Using white in watercolour painting

Updated: Aug 6, 2020

One of my most vivid memories of being taught to paint a watercolour was being told use the white of the paper to show transparency. I have taken this with me throughout my time as an artist, however sometime this is hard to do. Sometimes you can get a little carried away and loose that transparency when you still need to have it in your painting. So what to do. I'm going to show you several paintings I have painted in watercolour where I have simply gone back with white acrylic. I have only just started to paint watercolour again recently, traditionally I have worked with acrylic through painting nursery art (that story if for another day)

I painted this iris flower in watercolour back in the Spring of 2020, it's a very translucent, delicate flower and requires a subtle treatment; using the white of the paper meant I could achieve the correct balance of colour. However I used Khadi 100% cotton rag paper which has a cream hue so I simply went back into the artwork with a bright white acrylic paint. This one was Windsor & Newton Artists acrylic so it is loaded with pigment, perfect just highlight little areas within the painting. I believe it did the job, and also added a little texture which was desirable in this painting as it was all about texture and a subtle feel.

This painting of Split in Croatia is full of white areas, I wanted to evoke the fresh holiday feel in this painting so I need to keep areas of it light. I wanted the boats and houses to pop out of the paper as if they were twinkling in the sunlight. If that opportunity is missed then pop back into the painting with bright white acrylic paint and enjoy the effect it makes. Mixing media is a confident way to paint and can just make the paint a little more interesting.

Watercolour from Split, Croatia

The succulents from my garden in the final painting I would like to show, are outlined in white and I mostly managed to use the white of the paper, however I had to go back in a little with the white acrylic. Just here and there to add pattern. It was successful in just adding soft white to the piece.

Anyway that's the end of my little tutorial on watercolour painting with white. Don't be afraid to add areas of white, don't overdo it, but use as highlights and enjoy the effect. If you lose the white in a piece just add it back in, working in mixed media is fun and can achieve some interesting results.

Happy watercolour painting.

Amanda x

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