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Watercolour Pan vs tube

Watercolour paint comes in two formats, one of the most often asked questions is what the difference is between the paint in a tube vs that in a pan.

Winsor and Newton Cotman Tube and Pan

Essentially there is no difference between a tube and pan. The only difference is that the pan paint has been poured and dried. In fact you can create your own pans from tubes by simply squeezing your favorite colours into empty pans.

With a pan though, you will need to work a little harder to ‘wake the paint’. You can gently mist your pans with water from a spray to start this process – only gently as you don’t want to flood the pans as this will cause you problems when cleaning up.

How to use watercolor from a tube

Squeeze a small amount of paint onto your palette and dilute with water before painting. 

The pros:

One of the biggest advantages of watercolor from a tube is that it’s a concentrated amount of the colour, so it will apply instantly vibrant.

The cons:

Depending on the type of paint, if it dries on your palette, it may not “revive” with water in quite the same way as watercolor from a cake. This is due to different formulations depending on the manufacturer (some are better than others in this regard).

Additionally, if you ever don’t screw the top on entirely, your watercolor paint will dry in the tube, and is very difficult to remove from the tube once that happens. 

Watercolor in a pan

Watercolor paint in pans comes as rectangular or circular “cakes” that are fitted into individual pans. They are extruded under pressure, which compressed them into the cakes. They’re dry to the touch, but when you dab a wet brush in the watercolor, it is “activated.”

How to use watercolor paint in a pan:

Wet your brush and dip it on the cake to pick up the pigment.

The pros:

Since the paint is dry to the touch, it’s easy to transport, and you don’t have to worry about tubes breaking open.

The cons:

Because you need to wet your brush and dip it in the paint, it can take a while to get the paint to a good working consistency. Particularly when working in large areas or creating watercolor washes, this can be frustrating. Certain pigments are a little harder to work with than others, and will require more water to moisten and bring to a workable texture.

Can they be used together?

Yes, you can use watercolors in a pan and from a tube in the same painting. You can even mix one color from a tube and combine it with another from a pan. I’ve never had a problem with this. 

Can they be used interchangeably? 

It depends on the level of exactitude you’re going for. Since watercolor from a tube comes out more vibrant, getting the same color with paint from a pan will take more paint and less water.

So … which should I choose? 

Ultimately, that’s your decision. Pans are easier to transport, so perhaps better for painting outdoors rather than in a studio environment.

However, when working in larger areas or creating watercolor washes, the concentrated vibrancy of the paint from a tube can give you more control.

There is no easy answer to this question, personal choice seems to be a bit of a cop out – but essentially it is your choice, and the best way to find out is to try both.

With 40 colours available in Pan and Tube Winsor & Newton Cotman paints are the number 1 choice for watercolour students and artists alike. Browse the colours here

Looking for some inspiration? Watch this FREE short tutorial to paint a beautiful snowdrop with Rebecca Yoxall

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Lightfast Watercolour Ink – Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus

Hydrus Watercolour Ink

Introducing Dr. Ph. Martin’s Lightfast Watercolour Ink

Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus watercolour is a liquid pigment-based watercolour ink. It is archival grade, acid free and lightfast.

This liquid watercolour products offers the same brilliance and permanency that can be found in a traditional watercolour tube.

The product can be blended and intermixed whilst maintaining luminous, transparent colour. Due to the watercolour nature of these products, it is easy to build up layers quickly.

Remember when using these lightfast watercolour inks, that a little goes a long way! You really don’t need to use a lot to get a wonderful depth of colour.

They are vibrant colours when undiluted and can be diluted with water to create a softer look. they also work with watercolour mediums to create different effects.

Dr. Ph.Martin's Hydrus Ink Features
Hydrus suitable for use with

Just one drop of these can unleash a world of possibilities

Take a look at the amazing colours … click here to buy them

Hydrus Colour Chart

You can download a copy of the Lightfast Watercolour Ink Colour Chart here

About the company who makes these amazing watercolour inks

Since 1934 Dr. Ph. Martin’s has specialized in putting the tools in the hands of artists that allow them to create their life’s best work. For over 80 years chemists at Dr. Ph. Martin’s have worked tirelessly on creating the best liquid watercolors, inks, and other color products. Dr. Ph. Martin’s products are world renowned for their vivid colors, special properties, and the way they work across mediums.

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Create a Butterfly with UniPin

UniPin Fine Liner

If you’re looking for a fun creative project, why not Create a Butterfly with UniPin?

