Paint on Smooth Surfaces
Painting on smooth surfaces is fun. They allow lifting, translucent watercolor effects and textures. They are perfect for painting streams, rocky coastlines, flowers, animals and other subjects. Oil painters appreciate this technique, since it feels more like oil painting. You have the luxury of retrieving whites and repainting without loss of luminosity. This makes the medium more forgiving. Try several surfaces to discover what they have to offer. All allow some lifting and textures. Hot press papers do not work for these techniques. Paint sinks into the surface and is hard to move or lift.
SURFACES (SOURCES: CHEAP JOE’S ART STUFF CATALOG & DANIEL SMITH CATALOG)
STRATHMORE 500 SERIES, HEAVYWEIGHT, 5 PLY ILLUSTRATION BOARD: 20 x 30”5PK
HIGH PLATE FINISH: Smooth surface, good lifting, easy to control and interesting textures.
VELLUM FINISH: Cold pressed surface more like watercolor paper, some lifting and texture.
BAINBRIDGE PLATE SURFACE ILLUSTRATION BOARD: Allows lifting and textures.
CRESCENT COLD PRESSED WATERCOLOR BOARD AND ILLUSTRATION BOARD: Allow lifting and textures.
STRATHMORE BRISTOL BOARD (500 SERIES) HEAVY PLATE SURFACE; 4 PLY 23 X 29”: 5PK; Similar to illustration board.
STRATHMORE WET MEDIA BOARD; Cold pressed surface, more like watercolor paper and allows lifting.
ARCHES HOT PRESSED WATERCOLOR BOARD; Allows lifting and textures.
YUPO: 20 x 26”; 5PK; Plastic sheet with a slick, smooth surface allows nearly total lifting to white.
TERRA SKIN by MITZ; Multimedia art paper made from stone dust. Allows excellent lifting and textures
AQUARIUS II 90LB PAPER BY STRATHMORE (FOR SURFACE COATING ONLY);
Thin paper; terrible for regular painting, but great for coating. It remains pliable and stays flat when coated. Other papers work too, but heavy ones may curl and produce cracked paint.
TO MAKE YOUR OWN SMOOTH SURFACES:
COAT PAPER SURFACES (STRATHMORE 90LB AQUARIUS II (SUGGESTED)
Liquitex Acrylic Gesso / Golden’s Fluid Matte, or Gloss Acrylic Medium
Foam brush applicators / Paint Roller / Old 2-3” house painting brush
Plastic Sheeting to protect table
Apply coating evenly to Strathmore Aquarius II watercolor paper or paper you want to use up. Lift the edges of the paper after coating to prevent sticking.
Coat with gesso: Place paper on plastic sheeting; it won’t stick to the gesso. Prepare several sheets at once. Use Liquitex Acrylic Gesso full strength and pour a puddle onto the middle of the paper. (the size of a fried egg for a ½ sheet of paper.) Use a 2 – 3” dampened house painting brush, foam brush, brayer, or roller and spread the gesso evenly around all edges and in all different directions; not in just a few. Two thin coats are better than one thick one. Completely cover the paper. If you miss a spot, it will show in the painting and paint will not lift. Any texture left will dry as is and affect the texture of your painting. Sand the surface when dry for a smooth finish, or use a brayer or roller instead of a brush for application. Each coat will dry in about a ½ hour. Use a hair dryer to speed drying. The gritty surface of gesso is hard on brushes, so use worn ones for painting.
Coat with Medium: Mix a small amount of Golden’s Fluid Gel Medium ½ and ½ with water in a paper cup, or small container. Stir with a wooden Popsicle stick, or something you don’t care about! Apply as described above for Gesso. This dries quite smoothly. Paper covered with Matte, or gloss gel medium, is easier on brushes.
ON BOARDS: Use only light pencil lines. You can make a drawing on tracing paper with pencil and transfer it to the watercolor surface. This saves the surface from damage. Don’t erase heavily; it creates abrasions. Commercial carbon papers make too dark a line on the surface. Make you own: cover a piece of tracing paper with soft graphite; smudge it with a tissue, dusting off any excess. Use like carbon paper, bearing down only enough to see a light line. A dark incised line cannot be erased. Enlarge a small drawing by using a grid system to make the painting to scale.
On Yupo, Terra Skin and Coated Surfaces: do not draw with pencil! It ruins the surface. Make a light drawing with watercolor pencil, or a pale value of non staining paint, such as Manganese Blue, on a rigger, or well pointed brush. Erase lightly by blotting with a damp tissue or paper towel.
VALUE SKETCH: Make a small sketch on scrap or in a sketchbook to help work out the distribution of values; light, medium and dark. Try to form a pleasing composition, using the lights and darks to simplify shapes. This is a good warm-up exercise before you paint. I usually do this in one color such as sepia or black, or pencil.