Vocabulary for Artists

Debbie Abshear



Abstract art uses a visual language of shape, form, color and line to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world.

Abstract art, nonfigurative art, nonobjective art, and nonrepresentational art are loosely related terms. They are similar, but perhaps not of identical meaning.


Acid Free

Acid Free refers to pH value of watercolor paper, acid free being either pH neutral or alkaline. This means the paper won’t degrade over time. This is achieved by certain manufacturing processes and additives that counteract the effects of acidic pollutants. Lightfastness of applied watercolor paint is thus assured.

Analogous Colors 

Analogous Colors refers to any group of three colors positioned on the color wheel next to each other. E.g. Red, Red Violet, Violet. Using such three colors in a painting guarantees harmonious color scheme.


Archival" means "of or pertaining to archives or valuable records". As it applies to materials and supplies, "archival" means something suitable for long-term contact with important objects, safe and stable to museum or library standards. When artists say "archival", usually they really mean "durable to the standards of permanent art".


Atmospheric Perspective-Aerial Perspective

Atmospheric Perspective-Aerial Perspective in art, especially painting, aerial perspective refers to the technique of creating an illusion of depth by depicting distant objects as paler, less detailed, and usually bluer than near objects.

This term also describes the phenomenon of landscape being weaker in color, value and intensity as it recedes into the distance. Popular use of the phenomenon can be found in the paintings of the Impressionists.


Backrun – also called Blossom, Bloom or Cauliflower, is caused by the addition of water or water/paint mixture into already painted and still damp area. This textural effect of water spread on the surface is what is often also called a “happy accident”.




Binder/Vehicle – it is a transparent liquid in which pigment is dispersed. This vehicle binds the paint to the paper and prevents the pigment from getting sucked into the paper fibers. In today’s composition of paint, gum arabic is used as a binder.


Brush – the tool with which paint is applied onto the watercolor paper. Brushes have different shapes and hairs. There are round and flat brushes, wash brushes, riggers or liners, fan brushes and other specialty brushes. Hair of the brush can be synthetic, natural or a combination of the two. The brush consists of handle (usually lacquered wood), ferrule which connects the handle with the head of the brush, holding the brush hair in place. There is no standardization of brush sizes among manufacturers, a number 10 from one brush maker maybe considerably larger or smaller than another brush maker….


Calligraphy – in the context of painting refers to directly made marks with a brush. Calligraphic strokes enliven dull passages of painting and suggest edge, direction or texture. These marks may be direct or indirect in that they may describe texture or define subject by outline. Calligraphy is also a separate field related to writing and can be described as ornamental handwriting.

Cast Shadow 

Cast Shadow – if an object blocks a source of light, it casts a shadow away from that source. The shadow is in perspective.


Charging - is a term for adding thick intense color to a wet wash.



Chiaroscuro in art is the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition. It is also a technical term used by artists and art historians for the use of contrasts of light to achieve a sense of volume in modelling three-dimensional objects and figures.


Chiaroscuro is a way of rendering form, chiaroscuro is concerned with the description of light. Chiaroscuro painter uses light to describe the form and volume of an object. Often painters using Chiaroscuro to render their subjects are called “painters of light”. They render light which in turn describes their subject.

Cold Pressed

Cold pressed watercolor paper is one of the finishes of watercolor paper, it has a slightly textured surface, somewhere in between rough and hot-pressed paper. It is considered among artists to be versatile and easy to use. It can withstand moderate corrections and lifts and is usually less absorbent than Rough papers. Possibly most widely used finish.


Color is the visual element that has the strongest effect on our emotions. We use color to create the mood or atmosphere of an artwork.

Color is light reflected off of objects. Color has three main characteristics: hue (the name of the color, such as red, green, blue, etc.), value (how light or dark it is), and intensity (how bright or dull it is).

There are many different approaches to the use of color:

  • Color as light
  • Color as tone
  • Color as pattern
  • Color as form
  • Color as symbol
  • Color as movement
  • Color as harmony
  • Color as contrast
  • Color as mood


Color/Hue – color of an object or pigment regardless of value. Color is one of the elements of design. Another word for color is hue. Paint and color are not interchangeable. Color and hue for the most part are.

