Have you ever worked on a project and gotten so lost in it that you looked up hours after sitting down and realized that was the first time you looked up? That’s this process for me. I first saw a picture on Instagram of someone who had done a small painting of a succulent on a piece of wood and thought how brilliant the watercolor looked against that wood grain. It just stuck at the back of my mind as something I wanted to try at some point and then I moved on with my life. For Christmas, I decided to make a wooden sign for my mom and the watercolor idea popped back into my head. So I tried it. And now I’m totally in love with the process and the way the final product turns out! Here’s the first one I did for my mom (sorry the script isn’t easier to see, it really didn’t want to smile for the camera!):
That particular piece of wood was craft plywood, so it had a very smooth surface to work on and it received the watercolor and ink beautifully. It really was just like working on a smooth watercolor paper, except with the bonus of the wood grain showing through! I chose to leave it all unfinished because it seemed right, but I bet it would be gorgeous with a layer of poly finish. I’ll definitely be trying that in the future!
Today I did another, smaller piece, this time on a scrap of board we had in the garage which was just typical building type wood from a home reno project we did once upon a time. It was not as buttery smooth as the craft plywood, but it actually worked pretty well. There were only a few areas that absorbed the paint and ink in a weird way, but it was workable. I would say this method would work on most smooth-ish wood surfaces (untreated or sealed), but be prepared for every board to handle it a little differently! Here are the tools I use for this:
Paint: Variety of watercolor and gouache (no, I have not cleaned that palette…ever. It represents a lot of paintings…and I have no idea what all the different paints are any more!) My personal favorite brands of watercolors, when I can afford them, are the Winsor & Newton Cotman Watercolours and the Gansai Tambi Semi-Moist Watercolor palette. I use the Reeves that you see pictured as my “everyday” paint when I just want to experiment and don’t mind wasting a little bit of paint. It’s cheap and pretty good quality!
Also, do you see that beauty of a Finetec gold palette up there?! I got that recently (thanks Ma!) and am completely in love and put gold on everything. Such rich and shiny golds and you can use them with brushes or nibs.
Brushes: I have barely touched a regular brush since I got my water brushes. They are my BFFs and I love them and I tell everyone who paints or letters to get them now. Not to say that regular brushes aren’t also wonderful, but you can’t put a water cup in your purse or impulsively start painting without a water source now can you? I love these things so very much. Mine are Pentel Aquash brushes, but lots of companies make similar products.
Ink: Dr. Ph Martin’s Bleedproof White. PSA, you have to mix this with water to use it. I didn’t know that. I felt dumb when I got a bottle of it and it was this thick pasty stuff and I didn’t know what to do with it. After some Googling I figured it out. So if you’re like me and are confused by bottles with no instructions, mix some of the sludge with a little water in a container (I love my little glass jars) until it looks like the normal consistency of ink. Why get this stuff? Regular white inks, at least the ones I have tried, are very translucent and just don’t hold the hairline strokes as well. This ink is very opaque when mixed to the right amount of water and it acts very much like black sumi ink. Just…white. It doesn’t get soaked up by the surface you’re working on like some white inks do.
Nib: This one is a Hunt 101, but I think most nibs will work just fine. Unless you try this on a heavily textured wood, which I would not recommend with pointed pen, any nib should work.
Finally, here’s the finished product from today! I limited the palette this time and it’s a much smaller piece, but I really loved the way it came out and can’t wait to do more!
What do you think? Have you tried watercolor painting on wood? I’d love to see your work in the comments! If you would like to custom order one of these for yourself, I’d be glad to make you one! Just send me a message!