By using the various uni-PIN pen sizes you can create a series intricate butterfly designs by making different lines and strokes to achieve different looks. The detailed nature of this activity will also be a great way to practice a some mindful drawing, helping to improve your health and well-being.

Did you know that drawing is good for you? The process hones personal development and problem-solving skills, it releases endorphin and aids in relaxation and stress relief. Also, we we actively use both sides of our brain when drawing, the right for creativity, and the left for logical thinking, this helps develop the ability to focus and think strategically.

With this zentangle-inspired project we give you a free template to use with there different butterfly shades. Our step by step will give you some mark-making ideas to get started but you can let your creativity go wild with your PIN pens.

uni-PIN pen, the first choice of for professionals

Whether you’re a part-time doodler, dedicated artist, devoted designer or simply want to perfect your hand lettering, a uni-PIN pen is the perfect tool for you.

The uni-ball PIN is the pros choice. An excellent value drawing and writing pen, it contains fade proof and water resistant Super Ink – great for when you need your creations to last.

Its solid pigment ink line is clear, clean and precise, which is why the PIN is loved by professional artists and illustrators, graphic artists, architects and amateur hobbyists alike. Ink is water resistant too so the pens be used with watercolour as the ink will not smudge when wet.

Its choice of 14 black PIN nib sizes from delicate 0.03 to a heavy 1.2 (including an expressive brush tip), means you can create several line widths with your PIN. This enables you to master a range of techniques including fine line drawing and hand lettering.  PIN’s brush tip is firm, so it adapts to your pressure, angle or speed of writing. This firmness gives you excellent control, giving you the power to truly master brush script and expressive brush pen painting techniques.

This project makes the most of this variation in nib sizes and really allows the excellent black pigment to sing, so why not try this drawing project yourself this up-coming weekend?

1: Intricate Butterflies shopping list

To create your intricate butterfly illustration you will need the following

1: Seawhite Cartridge pad A4
2: uni-PIN pens 0.05, 0.1. 0.3. 0.5, 1.0 and brush
3: uni-ball Eye pen 
4: Kuru Toga Pencil 
5: Tracing paper
6: Downloadable template, to download click here to save then print out.

2: Trace and transfer

You can print out your template directly onto tracing paper or use this template to trace from. Do this by placing the template on a flat, smooth surface. Lay the tracing paper over it and fix with the tape. Trace the picture with a 0.5 PIN pen. Once you have finished, remove the template from underneath the tracing paper.

uni-PIN Fine Liner Drawing Exercise

Which ever way you have placed your image on the tracing paper, turn the tracing paper over so the image is face down. Apply your Kuro toga pencil to the back of your drawing. Move your pencil lead back and forth to create an even surface. To transfer your drawing, place the tracing paper gently on top of your sketchbook paper with the pencil stroke side face down.  Trace the image, by going over the lines using a the Gel Grip pen, with pressure, onto the card. Lift up the tracing paper to reveal the image.

3: Start working on your PIN pen design

uni-PIN Fine Liner Drawing Exercise

As you can see the butterfly shapes are divided into sections for you to till in with decorative line effects and shading. The best way to anchor a design such as this is to fill in the dense areas of colour coverage first to give your illustration some structure. We used a 0.5 PIN pen here for an even line and solid colour coverage.  We then used our 0.3 PIN to make cross hatched shading and curved lines in another section to add shape and contrasting textures to the centre of our butterfly.

uni-PIN Fine Liner Drawing Exercise

4: Practice shading and shaping techniques with PIN pen

You can make so many effective marks with the uni-PIN pen. What we love about this project is, because you have a simple template to fill in, you can explore a variation of shading and shaping techniques within a contained design. This means whatever you end up doing, the illustration should still look cohesive and professional. Above we used our 0.1 pen to make overlapping jagged lines for a strong graphic shading. We then used the same nib size to make smooth lines for a delicate shading effect around the central wings. We also used the fine 0.1mm nib to draw an overlapping curved lines in the centre of the butterfly’s body and made a more linear scallop scale design in some of the wing sections.

uni-PIN Fine Liner Drawing Exercise

5: Be playful and experiment with your PIN pens to Create a Butterfly with UniPin

Play with each section and experiment with various line techniques. One really lovely effect is to play with the direction of your lines to fill-in an area. Simply use your 0.1 nib to make three lines in one direction and connect with three lines drawn in the opposite way, continue with this until you fill in the entire section.

uni-PIN Fine Liner Drawing Exercise

Now grab your brush tip and see what lines you can make with that. We’ve coloured in the head and made simple brush strokes at the top tips of the wings, criss-crossed one section to create a ‘net’ design, then made curved strokes in another section as you can see above. You can also use the brush nib to draw expressive antenna by holding the tip at an angle and making two loose curved strokes from the top of the head.

