Art Term

Watercolour

Refers both to the medium and works of art made using the medium of watercolour – a water soluble paint with transparent properties

Joseph Mallord William Turner, ‘The Blue Rigi, Sunrise’ 1842
Joseph Mallord William Turner
The Blue Rigi, Sunrise 1842
Tate
Paul Klee, ‘Seaside Resort in the South of France’ 1927
Paul Klee
Seaside Resort in the South of France 1927
Tate
Evelyn Cheston, ‘Betchworth Lane, October’ 1917
Evelyn Cheston
Betchworth Lane, October 1917
Tate

Watercolour paint consists of fine pigment particles suspended in a water-soluble binder (adhesive substance). It is usually used on paper. As watercolour is semi-transparent, the white of the paper gives a natural luminosity to the washes of colour. White areas of the image often are merely left unpainted to expose the paper. Watercolours are sold as cakes of dry paint or as liquid in tubes, to which water is added. The paint can be applied in various techniques such as wet-on-wet and wet-on-dry to obtain different effects.

The binder usually used for watercolour consists of gum, glucose, glycerine and wetting agents.