Making black and white

Now that you have the physics of creating colors down, what do you do when you want black and white in your painting? You can buy tubes of black and white paint, but in transparent watercolor painting, you traditionally include white by using the white of the watercolor paper. The best way to achieve white is by carefully painting around the area you want to remain white. Because you must "save" the whites, you need to plan paintings by sketching where white will go. Another way to save white is to use masking fluid. (Chapter 7 talks about planning your painting; Chapter 4 tells you how to use masking fluid and talks more about keeping white in your paintings.)

Of course, you can buy white paint, but it can produce a chalky, dull look that isn't as nice as the beauty of a glowing transparent watercolor paint. Some watercolor snobs frown on the use of white paint, and some watercolor exhibitions even prohibit its use. But white paint is available, and if it looks good, go ahead and use it.

White looks white because of the darks surrounding it. Sometimes an area that looks white has a lot of color painted in it.

You may think you can use a tube of black paint, but be careful. Black straight out of the tube can be lifeless and look like you punched a hole in your paper. You're much better off mixing your black from other dark colors. My favorite black formulas include:

1 Ultramarine blue and burnt sienna for a blue-gray. Add some violet for a transparent blue-gray.

1 Violet and Payne's gray for a purpley-gray.

1 Hookers green and alizarin crimson make a green-black.

To get solid, dark black, you may want to build up the color by layering the paint, allowing the layer to dry before applying the next layer. It's difficult to get dark blacks on white paper on the first try. Just like painting a room, sometimes you need a second or third coat.

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