Graphite Aquarelle is water-soluble graphite. It’s not like using regular pencils because you’re going to be painting!
Tip #1 – Reference Photo
These pencils can go even darker than usual graphite when you layer and blend them right! Choose a high contrast reference photo to get the most from your work with these. These pencils can handle it! Bonus is that anywhere you’ve blended out with water won’t have a sheen like regular graphite can sometimes get, so they photograph amazingly well.
Tip #2 – Paper Type
Remember, we’re going to be using water with these, so choose a paper that can handle it! I like hot pressed watercolor paper when I work with the Graphite Aquarelle. I’m using Arches 140lb hot pressed watercolor paper in this project. Arches is available in blocks that are intended to be painted directly in without removing the paper until you’re done, but I’ve had far better results with removing the paper and taping the edges to a Drawing Board with a PH Neutral black masking tape. My work dries flatter this way than I’m ever able to get it to when working in the block directly.
Tip #3 – Hair Dryer
Use a Hair Dryer to dry your work! You can let it air dry but I find it’s more likely to dry wavey, even if taped down. Using a hair dryer will speed the process and keep that paper flat when it’s dry!
Tip #4 – Water Type
Use distilled water instead of tap water. We’re using archival materials, let’s not ruin that with tap water! Tap water has all sorts of stuff added that could potentially yellow our work over time, so whenever I work with water media on paper I use distilled just to be safe.
Tip #5 – Use These Two Pencils
When you’re first starting with the Graphite Aquarelle you may feel a bit overwhelmed with so many different pencils. Which ones do you choose and when? This set ranges from Hb (lightest) to 8B (darkest). Simplify this while you’re getting the hang of working with them and just start with the HB and 8B. I completed this entire painting with just those two pencils. You can blend in-between shades with your waterbrush!
Tip #6 – Brushes
You can use any paintbrush you like to blend with these. The brush that comes in the set is a perfect brush to get you started. It’s a taklon bristled round. In addition to that brush I’ve found I really like are taklon bristled filbers, a mop brush (for larger areas) and the Derwent Waterbrushes (for smaller areas). The waterbrush is great because you’re not constantly having to reload it with water from your water cup. Just dab it on a paper towel to clean it off when it starts picking up too much graphite.
Tip #7 – Fine Mist Sprayer
For larger areas like my background, I like the fine mist sprayer to keep the graphite wet while I blend. Once it dries it doesn’t really reactivate quite as much as watercolor does, so it’s easier to keep it wet while you’re blending. This is only really useful on large areas though. Smaller areas are faster to blend anyway so they aren’t a real concern.
Tip #8 – Layering
Build your values up in layers! This isn’t a paint by number where you just put the right color in the right place. We’re going to be building up layer by layer. It’s always easier to start lighter and make your work darker as you go than to go too dark then have to try and lighten it back up.
Tip #9 – Let it Dry
Make sure your paper is completely dry between layers. If you work a pencil over damp paper you can damage that paper pretty badly.
Tip #10 Erasers
Use erasers to pull highlights back up. Once water is added, these don’t erase as easily as regular graphite, but they do erase! For smaller areas or areas I want a softer edge to I like the Tombow Mono Eraser and the Tuff Stuff Eraser Pen. For areas that I need a bit more help to lighten, or that I want a bit more defined I like an electric eraser. Keep in mind with electric erasers, they can be a bit challenging to get the hang of at first. Practice using this on a scratch piece of paper before you use it on your art. They have a way of getting away from you if you’re not ready for how powerful their erasing power is!
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