Watercolors by definition are paints made from pigment suspended in a water based solution. The earliest known examples of watercolor painting are around 40,000 years old during paleolithic times. Ogg was inspired to react to his . . . her?. . .(let’s not make assumptions about artsy cave peoples) surroundings and decorate the den and we’ve fascinated with the process ever since. Poor Ogg did not have vibrant quinacridones or cadmiums with which to paint, OR some nice rag cotton watercolor paper either!
Take time to consider that a good quality watercolor paper is just as crucial to getting good results in watercoloring painting as the paint that goes on it. Nothing is worse than wasting your good paints on an inferior substrate. We have a broad selection of watercolor papers but it can be overwhelming to choose sometimes so we’ll have a look at what you should consider when purchasing for your next painting adventure!
Several factors like weight, content, sizing, and surface all come into play when making a decision. Here are a few rules of thumb:
Content: Most artists prefer the texture and feel of 100% cotton papers. It is usually the mark of a high quality paper as sometimes papers can be made with other filler materials and not as desirable. It’s important to note the term “usually” because there are always exceptions to the rules and we happen to have some!
Weight: Three of the most common weights for watercolor papers are 90lb, 140lb, and 300lb. These weights ultimately concern the thickness of the paper you on which you will be painting. As the paper fibers absorb water, they will swell and move and this result can result in buckling when areas of the paper absorb water differently than others. This is a more common problem in lighter papers like 90lb and 140lb. Artists will “stretch” or tack down their papers while working to avoid this problem. Other solutions are utilizing 300lb watercolor paper or using a watercolor “block.” The 300lb watercolor paper is so thick that it approaches the feeling of a stiff board and will resist buckling. A watercolor “block” is a stack of watercolor papers laminated together to hold all the edges of the paper down as if it had been stretched. Once a painting is completed, a razor or pallet knife is inserted into the edge and under one sheet of paper and then the painting is peeled off the block to reveal a fresh sheet beneath.
Sizing: To combat the issue of bleeding, a sizing is either applied after the paper is made or impregnated into the paper making process. By coating the fibers of the paper, it helps to add strength to the paper as well as resist the pigment particles from soaking into the paper itself. This does one of two things: 1.) Having the paint rest closer to the surface of the paper will make colors appear more vibrant and 2.) the paint will be easier to lift and move if it needs to be reworked.
Surface: Watercolor paper comes in a variety of “toothes” or textures. Three of the most common are Cold Press, Hot Press, and Rough. It can sometimes be hard to remember the difference between the first two but considering the temperature might help. Cold Press refers to the process during the end of the paper making in which the papers are rolled through room temperature metal rollers to squeeze out excess water. The result is a watercolor paper that has a slight surface texture that feels very natural. Now, if those rollers were heated, they would act as a hot iron would when you are ironing a shirt. As they squeeze out excess water, they are ironing the fibers flat and the result is a much smoother surface texture. Rough textured watercolor paper is made for those who want a more exaggerated version of the Cold Press texture. There are many rough bumps and peaks of paper fiber throughout. On the subject of preference, illustrators and those wishing to do fine linework may choose to use Hot Press; Cold Press is a good choice for any watercolor painting and is a great way to introduce the process to a beginner, and Rough can be a preference for those who enjoy the texture and have had experience with the watercolor process.
Here’s a quick chart that can help you at a glance decide what paper choice might be good for you:
As I mentioned earlier, there are exceptions to the rules and here are a few that we keep in stock.
Yupo paper is actually made from extruded polypropylene. Fascinatingly, it is made right here in Virginia at their Chesapeake facility. Because it is a plastic the colors do not soak in but have time to rest, pool, and granulate. Yupo encourages many different textures. It is smooth but not slick and has been popular with many of our local artists.
Aquabee Super Deluxe Mixed Media pads tout themselves as the “only sketch book you’ll ever need” and they are not far from the truth. They are excellent for field journal work and they have a secret duality. The front surface of the paper has a tooth for those who like a Cold Press finish and the back surface has a smooth surface to cater to those Hot Press fans.
