairly certain the group I purchased were a "Vintage" collection rather than "Brights". This would be pretty consistent with my style.
I had originally purchased (several years ago) some 90# watercolor paper. For how much water these techniques use, that paper is not heavy enough and it does pill after a kind of medium amount of brushwork. It would be fine for simple color washes with no detailing. I was, of course, initially trying to save money and really didn't understand why hot or cold pressed and why heavier might be better. Part of my class was a video about the different types of paper and why you would choose one over the other so I had already gotten some 140# watercolor card stock. For practice and simple color washes, the 90# is okay. There are other differences as well including how white or bright the watercolor paper is. A lot of people seem to like Ranger because it is a fairly bright white. I haven't tried very many, so you'll have to select what you personally like. Another thing to think about is the texture of the paper. I thought I would like the rough side of watercolor paper for the texture it gives, but it turns out that I much prefer the smooth side for the techniques I use.
I want to talk a little about Distress Inks here. These inks are formulated to work with water just like any other water based inks or markers. That makes them particularly well suited to use for watercolor methods and techniques. I've done other posts where I talk about a few of the techniques. I'm sure there will be many in my future as well. Overall, I think Distress Inks tend to be a more "watered down" or "faded" color so it takes less time to get to a proper dilution of the color you were looking for than a traditional watercolor marker. You might have the ink pads and not the markers or vice-versa. In my case, I have 5 of the ink pads from a class I did years ago and 15 or so markers. If you only have the ink pads, you can "stamp" some color directly onto an acrylic block or your craft mat, then add water to get a soft color wash. You can apply that using a traditional paint brush or a water brush. I actually tried both ways during yesterday's class but ultimately went with the regular paint brush so that I could control the amount of water. A water brush will release a very slow but steady stream of water for you. Go ahead and spend a little extra for a good brush that has a valve in it so it doesn't suck dirty water into itself; you'll be glad you did!
One of the things I like best about this class is the fact that I can produce consistent results. Previously, it was a trial and error process to find what worked and then I had to actually remember what I had tried so I could replicate it. This class teaches specific techniques to use with each type of medium. A big factor in being successful is working on a very small area at a time. I'm not going to go into a detailed description of each thing I did to make my cards. There are lots of "how to" videos already out there. I'm just going to share whichever technique and medium I used and leave you to try what you want or what works for you. We're all better when we do that versus someone saying it must be done "this way only". Part of the reason that I liked this particular class is that I already had some form of each medium we will be using for the class and I wasn't required to purchase anything new. That's always a winner for me.
For my card, I stamped my image in Versamark Ink and heat it set using Simon Says Stamp Clear Extra Fine Embossing Powder. I could have used White or any other color of embossing powder, but clear makes it the exact color of my paper which can be different from brand to brand. You can do whichever you like. After that, I taped my stamped image to a small acrylic cutting board that has a handle so it can be easily moved between layers of color or drying time. Next I gave my watercolor paper an all over mist with plain water and a wide paint brush to work it into the paper. This Water Brush from Tim Holtz is a nice one. I feel that this helps keep the color from being too deep of a "stain" when you are first starting. It's a matter of personal preference, not a requirement. Probably when I get more comfortable with watercolor, I won't feel quite so scared of it. But for now, this is what I'm doing.
I took my distress marker and started coloring each petal of the flower with just a stroke or two of color. I just put some color at the base of the petal where it would naturally be the deepest color because of shadows and highlights and then worked the color outward with a damp brush for each petal. I did each petal in the soft color before adding my first color to my leaves and then added each color layer one at a time. For my flowers I used "Worn Lipstick". You absolutely have to use a piece of scratch paper to check the ink color for any marker you might choose. It is seldom what the cap color indicates so always check to see that it's at least in the color family you were wanting. Some colors may be more blue based while others may be more yellow based, which is the main difference between a cool color and a warm color. As a former photographer, I am a color maniac. Some other day I will explain what I mean by that, but not today - LOL! Watercolor is all about interpretation so it's all preference from this point on.
Line images (images with little or no detail) make the best choice for watercoloring. The WPLUS9 Design Studio "Unforgettable" Set is one I've used before and will be trying again with watercolor instead of Copic Markers later today. In fact, I fell in love with it after seeing a video that Dawn Woleslagle watercolored using this set. Altenew also has some great images and I am sure there are many other companies as well. I'm just thinking off the top of my head here. The one I am using in this case is from Stampin Up and it's actually the first time I have used it. It sure makes me wonder what else I have that can be used for watercolor sitting in the bottom of my studio closet to check out sometime. For the leaves I started with Bundled Sage. After my first layer of color dried, I mixed some Crushed Olive and Shabby Shutters on an acrylic block to get a less bright, more realistic green.
For the background, I just put a couple of short strokes of Tumbled Glass marker at a time directly to the paper and worked it outward with a lot of water. I've tried to get this effect previously but after my first class yesterday is the first time I've been successful. I was surprised at how easy watercolor has been to achieve with just a bit of instruction. Go Me! When the color was completely dry, I misted it all over with a solution of perfect pearls to give it some shimmer and let the whole thing dry before removing it from my cutting board.
Once that dried, I cut the watercolor panel using a My Favorite Things Stitched Oval in the largest size. Next I cut the Stitched & Scalloped Rectangle Die from the Sunshine Layers set. In keeping with the "painted" style, I used the Simon Exclusive Painted Hello die on some white shimmer paper. I cut the word three times and glued them in a stack for added dimension. I used Bazzill Card Shoppe Marshmallow for my card base. This card stock is a 100# weight and makes beautiful cards.
I didn't take too many photos of this card as I have several in progress right now. I'll be back soon with more observations from my Online Card Class.