Color Temperature 

Color Temperature – colors can be either warm or cool. Yellow, Orange and Red are generally considered warm, Green, Blue and Violet are considered cool. There are also neutral colors that are the result of intermixing of the warms and cools. Color temperature is not absolute unless two colors are placed next to each other.

Color Triad 

Color Triad – any three colors with equal distance from each other on the color wheel are called a “color triad”. There is a primary triad (Yellow, Red, Blue), secondary triad (Orange, Green, Violet) and tertiary triad (Russet, Slate, Citron).

Color Wheel 

Color Wheel – is a circular diagram of color hues illustrating the relationships between pigment colors and their mixing properties. Colors of the color wheel are: Yellow, Yellow Green, Green, Blue Green, Blue, Blue Violet, Violet, Red Violet, Red, Red Orange, Orange, Yellow Orange. Bright/high intensity colors are focused on the outside circle, the neutrals are on the inside.



Complementary Colors 

Complementary Colors are located directly across from each other on the color wheel (an arrangement of colors along a circular diagram to show how they are related to one another). Complementary pairs contrast because they share no common colors. For example, red and green are complements, because green is made of blue and yellow. When complementary colors are mixed together, they neutralize each other to make a brown or gray.



Composition is the placement or arrangement of visual elements or ingredients in a work of art, as distinct from the subject. It can also be thought of as the organization of the elements of art according to the principles of art.

The term composition means 'putting together' and can apply to any work of art, from music to writing to photography, that is arranged using conscious thought. In the visual arts, composition is often used interchangeably with various terms such as design, form, visual ordering, or formal structure, depending on the context. 


Contrast – one can only show how warm a color is by putting a cool color next to it. There is contrast of warm/cool, light/dark, large/small, rough/smooth, etc. It is only by using contrast that we can correctly explain the world around us within the limited space of the painting surface.

Contrast (vision), the difference in color and light between parts of an image.

Contrast (form), vertical, horizontal, concave, convex, geometric, organic, soft, hard, coarse, smooth etc.



A cruciform design is a composition in the shape of a cross. Oftentimes a cruciform design is used in an abstract or nonobjective painting.



Direction – one of the art elements, direction can be vertical, horizontal and oblique.

Dry Brush 

Dry Brush – a technique of applying paint onto the paper with a brush in such a manner that the resulting stroke is broken and not completely covered with paint, creating a textural effect. This is achieved by controlling the paint to water ratio in the brush. For dry brush techniques to be successful, less water in the brush is necessary.




Earth Colors 

Earth Colors – a group of paints manufactured from variety of Iron Oxides with similar color characteristics. Some of the most well-known paint names are: Yellow Ochre, Raw and Burnt Sienna, Raw and Burnt Umber.

Edge quality 

Edge quality – there are three kinds of edges: rough, hard and soft. Each of them is necessary, none of them is bad or good. Hard edges are sharp and indicate things “in-focus”. Rough edges convey texture. Soft edges express softness and open passages in a painting.

Elements of Art and Design 

Elements of Art and Design

  • Form
  • Line
  • Shape
  • Space
  • Texture
  • Value
  • Size
  • Color
  • Direction


Ferrule – a part of a brush that encloses the hair. Ferrule is usually made of nickel-plated metal or nickel.


Filler – an additive in watercolor paint that alters the characteristics of the paint. Fillers are particles added to material to lower the consumption of more expensive binder materials, sometimes used in student grade paints.


Finish/Grain – there are three basic kinds of paper surface structure and they are Hot Press – smooth texture, Cold Press – medium structure and Rough has the most pronounced texture.

 Flat Wash 

Flat Wash – an area of single color and value painted as a continuous shape resulting in a flat layer of color with no or very little gradation. By creating a bead on the bottom of each stroke the wash can be taken as far as is desired.