Stonehenge is the newest edition to the lines of watercolor papers that we carry. We love it’s bright white and even Hot Press texture similar to the regular Stonehenge. It’s 100% cotton, acid free, ph neutral, and utilizes no animal gelatin.
Hopefully this was a helpful primer on navigating the world of watercolor papers. Come on down to one of our locations touch and feel our papers first hand and geek out with our staff! We always enjoy hearing about your process and may have some new products that will inspire or troubleshoot an in-studio snafoo you may have run across. Happy Painting!
So what is PrimaTek?
Glad you asked! Daniel Smith started his company in 1976 to make professional artist grade printmaking inks. In 1993, he started producing watercolor paints. All of his paints are manufactured in Seattle, Washington. The PrimaTek colors have been slowly added to the watercolor selection.
There are 38 PrimaTek watercolors available. The exciting aspect of these paints is that they are all created from natural minerals and semi-precious stones. The company sends their geologist around the world seeking out the finest natural materials. Rhodonite from Germany, Serpentine from Australia and Lapis Lazuli from Greenland and Mt. Vesuvius in Italy to name a few.
Each mineral is tested in house by their color chemist to see if it will meet the high company standards. The minerals are all milled to the optimum size for that specific material. If the size is too large the paint will be grainy and if the size is too small the color will be dull. Just like in the Goldilocks story everything must be just right!
Many of these colors granulate as you paint with them. That means that some of the pigment will settle into the valleys of your paper giving great texture effects.
Watch the video below to see how PrimaTek mix to make wonderfully complex colors.
We love the new Art Spray from Marabu! It's great for mixed media fun!
Click on the picture below to see it in action!
One of our favorite projects to date! A client in our Crozet shop brought in a magical Marauder's Map!
For those unfamiliar with the Marauder's Map, you must see the Harry Potter series for a full reveal. From www.harrypotter.wikia.com: "The Marauder's Map is a magical document that reveals all of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Not only does it show every classroom, every hallway, and every corner of the castle, but it also shows every inch of the grounds, as well as all the secret passages that are hidden within its walls and the location of every person in the grounds, portrayed by a dot. It is also capable of accurately identifying each person, and is not fooled by animagi, Polyjuice Potions, or invisibility cloaks; even the Hogwarts ghosts are not exempt from this."
This beautiful rendition of the Marauder's Map has layers and layers that unfold and expose different levels of the Hogwarts School. Our client wanted to be able to interact with her map, so a unique framing solution was needed.
Here, you can see the many layers. In addition to the outer folds of the map, the very center reveals a smaller folding map that cascades perpendicular to the map's major folds. If you look very closely, you can see a clear thread that pulls across to keep the smaller map in place. This thread is stretchy and allows for the viewer to pull it away and unfold the inner map for viewing.
Along the edges of the map, we installed brass turning hardware. This hardware can be turned away, allowing for the map to fold or unfold to a new layer, then turned back to hold the new map view in place.
This map is an exquisite piece of architecture. Bookmakers, illustrators, and paper enthusiasts will all agree. We show off its worn, yet magical air, with a dark linen mat and an understated wooden frame. Don't you love it?! We do!
Hi Folks! Here is a demo of one of our most interesting products. It is made by Marabu, and is a resin based marbling compound that is easy to use and will stick to almost anything.
Here's what you need to gather to do this project:
Two large safety Pins
A disposable bowl or bucket to hold water
3 or 4 Colors of Marabu Easy Marble
Wax Paper to cover your table
We decided to make marbled easter eggs, so we started by blowing a bunch of fresh eggs from Anne's free range chickens.
"Princess Penny of the Pillows" got to eat the yummy contents...
She probably would have liked it if we had blown even more eggs...
Next, fill a "non-precious" container with water.
Drip the colors onto the surface of the water.
Swirl the color on the surface of the water with a skewer or stick.
With your egg suspended from two safety pins, lower it into the marbling mixture.
