|Glossary of Terms Related to Watercolor and WC Techniques
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Blossoms/blooms - are cauliflower looking marks created when extra moisture creeps back into a damp or partially dry area of a painted. As the
excess water levels out it will "push" the tiny pigments of paint to the outside edge of the watermark. A back run can totally ruin a smooth flat area of a
painting, unless you add the excess water intentionally. (also known as back runs, back wash, and water blossoms)
Back runs See blossoms (blooms)
Analogous Colors - are closely related colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. Such as blue, blue green and green: usually 3 or 4
Blotting - lifting away moisture and pigment with an absorbent material (facial tissue, paper towel or sponge) used to lighten areas in a painting or to
create special effects.
Color Wheel - Primary, secondary, and intermediate colors arranged in a circular pattern with each color's complement located directly across the wheel
for quick reference. Color wheels can be based on one of several color theories and color schemes.
Color - Color is what the eye sees when light bounces off an object, such as red, blue, or yellow, etc.
Complementary Colors - are those colors directly opposite or across from each other on the color wheel, such as red and green or yellow and violet
or blue and orange. Mixing complements will neutralize, darken, or create a wide range of greys based on how much of each color you add.
Complements - See complimentary colors
Deckle - the irregular (decorative) edge on watercolor paper. The deckled edge is created when the pulp is poured into a mould or formed by hand.
Drybrush - is a technique using minimal moisture with either thick or thin paint on a brush to create a textural effect. The type of brush, and the angle
at which the brush is held as well as the paper surface will also influence the results.
Color Properties - are hue, saturation, value and temperature.
Color Temperature - is simply the relative warmth or coolness of a color. Learn more see warm colors and/or cool colors
Warm colors - are predominantly hues ranging from yellow to orange to red. The warmest color on a 12 point color wheel is red-orange.
Cool colors - are predominantly hues that contain blue, including greens and violets. The coolest color on the 12 point color wheel is blue-green.
Wash - a thin fluid application of watercolor on either wet or dry watercolor paper. A wash usually implies laying down color on a broad area of paper.
However some artists may describe each brushstroke as a wash of color regardless of size. Also see flat wash, variegated wash, and graded wash
Variegated wash - a wash starting one color gradually adding and blending into a second color in a single application on either wet or dry paper.
Graded wash - a wash that gradually changes in value. A graded was can be a single hue or a combinations of hues that make a smooth transition from
light to dark or dark to light or bright to dull.
Flat wash - is an area of evenly distributed color. "Flat" meaning the color remains the same hue, value(or intensity) and textural quality. No brush
Aquarelle - the French word for transparent watercolor.
Aquamedia - includes both transparent and opaque waterbased mediums such as casein, gouache, and acrylics. Also called Watermedia
Accent color - a touch of a contrasting color (or complement) used against another color.
Adjacent color - Hues next to each other on the color wheel.
Bead - a tiny pool of color formed by gravity at the bottom of a wet wash when applied to tilted or slanted watercolor paper.
Blocking in - arranging major elements of a painting using simple tone, shapes, colors and forms when beginning a watercolor painting.
Block out - refers to reserving the white watercolor paper using any material (liquid or stencil) to prevent paint from making a mark on the paper.
Blending - creating a smooth gradual transition between colors by using a soft brush. It can also mean mixing two or more colors on your paper
where the original colors remain and the combination of the blended colors is also visible.
Blending Off - moistening the paper next to a wet brushstroke to soften an edge by allowing the wet paint to bleed into the moistened area.
Balance - a design principle that refers visually to the equalization of the elements in a painting. The three types are: symmetrical (formal), asymmetrical
(informal), or radial (circular, radiating for a central point).
Broken color - Two or more small separate strokes of color placed side by side which when viewed from a distance mix optically to form the impression of
blended third color, without actually being mixed on the palette or paper.
Background - the area around and behind the main subject in a painting. In a landscape painting it is the area farthest away.
Achromatic - means lacking color. White, black and grays mixed from black and white are achromatic.
Backlight - light coming from behind the subject.
Bichromatic - describes a painting created with only two colors.
Binder - is what holds particles of pigments together in the paint tube and on the palette. Gum arabic is the binder used in the medium of watercolor.
Casein - a water-soluble protein found in milk that is used as a binder for creating casein paints. Casein (paint) is a very creamy opaque paint applied to
heavy paper that dries to a semi-gloss finish. Sometimes it is also applied to canvas to be used as an underpainting for oil or acrylic paintings.