6: Add final shading with smaller PIN pen nibs

Once you’re happy with most of your sections, you may want to fill in the smaller areas with simple shading. You can use your 0.1 nib to make very tight cross-hatched sections as seen above for light, textural shading. Or you can employ a light pressure to free-shade sections using your 0.05 PIN pen.

uni-PIN Fine Liner Drawing Exercise
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Tombow Dual Brush Pen Free Downloads

Tombow Dual Brush pen

We get asked a lot about the best way to track your ‘Tombow Dual Brush Pen’ colours, and so we thought we’d make things easy for you by creating a Colour Selector and Colour Tracker. So read on to find out about our Tombow Dual Brush Pen Free Downloads.

Tombow’s dual brush pens are perfect for creating cards, producing motifs, sketching, drawing, illustrating and much more. The dual tips consist of a wide ‘brush like’ marker for extensive colouring and a fine marker for precise detailing.

The best news? They’re FREE!

The Colour Selector includes all ’96 Dual Brush Pen colours’ sorted by shade and shows you what each color looks like. Feel free to print this out as a reference, but please know that not all monitors or printers will show or print the colors the same way, so you may notice some discrepancies.

That’s why we’re also offering the Colour Tracker – which is a black and white version of the Color Selector that you can print out and use to keep track of the Dual Brush Pen colors you own.

The Tombow ABT Dual Brush Pen has a fine tip perfect for consistent lines and tight drawings. Complemented by a highly flexible brush tip which is soft yet durable.

Tombow Dual Brush ABT’s are water-based. They are odourless, non-toxic and acid free.

They work like watercolour paints and blend effortlessly. These pens are designed for rubber-stamping, card-making and as artists’ watercolour pens. The Dual Brush Pen is great for comic book designers and graphic artists.

Click on the links below to get your Tombow Dual Brush Pen Free Downloads.

Download Colour Selector

Download Colour Tracker

We hope you enjoy these! What other tools would be helpful for you that we may be able to offer?

Let us know in the comments, and be sure to follow us on FacebookInstagram.

You can also follow Tombow on PinterestTwitter, and YouTube for more tips, tricks and ideas!

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Spotlight on Polychromos and Caran d’Ache Artists Coloured Pencils

Polychromos and Caran d'ache Luminance

Colouring Pencils or Professional Artists Tools

Coloured pencils are a pigment held together with a binder and then encased in wood. The quality of the pencil all depends on the ratio of pigment to binder and the quality of the pigment used.

The top artist quality colouring pencils will create more vibrant colours. Most colour pencils are pigment bound in a wax binder. A wax bound pencil is typically softer and will apply a richer colour with less pressure whilst an oil based pencil are more hard wearing and last longer.

However, there are drawbacks to using a wax binder such as the potential for wax bloom and build up. These occur as the binder begins to evaporate and move to surface- creating a white residue.

We stock both Polychromos Artists Pencils and Caran d’Ache Luminance 6901 pencils.

We see many reviews comparing one as better than the other – but we believe in consultation with our artists that having access to both ranges gives artists a much better opportunity as they work well in collaboration, giving you access to an immense colour palette of professional grade pencils for your work.

Faber Castel Polychromos Pencils

Faber Castel Polychromos is an oil based pencil which makes it a firmer lead- but they are extremely pigmented which allows an intense laydown. These pencils layer and blend extremely well together as well. When using an oil based pencil, you can use Zest It Pencil Blend– a solvent which helps to blend the pencils out- try using a pencil blending stump dipped in zest it to see what effects you can get! You can watch a video tutorial by Joanna Basford here.

Caren D’Ache Luminance Pencils

The Caran d’Ache Luminance is a combination of oil and wax binder which creates a smooth creamy pencil. This vibrant pencil glides beautifully across paper with a soft and even blend. However, due to the creaminess of the pencil it does make it difficult to draw fine details in your work.

This is why many artists choose to combine the use of Polychromos to get the finer details and luminance for larger areas of the work.

