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Watercolor Glossary of Terms

Watercolor Glossary of Terms

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Just beginning in watercolor or need to “brush up” on your watercolor lingo? Here’s a glossary of common watercolor terms:

analogous colors: colors that are closely related on the color wheel

casein: a fast-drying, water-soluble paint derived from milk protein, or casein

charging: technique that involves mixing two or more colors directly on the paper instead of premixing on a palette

cold-pressed paper: lightly textured paper that absorbs paint and water

complementary colors: colors directly across from each other on the color wheel

drybrush technique: brushwork done on the dry surface of the paper

flat wash: brushing successive strokes of color on a wet or dry surface, with each stroke placed next to the other, to create an even layer of color

glazing: applying thin, transparent washes of one color over another color

gradated wash: a wash in which the value gradually changes from dark to light

granulation: speckled effect when coarse pigment settles into the paper indentations as the paint dries

gouache (or body color): an opaque watercolor that can be applied thick or thin

hard edge: the outer perimeter of a shape or series of shapes, sharply defined

hot-pressed paper: smooth, slick paper that doesn’t easily absorb paint and water

hue: a color’s common name (for example, cadmium red)

intensity: a color’s saturation, brightness or strength

layering: applying premixed colors over another wash to change its value or intensity

lifting paint: a technique for removing paint from a surface with a brush, paper towel or tissue in order to correct mistakes, develop textures, create highlights or change values

lost and found edges: also called broken or inferred edges; used to create and suggest movement

masking fluid: liquid latex used to preserve the white of the paper and to create textures

palette: surface on which watercolors are mixed and/or stored

palette knife: small spatula-style knife used to apply or remove paint, or to add texture

pan paint: small cakes of watercolor paint that come in half-pan or whole-pan sizes

pigment: dry coloring matter, usually an insoluble powder, that’s mixed with water and gum Arabic to create paint

rough paper: heavily textured paper

soft edge: fading or disappearing edge

scrubbing: a dry-brush technique used to lift paint from or add color to an area of the surface

staining colors: colors that absorb into the paper before the water has had a chance to evaporate; they’re difficult to lift and will leave a stain on the paper

temperature: the warmness or coolness of a color, depending on where the color is situated on the color wheel

tint: created by adding water to the original color; the more water that’s added, the weaker the intensity

transparent paint: consists of pigment mixed with gum arabic, glycerin and a wetting agent

value: a color’s relative lightness or darkness

variegated wash: type of wet-into-wet wash that involves placing colors side by side and then mixing and blending them along their edges

wet-into-dry wash: also known as a glaze or layering wash; a wash that’s applied to a dry surface

wet-into-wet wash: painting on a wet surface and letting colors blend as they may; looks strong and vibrant while wet but loses intensity when the colors dry

YUPO: a “plastic” paper that doesn’t easily absorb paint and water

Excerpted from The Watercolor Bible by Joe Garcia (North Light Books, 2006).


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Watch the video: How to Paint Watercolor Trees For Beginners (May 2022).