Charge - in watercolor terms; means to fill a brush with color. Charging - is a term for adding thick intense color to a wet wash.
Chroma - the pure intensity, strength or saturation of a color; a colors brightness or dullness. Not to be confused with value - a colors lightness or darkness.
Color Key - The dominate tone or value range of a painting. Also see high-key, medium-key, low-key, full-contrast paintings
Chromatic - having color or hue.
High key painting - A painting with a value range of medium to light values, creating a pale or pastel image. (Airy and bright)
Low key painting - a painting using the darker end of the value scale ranging from medium to dark values. (Moody and subdued)
Full-contrast painting- using the full range of the value scale (light to medium to dark). For the most contrast using the lightest values next to the darkest.
Hue - the name of a pure color such as "red" "blue" or "green" etc.
Hue (2) a term used with paints to denote that a synthetic pigment has been used in place of a natural pigment in the production of a color
examples: Lemon Yellow Hue or Manganese Blue Hue
Contrast - design principle that uses opposites beside one another to create interest and visual impact. Examples: rough/smooth, light/dark, warm/cool
or the use of color complements.
Gouache - French term for opaque. The binder in gouache paint is gum arabic. In England, known as body color.
Gradation - any gradual change in hue, value, or color intensity.
Granular wash - a wash made with watercolor pigments that settle out on textured paper creating a natural textural pattern.
Cropping - cutting a painting down, trimming it to a smaller size thus eliminating unnecessary portions of a picture to create a more pleasing
end result. To help determine the best composition before cropping try using a viewfinder.
Critique - critically analysis of a painting. (See tips for Critiquing Your Own Watercolors)
Dampening the paper
Damp - in watercolor "damp" has several meanings. A "damp" brush is a brush that is moist enough to make a mark on paper but will not drip. Damp
paper is limp from being moistened but when held at an angle the water will not run or drip.
Cold Pressed CP - Watercolor Paper comes in three basic types. Cold Pressed is slightly textured with a medium "tooth" when compared to hot pressed
(smooth) and rough (very textured) CP falls in between. Cold Pressed is also called "NOT" meaning it is not hot pressed. Cold pressed paper is smooth
enough to render soft blending, yet allows for textural effects and granulation in washes. Learn more: Watercolor Papers
Wash out - to remove paint from a painted area of the painting using a sponge, brush, or damp cloth.
Value - an element of design that relates to the likeness or darkness of a color or tone.
Value scale - Ranging from light-to-dark, starting with white, the lighter grays, the darker grays, then black. Usually numbered 0 - 10
with 10 representing black. This scale is used to evaluate colors to determine their value.
Vibration - placing two colors of maximum intensity and equal value side by side to create a visual effect.
Viewfinder -a small cardboard frame use to isolate the scene and help with composition. Click here to see several types of viewfinders.
Unsized - refers to paper without sizing added to a paper pulp or surface of the paper. Unsized paper is very absorbent. When watercolor is
applied it sinks into the paper and cannot be adjusted. Paper with sizing allows for the paint to remain on the surface of the paper allowing for
blending, blotting, and lifting to alter the initial brush strokes.
Line - an element of design that is a continuous mark made with the brush are a pencil. Line can also refer to an edge of contour in a design.
Linear - Composition of a painting composed of multiple line or line work is said to have linear quality.
Lift - to take out or remove paint from an area of a watercolor painting. Used to lighten values and colors by sponging, scrubbing, are scraping.
Some lifting techniques are harmful to the paper surface.
Linking or linkage - connecting areas of the same are like values in a painting.
Local color - The color of an object as it appears in natural light without shadows or reflected colors.
Lost and found - This term applies to the edge quality of a brush stroke in a painting where the edges fade away or blend into each
other then distinctly reappear.
Pattern - a design principle in which shapes, colors and lines are repeated at regular intervals.
Pigment - powdery are granular substance suspended in a medium used as a colorant. Watercolor pigments are suspended in gum
arabic and is diluted with water when applied to paper.
Mixed media - two or more media used together in a painting. Example: watercolor and pastel.
Opaque - opposite of transparent, opaque watercolor reflects light rather than letting light pass through it.
Mingle - a watercolor term used to describe the blending and merging of colors on the paper or palette without excessive mixing.
Nuance - the subtle shift or change in a color or value.
Organic - refers to free form shapes and free flowing lines. Opposite of geometrical.
Geometrical - the use of geometrical shapes in a design for composition. Examples: square, circle, oval, triangle, and rectangle, etc.