Focal Point

 A focal point is the element in a painting that pulls in the viewer's eye, that is the center of attention or the main subject. You can emphasize a focal point through the painting's composition, through color, and through the range of tones you use.


Foreground- the ground or parts situated, or represented as situated, in the front; the portion of a scene nearest to the viewer the area that is the closest to the viewer. Foreground is usually used for leading the eye into the painting from side or bottom of the picture plane.


Forms are three-dimensional shapes expressing length, width, and depth. Balls, cylinders, boxes, and pyramids are forms.


Fugitive Paints

Fugitive Paints (or Colors) – paints with unsatisfactory characteristic that will degrade over time. The most common drawbacks of fugitive paints are the lack of lightfastness and gradual color change as the paint ages.


Furnish – is a term for the ingredients watercolor paper is made of. Paper is manufactured using cellulose which is extracted from cotton, linen or wood pulp. Traditional Asian papers use cellulose extracted from jute, kozo, salago or mitsumata.


Giclee reproductions, the most lightfast and archival method of artwork reproduction. Giclees are printed on high quality cotton (or cotton rag) paper using pigmented inks with excellent lightfastness rating.


Glazing- the term used for a thin, transparent layer of paint. Glazes are used on top of one another to build up depth and modify colors in a painting. It must be completely dry before another is applied on top, so the colors don't physically mix. The purpose of a glaze is to alter the value, hue or intensity of the wash underneath. The glaze should not be recognized as a glaze when applied correctly.


Gouache is a water-soluble paint that is opaque, rather than transparent like watercolor. Gouache and watercolor paints can be used together. White is one of the paint colors available in gouache, unlike watercolors, where the paper is preserved, or kept pristine, as the white in the painting. Pronunciation: goo-wash or gwash


Gradation in art is a visual technique of gradually transitioning from one color hue to another, or from one shade to another, or one texture to another. Space, distance, atmosphere, volume, and curved or rounded forms are some of the visual effects created with gradation.

Graded Wash 

Graded Wash – an area of painted surface that is graded in color, value or intensity. The change within the wash is smooth, not abrupt.


Grain/Finish – there are three basic kinds of paper surface structure and they are Hot Press – smooth texture, Cold Press – medium structure and Rough has the most pronounced texture.


Granulation is a watercolor painting term used to describe the mottled or speckled effect when coarse pigment settles into the tiny indentations of a piece of watercolor paper as the paint dries. ... You can buy watercolor granulation medium to create the effect in pigments that don't naturally granulate. Certain pigments contain larger pigment particles than others. These particles settle in the indentations of the paper and become visible as a sediment or granulation. Most striking examples are genuine Manganese Blue or French Ultramarine.

Gum Arabic

Gum Arabic is made from the sap of acacia trees. In paint, it is used as a binder or vehicle in a form of transparent liquid in which pigment is dispersed. This vehicle binds the paint to the paper and prevents the pigment from getting sucked into the paper fibers. It basically turns the pigment powder into paint, achieving workable consistency.


Harmony in painting is the visually satisfying effect of combining similar, related elements. E.g. adjacent colors on the color wheel, similar shapes etc.


Highlight – a bright point of an object where the reflection of light is visible in high intensity.

Hot Pressed 

Hot Pressed – is one of the finishes of watercolor paper. It is the smoothest of the three (Hot Press, Cold Press and Rough). Hot Press paper shows color more brightly because the paper is not as absorbent. This non-absorbent surface creates a problem for painting larger washes that tend to dry very unevenly and blotchy. It is, however, a popular choice for illustrators who create detailed drawings and then color them with watercolor or gouache.


Hue/Color – is a color property of a paint or object. In other terms, it describes what color is any particular color! Confusing? Hue and color can be used interchangeably, though they are not exactly the same thing. Let’s use red as an example. Red is a color. The hue of red color is red. The value of red color is (let’s say) middle value. The temperature of red color is warm. Another example would be a red barn. The hue of the red barn is red. The value of the red barn is middle. The color temperature of the red barn is warm.


