How to Use 3 Washes in One Illustration

The way you paint with different watercolor washes in your work is how you get your signature style.  My top washes are wet into wet, gradient and flat washes.  I talk about them in greater detail over at ZEM Brush.  Go check it out, it is my third article over there and I'm loving explaining my behind the scenes as well as showing how I paint.

Don't forget that you get 10% off with the code ERIKA10.

If you have any other questions, let me know!

Watercolor paper 101


When I realized I wanted to finally take a dive in the watercolor pool, I really didn't know where to start.  Choosing the paper seemed as good a place as any.  I took a class at a fabric and craft store and we were given cold press paper as a part of our little supply kit.  Cold press is great for getting that bumpy texture that can accentuate watercolor washes.  The downside of this is when you go to scan and you can't get a good scan or print because of that texture, it gets in the way for me.

I was then introduced to hot press paper when I took a landscape painting class and this was intimidating.  The paper has no texture, super smooth but you can get frustrated because you don't have as much time to play in the washes.  When you are first learning water to paint ratios, hot press paper can be tricky.  But it is wonderful to scan and print when you work with hot press.  No bumps, no lumps, no coconuts.  ;)

Soon after that I think Tracy Bishop, an awesome watercolor and digital artist, told me about soft press paper.  Now this paper is like hot press and cold press had a baby.  There is some texture but just enough, super light.  This can still be a problem with scanning but you get the play time like cold press and a little less intimidation than hot press.

Papers come as free sheets, in block form and in journal form.  I tend to lean toward the blocks for my premium paper.  Pretty much when I want to get a print from my painting.  But when I am on the go and I want to experiment, etc, I use watercolor journals.  My favorite so far is my Moleskine watercolor paper journal because I like the way the paper takes the paint. I'm able to mix just enough to simulate washes like I get in my premium paper.

Lastly there is mixed media paper and this is what I like the least.  I bought a Strathmore Mixed Media journal and the texture is super smooth.  However, it resists my paint from time to time and that can be annoying.  It is a good journal just for messing around without investing a lot of money.  There are 64 pages and you don't get much transfer from the front of the paper to the back.  

If you are starting out I would go the same route I did with cold press paper.  Then you can see how you like the texture and many of the cheaper brands/student grade are in cold press by default so you're golden.  

Happy experimenting!

5 Watercolor Brushes I Love

I tend to paint small, 4"x6" was my largest size for awhile.  For the past few months I've been breaking out of my shell and I'm now at a full 8"x10" painting.  As a result I am painting with bigger brushes along with my ittybittys and I'm obsessed.  

Here are my top 5 and a bonus:

  1. 00 Winsor & Newton Cotman - teeny tiny for little details

  2. 2 Round Princeton - rounds are very versatile and you can use them for just about anything

  3. 2 Da Vinci Maestro - another round that is a great one for washes on smaller paintings or details on larger ones

  4. 2 Grumbacher - Flat edge brush for any sharp edges, a beak on my birds or squares, etc.

  5. 8 Princeton Elite - a larger round brush for bigger washes

  6. Bonus* - 3/4 Grumbacher 680 Mop (can’t link to exact one, this one goes to a nylon bristle version) - versatile because of the rounded shape and the size holds so much water, can get a lot out of it without re-wetting the brush

Little tip, the bigger the brush, the more water and then more time for color play in the washes.

Do you paint big or small?  I posted a YouTube video showing these brushes as well as some of the swatches/marks they make as well.  

Here's a list of my favorite supplies.  Whatever your preference, I encourage you to try something new and see what happens.

If this was helpful and you are interested in learning more about watercolor, take my online instant access watercolor course at Can’t wait to paint with you!


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