Fresh vs Dried

As I am preparing to go off on a nature sketching excursion next month now is a good time to explore the merits of fresh vs dried watercolor on the palette.

Freshly squeezed paint on a palette is nice for painting in the studio. Paint from the tube squeezed into a pan and dried is more practical for plein air and probably more economical.

Fresh paint from the tube is more intense, clean and easy to apply. The soft paint is easy on the brush and fresh paint flows nicely over the surface. The photo above showing Pyrrol Scarlet makes those points. The fresh color is bolder compared to the dried pan paint on the left.

Dried paint that you initially squeezed in fresh and let dry can quickly be re-activated with a spritz of water or with a wet brush. I prefer the dry color and typically mist my palette 5-10 minutes before use. The color awakens and flows nicely. Do not confuse this dried paint method with a pre-filled dried paint palette – I have found pre-filled palette colors to be low on pigment and tend not to flow.

When the brush is really wet, when the washes are flowing, when pigment is mixing…that’s a happy day

Shari Blaukopf frequently uses a combo of wet / dried paint, check out her blog

What I have learned:

  • I like the control offered when picking up from dried watercolor vs a wet paint blob.
  • Typically, I paint in the field or plein air so dried paint is easy to transport – no mess.
  • Do be cautious, dried paint requires rubbing with a brush and this can damage your ‘good’ brushes and ruin the ‘point’; I have a few synthetics for mixing. As mentioned, rewetting the dried pan with a spritz of water helps soften the paint.
  • Below is the palette I am preparing for May nature sketching.
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