Comparing Watercolor Finishes - from guest blogger Ashley Beyer

Posted by Holly Buhler on

Hello my beautiful experimenters! This week I wanted to get back to the basics a little and highlight the simple yet important differences between glitter, shimmer and more matte watercolors. As some of you know, Smiling Hippo watercolors are known for their glitters so for this blog post we will be solely focused on the Hippo Mini palette, mini flower palette, and the matte whitest white pan. 


Now before we get into the nitty gritty, let me refresh your memory on who I am and why you should care! My name is Ashley B and I am the sole wood burner for Firecrafted Serenity (@firecrafted_serenity). As someone who has been burning for many years, and running a wood burning business for a few, I’ve picked up some tips and tricks over time and am here to share the knowledge! And as always, implore you all to experiment on your own and see what you discover! 


Now as any step to getting back to the basics goes, you need to first grab your nearest piece of wood and doodle a little something to get your “wooden canvas” going! For this I doodled a little alien guy (playing off the shape of my wood piece) and burned it in. I wanted a simple canvas without much line work or burn work so I could really play with colors and the different glitter variations! Before anything is burned in, prepping the surface becomes an important step for glitter watercolors. I like to sand the surface to make sure it’s smooth, so it’s not only ready for burning but ready for watercolors as well. Some pieces will require more sanding then others, it just depends on the cuts of wood used. Once the surface is prepped, doodle drawn and burned in, you’re ready to get started on the color portions! 


Before any water hits the colors, a general understanding of the differences between textures is important. Chunky glitter watercolors are going to need way more water to watercolor ratio to pick up the glitter and spread it across the wood. These colors seem to be more transparent meaning less pigmentation which is beneficial as it won’t cover up the burnings. While this can give a super cool final effect on pieces, some might find they prefer the finer glitter or shimmer watercolors due ti the chunky nature of the glitters and the 3D texture it leaves once dried. 



The finer glitter watercolors give multi dimensions to the wood pieces without giving a chunky texture to the wood itself or having chunks of glitter added to the wood. This shimmery effect catches the light in ways matte watercolors do not. Something to note here however is while these do require less water to color ration as they’re highly pigmented, in order to get it to spread thinly across the wood, more water to color ratio is needed. Using more water on wood pieces is something to be mindful of, as too much water can damage the integrity of the wood itself. I personally find the beautiful shimmer to be a huge pay off on the slight chance of damage from the water, but you can decide for yourself with some experimenting! 



Matte watercolors are very different compared to glitter watercolors in the simple sense of how much water you need to use to get desired color on the wood as well as the texture they leave on the wood as well. Since there is no glitter added to a matte, they do not have the added layers of textures that you see in above. 



Matte watercolors are great to have on hand due to their ability to bump down the shimmer effect or amount of visible glitter in your pieces. I implore you to experiment  with mixing different types or watercolors so you can see the very different textures from the style of glitters, as well as how the amount of water used changes these effects on your pieces as they dry. Above you can see how matte the white dot is compared to the rest of the colors on the alien. For this piece, not much matte color is needed but for your piece you might want more! 


Remember, there is no right or wrong way to color your piece of work! Excitement and see what you like - it might surprise you in the end as it dries. Happy experimenting! 


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