Hi everyone, Natalie here! It is my absolute pleasure to introduce you to Kerry, a wonderful watercolour painter and letterer who I had the privilege to get to know through the handmade-paint-loving Instagram art community.
“I’m Kerry, a hand lettering and watercolour artist living in the UK. Art isn’t my full-time career, but I did get a degree in illustration before pursuing my other dreams. I’ve been lettering and painting with watercolour for about 2-3 years, and lately have been focusing on more typography inspired pieces and improving my skills with realistic watercolour. I’ve been using handmade metallic watercolours in the last 1-2 years and was really excited when Natalie asked me to share some more about them and the different ways to use them in your art.”
This blogpost is ALL about metallic or shimmer watercolours and how to use them in different ways. Whether you’re a fan of Finetec, Daniel Smith duotones, Hydracolour colour-shifting paints or any of the other amazing makers who make beautiful sparkly magic, we hope you will find this useful! The idea originally came from a passing comment by my (Natalie’s) husband, after I had splashed quite a lot of $$$ recently on sparkly watercolours and was lettering in front of the TV every night xD
“They’re really pretty, but what can you do with them besides lettering?”
Well, that’s what we’re here for! Kerry and I would love to share with you how we use shimmer watercolours to create pretty things: whole art pieces, painting, lettering, blending, and all of them at the same time! This blog post is written based on our personal experiences in using metallic, shimmer, or mica watercolours, and if you had any other ideas, we’d love to hear them too!
All about metallic watercolour
Metallic watercolours are really popular in the hand lettering community and for good reason, they’re gorgeous and who doesn’t love an extra bit of sparkle in their lives? But we wanted to show you that you can use metallic watercolour for more than your standard brush lettering. If you’re new to metallic or pearlescent watercolour, then they are speciality paints that include mica powder - this gives it the paint a shiny, shimmery or glittery effect. They are opaque and behave differently to standard matte watercolour, which means the consistency is going to be different as well. When you activate metallic pans (add water), they usually need to sit longer (anywhere from 1 - 5 minutes depending on the pigment), and you’re looking for a thicker, creamy consistency rather than a watery consistency. While waiting for the paint to activate, you can also swirl your brush around to ensure that the paint activates consistently across the pan so you don’t end up with a “hole” in the middle (if that bothers you!) This paintbrush swirling also helps the paint activate faster as it stirs more paint particles and encourages them to mix more readily with water.
Handmade metallic paints are really popular, and there are tons of makers to choose from (many of which have been featured in the Sketch and Story boxes!). They can be a bit of an investment but they’re worth it, and bonus - you’re supporting someone’s dream!
Creating a full painting using just metallic watercolour
How often do you see a painting that is full metallic? I’m betting not often at all (if ever!). And it’s because metallic watercolour behaves a lot differently to your standard matte watercolour pans, if you add more water to blend the colour out, the end result is patchy instead of a nice blend from opaque to almost transparent. And this causes a lot of issues painting because with watercolour especially, water (the hint is in the name) is a key part. But, it’s not impossible - it just requires adjustments. For me, they lend themselves to an illustrative style such as these metallic bugs I’ve started painting.
Think bold, flat, almost vector style images; where blending different shades isn’t going to be a major element and one where you want your paint to be opaque throughout the entire painting. If you want to give this a try yourself, start with a simple image with a limited colour palette and build it up from there, contrasting colours or very different shades of the same colours will help your colours not blend into each other too much. Don’t forget to swatch them together - and check that in the light the sheen isn’t too similar either!
Adding metallic accents to your matte artwork
Metallic watercolour isn’t just for fancy hand lettering, it can be used in so many different ways, and adding little accents to mainly matte watercolour paintings is one of my favourites. I’ve used it in a lot of paintings, it’s a simple addition but can change a painting drastically. The key is picking out elements in your images that are dotted throughout your painting so you don’t end up with a lot of metallic in one corner, you are looking for a balanced image. For example, in this Tangled inspired piece, the lanterns are a consistent element, and being a light source, metallic watercolour really bought that message across.