We stock both Faber Castell Polychromos Pencils and Caren d’Ache Luminance Pencils either as single stock or in a range of tinned sets.

Polychromos and Luminance Colourcharts

When you read a colour chart it doesn’t just tell you the colours it tells you important information about the quality of the lightfastness of your chosen colours.

If you are interested in lightfastness of different brands you can read more here generally speaking though if you work with lighter shades and strong reds these are likely to have less resistance to light, so don’t display in strong sunlight.

You can also protect your work with a UV stabilised non solvent based varnish such as the Montana range . We would suggest a matt or semi gloss for a realistic finish.

Download a Polychromos Pencil Colour Chart

Download a Caran d’Ache Pencil Colour Chart

Credit for images:

Many thanks to Tamara Howarth for sending over her work for us to use in this article. Tamara is a portrait artist from Pembrokeshire, South West Wales, currently based in Liverpool. England. She specialises in bespoke commission work as well as her own inspired works. Explore her work through the links below:

Facebook: tamarahowarthart

Instagram: @tammyhowarth.100


Article written by Tabitha Bower for Northwich Art Shop

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Introducing the Uni Emott Fineliner

mitsuibishi uni emott fineliner

The Mitsubishi Uni Emott Fineliner is a bit of a hidden secret, or perhaps to those who have discovered it is, is it a guilty pleasure?

If you are looking for a quality sketching and drawing pen that is also great for handwriting too. Look no further!

Water resistant and fadeproof – Emott Fineliner

The Mitsubishi Uni Emott fineliner has a superfine tip that is durable and resistant to splitting or bending. Meaning the 0.4mm line width stays constant.

Water-resistant, fadeproof ink that’s also feather-resistant.

Stylish, minimalist barrel design: matt white finish with a 15mm band denoting ink colour. 7mm square profile, secure cap that posts easily onto the end of the pen.

Being a water based ink they are perfect for any drawing.

Ideal for those of you who are bullet journaling, bible journaling as it wont bleed or smear, and doesn’t feather.

There are 10 colours in the range, available individually:

Unipin Emott fineliner colour chart

These pens not only write very well, but their coverage when you use them for colouring is really impressive. Fineliners can sometimes be a bit scratchy when you use them for block colour and leave streaks in your designs.

These pens are smooth to use, with a durable nib, and the pen lines blend in really well together, giving the look of having used a thicker pen.

I really like the fact that you can use these for both small design elements and for bigger blocks of colour.

Customer Review
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Spotlight on Gesso Primer

Create the best surface with gesso

Spotlight on Gesso Primer

Spotlight on Gesso Primer – makes your paintings brighter and your paint go further. Acrylic primer is suitable for acrylic and oil painting.

Gesso, pronounced ‘jesso‘, was traditionally used to prepare or prime a surface so Oil paint would adhere to it. Gesso is the same as a primer, as in ‘pre-primed canvas’.

It is made from a combination of paint pigment, chalk and binder. It is recommended that you apply further layers of Gesso to pre primed canvas as often this is a single layer and still leaves canvas semi raw, so still absorbent.

Traditional Oil ‘glue gesso’ was made with an animal glue binder, usually rabbit-skin glue, chalk, and white pigment, usually Titanium white.

Gesso is usually white or off-white and is used after you have sealed the raw canvas with a coat of size.  

It creates a surface that is both absorbent (particularly useful for ‘dead’ colouring with oils) and has a ‘tooth’ (texture) that allows paint to grab onto the surface.

So what is Acrylic Gesso?

Modern acrylic gesso is a combination of calcium carbonate (chalk) with an acrylic polymer medium (binder), a pigment (titanium white) and other chemicals that ensure flexibility, and ensure long archival life.

Why do I need to use a gesso primer for Acrylic painting?

Technically you don’t.

But in practice painting directly onto a raw canvas is not an enjoyable experience. Unless you are interested in deep staining effects like Morris Louis who became fascinated with using diluted acrylic paint to stain the raw canvas, rather than apply with a brush.

Can I use acrylic gesso under an oil painting?

Yes and no.

Yes for 90% of your paintings especially if your just beginning ‘acrylic gesso‘ will be fine if the raw canvas has been properly sized, thus protecting the canvas from the corrosive nature of oil.

However, if it was for a portrait or to produce a masterpiece for your painting legacy I would use an Oil based Primer purely for the fact it has been time-tested and the Oil will always adhere better to Oil than sitting on top of an Acrylic. We don’t stock oil primer but can order this in for you.

