Watercolor with Salt

Using salt with watercolor paintings creates an amazing texture. I love the little snowflake and white bursts the salt makes while absorbing the moisture of the water. This texture is great for backgrounds if you want to make your painting look magical, mystical, or look like the winter season. Timing is very important and I suggest practicing on several scrap pieces of paper before using this technique in your actual finished work. For my examples below, I used a wet on wet technique with dark colors of paint and applied the salt generously on top of the wet paint.

For this experiment I wanted to create a winter or cold morning feel. I liked the idea of snowflakes or morning frost. I am currently working on flowers from the Nevada desert to make this painting interesting. The desert gets cold in the evenings and drops to freezing temperatures overnight. I wanted to show the magic of the desert and chose the colors Antwerp Blue for the night sky with a touch of Permanent Alizarin Crimson. I added Cerulean into the middle for an early morning atmosphere. The flower stems were applied first and I left white around them to come back and fill the petals in later. Other artists use masking fluid and paint flowers first, let the medium dry, then apply watercolor over the whole paper. After this is dry, they scrape the masking fluid off and fill the flower colors in. This is another option if you prefer this technique.

Later, I decided to practice with the salt in my sketchbook. I used Sea Salt only this time and a generous amount of Permanent Alizarin Crimson. The Antwerp blue was added later using my finger to apply it. The red was nice and a deep hue with splashes of the blue throughout it. Then I applied the salt by placing a few pieces apart from each other to see if I could get more snowflake images. I really am pleased how this turned out and will be using it in the future. The problems that occur with this style of painting are getting salt in the water cup and inside the paint brushes. I recommend using older brushes, a clean water cup or jar, and a paint set separate from your main paint set. I wish I knew this when I started. If you apply paint to any other painting after using the same materials, salt will get into your other paintings. I hope this blog helped some of you who have been wanting to experiment with salt. Feel free to contact me with any questions through my website contact page.

-Karen Hilliard