I said above how adding too much water to metallic watercolour can leave you with a patchy less than desirable result. But, you can use that to your advantage too.
In the two paintings here, I used matte watercolour first and built up layers until I was happy with the overall look. I then went (lightly and gently!) over the painting with water to keep it wet, be careful not to move the paint around you’ve just put down!). And then dropped in metallic watercolour and let it bleed out. It might be tempting to add more water directly to your metallic pans, but keep the same creamy consistency that you would usually and let the water you’ve just added to your painting do the work - this will stop it looking patchy and instead give you a blended look. I’ve done a number of paintings where I’ve added in metallic accents, so here are a few more examples of ways to incorporate it into your art!
Painting with metallic watercolours on a matte blend background
You might have seen lots of galaxy blends with silhouette pine trees in the foreground – they’re all the trend nowadays!
But that’s not all you can do with blended backgrounds. You can also use your metallic watercolour to paint directly on top of a blended background. For example, one of my favorite things to paint over a TV dinner after a long day at work are these shimmer leaf bookmarks. They are incredibly simple and relaxing to paint – simply sweep the background with any matte shade of your choosing – a plain colour or two, or mix a whole galaxy blend – it’s up to you!
They’re a wonderful way to swatch new colours since you can test out how they react with water, how pigmented they are, and experiment with different combinations of shimmer and matte! AND you end up with a stunning, giftable piece rather than piles of swatch cards – although I must admit painting swatch cards is a completely different world of joy in itself ;) I was very pleasantly surprised to see how beautifully the rose copper shimmer on the rightmost bookmark complemented the purple and teal combo – who would’ve thought?
Of course, you can use shimmer watercolours to paint lettering on top of a matte blended background too!
This piece was created by lettering on top of a blended background, and then I used a thicker mix (by letting the water evaporate a little in the pan before swirling my brush around) to create splatters as accents and make the piece more eye-catching!
Switching it up within your hand lettering
When you see hand lettering done using metallic watercolour, it’s usually the letters themselves that are done with them, but you can use them slightly differently too. It can be as simple as adding a drop shadow in and filling it in with your favourite metallic colours, instead of using your metallic colour for the letter with a matte shadow.
Bevelled letters such as the letter A below, are really fun, and using different metallic shades of the same colour family can really make your work stand out. Drop shadows are a simple way to make your lettering bold and eye catching, you can do a nice blended shadow with more dimension, like in the letter B, or go simple with a flat colour like the letter C. The two variations of the letter D gives you an idea of how simple or illustrative you can go with your lettering, a simple outline can create a strong piece, or go fun and create your lettering in the style of an object, here I went for melting ice lollies because it’s pretty hot right now! Or on the same thread, try doodling metallic flowers in the shape of a letter, like E, which would look pretty cute hanging on your wall. One of my favourite pieces is the “be kind” rainbow drop shadow piece where I use glitter metallics (like in example C).
You could also pick them in combination with matte colours. You could pick out one or two word and add metallic paint to that, this works really well when you pick a colour shifting watercolour and use the two colours (or one) in the rest of the piece. In the “be more than just your content” piece, I picked out a colour that was next to the background colour on the colour wheel, but in the light it’s a colour that closely matched the background colour. Adding a shadow and outline kept it from bleeding into the background here too. The other option is replacing the matte blacks you might use with a metallic black. I use a lot of black so having metallic blacks really come in handy to add an extra sparkle to my pieces.
And that’s all for today friends! We hope that you have found these tips and tricks useful when you next add to your shimmer watercolour collection ;) Do tag us on Instagram using @theinkybrush and @sketchandstoryUK if you try out these techniques, we’d love to see what you come up with!
xx Kerry and Natalie
(In all the pieces Kerry is sharing, a combination of Hydracolour and StakiwiColours were used, two small businesses that are run by women and produce high quality paints. Disclaimer: Kerry is an ambassador for both businesses, but there are no affiliate links for products in this blog post.)
Hi, I'm Natalie, and Sketch and Story is my passion project. Check this blog for features of indie makers, local artists, and more details on the Sketch and Story subscription experience.