Review: Daniel Smith Watercolor Ground

First, before you get deeply involved, the review is a partial one. As usual, I wanted to use the material in slightly different ways than originally designed, so the first step was to wait–and I didn’t. It turned out to be more important than I thought.

Daniel Smith is an art supply company that sells a series of grounds–paintable substrates that allow you to use fabric, metal, plastic and other unlikely materials for digital transfers, or, in this case, watercolor.

Daniel Smith’s latest project is a watercolor ground–a material that leaves a paper-like background on plastic, metal or glass so you can use watercolor–not an easy medium– on the painted piece.

I love watercolor. I love the unpredictability, the transparency. But I was far more interested in using the watercolor ground on a variety of papers that won’t hold watercolor. As a collage artist, the idea of creating a wide variety of watercolor background that didn’t originally work for watercolor is exciting.

I coated a piece of transparency. The instructions say to rough up the paper, so I tried it without roughing up (top) and with roughing up (bottom).

I also tried it out on black cover stock. Half of the stock got one coat (top); the other half got two coats (bottom). Both feel like heavy, rough watercolor stock. You can easily see the difference:

Finally, I painted two pages of an old book. The instructions on the jar clearly say to wait 24 to 72 hours for the watercolor ground. That, I thought, was for metal and plastics, but paper was surely different. I live in Phoenix, and our bigger problem is paint drying too fast. So, after waiting half an hour, I painted over the book page. Not a good idea. The paint spread and soaked in, leaving an indeterminate shadow of paint. After another hour, I used watercolor pencil to add detail, and it spread a bit, too.

On the left is the result of a heavily loaded watercolor brush, loaded with both yellow and blue. The colors were strong, but without letting the ground dry, I got a much lighter result than expected. However, I can see the usefulness of being able to paint, then write or collage, on a book page.  On the right, you can see the pale halo around the flower where the first red paint simply spread out. The petals are drawn with watercolor pencil about an hour later.

At that point, I decided to follow directions and wait the full 24 hours. Using the watercolor ground could be a big leap forward in my collage work–allowing me to add watercolor to fabric and a big variety of papers. But first, I now know that the directions were serious, and I’m going to wait.

–Quinn McDonald is the author of Raw Art Journaling, a book for people who want to art journal, but can’t draw. It’s not a how-to book, it’s a how-to-be book.

8 thoughts on “Review: Daniel Smith Watercolor Ground

  1. Momma would love this one. Her favorite saying to me as I was growing up was: If all else fails, read the directions. She forget to tell me to follow the directions. This is a great blog entry, Quinn. BTW, my RAW ART JOURNALING book should arrive any day.

    • Thank you for buying the book. Please send me an email so I can send you a signed bookmark–almost like signing the book! Your mom was right, but I do love your reply! I’m also starting a Flickr group for people who want to post their raw art. It’s a group called RawArtJournaling on Flickr.

  2. What did the jealous pastel artist say about his rival? “I hate the watercolor ground he chalks on!” (sorry, couldn’t help it 🙂 )

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