Intensity – another property of color which refers to the strength or “colorfulness” of a color. An example of high and low intensity colors may be Aureolin Yellow – high intensity yellow and Raw Sienna – low intensity yellow.


Key – there are high key, low key or middle key paintings. This is a term used for a simple description of general lightness or darkness of a painting as a whole. Low key paintings are predominantly consisted from dark values. High key paintings are on the other hand consisted from light values. Middle key paintings use the mid-value range, these paintings are limited in value contrast.


Landscape painting, also known as landscape art, is the depiction in art of landscapes – natural scenery such as mountains, valleys, trees, rivers, and forests, especially where the main subject is a wide view – with its elements arranged into a coherent composition.


Landscape orientation means a painting is meant to be displayed horizontally, and portrait orientation means that a painting is mean to be displayed vertically.


Lifting - to take out or remove paint from an area of a watercolor painting.  Used to lighten values and colors by sponging, scrubbing, or scraping.  


Lightfastness – durability of the paint when exposed to sunlight/UV rays. This is one of the most important considerations for a painter as it can significantly limit longevity of a painting. Lightfastness ratings of paint assures that the painting won’t fade and its colors won’t change hue.

The lightfastness ratings are printed on each tube of paint, different manufacturers use different codes so you will need to check the rating scale for each one:

ASTM: American Society for Testing and Materials
ASTM I — Excellent Lightfastness
ASTM II — Very Good Lightfastness
ASTM III — Not Sufficiently Lightfast to be used in artists’ paints


Line – one of the elements of design, line is a contour or edge of a shape. Line can, however, be used as an expressive mark for the mark’s sake, creating texture instead of describing shape’s contour. Line can be either curved or straight.

Line is the foundation of all drawing. It is the first and most versatile of the visual elements of art. Line in an artwork can be used in many different ways. It can be used to suggest shape, pattern, form, structure, growth, depth, distance, rhythm, movement and a range of emotions.

Line is a mark with greater length than width. Lines can be horizontal, vertical, or diagonal; straight or curved; thick or thin.

We have a psychological response to different types of lines:

  • Curved lines suggest comfort and ease
  • Horizontal lines suggest distance and calm
  • Vertical lines suggest height and strength
  • Jagged lines suggest turmoil and anxiety

The way we draw a line can convey different expressive qualities:

  • Freehand lines can express the personal energy and mood of the artist
  • Mechanical lines can express a rigid control
  • Continuous lines can lead the eye in certain directions
  • Broken lines can express the ephemeral or the insubstantial
  • Thick lines can express strength
  • Thin lines can express delicacy

Local Color

Local Color – actual color of an object not influenced by light and shadow, e.g. local color of red apple is red regardless of the amount and color of light, depth of shadows or any reflected light.

Masking Fluid/Liquid Frisket 

Masking Fluid/Liquid Frisket – a latex gum fluid that is used to mask (cover) passages of painting that are required to stay white after application of a wash as it creates a film that protects the surface underneath. The gum can be removed after the wash and reveals completely untouched white of the paper.


Masstone/Toptone – is a thick application of paint onto the painting surface. It shows the paint in full strength. More likely to be used in oil and acrylic paintings.


Media – watercolor, oil, acrylic, pencil, etc. Media is a term that refers to the technique used to create a work of art.


Medium – is a liquid of some sort that is mixed with the paint and alters the characteristics of the paint considerably, e.g. slows down drying time, etc. Most common use of mediums is found in oil painting but they are also used in watercolor. Examples include Gum Arabic and Granulating medium.

Middle Ground

Middle ground is the middle of a painting or the area between the foreground and the background. This is often where the main action takes place. Objects in this area look smaller than, and are often placed partially behind, foreground objects.


Mixed Media

Mixed media - two or more media used together in a painting.  Example: watercolor and pastel.


Modeling – or rendering, it is a way of describing form without reliance on light and shade. It describes the plane change as it happens in an object. The two major painting approaches are 1. Chiaroscuro and 2. Modeling.


