Watercolor Paints vs. Watercolor Markers

Do you have a preference? I’m not sure I do. But I was curious to do a side by side and see what really differed between the two. I was never a big fan of watercolor painting. It felt too out of control. I’ve not touched them since college where I persisted through an entire semester of a watercolor class trying to use the medium as thick as possible and lie to myself that it really was just watered down acrylics. Side note: it didn’t work. However, since I love the look and effects that can be created, watercolor markers have been a solid alternative for me and I’ve been using them for about a year now. I feel more in control of the pigment with the markers. Although it had been so long since I picked up a traditional paintbrush and some watercolors, as I mentioned, I thought it was time to go back.

I decided to be fair, I would stamp the same image for each example. I used the Fall Farmhouse stamp set from Simple Stories. To keep the full watercolor effect, I stamped with with a very pale beige color to get the “no line” effect.

For the first image, I used watercolor paper and a watercolor palette I picked up from Close To My Heart a few years ago. Yes, a few years ago. It’s been sitting on a shelf unopened until now. As soon as I pressed my wet brush on the dry watercolor cake, and then dabbed my brush on a piece of scrap paper, it all came back to me. There it went, watery pigment just flowing wherever it wanted. I remembered why this was an unsettling medium for me. But, I persisted. As I always do, I worked in layers. This is a very typical way for me to lay color. I do it with my eye shadow, with coloring, with paper. I think it comes from all the years of working in Photoshop layers every day, but who knows.

I did enjoy some of the soft effects I was able to get for the road and the grass. And, I was able to build up some nice shadows on the pumpkins. But the color is muted and I normally prefer more bright and intense hues.

For the next example, I used ZIG Cleancolor markers. I stamped the image on Bristol with the same light shade I used on the previous image. These markers are a very different way to deliver pigment than traditional watercolor paints. For starters, you are working the opposite. With traditional watercolor paints, color is built up light to dark. With the markers, it’s dark to light (at least the way I used them here-there are other ways). I brushed color onto my paper using the markers, then went back in with an aqua brush and spread the pigment. Instantly you can see how much darker and bolder the colors are and how differently they blend together.

Although water is the main catalyst for both examples, you can see how very different the effects are. When placed side by side, I decided for this image I preferred the traditional watercolor paints. I surprised myself. I did try to pick colors for each example that were comparable, but there was no doubt that ZIGs delivered a much more saturated hue. I also feel the ZIGs were easier to build up the color.

Since the first example was so muted, I mounted it on a paler shade of cardstock before adhering it to a card base. For the second, I chose something a little brighter to coordinate with the look. I used sentiments from a stamp set by Maymay Made It called “Blessings.” Once all the layers were mounted, it still felt like it was lacking interest so I added some bling. I used sequins from Doodles Paper Playground’s “Autumn Harvest” Sparkle Blends. This mix has some adorable leaves, fruits and pumpkins, but I kept it simple and just chose some of the various sequins to add a little interest around the sentiment and create some balance in the composition.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my process as much as I enjoyed sharing it. If you’ve tried either of these mediums (or both) let me know how they turned out. Tell me what your favorite was but only do this if you plan to make stuff and be happy.


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