Primary Tools & Materials:

Additional Tools & Materials: watercolor paper, Adobe Photoshop, inkjet printer, water, paint brushes, light table, paper towels, table salt, rubbing alcohol, q-tips, paint pen, plastic wrap, tissue paper, tape, paper doily, clear glaze, scanner

For today's combination of digital printing and paint, I decided to print letter guidelines (see image 2) for several different fonts in reverse on paper, then paint over the outlines with watercolors, using my light table so the outlines would be visible. I also wanted to try out many ways to manipulate watercolor, using things like salt, rubbing alcohol, white paint pens, plastic wrap, and tissue paper. Using the light table with printed guidelines allowed me to maintain the general shape of the original letterform, helping me test what each of these fonts would look like rendered in watercolor pigments. 

The cover image (number 1) was made by placing crumpled plastic wrap onto wet paint, taping it down to maintain pressure, and removing it once the paint dried. The effect is very geometric and crystalized, almost like the inside of a geode. 

In image three, I layered the watercolor, one layer then another (just near the top) on top of the bottom layer while it was still wet. This creates a sense of depth and shadow, and this study was the one that most closely resembled its original typeface. 

The fourth image was created by sprinkling table salt on top of damp paint - which creates a radial crystallization of paint as it's repelled by the salt. I tried this several times with little to no effect, until I realized what I was using was sea salt, then switched to iodized table salt. The result was much more dramatic with the table salt, so apparently that's the right salt to use for this method. 

Image five involved two steps; first outlining the letter using white paint pen, then drawing the inner chiseled effect, and allowing it to fully dry. This essentially created little shape areas which would contain the paint, no matter how much I added. This made it possible for me to create a three-color letter where each shape is filled with different intensities of the watercolor paint. 

For number six I again played with the idea of shadowing, only this time I allowed the paint to dry a bit longer than I did in image 3. I applied several layers of paint to damp layers underneath, which allowed me to slowly build my shadowing near the bottom of the letter and under the terminal. 

The seventh image was the most surprising. For this study I filled the letter as solidly as I could with uniform darkness. Then I let it dry for a minute or so, and then dabbed a dot pattern along the spine of the letter using a q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol. The rubbing alcohol acts as a repellant, pushing the paint away and essentially bleaching the area underneath. What surprised me was not only how effective this method was, but how the paint would start to retreat from the rubbing alcohol before I even touched it to the paper. That's right, I could hold the q-tip a quarter inch above the paper, and see the paint start to disperse. Weird! This one also dried with the most dramatic texture, reminding me of a turtle shell, or glazed ceramics.

The final image was another that ended up closely resembling its original letter guideline. I simply filled the outline with one shade of blue watercolor, then layered it a few more times only on the serifs to stress their relative weight. 

I haven't used watercolor much before today. Experiments with it in the past have been less than encouraging. Today, however, I was able to systematically try out all the different "tricks" you can play on watercolor to manipulate new textures, and I must say I was pleased with the results. I think using more masking fluid or tape could help render cleaner letters, avoiding the odd "escape" of a little squirt of paint from the edge of a dried shape. I also learned that working with watercolors requires two traits with which I struggle: patience, and a willingness to relinquish control.