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If you’re surprised at there being another part in this series, buckle in, so am I! As I kept at writing, thinking back to techniques I’ve done and researching other ways to recover White in Watercolor, I just kept finding more! This is technically part 3.5 of this series and you can check out the previous postings in the links below to get caught up.
We left off last week with manipulating wet paint to recover the white of your watercolor paper. Before we delve into lifting dry paint, I’d like to take a moment to warn you that “there be monsters here”! Really! These techniques for lifting and manipulating the dried watercolor are likely to damage the paper surface. In most cases, it’ll be roughened by scraping with hard tools or vigorous scrubbing with brushes. Once the gelatin sizing of the paper is damaged, the paper will soak up paint like a sponge. So it’s recommended to use the following techniques when you’re finishing up your painting.
Now that you’ve been warned, you can try using a damp brush to moisten dry paint and lift it from the surface. From there, you can either wipe the paint off the brush with a cloth or paper towel, or rinse it completely so you don’t reapply paint where you don’t want it. Also, take care not to over wet the area. It’s better to let the area dry, then resoak to lift more paint than just saturating and pulling up paper fibers.
If your paint contains non-staining pigments, you can scrub them out by rewetting the area for a few moments before scrubbing with a stiffer brush (like for oils/acrylics or a toothbrush) and finishing by blotting up the watercolor. (Many staining pigments will partially lift too!)
*To get a crisp edge with this technique, you’ll want to lay down some masking tape or a stencil and make sure it’s firmly in place before wetting the paper.
In getting back to blotting up dried paint, you can define the area of paint you want to lift by carefully wetting with water. Be gentle to avoid disturbing the paint yet. If it’s too difficult for you to do with a brush, use a sprayer with a fine mist to dampen the area. Once you have the area moistened, let it sit for about 30 seconds to soak into the paint layer below… and now, you blot.
*Two quick things on blotting, you’ll probably want to press straight down, unless you want a smeared look… and take it easy on the water, or else when you blot, it’ll push the water out the edges affecting more of your painting that you intended!
Along with blotting, you can also scrub the surface with a towel. There’s lots of variables you can experiment with to see how much paint will lift when you allow the water to soak into the paper for different lengths of time and how much pressure you use when scrubbing with a towel. You can also try dampening the towel or using a sponge when blotting. 🙂
Don’t overlook using your water spray bottle in removing paint! You can use a more forceful spray to shoot the paint off the paper, squirt little dots or spots if you hold the sprayer closer, or let water mist down. After soaking in for a moment, you can then blot off or manipulate the paint with a brush as needed.
*Below are some of the more extreme techniques, you’ll probably want to try these only if you’re using a decently heavy watercolor paper (like 140lb and up)
To scratch or scrape back paint in a dried area will take a little patience and finesse. Dampen the area with a brush or sprayer and allow the water to soak in for a few seconds, then you’ll use a blunt object (like the end of a paint brush, rubber or silicone wipe out tool, etc.) to scrape the paint out of that area.
A more unexpected way to regain the white of your paper from dried paint being involved, is to use an eraser. Plastic and pink erasers will only lift a small degree of paint, so when you need to bring out the big guns, you’ll want a very firm eraser, like a typewriter eraser. You can also pair this technique with a ruler or a stencil if you’re trying to stick to a specific shape.
Breaking out some sandpaper to sand away the unwanted paint will also bring up some paper fiber, so you’ll want to start lightly and check your progress frequently by blowing away the unwanted material (and to check that you didn’t put a hole in your paper). The rougher sandpaper can leave an interesting texture on it’s own, but if you’re trying to lift as little paper as possible, go with an ultra-fine grit, like for automotive uses.
You can also scrape in your highlights with a knife or razor blade. It’s also good to blow away the removed paint and paper fibers to check your results as you go.
And lastly, for a more extreme removal of paint (and paper), you can cut away a layer of your watercolor paper! Work slow or test out the technique on another sheet of paper so you can get a feel for slicing away the desired amount of the paper.
Well, I hope this series has been fun for you. Please let me know your thoughts, if I missed something, or really anything else! I’d love to hear from you. 🙂