The marbling compound will wrap around the egg as you lower it below the surface of the water.
Once you have lowered the egg into the water, you should blow on the surface of the water to move the extra marbling paint away from the egg before you lift it out.
A finished egg. They dry to the touch in about 10 minutes.
Our beautiful basket of Easter Eggs. And soooo EASY.
Check out our YouTube video! Watch Amanda in action.
Our local Sam's Hot Dogs was awarded the front page feature on Knife & Fork of Cville! We celebrated by framing up the page and the article. Just like the fantastic fun atmosphere that can be found in the breezy little Crozet joint, the bright yellow glossy frame and the ketchup and mustard colored mats make for a really snappy presentation. We drymounted the articles and then cut them out with a reverse bevel so they appear to be floating on a chocolate brown background. Did we mention chocolate? Not only can you get dogs there but also some delicious flavors of ice cream as well!
We always love a challenge. One of our customers brought us a enormous painting on paper by Isabelle Abbot Baldwin. Normally, paintings on paper are put under glass, but the customer wanted this one to float, in a floater frame, as a painting on canvas would do. The piece was over 50"x50" which made finding an appropriate substrate tricky. With some brainstorming, we developed a system to mount the large paper piece in a floater frame that was strong, stable, and still retained the paper's light, airy feel.
Interlocking layers of mounting board were cut to fit behind the painting and mounted overnight.
The paper was not perfectly square, so some extra calculation and planning was in order. After laying out all of the components, we marked and attached a stretcher to provide the strength necessary for such a large piece to be stable over time.
The piece settled nicely into it's new frame!
The customer and Isabelle were very pleased with the results, and so were we!
Here is a unique example of the interesting pieces that visit Creative Framing every day. This highly detailed ink drawing of a tree was rendered delicately on a rolled up scroll of paper. Our client was open to exploring more options than just a simple black frame and white mat. We looked at several options but when the weathered silver beaded frame was pulled from the design wall, we immediately knew we had a clear winner. The tone of the weathered patina really complimented the tone of the drawing. The bead pattern picked up so nicely on the leaves, too!
This close up shows you the fine hatching and line work that went into creating this wonderful drawing. By floating it on a black background, we are really able to see the raw edge of the paper and also create a high contrast with which to view the line work. We also decided to include risers to prevent crushing the paper down. This also allows the drawing to lift slightly and have a bit more "dimensionality". Lastly, we chose Museum Glass which allows us to see all the fine detail without having to compete with glare.
Just in time for the Fall Semester! One of our customers brought in a lovely jacket letter and certificate to frame and it came out stunning.
The antiqued gold fillet that lined the inside of the acid free mat really complimented the old engraving style border of the certificate.
This was framed in Museum Glass so that you can see the rich texture of the school letter in great detail. The glass will also protect the letter from fading which is important because both textiles and certain red pigments are notoriously fugitive.
Everything was tied together with this rustic textured gold frame. It has a soft luster in most lights that adds accent to the composition without dominating the scene.
Now, her award and letter are preserved for years to come in a lovely elegant presentation!
We had the recent opportunity to preserve this beautiful piece of Native American History. This doll was very old yet still had it's intricate bead work and delicate leather fringe intact. It may even have been stuffed with horse hair. Though in good condition, it was fragile due to old age and being open to the elements.
We set about the delicate task of sew mounting the doll onto an acid free backing.
Unlike regular fabric, leather is a solid material and stitches cannot slip through the grain undetected. We were able to mount the doll through existing stitch holes in the leather to retain the integrity of the piece.
The customer chose a nice mat to frame out the doll visually but being a piece with deep dimensions, it was decided that we should use matching shadowbox risers to give the piece an overall open feel. In the photo above, it's almost like the doll is patiently waiting to be finished in their new home.
Now, it is finished and resting inside a maple shadowbox frame with museum glass. This beautiful piece of history can be admired by many instead of being stowed away in the dark.
Creative Framing & The Art Box
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