Adjust and correct watercolor paintings

I finally opened the shipment of watercolor paper I ordered back in April. (Oh, the lusciousness!)  And tried the 300# Arches cold press paper. (I may be in love.)

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But, as happens when I don’t approach Lady Watercolor in a joyful, bouncy mood…..she quickly stomped on my dancing toes. But wait, I can rinse it under the sink! Yes, except those quinacridones I love so much are stainers. They don’t rinse. And a watercolor fail was soon born.   Enter Golden acrylics in Zinc White.

Zinc White is a NON-opaque acrylic white.    If you mix it with a touch of the color you’re trying to cover up/correct/blend, you can scrub it in over your dry watercolor painting, and it fades into the mist, as though you never made a correction at all.    And no white flags waving!   I should have taken a before and after photo.   I realize this painting may not inspire anyone to try this method.   But you should have seen it before.   Having given up on the watercolor, and not wanting to throw the paper away, I thought it would be fun to try painting in acrylic on watercolor paper.   (I loved it, by the way.)    So I went in with several hard swipes of magenta and quin violet acrylic, thinking I’d try one of my abstract grid paintings.    I was able to cover all of those lines, and swirl them right into the watercolor clouds I painted.   Without big honking white splotches in the middle of my sky.

As I said, this painting won’t be framed, but for me, it was an invaluable experiment in using acrylic non-opaque white to cover and correct a watercolor painting.   I’ve tried gouache; I’m not a fan.   Maybe you are, and if so, I’m glad it works for you.   What I like about this is the white can fade completely into the background, yet still cover up your hard edge, your bloom, whatever you’d like it to cover.   The more white you add, the white makes itself more obvious.   But if you like, you need see no white at all, just your beautiful clouds or whatever it is you’re painting.   That, to me, is a small miracle.    If you’re interested, this is the product I used, which is in Golden’s Open line (meaning the product stays workable on your palette for hours, even days, without drying up).   (As a Blick affiliate, purchases from this link will help to support my site.)

Getting ready for July’s World Watercolor Month, as initiated by our friend Charlie at Doodlewash!    I hope this sets someone free out there.    Enjoy your weekend, especially all the dads!   Peace.

79 thoughts on “Adjust and correct watercolor paintings

  1. Thank you for your interesting discovery….I am logging that into my brain file if and when needed. I love arches #300…… Infact I think I only have 1/4 left of a sheet so must order some more….if I was in the US I would buy from Blick, but for me it will be the uk SAA 😀

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    1. Glad you enjoy that paper too, Rebecca. Have you ever tried it with acrylics? I found it a lovely surface. This wound up being a wc painting with acrylic on top (first loose and very watered down and then more of the zinc white blending in).

      Don’t you love these accidental discoveries? I had just bought the zinc white to lighten and brighten without the “in-your-face-ness” of Titanium White. And along comes a wc fail (haha, they’re always quite plentiful when the wc palette makes an appearance)…..and I thought I’ll try that white and see what happens. And now I’ve got another tool in my toolbox. Not saying it would work for every single situation, but boy…..nice to know this works as a smooth blender.

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        1. Dawn, it’s hard for me to say, as I’ve never painted in oils (unless you count paint by number sets when I was little lol). I guess I could see what they’re saying, comparing the two. Hmm. I think Rebecca Evans might have painted in all three, and could tell you? I’d be curious what she’d say.

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            1. Have you been wanting to try watercolor? Thinking about finding a middle ground? I wouldn’t mind exploring it as its own medium (if I had the time, money and space for yet another medium right now) but together with WC, I just don’t like it. I’ve seen people use gesso over WC and I think that looks much better. Maybe it’s just me?

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              1. I tried water color a few months before I started oil paintings many years ago and after I got oil paint, I never went back. Watercolor wasn’t bright enough for me. I was just using computer paper and Walgreens cheap kids watercolor and the brush that came with it, but my poppy used the whole cake of red to get it as bright as I wanted. The poppy hangs at my mom’s house. I did a sunflower and some abstracts also. What I like about water color is the easy cleanup. Can’t beat it! I bought some water color pencils last fall and I can’t stand them. I have never used good paper and good paints though so that might make a difference.

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                  1. No ma’am. I stay in my little box these days. I have some acrylics that I pretty much never use also. We save those for sister party paint days when we paint with Cinnamon the Art Sherpa. She wears funny hats and has an apron for every occasion and her classes are easy so we enjoy our girl day hangouts with her.

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                    1. Art for every occasion, lol! The inktense are made with ink and once dry, they’re permanent. Much more intense than typical WC pencils. I started with WC pencils, a set of the traditional ones. I haven’t used them in awhile, may drag them out for WC month next month. WC frustrates the bejesus out of me, honestly. The more I paint with acrylics, the less I wanna even mess with them but at times I still love them. Only wet on wet!

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                    2. Inktense….okay. It is in my brain. Thank you for the suggestion. If I ever try again, I will be sure to get those. Of course your comments about acrylic at the end there put me back to…nah, don’t need to do watercolor. Hehe.