Tip: If you want the first layer of paint to dry quicker than it normally might, just add gesso. The gesso primer layer can soak up the oil from within the paint and leave a ‘dead’ flat underpainting that won’t have any sheen to it. Imagine the difference between painting onto glass and painting onto blotting paper. All the oil from the paint would be absorbed into the primer layer.

Homemade or ready-made?

Shop bought gesso comes pre-prepared in tubs or tubes and is pretty good, homemade gesso is cheaper to produce and can be adjusted to personal needs and tastes, however, it’s not needed when you are first starting painting.

Artist or Student quality?

As with paints, the difference between the two is dependent on price. The artist quality having a higher price, more pigment, and a higher opacity. The student quality will have a lower quantity of pigment and more filler. If you are painting onto a raw canvas the artist quality would be best due to the increased opacity. For adding a bit more absorbency to a pre-primed canvas student quality would be fine (you can always add extra white pigment to it).

You can browse our range of Gesso Primer here

You can find Student Quality Gesso here

Can I colour the gesso?

Yes. If you are pushed for time you can mix some paint into the gesso to tint it. You can also buy premixed black gesso and clear gesso. For example, if you are painting a blue seascape the warm undertone of Yellow Ochre can balance perfectly to the cool blues in the scene, adding the feeling of the sun hitting parts of your painting.

Pre-primed canvas boards

Pre-primed”  means “pre-gesso” It already has a gesso layer applied in the factory. On cheaper ranges for some manufacturers often use a seal on top which creates a shiny surface which defeats the object of gesso.

If you are using watered down paint or student quality paints this shiny surface can repel the paint.

The more watery the paint the easier it will sit on the surface and not soak into the canvas as you would like. Winsor & Newton don’t do this, their boards are ready to paint on as ‘pre primed’ – although as previously discussed we would recommend an additional coat of Gesso primer.

If you apply a couple of coats of gesso it will form a more absorbent surface due to the chalk (calcium carbonate- known as ‘whiting’ in oil painting) found in the gesso.

Find Canvas and Canvas Boards here

Creating a super smooth finish

You can sand gesso between coats to create a lovely smooth finish, especially handy for photo-realistic paintings, just sand each layer with a fine sandpaper. Say a 240 grit. 3M’s make a good sandpaper. Just make sure you do it outside, or in a well-ventilated area as it goes everywhere!

How to gesso a raw canvas for acrylic painting

What You Need:

  1. Buy a tub of premixed white gesso and give it a stir. You can work directly from the tub so you can control the amount of gesso on your brush for each stroke, but you can also buy it in tubes.

  2. The first coat always needs to be diluted with a touch of water (sometimes people recommend adding a bit of acrylic medium to prevent cracking, but the layer is so thin and soaks straight in, it would never crack).

  3. Allow to dry, then apply a second coat. This can be applied thinly and does not be watered down. If you want a more absorbent surface, add another layer.

  4. When applying the gesso turn the canvas 90 degrees between coats to ensure an even coverage.

  5. Apply a final coat using the pure, undiluted gesso.

  6. Using a large flat brush, apply the gesso directly to the stretched canvas in even strokes. Work from the top to the bottom of the canvas, in parallel strokes from one edge to the other.

  7. Wash your brush out immediately in running water then use a brush cleaner to thoroughly remove the gesso out. It’s worth cleaning it twice even if you think it’s clean.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Gesso really necessary?

A common question regarding acrylic painting is if you need to use a gesso primer. Technically, you don’t. It provides you with a nice, slightly more absorbent surface to work on, especially if your working on board or raw canvas, but for a pre-primed canvas it’s unnecessary

What are the alternatives to Gesso?

What are the alternatives to gesso? You can prime a canvas with acrylic mediums, clear gesso, or rabbit skin glue. If you work with acrylics, you can also paint directly on raw canvas without priming it first. Oil paints require a primer to protect the canvas from the linseed oil found in oil paints.

What happens if I don’t use Gesso?

It dries hard, making the surface more stiff. Gesso prepares (or “primes”) the surface for painting, making the surface slightly textured and ready to accept acrylic paint. Without gesso, the paint would soak into the weave of the canvas.

Can I mix Gesso with Acrylic paint?

