At Jackson’s we sell the natural silk sponges as well as the bag of assorted sea sponges. Natural sponges are more absorbent than synthetic sponges and we find are more suitable for use in watercolour painting. The irregularity of the texture of natural sponges makes them more interesting to work with. Most commonly, sponges are used to list colour from the paper being painted on, for instance if colour has run into an area where it was not intended, or if a mistake has been made, or if the colour put down is too saturated. Watercolour lifts when it is still wet, or at least only half dry. The best way to lift colour from paper using a sponge is to dip your sponge in a jar of clean water, then squeeze out the excess and blot the sponge on some kitchen paper to make it only very slightly damp. Then blot the sponge over the area where you wish to life the colour off. Rotate the sponge as you dab, and rinse in clean water if you find the sponge is covered in colour (if you are sponging a large area of your painting this may happen) to avoid inadvertently putting the colour back on to the painting!
Sponges can also be very useful for painting with, creating interesting watercolour painting effects. Dampen the sponge as described above, so that it is holding a minimal amount of water, and then dip it in your colour. You may wish to dip it into 2 separate colours alongside one another on the sponge, this will allow you to create a broken surface made up of 2 colours, that will mix and fuse as you apply the paint to your paper. Lightly dab the colour on your sponge on to the paper to create a textured, freckled surface. Once you have finished applying the colours on your sponge, you can blot these off on to a kitchen towel (and rinse the sponge if necessary) before dipping the sponge in your next colour. Our tip would be to work using the lightest colours first, and work through to the darkest colours.
If you find that the colour is not lifting with the use of the sponge, try spraying with water or ox gall, this may help if the watercolour is not yet completely dry to make it more wet, which should then make lifting it from the paper a little easier.
Colour wheels are a handy, quick reference tool for learning about colour and tonal theory whilst out painting. They can serve as a reminder of colour theory or help a beginner get to grips with the concepts. A colour wheel will have its colours laid out so that complementary colours are opposite one another, which the primary colours of red, yellow and blue spaced out evenly around the circle. A colour wheel will help you learn and understand the ideas about primary, secondary and tertiary colours. Many of the colour wheels also show a greyscale chart which helps with reading tone, both in your painting and in your subject matter.
We have a variety of colour wheels available, but most relevant to the watercolour painter would be the watercolour wheel, which is advantageous in that the colours have been applied with real watercolour on to real watercolour paper, so that it seems all the more relevant to your painting practice. On the wheel there is also a glossary of 20 key watercolour terms and definitions.
Other colour wheels that the watercolourist may find handy are the large colour wheel, which is 9.25” in diameter and is printed on to conventional card as opposed to on watercolour paper, or the pocket version of the same product which measures 5 1/8” in diameter.
‘The Watercolour Wheel Book’ teaches colour theory as well as including a removable colour wheel, and presents a number of projects designed to teach beginners how to start successfully in watercolour painting.
If you generally use the same palette of colour in your work, you may find it particularly useful to paint your own colours on to a ‘create a colour wheel’, which may make colour theory all the more easier to understand.
The ‘Pocket Guide to Mixing Colour’ is a folding version of the colour wheel. On the reverse is an un-laminated chart on which you can paint your own palette, as with the ‘Create a Colour Wheel’. It also includes a greyscale.
For younger watercolour painters we even have a Childrens Colour Wheel designed to teach the basics of colour theory to children. It features ‘Hue’ the dinosaur!
In addition to colour wheels we also sell separate grey scale and value finders to help identify tonal values in subject matter (particularly useful in watercolour landscape painting) and the very smart and comprehensive colour mixing guide charts, which show how to mix luminous clean and brilliant colour.
Field and sketching easels are easily folded, lightweight, and do not take up a lot of room. They are primarily designed to be taken out of doors for painting landscapes. They have their limitations even for landscape painting – a field easel will hold your work but they are often not very wind resistant, so our recommendation is to paint out of very breezy conditions! They are great for taking away on painting trips because they are so portable. We sell both aluminium and wooden field and sketching easels – there is little difference between the performances of the 2 kinds of easel. We have tried to specify the weight of all the easels where possible – as you can imagine a heavier easel is likely to be more wind resistant but at the same time it will be heavier to carry. Some field and sketching easels are known as ‘box easels ‘ – these have a special compartment for carrying all your paints and brushes. The lid acts as the canvas support for the easel. Box easels are helpful in ensuring you do not leave any important art material behind. Field and Sketching easels can also be the ideal easel for painters that paint in a space often used for something else, e.g. a room at home, because the easel can easily be folded and stored away when it is not required. They are sufficiently stable for small – medium works on paper, canvas or panel but not really suited to larger works (i.e. anything larger than half imperial on paper is a bit of a risk on a field easel).
Studio Easels are much heavier than field or sketching easels are designed for indoor use only. They can accommodate a much greater range of different sized canvases or supports; check on the studio easel page to see a comparison table of all the studio easels we offer. Studio easels are most commonly designed as an H-Frame or an A-frame easel. An H frame tends to be sturdier and heavier than an A frame easel; The base is made up of 3 wooden bars that make an ‘H’ shape that lay flat on the floor, making it very difficult to push the easel over. The heavier H frame easels have wheels fixed to their bases to make it easier to move around. A-frame easels are so called because they have 3 bars of wood assembled in an ‘A’ shape with the cross bar forming the canvas ledge. A forth wooden leg props the structure upright. The A-frame easel become less stable the more upright it is, so it is best used at an angle for maximum stability (i.e., a good distance between the back leg and the front legs). A-frame easels are easily folded up making them easy to store, and this is why they are popular among art schools, groups and classes. The base of an H-Frame easel makes them more difficult to set up back to back in a painting class – A-frames have no such issue, so it is easy to have easels back to back, making the most of the space you have available for working in as part of a group.
