Thursday, April 8, 2010

How To do a Salt Texture Background Effect in Watercolor

So what is this exactly?   As the salt dries it soaks up color pigment resulting in starlike or snowflake like shapes.I am using 140lb. Canson Watercolor Paper here.   Any weight paper will work.    You can click on both photos to see larger versions.

I also have used liquid masking fluid over my ladybugs.  I work from Light to Dark with watercolor, so the masking allows me to work the entire background but keep areas I do not want color yet protected.

Step 1.  Apply your color washes.  In this demonstration photo, I’ve applied washes with Sap Green, Hooker’s Green and Lemon Yellow.  *Watercolor dries about 50% lighter than it appears while wet, so I’ve done more saturated washes for a darker end result.

Step 2.  While your paper is still wet (there is a sheen on the paper) add Table Salt or Sea Salt where you want the effect to be.  In this case I used regular old Mortan’s Table Salt.
*note  If the paper is too wet, the salt will simply dissolve (you don’t want to put the salt in puddles of water).  If the paper is too dry the salt won’t pick up any of the pigment and the effect won’t be visible.

Step 3.  Allow the background (or wherever you are using this effect) to dry completely.  You could use a hair dryer on low setting but you risk moving the salt around and losing the effect.  Personally I think the effect is more pronounced when left to dry on it’s own.

Step 4.  Once the salt and paper have dried completely simply brush off the salt.  You can also use an old dry bristle brush or dry sponge to remove the salt.  Run your hand over the surface to make sure you have removed all the salt and continue on with your painting.
Here’s what the effect look like:

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