When you add gesso to your acrylic paint, you’ll achieve a matte or, depending on the ratio of acrylic paint to gesso, a satin finish. Often the first layers of my paintings, although painted with acrylic, are applied in a very fluid and thin manner, much like watercolor.

Is Gesso just another name for Liquid White?

Liquid white is not the same thing as gessoGesso has an acrylic base, so you don’t want to mix your oil paints into that. Gesso needs to be completely dry before adding any sort of oil paint or medium on top.

How long does it take for Gesso to dry?

If you want to apply an additional coat of gesso, you only have to wait until it’s dry to the touch. Allow it to dry for at least 24 hours before painting on it with oils. If you’re using acrylics, then you can start painting as soon as it’s dry to the touch.

Can I paint directly on canvas without preparing the surface?

The most popular surfaces for painting with acrylics are canvas, wood, or paper. But once primed with gesso, acrylics can be painted on almost any surface, such as fabric, clay, or even your old vinyl records! … When properly varnished, acrylic paintings do not need to be framed behind glass.

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Making English Watercolour Paper

St Cuthberts Mill

How is watercolour paper made?

We were treated to a trip to St Cuthberts Mill in Wells, Somerset to understand more about the making of English watercolour paper. Situated just outside the beautiful town of Wells in Somerset St Cuthberts is one of the last mills in the UK still making English Watercolour paper, although it is currently owned by FILA there has been significant investment in the site securing the future of commercial paper manufacture in Somerset.

During our visit we were allowed to take photographs, some of these are below. This show the process which is (like most industrial processes) heavily monitored from start to finish ensuring you get consistent quality paper everytime.

Using naturally rising waters from the River Axe, the water is filtered to remove any impurities and tested to ensure it is acid free (naturally so, due to the limestone hills in that part of the country).

English Watercolour paper made from prime ingredients

Raw materials wether cellulose or cotton fibres (depending on the product being manufactured) are mixed with water and formed into a slurry. The slurry is then ‘cast’ into a web of paper which is pressed between woollen felts. The felts dictate paper surface (rough or not). A further process of heated rollers presses a not surface into a Hot pressed surface.

Quality is at the heart of the process

Quality control is at the heart of this process, and the machine is constantly monitored to ensure the web thickness, depth of indentation, or smoothness and moisture content meet stringent specifications.

English Watercolour paper made ready for you to use

The paper is then rolled onto huge master reels that then go through the finishing stages. Then every roll is manually inspected before being sent to finishing. St Cuthberts Mill produce a variety of paper finishes, either bound pads, blocks or spiral bound as well as cut flat sheets.

It was truly a privilege to see this amazing process in action, I hope you enjoy a brief insight into the making of English Watercolour Paper.

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Working with Masking Fluid

In watercolour painting, unlike other media, the whites are not added as paint but are reserved areas of the paper that are not painted on, so the white is the colour of the paper. Working with Masking Fluid is intended to give you some confidence in using masking fluid to develop your practice.

Masking fluid is a liquid latex-based product (non latex versions are available)

Masking fluid is a liquid latex-based product that is very effective at keeping small areas and thin lines white when painting on watercolour paper. The rubber prevents the paint from reaching the paper and is peeled off to expose the white paper left untouched. Masking fluids come in different tints so you can see where you have painted it.

The places that masking are most useful are small white areas or lines within a large even wash of colour, like sailboat rigging against the sky, where you don’t want to paint around areas and interrupt a smooth wash.

For those of you who react badly with latex Pebeo have produced a range of non latex masking products.

View our masking fluid

View our masking fluid applicators

View our masking fluid remover

Applying your masking fluid

When working with masking fluid it can be applied in many ways, almost any tool will work. You may use a brush, a ruling pen, a dental pick, a Colourshaper applicator or a special fine needle point applicator which is a needle that gives extremely fine lines. If you need splattered white dots you can flick the masking fluid from an old toothbrush.

View our masking fluid applicators

If using a brush you might want to keep one inexpensive brush to use exclusively for masking fluid. The latex might not come out completely when you are finished.

One trick (if using a brush) is to wet the brush thoroughly and wipe the hairs over a bar of soap or dip it into washing up liquid, making sure that the hairs are thoroughly coated right up to the ferrule and then use it to apply the masking fluid. Wash the brush thoroughly immediately after use.

The paper must be dry when you apply the masking fluid. If it is wet the masking fluid will soak deeply into the paper rather than sitting on the surface. The paper will usually tear off with the masking fluid when you attempt to remove it when you are finished. The same problem occurs if you dilute the masking fluid when you use it.