Elements of Design - a basic componients/parts used by artists in designing a painting: color, value, shape, space, line,
form, and texture.
Water media - any paint that is water soluble, or water based. Also called aquamedia
Mat - a heavy paper or board used to frame watercolors when they are placed under glass. Many times mats will enhance the
appearance and presentation of the watercolor but the main purpose of a mat is to create a space between the glass and the surface
of the paper.
Negative space - the space in a painting that is not occupied by the subject matter that is still part of the overall designed of the
Negative painting - this term applies to a watercolor technique in which the artist paints around an object to make it
stand out. Opposite: see positive painting.
Positive painting - in watercolor this term refers to painting the object, where negative painting refers to painting what's behind the
Mat board - the board use to mat paintings. Mat boards are available in standard paper (wood pulp) and acid free archival 100%
cotton rag, and buffered paper treated to remove acidity.
Design - the arrangement of elements in a painting, the structure of a painting. Designing principles are used to establish
order on a painted surface.
Transparent - opposite of opaque, transparent watercolor allows light to penetrate the pigment allowing the white of the paper to show
through the pigment.
Soft edges - allowing the value or color of an edge to blend or blur into nearby areas without definite lines of separation. Soft edges
happen when painting wet into wet or by blending off a brush stroke.
Hard edges - sharp shapes or lines that did not blend into adjacent areas.
Dimension - the illusion of depth painted on a flat piece of paper.
Direct painting - working directly on the paper with very little drawing or under painting.
Dyad - color scheme with two colors.
Glaze - a transparent wash of color over another color modifying the underlying color.
Juicy - a term that describes fluid liquid workable paint. On a scale of 1 to 5, five being wettest juicy is a three or four.
Moist - is a term used in watercolor that describes the wetness of either a brush or paper. On a scale of 1 to 5 five being the
wettest, moist is a two. For my interpretation, a moist brushed will not drip.
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Tint - pure color plus white pigment or with water added to dilute the color in transparent watercolor.
Shade - pure color plus black pigment creating a neutralized version of a color.
Tone - pure color plus gray (black mixed with white) pigments creating a neutralized version of a color of a lighter value than a shade.
Cockling - the wrinkling and bending caused by expansion which occurs with watercolor paper when wet (also called buckling)
Buckling - the wrinkling and bending caused by expansion which occurs with watercolor paper when wet (also called cockling)
Earth colors - actual pigments/colors made from earth materials, such as clay and crushed minerals example: siennas, umbers and ochres
Sometimes hues/colors in the browns and gray families that resemble the natural pigments are also called earth colors.
Fugitive colors - colors that fade when exposed to light
Imperial - The size of a normal full sheet of watercolor paper, approximately 30" X 22" (76cm x 56cm)
Intensity - the brightness or dullness of a color, pigment or hue.
Kneaded Eraser - a kneadable eraser, often used for removing pencil lines from watercolor paper. ( in England its also called Putty Rubber)
Rigger - a brush with long hairs and a fine point originally used to paint the rigging on ships often used for detail work and fine lines such as tree
branches, twigs, grasses, cracks in rocks etc.
Weight - a measure of the thickness of watercolor paper, traditionally the weight of a ream (500 sheets) of imperial size paper (22" x 30") - the
heavier the paper the less prone it is to buckling when wet. Common weights are 90#, 140#, 300# and sometimes 400#
Wet in Wet - the application of wet paint onto wet paper. Also used to describe adding more color into an area of wet paint of the same or different
color. (Not to be confused with the term "charging" which refers to adding thicker intense paint into a damp area of color.)
Stretching - the process of mounting watercolor paper to a board or support prior to painting on it to ensure that it does not buckle when
water is applied. The paper is stretched by soaking in water to allow it to expand and fastening its edges to a board so that it dries taunt like a
drum. Many artists stretch papers of 140lb and less.
Tinting strength - is the power of a color to influence a color mixture. Strong staining pigments can stain weak non-staining pigments.
Luminosity - describes a glowing or radiant undertone in a painting.
Triad - three colors used together in a color scheme with a relationship that usually forms a triangle on the color wheel.
Tetrad - a color scheme based on four colors found on a color wheel with locations forming a square or rectangle .
Tooth - The surface texture of watercolor paper.
Texture - The element of design that refers to the quality of a surface both tactile and visual.
Vanishing point - In perspective, a point on the horizon where at which parallel lines seem to converge or meet.