Core Skills: Watercolour
In part two of her series, Kelly McKernan shares insight into how to get the most out of your watercolour brushes, enabling you to paint in a range of styles
Discover how to get the most of your watercolour brushes, with Kelly McKernan.
Various brush types and application can result in a soft and dewy composition, or a hardedged, vibrant scene. Primarily, I’ll use the highest quality round Kolinsky Sable brushes I can find, but I began with student-grade brushes to discover my preferences. Although they got the job done, cheaper brushes suffer from stray brush hairs, an inability to hold as much water as I like, and pointy tips that don’t last too long. Once I invested in higher-quality brushes, my technique improved greatly.
Once you’ve discovered the brushes that you enjoy working with most, it’s important to treat those brushes kindly. While watercolour doesn’t require harsh mediums and rigorous rules to work with, some care goes a long way in preserving your brushes, and that includes reserving them for water media only. Working with a brush that was previously used with oils or even acrylics will diminish its effectiveness in carrying water and pigment. Keep your brushes upright or flat and pointy and your paintings will thank you for it.
1 Watercolour brush types
Every brush has the potential for many uses with watercolour, and some are better than others for specific tasks. Round brushes are the most commonly used because of their versatility. Liner brushes are excellent for maintaining width, and Flat brushes are able to create crisp edges. Finally, a Mop brush is ideal for soaking and distributing large amounts of water.
2 Contouring with a steady hand
To achieve precise strokes, your application technique requires a steady hand. Sitting while aiming for precision is best, but you can also stabilise your hand with your little finger anchoring the paper. Another technique when using a Round brush is to twist the brush while dragging, to achieve thinner lines.
3 Varying the line width
To get the most out of your brushes, learning to vary the line width can contribute to some expressive strokes. This helps to develop a sense of the watercolour that your brushes contain in one stroke, which in turn assists in consistency.
4 Drybrushing creates interesting effects
Especially effective with a Flat brush, drybrushing is achieved when the bristles separate because there’s less moisture present. This can be used to create a range of effects, including hair, grass and wood grain. The shorter the brush, the easier this is to achieve.
4 Combining brush techniques
With time and practice, you’ll discover ways in which you can combine techniques to create interesting results. Watercolour requires some intuitiveness and so the more comfortable you are with your brush techniques, the more receptive you’ll be to those magical moments when the watercolour tells you what your next move will be!
Kelly creates original paintings for galleries, travels for conventions, and mentors students via her Patreon. See her art at www.kellymckernan.com.