Watercolor paints contain four principal ingredients: pigments, natural or synthetic, mineral or organic gum arabic.

Watercolor Painting

The Gum Arabic acts as the binder that suspends the pigment. Additives like glycerin, ox gall, honey, or other preservatives may be added to the paint colors to alter the viscosity of the paints.

Gum Arabic is a dried water-soluble exudate that comes primarily from two species of the Acacia tree in sub-Saharan Africa (Acacia senegal and A. seyal). Humans have used Gum Arabic as a medium for thousands of years.

Arcadia Tree

Gum Arabic also fixes the pigments onto a painting surface. The traditional and most common support is watercolor paper.

Water is used to activate the paints. The vehicle mixture solvent (water) is used to thin or dilute the paint for application. It then evaporates as the paint hardens or dries.

Watercolor (American English) or watercolor (British English), also aquarelle (French, from Italian diminutive of Latin aqua "water"), refers to both the medium and the resulting artwork.

The watercolor medium dates back to the cave paintings of Paleolithic Europe and was used on papyrus during the Egyptian civilization. It was frequently used for manuscript illustration in monasteries during the European Middle Ages. It was well documented during the German Renaissance since artist Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) used it.


In the early 19th century, American artists seemed to regard watercolor primarily as a sketching tool in preparation for the "finished" work in oil; however, it is an ancient medium that is very old.

In East Asia, watercolor painting with ink was referred to as scroll or brush painting. Chinese, Korean, and Japanese painting has been the dominant medium, often in monochrome black or brown, often using an ink stick or other pigments. India, Ethiopia, and other countries have long watercolor painting traditions.


Includes the following.


What is a wash?

A technique primarily used in watercolor, where pigment is applied with a lot of water.

Flat Wash

A flat wash is used to cover a large area of paper. Using only one color, it is the most basic water medium technique in which you end up with an even area of tone across the paper. The more water added, the lighter the tone will be. The more pigment added the darker the tone will be.

Wet into Wet Wash

It is produced by wetting the area of paper. "Charging in" is the addition of color to wet paint. Once sufficient pigment is added to fill the entire area quickly, let it dry.

The Bloom Effect

Blooms happen when a drop of water falls on wet paint and spreads, pushing the paint on the paper outwards. It also occurs when a wash is partially dry. More water is added, usually from the brush.

Wet into Dry

It is produced by adding sufficient pigment and water over dry paper. The advantage of this technique is you have more control.


What is a Gradation?

A gradation is a watercolor technique used to transition and includes the following types listed below. They are visual effects that may create space, distance, atmosphere, volume, and curved or rounded forms.


Change in value from lighter to darker (or darker to lighter), i.e., a change in tint or shade.


Change in color or hue (from one color gradually to the next), i.e., from red to blue or vice versa.


Change in temperature (from one temperature gradually to the next) i.e. from warm to cool or vice versa.


Change in brightness or dullness (from one chroma or intensity gradually to the next).


What is a Glaze?

It is a layer of semi-transparent paint laid over another painted surface so the original colors still show through.

How to Glaze?

Practice only when the paint is dry. Use a THIN wash with color and a soft brush. Drag the brush over another color once or twice, then let it dry.


What is Veiling?

Veiling involves the build-up of color with several thin layers of transparent paint. It is primarily used in watercolor and may also referred to as "Illuminism."

How to Veil?

A transparent watercolor wash or an extremely thin layer of paint is "veiled" or laid over another. Each paint layer must be completely dry before applying the next layer. The layers of paint may be applied with or without using a pattern.

Transparent or Semi-transparent

What is it?

It refers to transparent paints that allow light to pass through them so that the objects underneath can be distinctively seen.

What is Semi-transparent?

It refers to pigments that are partially or imperfectly transparent. These pigments allow light to pass through so that the objects underneath may be seen.

How to Work with Transparency or Semi-transparency?

Use a black magic marker to find out the transparency of your paint in any medium. Draw a line on the paper or canvas with a black Sharpie, paint over the line, and then you can tell the transparency of the paint. You can check the tube to see the opacity; however, different manufacturers vary.


What are Edges?

In painting, it refers to a change in value from lighter to darker (or darker to lighter), i.e., a change in tint or shade. It may also refer to a change in color or hue (from one color to another) or a change in temperature from warm to cool or vice versa.