Do Not shake the bottle. Shaking the bottle will introduce air bubbles and if applied the bubbles will pop during drying and leave unprotected spotty areas.

If your masking fluid is too thick you can thin with a few drops of distilled water.

Paint your watercolour (over the masking fluid)

Wait until the masking fluid is completely dry, at least five minutes, before you paint the watercolour. After you have finished your painting and it is completely dry you can then remove the masking fluid.

Remove the masking fluid

Remove the masking fluid as soon as possible after the painting is dry. The longer the mask is left on the paper the more likely it will be to adhere and be harder to remove. Also, the colouring in the tinted fluids can stain the paper if left on for a long time.

Some artists rub with their finger or a putty rubber to get it started, or use a specially designed eraser such as Maskaway.

Get a corner to pull away and then lift this away from the paper. It should pull away in thin stretchy strips or sheets. If you find it hard to get a grip, try easing the dried fluid with the edge of a scalpel. Be careful not to rip the paper.

After you have mastered working with masking fluid you will be rewarded with those lovely sparkling whites in your watercolour paintings. To enhance those whites (or add more) then a tube of White Gouache (an opaque watercolour paint) will be your friend.

In watercolour painting, unlike other media, the whites are not added as paint but are reserved areas of the paper that are not painted on, so the white is the colour of the paper. Working with Masking Fluid is intended to give you some confidence in using masking fluid to develop your practice.

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Understanding Wet on Wet Oil Painting

Wet on wet oil painting technique

Wet on wet painting technique with Oils is becoming immensely popular due to regular TV programmes during the 2020/1 lockdown. The wet-on-wet oil painting technique is exactly how it sounds, painting directly on top of wet paint without allowing the lower layer to dry. For this reason, the wet-on-wet method is also referred to as ‘direct painting’. However, these are not the only names for the technique, you may also hear it called ‘wet-in-wet’, ‘wet-into wet’, or ‘alla prima’, which means first attempt in Italian. It is with this method that Bob Ross creates his inspiring and relaxing paintings.

Winsor and Newton Oil Paint on palette

The Italian’s have got the name spot on here, because the wet-on-wet painting technique allows you to complete a painting in one sitting. With traditional methods of painting, referred to as ‘indirect painting’, it can take months to complete a painting (unless you are using a quick drying paint). This is because each layer can dry before moving on to the next.

Of course, the wet-on-wet oil painting technique varies depending on the type of surface that you are painting onto, but the approach is still the same. You can just plan the painting in your mind but doing a sketch or drawing before starting the work can be immensely helpful.

Tips for getting started with Wet-on-wet painting technique

To start with the canvas is first wetted with a painting medium, either clear or coloured – most often with white or black depending on your subject, you can use any colour! To make this liquid base use Zest It Painting medium or Liquin Original, or of course you can paint it straight onto your surface without any colour added.


The upper layers of paint must be thinner than the lower layers. Dilute your paint with thinner so when you apply the paint it does not disturb the lower layers and the paint will lay on top. If you apply the paint and it mixes with the paint that is already on your oil painting, there is a high chance that you didn’t thin the new paint enough. To thin your paint, simply dip your brush into thinner before mixing the colour. For an effective wet-on-wet painting, the paint will need to have an ink like consistency. Thin your paint slowly using your best judgement to determine when the paint has reached this stage. You will get to know how much with each colour as you get more experienced, each colour will vary – but let us not get into density and viscosity here!

Painting with a light touch

It is important to only touch the painting very lightly when adding additional layers using the wet-on-wet technique. Too much pressure on your brush can either push the new colour into the existing and create a muddy colour or lift the paint instead of laying it down. Try to only touch the surface of the painting with the paint itself and not the whole paint brush. If you watch tutorials note that additional layers are always applied softly and gently – this is why.

Oil paints don’t tend to dry quickly

Regular oil paints can stay touch wet for up to a week, giving you plenty of time to take a break if you need to. This means that you can continue using the wet-on-wet oil painting technique.

If you don’t get around to an area before the paint has dried, you can scrape off the dry paint with a palette knife. Apply a medium like Zest it Painting Medium, Liquin Original or Linseed oil, and then add more wet paint. This is called “oiling out”. It is often used to make oil colours appear more vibrant on a painting when they have dried to a matt finish. Liquin dries faster than Linseed oil and may be preferable for this purpose.