Monochrome – strictly speaking monochrome painting is done with a single color. Monochrome paintings, however, can be also made with subtle neutrals where more than one color is involved.


Motif – a subject.

Negative Painting

Negative Painting - this term applies to a watercolor technique in which the artist paints around an object to make it stand out.  Opposite: see positive painting.


Negative Shape 

Negative Shape – or negative space is the space around the object, it is the shape surrounding the positive shape. It is a key element of composition and should be designed with same care as positive shape.


Nonobjective art is another way to refer to abstract art or non-representational art. Essentially, the artwork does not represent or depict a person, place or thing in the natural world.



Notan is the combination of lights and darks especially as used in Japanese art: the design or pattern of a work of art as seen in flat areas of dark and light values only.



Opacity – opacity of watercolor paint can vary from opaque to transparent. Opaque paints have higher covering capabilities, true opaque paint being able to cover previous layers completely. However, none of the watercolor paints is a true opaque since adding the water considerably dilutes the paint and lower its covering strength.


Opaque - opposite of transparent, opaque watercolor reflects light rather than letting light pass through it.

Optical Color

Optical Color – color mixed by the eye, not a physically mixed paint with another paint. Watercolor is a prime example of optical mixing as the paints are transparent. Thus, optical color is the resulting color of two superimposed layers, wet layer applied over a previously dried one, e.g. blue and red applied separately over each other result in a violet optical color.


Palette – is either a selection of colors a painter uses in any particular painting or a tool artists use for storing and mixing their paints when painting. There are several kinds of physical palettes, the two main groups are large palettes with wells around the borders and large mixing area in the middle or a paint boxes or folding palettes that store paints in slightly smaller compartments and can be closed when not in use.



Paint (Watercolor) – is a mixture of pigment powder (in some cases a durable dye) and vehicle (Gum Arabic) in which the pigment is dispersed. There may be other additives which alter the performance of paints but that differs across manufacturers. The highest quality paints contain more pigment to vehicle ratio than inexpensive low quality paints usually do. Watercolor pigments use water as a solvent.

Paper Weights

The thickness of watercolor paper is indicated by its weight, measured either in grams per square metre (gsm) or pounds per ream (lb). The standard machine weights are 190 gsm (90 lb), 300 gsm (140 lb), 356 gsm (260 lb), and 638 gsm (300 lb). 


Pattern -  a design principle in which shapes, colors and lines are repeated at regular intervals.


Perspective in art is the technique used to represent three-dimensional objects on a two-dimensional surface (a piece of paper or canvas) in a way that looks natural and realistic. Perspective is used to create an illusion of space and depth on a flat surface (or the picture plane). Perspective is a mechanical treatment of space, not a creative one.


Pigment is a substance used as coloring. Dry coloring matter, usually an insoluble powder to be mixed with water, oil, or another base to produce paint and similar products.


portrait is a painting, photograph, sculpture, or other artistic representation of a person, in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness, personality, and even the mood of the person.

Portrait is also an orientation of the paper in a painting. A portrait orientation would be vertical.


Primary colors are the only true colors (red, blue, and yellow). All other colors are mixes of primary colors.

Plein Air

Plein Air – a practice of painting out in the nature directly from the subject. From a French expression which means “in the open air”.

Positive Shape

Positive Shape – a shape or silhouette of an object. Opposite- see Negative Painting




Pouring – a technique of applying washes by pouring a water/paint solution on the page creating smooth wash. Benefits are: seamless washes of smoothly graded colors and luminosity of colors as result of not overmixing an area with a physical tool – brush.

Preserved Whites 

Preserved Whites – areas of saved white – unpainted surface. They can be produced by painting around, masked with a masking fluid or a wax crayon can be used to resist water. In watercolor painting the only true white is the white of the paper so the painter must plan ahead to be able to keep the whites.

Primary Colors

Primary Colors – the three colors from which one can in theory mix any other color. These are yellow, red and blue. None of these three color can be mixed from any other colors.