Four Types of Edges
  • Sharp, crisp, or hard edges have a lot of contrast and demand attention. Sharp edges separate one tone from another. It's usually what's in focus when we look at something. With regard to soft edges, hard edges create the illusion of depth. Tones with sharp edges appear to come forward, whereas tones with soft edges appear to recede in space. 
  • Firm edges grab less attention than sharp. It is where two contrasting values have a slight or some transition from one to the other. For example, in a dramatic lighting situation, cast shadows are dark next to light areas on the same plane. However, they have softer edges as the shadow recedes into space. 
  • Soft - Edges may appear fuzzy or out of focus. These are the types of edges that we see in our peripheral vision. They do not draw the viewer's attention and may fade or blur one tone into another. 
  • Lost - Edges where two tones or colors create a gradual or smooth gradation and transition from one tone into another.

Thirsty Brush

What is it?

One of the biggest challenges in watercolor painting is controlling the water in your brush. If you accidentally end up with a puddle of water on your paper because you had too much water in your brush, make a thirsty brush by rinsing out your brush and then squeezing the water out with a paper towel or sponge. The brush will absorb the excess water.

Techniques or Tutorials

Includes the following.

Use a black marker, then paint over it with your paints to see if they are semi-transparent or transparent.

Testing pigments for transparency

Color mixing studies from Stacy Egan's notebook.
To enlarge, click on the image.

Earth Yellow Mixtures
Brown and Gray Mixtures
Neutralized (Earth) Oranges
Neutralized (Earth) Yellows
Color Study of Greens
Neutralized Greens

Lists Pigments Unique to Each Palette

Watercolor Travel Kit Accesories and Palettes for Sale

  • The Art Toolkit is a small compact palette for travel.
  • The A. Gallo honey-based watercolor travel palettes.

Painting Animals with Stacy Egan

See below.

Painting Water Features with Stacy Egan.

See below.

Landscape Features in Watercolor: How to Paint Trees (2019)

See below.

Landscape Features in Watercolor: Mountains & Rocks with Stacy Egan (2019)

See below.

Painting Animals with Stacy Egan (2017)

See below.

Materials or Supplies

Includes the following.

Preferred Watercolor Paint Brands

Watercolor Paper

The traditional and most common support is watercolor paper. They are selected by the paper finish and the weight.

Manufacturers generally sell three or more finishes, usually labeled Rough, Cold Press, or Hot Press. See "Paper Finishes" for a description of each.

"Watercolor blocks" keep the paper from buckling up when the paper gets wet or has been waterlogged. Once the artwork is completely dry, each individual paper may be removed using a razor blade or thin object to separate it from the block.

For more information on choosing a paper, click here.

Types of Paper Finishes

Include the following:

  • Unfinished or rough, this finish is not smooth and retains a particular texture. The coarse or textured paper has a strong tooth and can grab smooth materials such as charcoal or pastel.
  • The cold press is smooth. It is less textured and has a slightly weaker tooth than rough paper.
  • Hotpress is utterly smooth because it has been ironed. This type of finish allows for the most detail or smooth gradations. Great for polished sketches or finished drawings. It is also best suited for printmaking.

Types of Finishes Explained

Includes the following.


Is extremely coarse or textured. When manufactured, cylinders are not used to press the paper flat; they are often not pressed or pressed mechanically, resulting in highly textured and rough surfaces. These papers can withstand multiple washes in wet mediums and are typically preferred by pastelists to enhance texture.

Hotpress vs. Coldpress

"Hotpress," "Coldpress," or "Rough" are all designations assigned to watercolor paper. There are different processes for making paper. Each method produces a different tooth or surface texture.


Is extremely smooth. When it is manufactured, heated cylinders press the paper flat, and this causes the paper to mold and flatten, resulting in a smooth surface. Hotpress papers are typically preferred by portrait artists, pen & ink artists, detailed watercolor paintings, or anyone looking for control or precision in their mark-making.


Is coarse or textured. When manufactured, unheated cylinders press the paper flat, resulting in small groves on the surface. Coldpress papers are typically preferred by landscape artists, watercolor artists, pastelists, or anyone looking to exploit the surface texture.


Includes the following.

Misters for Water Mediums

You can slow the drying time with water media by misting your paints or surface. You can purchase an inexpensive bottle for spraying water at any local store or get one from the art store.

Watercolor Atomizer Bottle - This quality constructed atomizer bottle creates a stippled mist, ideal for many painting techniques. This is a clear, 2 oz (59 ml) plastic bottle with a non-clogging nozzle.


Click on the tabs below.

Still Life

Animals or Wildlife



  • Link to demonstrations by each class, click here.

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