Radial easels are just as good a solution to maximising on space in an art class or group as A-Frame easels. This is because the base is made of 3 wooden bars that act as feet that touch the ground with equal distance between each foot. At the top of the 3 bars is the central canvas support. Because the base does not consist of bars that lie flat on the floor it makes it very easy to both store easels in their assembled position in the corner of a studio when they are not in use. It is also very easy to position them back to back when working as part of a group of artists in a very limited space. As a radial easel owner myself I find them a great asset to my studio as they are easy to move and the canvas ledge is easy to adjust, as well as the fact that they do not occupy very much space in my small studio. The only downside of radial easels is that they have a tendency to be easy to push backwards inadvertently, i.e. the central column of the easel if not screwed tightly enough to the base can easily be knocked back distorting the working angle, but this is easily rectified by tightening the screws as best you can and working lightly! The Tavy T Bar easel from Winsor and Newton is similar to a radial easel yet not identical – the base is formed of 2 wooden bars that form a stable ‘T’ shape. At £52 it is very good value for money for an easel that can accommodate supports up to 130cm without taking up too much space.
Table easels are a very useful piece of studio equipment to have if your space is limited. They can also offer an affordable ‘second easel’ in a larger studio if you are someone who would like to keep more than one work on an easel at any one time and work on them simultaneously. Table easels are designed to be used by artists who like to work sitting down. There are a number of different styles of table easel including H-frame easels, book stand easels (which can also handily double up as a cookery book stand if you happen to paint in your kitchen!) and tripod easels (less sturdy but lighter and great for display purposes). In addition to these there are also box table easels, which are essentially box field easels but without the telescopic legs. They allow you to handily store your art materials with your easel, helping (although not guaranteeing!) that none of your art materials go missing and stay with your easel, like a mini portable workstation. Mabef’s Pochade boxes are designed to make it easy to paint small panels in the landscape with a handy storage box attached for your paints and brushes – the lid opens to reveal clips under which you can secure your panel for painting on to. The box will fit on to most camera tripods, but there are also separate wooden legs available designed to fit the pochade boxes, which are available in 2 sizes. However pochade boxes can also be used like a conventional table box easel and placed on a table top for working in your home or studio, if you would prefer.
A dipper is a little pot that can be very useful for watercolour, oil and acrylic painters. They are used for holding small quantities of water or medium, and they clip to the side of a flat surface, such as a wooden palette. They are usually relatively small so that they are practical for taking out of doors, but there are larger sizes available should you require more water or medium, for example if you are working on a large scale or using a lot of broad washes in your work.
At Jackson’s we sell empty half pans and empty full pans so that you can squeeze your tubes of colour into these small plastic receptacles and carry them in one of the metal watercolour boxes that we have to offer. This can be particularly useful if you are using a colour you have mixed yourself over a number of painting sessions.
Transfer paper is sometimes also known as graphite paper, carbon paper, or Tracedown, and is an easy and clever way of transposing an image to watercolour paper prior to painting. You can transfer any image – a magazine photo, a photo you have taken, a drawing or a painting you have already made…the world is your oyster! The transfer paper well sell at Jackson’s is wax free, and is a graphite coated sheet of very thin paper. The fact that it is wax free means that the lines of graphite that you deposit on to your paper will not resist the watercolour you apply over the top. The graphite is easily removed with an eraser, just like any pencil mark.
Place the sheet of graphite paper messy side down on to your watercolour paper and secure it with masking tape, ensuring that it is relatively taut, (no waves in the transfer paper). Then, tape your image on top of the graphite paper. Your image needs to be the exact size that you would like it, and also it needs to be positioned on the watercolour paper in exactly the right place. If your image is not the size you would like it to be, you might wish to scan it and enlarge or reduce it on a computer, or with the use of a photocopier. Using a sharp pencil, draw around the lines of the image, making sure that you don’t miss out any important details. The pressure of the pencil will push the graphite of the transfer paper on to the watercolour paper, depositing a line. The greater the amount of pressure applied, the darker the line on the watercolour paper. Most painters would not want too dark a line, just a very feint guide. Not too much pressure using a mechanical pencil will enable you to draw the composition faintly with fine lines, which is usually the ideal among watercolour painters.
After use, store your transfer paper carefully to avoid it smudging somewhere you would not want it to smudge! We suggest wrapping the paper in glassine, or rolling up and placing in a cardboard tube to avoid unnecessary mess.
More information can be viewed in the masking fluid section. However in this watercolour painting accessories section we have put together our suggestions of what you might like to apply your masking fluid with. There are a number of options, most of them would be most suitable for applying relatively fine lines, as this is generally what masking fluid is predominantly used for.
Whatever you use to apply your masking fluid, always remember to wash thoroughly as soon after use as possible, as masking fluid is very tricky to clean from tools once it has dried.
A spray diffuser bottle can be filled with dilute watercolour paint and sprayed on to work to create misty, airbrush like effects on your painting. Remember to mask off areas where you don’t want the spray to appear! And also it is a good idea to test that the spray is not clogged away from your work before you start spraying on to the painting, as you will also be able to work out how much pressure you need to apply as well. Rinse thoroughly after use to prevent the spray from clogging.
You might also like to use the spray bottle to spray clean water or medium on to your work. If you are spraying on to just – applied watercolour which has not yet dried, the water or medium will break the colour down in areas and create textural and interesting effects. Also, by spraying on to an area of watercolour paint that has not yet dried you might be able to prolong the working time of the colour, which may also make it easier to lift the colour from the paper using a sponge should you need to.