Principles of Design

Principles of Design – ideas with which we activate the elements of design. These are Unity, Contrast, Dominance, Repetition, Harmony, Balance and Gradation.


Rigger - a brush with long hairs and a fine point originally used to paint the rigging on ships often used for detail work and fine lines such as tree branches, twigs, grasses, cracks in rocks etc.


Rough watercolor paper has a prominent tooth, or textured surface. This creates a grainy effect as pools of water collect in the indentations in the paper.


Rough – finish of watercolor paper with the largest amount of texture/structure, getting more pronounced with increasing weights. The surface is suitable for dry brush technique as the brush loaded with paint and small amount of water only catches the so-called “peaks” of the paper leaving the “valleys” untouched and white.


Scale and proportion in art are both concerned with size. Scale refers to the size of an object (a whole) in relationship to another object (another whole). In art, the size relationship between an object and the human body is significant.





Scumbling is a painting technique where a thin or broken layer of color is brushed over another so that patches of the color beneath show through. It's done using a dry brush, or by dabbing at the surface with a rough sponge or crumpled cloth dipped in a little paint.

Secondary Colors

Secondary Colors – are Green, Orange and Violet. Secondary colors are mixed with the three primaries: Yellow + Blue = Green, Yellow + Red = Orange, Red + Blue = Violet. The secondary color depends on the proportion in which you mix the two primaries.


Shade – a term that refers to a dark value of any hue. The opposite of shade is tint.


Shape is a closed line. Shapes can be geometric, like squares and circles; or organic, like free-form or natural shapes. Shapes are flat and can express length and width. Shape – the basic and most important element of design, shape is what paintings are made of. It is the translation of reality.


Size – one of the elements of design, sizes of positive and negative shapes should vary. Size induces scale. Scale explains how large or small are shapes in relation to each other.


Sizing is a glue-like substance that is applied by the manufacturer either to the surface or throughout the watercolor paper; it helps to slow down the complete absorption of watercolor and water, and prevents any unwanted spreading, allowing you time to paint on the surface and to achieve deep, rich colors with sharp, crisp edges.


Sketch a rough or unfinished drawing or painting, often made to assist in making a more finished picture.


Space is the area between and around objects. The space around objects is often called negative space; negative space has shape. Space can also refer to the feeling of depth. Real space is three-dimensional; in visual art, when we create the feeling or illusion of depth, we call it space.

Staining Paints/Colors 

Staining Paints/Colors – there are watercolor paints containing pigment or dye. Pigmented paints tend to stain less than dyes. When a paint has strong staining properties, it penetrates the fibers of the paper and cannot be lifted. No watercolor paint can generally be lifted completely.


Still-life – a composition of inanimate objects.


Stippling to paint, engrave, or draw by means of dots or small touches. ... the method of painting, engraving, etc., by stippling. 3. stippled work; a painting, engraving, or the like, executed by means of dots or small spots.


Stretching - the process of mounting watercolor paper to a board or support prior to painting on it to ensure that it does not buckle when water is applied. The paper is stretched by soaking in water to allow it to expand and fastening its edges to a board so that it dries taunt like a drum. Many artists stretch papers of 140lb and less.


Support – a painting surface on which paint is applied, e.g. paper for watercolor, canvas for oil painting, etc.


Temperature – colors can be either warm or cool. Yellow, Orange and Red are generally considered warm, Green, Blue and Violet are considered cool. There are also neutral colors that are the result of intermixing of the warms and cools.


Tertiary color. 1: a color produced by mixing two secondary colors. (orange, green, violet) 2: a color produced by an equal mixture of a primary color with a secondary color adjacent to it on the color wheel.


Texture is the surface quality that can be seen and felt. Textures can be rough or smooth, soft or hard. Textures do not always feel the way they look; for example, a drawing of a porcupine may look prickly, but if you touch the drawing, the paper is still smooth.

Texture can also refer to the surface quality of a watercolor paper. Smooth-hot press, highly textured- Rough, Cold Pressed is in between. There is no standard of surface textures among paper manufacturers.



