As you begin to play with the endless potential of watercolors and woodburnings, you will come to realize that not everything may work the way you envisioned, and that’s okay! Do not fret for I am here to share some little tricks and tips I’ve picked up along the way. As a little reminder, all watercolors discussed in these blog posts are The Smiling Hippo watercolor company and will be specific tips to these brand watercolors!
Whether you followed along last blog post about the myths of watercolors on wood or experimented of your own accord - you may have noticed some differences between using matte versus sparkly watercolors, more pigmented versus less, or even how much water mixed in changes it. And if you’re sitting there completely stupefied, don’t worry! I’m going to walk you through some key tips on how to get your watercolors popping on your woodburnings!
Now before you start to question why I’m worth listening to, let’s quickly review my credibility. My name is Ashley B and I am the sole owner/artist for Firecrafted Serenity (@firecrafted_serenity for those who want to creep on my page). I have been woodburning for over 2 and a half years now and am always looking to grow my understanding of this craft. Pushing the boundaries and exploring the capability of watercolors is a big part of how I learned all of these tips and tricks I’m about to share with you; and I implore you all to do the same and not just take my word for it!
Before any woodburning can be painted, it must first be designed and burned in. While this might seem like an obvious step, it is important to think about where you might want to add color in your piece and to what extent. Thinking about these things ahead of time will make your creative process flow a bit easier as your wood burned lines will not get ‘covered up’ by watercolor when the time comes. Do you want one color to stand out or do you want a blend of colors? Do you want the natural wood grain to poke through the color or do you want the colorr to saturateto completely cover? Do you want a matte finish to your color or a more shimmery/glitter finish? These are important things to consider before even touching a paintbrush to your wood burned design. As you can see, I sketched out my design lightly and then plainly burned in the part (tennis ball) I knew I would be adding color to.
Once I knew I wanted to add color to the tennis ball to make it really pop, I started to look at the watercolors I had that were remotely close to the color and realized I could mix one of my mystery samples (what looks like a neon highlighter yellow) with this beautiful shimmery green, pictured below. This smiling hippo watercolor is called “meadow” and was a big focus in my piece.
The texture of glitter watercolors does add a learning curve, as they don’t paint on wood like other watercolors do, but don’t let that deter you! Grab her glitteriest of shades and push yourself to try something new! The shimmer of the watercolor adds a new dimension to the woodburnings, causing them to catch and reflect light in ways wood does not naturally. Adding something like that can bring focus to one part of the piece specifically like I did above with the tennis ball. By having an idea ahead of time, I could plan where I wanted the pop of color exactly and what color I needed to achieve that. Mixing the matte neon with the glittery “meadow” was the perfect way to achieve the tennis ball effect I was going for. The matte neon bumped the glittery shine of meadow down a little which helped give it a more realistic feel for a fuzzy tennis ball. If you haven’t caught it already, the next pro-tip is to mix your shimmer watercolor with a matte one to dial down the shimmer effect!
Experimenting with mixing different types of colors or textures of watercolors will push you to think outside the box when creating your own pieces. Remember, you can always add more color or shine to a piece but you *cannot* take it away! I do want to point out here that when you are using shimmer or glitter watercolors, you should take the utmost precaution if you plan on going back over your woodburned lines as it could be hazardous. Glitter may cause sparks to occur, so it is not advised!
If you look above, you can notice a slight metallic effect I added to the tennis racket. Here, I wanted to give the feel of metal without overbearing my woodburned lines. Using another mystery sample of this green-purple colorshift, I got the perfect effect for a tennis racket gleaming in the sun. I purposely put watercolor over my woodburned lines to give this illusion but notice how it doesn’t completely cover them, it has a translucent look to it. Adding a good amount of water to a little watercolor ratio and spreading that around the woodburned lines is the perfect way to get this effect. The key here is patience and knowing that water is your best friend as a little drop will continue to spread the pigmented shimmers around.
The best part of experimenting with Metallics and new tricks is knowing there is no wrong way or wrong outcome! It is your art, your piece and therefore your vision. Taking your time and trusting the process are the most important takeaways here!
Adding on to the color, mixing the glitters together, or a matte and metallic, playing with extra or less water mixed in and remembering to ignore your inner voice that tells you this isn’t normal or right. So grab your nearest, sparkliest smiling hippo watercolor and start playing with its endless opportunities! The outcomes most surprise you.