Equipment for Wet on Wet Oil Painting

As with any art project the value of your materials does reflect the quality of your finished piece. More importantly the better the materials you can afford the more enjoyable the process will be. If you look after your brushes and painting knives, they will last you for many years. Oil paint does not dry out (unless kept badly).  Do not throw old thinners / brush cleaner out, decant into a jar and allow the solids to sink top the bottom, then reuse the solvent. Oily rags can be a fire risk. It is best to keep these in an old biscuit tin, do not just throw in the bin!


Brushes are such a personal choice. But for starters we would suggest you consider the following:

Liquitex 1”, 2”, 3” brushes either flat or angled

Liquitex Fan Brush (for blending) #2, #4, #6, #8

Filbert #6

Proarte Script liner (rigger) #2

Palette Knives

To achieve the flowing lines and gentle blending we would suggest that you experiment with different palette knives. Personal taste will dictate what you are comfortable with. We stock Winsor & Newton Palette Knives and RGM palette knives.

Browse our full range of palette knives here:

Basic set of colours for wet on wet oil painting

As you develop experience with oil painting, you may find that routine becomes your best friend. Always lay your palette out in the same way from left to right as follows. Unused colours may be saved either on the palette or scraped off into small plastic containers. If you want to retain your palette for a few days, then wrap gently with cling film. You can even place it in the freezer overnight! For starters we suggest you use Winton Oil Paint made by Winsor & Newton.

  • Sap Green
  • Alizarin Crimson
  • Vandyke Brown
  • Dark (Burnt) Sienna
  • Midnight (lamp) Black
  • Prussian Blue
  • Phthalo Blue
  • Phthalo Deep Green
  • Cadmium Yellow
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Indian Yellow
  • Cadmium Red
  • Titanium White (200ml tube is better value, and you will use a lot of white)
  • Soft Mixing White (We would add a soft mixing white to this palette for mixing lighter colours rather than mixing pastel shades (which is what you achieve with Titanium White)).

Palette for wet on wet oil painting

Choose the largest palette you feel comfortable working with. After all this is where you will mix your colours, and more space means more mixes, and avoids creating mud!

Browse our palette category

Thinner for oil painting

We recommend that you use a thinner that is low or no-odour (traditional turpentine is available but not really friendly for home use)

Browse our range of thinners and solvents

Cleaning your oil prainting brushes

Cleaning your brushes – you can use high street DIY store white spirit to clean your brushes. Beware – as this is an unrefined spirit and over time will damage your brushes. If you are not scrupulous in your brush cleaning may also damage your paintings causing damage to the way that your paint blends due to its unrefined nature. We recommend Zest It Dilutant and cleaner for oil paint, or Sansodor. Both are virtually odour free too as an added benefit.

Surfaces for wet on wet oil painting

You can paint on virtually any prepared surface. If you want to use MDF, plywood, hardboard then simply treat the surface with an acrylic gesso. This will prime the surface (to stop paint sinking in) and give you a well prepared ‘tooth’ for painting on. Tooth is what we call a slightly roughened surface to help paint grab a hold. Gesso can be simply applied with a large brush, and we would suggest a minimum of 2 coats to ensure even coverage.

Of course, there are pre prepared surfaces such as Winsor & Newton Canvas boards or Cotton Canvas. Whilst these are primed, we would suggest that you experiment with applying a coat of Gesso first. This reduces the tendency for your first layer of paint to sink into the surface and Gesso is much cheaper than paint!

Easels for painting

You do not need an easel to start with, but some people find it easier to work on a canvas that is supported – and you do get a better perspective painting with a supported surface. We have two options for you:

The Seine Floor Standing easel

The Varde Table Top easel

If you are wanting to work in a more ‘studio’ way and have space then you might consider a studio easel such as the Lea – these are quite large and don’t really fold down for storage – ask for details and availability.

Finally – do not panic

When painting alla prima, there will always be an element of unpredictability, no matter how much control you paint with. It might be the way colours mix on the canvas, edges getting lost or some areas drying faster than other areas.

Whatever the case, do not let this unpredictable element discourage you. Instead, embrace it because it is what often results in those pleasant surprises in your painting.

Nobody is so skilled that they can predict the exact outcome of their strokes.

If something does not turn out as planned in your painting, like two colours accidentally mixing. Then see if you can pivot and make it work instead of trying to backtrack.