Thumbnail sketches. Artists, use the term "thumbnail sketch" to describe a small drawing on paper (usually part of a group) used to explore multiple ideas quickly.




In color theory, a tint is the mixture of a color with white, which increases lightness, and a shade is the mixture of a color with black, which reduces lightness. A tone is produced either by the mixture of a color with gray, or by both tinting and shading. In watercolor, a tint is produced by the amount of water added to the pigment.

Tinting Strength

Tinting Strength – is the ability of paint’s color to retain its identity when mixed with other colors.



Tone is the lightness or darkness of a color. The tonal values of an artwork can be adjusted to alter its expressive character.


Tone can be used:

  • to create a contrast of light and dark.
  • to create the illusion of form.
  • to create a dramatic or tranquil atmosphere.
  • to create a sense of depth and distance.
  • to create a rhythm or pattern within a composition.


Tooth - The surface texture of watercolor paper.


Transparent/Transparency – most watercolor paint is transparent. Some of the paints are more transparent (these are generally dye paints) and some are more opaque. Thickness of application further reduces transparency.


Triad - three colors used together in a color scheme with a relationship that usually forms a triangle on the color wheel.


Unity in an artwork creates a sense of harmony and wholeness, by using similar elements within the composition and placing them in a way that brings them all together.


Underpainting – in watercolor it’s often used as a first wash to tint the paper and eliminate everything except the white of the paper.


Undertone – undertone of paint is revealed when paint is mixed with water (watercolors), white paint or applied in a very thin layer with a knife.


Value/Tonal Value/Tone – one of the art elements, value is the lightness or darkness of an object.

Value Scale

Value scale - Ranging from light-to-dark, starting with white, the lighter grays, the darker grays, then black.  Usually numbered 0 - 10 with 10 representing black.  This scale is used to evaluate colors to determine their value.

Value Study

Value Study – is a sketch of the finished painting that is usually painted in single color (monochrome). This study is focused only on value relationships and construction of the shapes in a painting.

Variegated Wash

Variegated Wash – is a single wash where several colors are applied next to each other wet in wet, meaning that the colors are blended slightly.


Vehicle/Binder – it is a transparent liquid in which pigment is dispersed. This vehicle binds the paint to the paper and prevents the pigment from getting sucked into the paper fibres. In today’s composition of watercolor paint, “gum arabic” is used as a binder.



Vignette – is a painting where a shape that sits in the middle of the painting surface is surrounded by white untouched paper. The shape touches borders of the paper usually 1 – 3 times.

Visual Elements

The Visual Elements of line, shape, tone, color, pattern, texture and form are the building blocks of composition in art. When we analyze any drawing, painting, sculpture or design, we examine these component parts to see how they combine to create the overall effect of the artwork.


Visual Language

The visual language is a system of communication using visual elements. The phrase visual language refers to the idea that communication occurs through visual symbols, as opposed to verbal symbols, or words.






Warm, the phrase used to describe any color that is vivid or bold in nature. Warm colors are those that tend to advance in space and can be overwhelming. Examples of warm colors include red and orange (think exciting fire and volcanoes). Contrast with cool colors.


Wash – a continuous layer of transparent paint applied on paper with a brush or pour.


Watercolor –  a medium using water as a solvent – hence the name. The paint composes of pigment (in some cases durable dye) and binder (gum arabic) and it’s water-soluble. It’s applied in thin transparent washes. It is applied on a watercolor paper which is specifically treated to accept water and paint.


A watermark is a deliberate design or pattern made in the paper, usually bearing the logo of the manufacturer used to show that the paper is authentic.


Wet into wet

Wet-in-wet – a technique of applying paint into pre-wetted area of painting surface. The desired effects of this approach are diffusion, blending and soft edges.


Yupo – a sheet of plastic material, it resembles paper in its appearance. Yupo is not paper however and it resists water, therefore watercolor on Yupo requires different approach than painting on actual watercolor paper and allow for unexpected textural effects.

SOURCES: Wikipedia, Google, Artist Websites