Three things to know when lifting watercolour

Stretching Watercolour

Lifting is not just the watercolourist’s answer to an eraser. It’s a widely-used technique for portraying smoky atmospheres, cloudy skies and other such effects.

But from gently sponging out a small area of watercolour to the more extreme method of washing colours under a dripping tap, there are several ways to go about lifting watercolour washes. To achieve the best results when lifting and staining watercolour, take note of the following three key factors – they could transform your next creative endeavour.


Watercolour Block

1. Choose the right paper

We develop all our products with a specific use in mind, and our range of papers is no exception. If you want to be able to lift watercolour, choose from our watercolour paper ranges to maximise the effects. Our watercolour paper is 100% acid-free, has been developed to increase the longevity of your work and will make your colours appear more vibrant – effects which may not be as achievable with paper not fit for purpose.

Lifting Preparation medium

2. Use mediums for assistance

One of our favourite aids for the lifting process is the Lifting Preparation Medium. By prepping your paper with it, you’ll be able to lift off dry colour washes, including staining colours. There’s no need for a wet brush or rag, which would put the surrounding areas of colour at risk. But remember, once you’ve applied Lifting Preparation directly to your paper, allow it to fully dry before painting.

If you’re trying to reduce the degree of staining in your work, try our Gum Arabic, which controls the spread of wet watercolour. As an added bonus, you’ll be able to slow the drying process and boost gloss and transparency as well.

3. Choose colours that are prime for lifting

Non-staining watercolours are likely to settle on the paper after the water has evaporated, rather than being immediately absorbed into the surface. Once dried, these colours can be lifted off to reveal the white paper beneath them.

If you’re uncertain about the colouring of your artwork or are new to watercolour, start with non-staining colours. They’ll give you more room for testing. Then, gradually, you can introduce the staining colours to your composition.

Non-staining colours are: all Cadmium-Free colours, Turner’s Yellow, New Gamboge, Winsor Yellow Deep, Indian Yellow, Cadmium Orange, Winsor Orange, Quinacridone Red, Opera Rose, Quinacridone Magenta, Indanthrene Blue, Ultramarine Green Shade, Antwerp Blue, Cobalt Turquoise, Green Gold, Naples Yellow, Naples Yellow Deep, Yellow Ochre Light, Yellow Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Light Red, Burnt Umber, Sepia, Smalt, Quinacridone Violet, Transparent Orange, Titanium White, Chinese White, Davy’s Grey, and Lamp Black.

View the staining colours in our Professional Watercolour range in the graphic below.

Whether you are looking to colour-correct or simply create a particular visual finish with the help of lifting, experiment keeping our suggestions in mind.

Now that you’ve learned about lifting watercolour, read our piece on granulation in watercolour.