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  2. Nina has always loved Arches paper. I like the painting and you should consider maybe collaging or cutting it up and repurposing it if you’re unsatisfied.
    I do think gouache is different in feel than watercolor or acrylic. I don’t find it chalky at all though. You can use it a lot of different ways. It used to be a mainstay of painted print design (before the digital age) and that’s where I first used it. But that was very exact and controlled. When I paint with it now, I mostly use it right out of the tube and kind of mix layers when painting…all of my recent bird paintings have used it.
    Fun, as always, to read about your process. (K)

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    1. Thanks for the info, Kerfe. I don’t know nearly enough about it, but I appreciate your insights. I’m gonna try painting on the back of this and then I do keep a pile of WC fails for collage. Mainly because I am always inspired when I see what you, Jill, and others do with collage!

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  3. Woman, you are amazing! First off, the Arches 300# cold press fabulous, and now I will take a couple of my flops and see if I can salvage and redo any parts. There is nothing to lose and maybe something wonderful to gain! If not, at least I learned what NOT to do with my flops, and that is part of the process. I adore the colors you used today, and more than that I adore that you experiment and share your findings with us. Kudos for not letting WC stomp on your dancing toes for too long 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Carol, glad you enjoyed! In my case, I had the perfect colors of acrylic paint on my table and used those but my guess is WC paint would work just as well, combined with the zinc white. I don’t suggest using acrylic paint with good sable WC brushes tho. Glad you got something useful from my happy and unhappy accident here. 💜😃

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  4. Oh now….wc won’t stomp, it is “dancing!” lol I love your serendipitous adventure and I love your painting, I think that with so many artist paints, equipment, it is easy to fall into a discovery like what you have experienced. I think this is what art is all about and you showed that very well Laura!

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    1. Thanks, Margaret, it was fun! I was so excited, felt like I found a magic eraser. There probably are a thousand ways to do this, but if I’m gonna try and paint in WC every day in July, I’m arming myself first! lol glad you enjoyed. PS it may dance with you but it stomps on me! 💜

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    1. Thanks, C! I appreciate that. Zinc white is not opaque, and doesn’t wave the white flag quite as much as gesso or titanium white. I think they each have their place but now that I have zinc white I’ll be using it a lot more than titanium white. They all have their place, just nice to know there are other options.

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          1. Hey, Laura – I found this online “Titanium White and Zinc White:
            What is the difference between Titanium White and Zinc White?
            These are two whites with very different characteristics, both of which are useful for the artist, depending on their current needs.

            Titanium White is the more common of the whites used for painting. It’s known for being bright white, almost bluish, and has excellent opacity and high tinting strength. When mixed with another color, it rapidly lightens the color. The drawback of Titanium White is it can be over-bearing at times, especially when you are just looking to lighten the value a bit and not greatly change the color it’s mixed with.

            Enter Zinc White. Zinc White is very transparent, and has 1/10th the tinting strength of Titanium White. The pigment itself is highly translucent, and compliments other transparent pigments, such as Quinacridones, Phthalos, and Hansas very well. You have more control when you add Zinc White. When you add it to another color to lighten it, it doesn’t immediately change it to a pastel shade, like Titanium White can. Both are great colors to have on hand, and you should test both with a variety of other colors to see their strengths and weaknesses first hand.” Now I get it – especially after I read your post. Thanks!!!

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  5. Arches 300 Ib paper is the cream of the crop, IMO! Love it! ❤️ And like what you did here, Laura! 😃 I didn’t know that about Zinc white acrylic paint. I appreciate you sharing your knowledge, friend! 💕🎨 I often paint on both sides of the paper too like you. 😊

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    1. Thanks, Jill! Yes, I’ll definitely flip this one over before calling it quits, but as Kerfe mentioned, always great collage fodder too. Not that I’m telling you anything new since I learned so much of this stuff from you. But yeah, Chris Cozen shared the info about the zinc white in one of her classes and I think it’s going to take over titanium white for me. I don’t like the way titanium white covers so much of what’s underneath. It can be really useful, but for me, I like the glow underneath to come through and I think I’ll be using the zinc white way more now. Always happy to share whatever I come across, glad you could find something of value. Hope you have a great weekend 💜

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  6. This is lovely! The fix blends beautifully and thanks for sharing your process… and woes! hehe… I always have a tube of white gouache at the ready, just in case, as I’m prone to totally kill my whites in my speed painting. But the acrylic sounds much cooler… like White Out! I might need to try that!

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    1. Thanks so much, Charlie! It’s like white out without waving white at the viewer. It’s just wonderful. I hope you can find it useful at some point. Who knew white could even be different, depending on what it’s called ?! I may try dry on dry or wet on dry in July. Maybe it’ll help me keep my sanity lol. ❤️

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  7. beautiful bold colors, with a wonderful free adventuring spirit….. now that’s what I’m talking about!!
    love the colors, don’t think it kicked hiny! …..a little white, a little rinse, and “Bob’s your Uncle!” (OZ lingo) lol 3d

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