Soaking up sponges

Watercolorists become sponge connoisseurs. You already should have a cellulose sponge beside your water container to help you control the water (I talk about essential supplies in Chapter 2). You can also use a variety of natural sponges to apply paint or lift it off the paper. Figure 4-4 shows some of the sponges you can use to create fun effects.

Watercolor Sponge Painting Techniques

A. Cellulose sponges are good for soaking up liquid, cleaning palettes, squeezing water onto dry pigments, and stamping sponge texture.

B. A natural sea sponge has a variety of hole sizes and can be a quick way to make foliage.

To make foliage, tap a damp sponge into paint on your palette. Choose several colors to load onto the sponge. Lightly tap the paper with the sponge to apply the paint. Repeat the tapping, turning your hand to make different patterns and shapes. Reload the sponge as needed. For a softer effect, spray water onto the colors while wet.

You can also use this sponge to layer colors. Apply one color of paint, let that layer dry, then apply a second layer over the top. Continue until you are happy with the result.

C. An elephant ear sponge is shaped like its namesake and usually is quite thin. You can wad up this sponge to apply paint and create a cool texture.

You can also use it to lift out clouds in a sky. Apply a sky color to your paper, say blue. Before the paint dries, take a dampened elephant ear sponge and blot up some of the blue paint. Turn your hand so the sponge makes different patterns. You are simulating clouds.

D. A sponge on a stick isn't some new, deep-fried county fair concoction. It's a sponge attached to a handle like a brush. A round sponge attached to a wooden handle is great to make circles quickly. Because these brushes come in a variety of sizes, you can use them to make everything from a bunch of grapes to a whole solar system. Try putting different colors on each side of the sponge and twisting it. Fast food! I made the grapes in Figure 4-4 by dipping one side of the round sponge in purple and the other side in green, stamping the brush onto the paper, then twisting to make the circle.

E. Specialty shaped sponges come in animal shapes, alphabets, cowboy boots, you name it. Put the sponge in the watercolor and use it like a stamp to make a quick image.

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