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All Things Ampersand

Hints and Tips for Getting the Perfect Watercolor Effects on Aquabord

Aquabord offers the artist the ability to do more on the surface and to create effects more easily than on other traditional surfaces. Aquabord is an archival panel with a unique clay coating which includes a tiny mineral that helps to dissipate the water and pigment throughout the painting. It can be used for other media as well but is very absorbent and is designed to work with water media. Continue Reading >>

The Many Colors of White with Karen Vernon

As an artist, I have enjoyed painting in the juicy, delightful medium of watercolor, enjoying the flow of the pigment as it passes across the surface. For decades I worked on paper as so many watercolorists do. But for the past 20 years I have worked on Ampersand’s Aquabord which allows me to do far more than I ever dreamed of doing on paper. Not only does it give me more luminous, vibrant color, but it allows me to present my works with no glass. I can create intimate, tiny pieces up to large 42” x 90” paintings. I can create pieces to be framed traditionally or to present cradled with no frame at all. Continue Reading >>

Featured Gallery Artist: Linda Aman

Peach Petals, 22″ x 30″, watercolor on Aquabord, 

Linda Aman, watercolorist and instructor uses Aquabord for its ability to make corrections and allow for special effects.  She teaches several classes and workshops in Idaho and Oregon, working in all aspects of watercolor.

Find Linda online to see more of her work through her website and her class schedule:  http://amanarts.com

All things Ampersand, 
Karyn Meyer-Berthel 

Click here to explore the full selection of Ampersand panels and tools.

Painting in Watercolor: An Exercise using Aquabord™ with Karen Vernon


I’ve spent the last few years in quest of more brilliant reflective color and luminosity in my paintings. About two years ago, I paired the most satisfactory combination of materials to date. Working Ampersand Art Supply’s Aquabord with Daniel Smith watercolors, I have achieved the deepest, richest color I have ever painted.

Painting on the Aquabord surface in watercolor is a joy since the surface is responsive and cooperative. On the Aquabord surface, the watercolorist can easily accomplish many of the more difficult watercolor effects created on paper. This museum quality panel has the absorbency of the standard cold press paper, without its limitations. Moreover, the surface allows the artist to control washes and color, and when finished, present the painting without glass!

There is a smooth surface similar to a hot press paper, but I prefer the textured surface of Aquabord. It works best for watercolors. One of the assets of Aquabord is the bright reflective quality of the white clay and the color that can be achieved on it. Previously, the watercolorist accepted a loss of brilliance in some colors as the pigment was absorbed into the depths of the paper. On Aquabord, the artist can create paintings of deep, radiant colors. This new surface allows the painter to create the softest washes, typical of those possible on cold press papers, as well as vibrant colors and textured patterns that are possible on hot press paper or bristle board. This fine art panel is also pH neutral and acid free.

After drawing the design on the Aquabord, begin by painting lush pools of water on the surface. If the value of the color is to be dark, use wet color rather than clear water. It is not necessary to wash the entire surface of the board with water, but rather choose to work in smaller areas. When wet, the natural surface darkens to a light taupe. This value change easily allows the painter to know which areas are wet and which are dry as the work progresses. The bright white color of the clay returns when the board dries completely.

Apply the water in thick splashy puddles, adding heavily pigmented color into the water as needed. With Aquabord, you need to work with your brush loaded up with pigment. Try not to go back into the wet area but allow color & water to drop down into the clay surface. Mix the color darker since the additional surface water will lighten the pigment value. A good, natural bristle, soft brush is useful for these applications. To achieve the best effect, keep the brush tip within the water layer rather than dragging it on the board’s surface. This application results in an even, flat, layer of color as the pigment settles on the board. The Aquabord surface has a subtle tooth that is evident in the finished work. The texture, however is finer than that of a rough or cold press paper, creating fewer shadows on the surface and brighter color.

My palette consists of many colors. However, because I like working with the character of each pigment as it stays suspended in water, I will choose to use a pigment that will create the effect I want rather than manipulate the pigment, possibly destroying characteristics or color. A good example is created when Quinacridone Coral and Quinacridone Rose are richly mixed together and dropped onto the wet or damp surface. The two colors will move and separate, enhancing each other as the warmer red, Coral floats next to the cool red, Quinacridone Rose. Both pigments are transparent, intense colors of the same value and hue. Yet when mixed together, they create a subtle and sensuous transition that can only be achieved in this manner.


Try the following exercise on a small piece of Aquabord. Draw a couple of leaves onto the board using a hard lead pencil. Wet the board so it is damp as explained earlier. Apply cool green colors to your drawing while the board is damp. Let the water and color absorb in the surface and reach a slow crawl. Then wash Cerulean Blue across the area. After drying for a short time drop Hansa Yellow we into wet, onto the areas that are to be lightened. See how the warm yellow pushes the blue back and brightens the leaf. Now lift wet color with a soft, mostly dry brush in order to regain the whites.


As colors stack and the painting develops, return to areas and lift pigment. This allows altering of glazes, changing of values, and the creation of the desired textures and patterns. The surface of the Aquabord permits the careful lifting of layers of pigment value and hues to those colors below, bringing out sparkling underpainting for emphasis and contrast. Several tools can be used on Aquabord for lifting. A traditional round or flat nylon watercolor brush can be used. The nylon brush offers more resistance against the surface than a mixed bristle brush or a natural bristle brush. When more lift is required, a hog bristle acrylic may be used. Allowing the board to dry between each removal of color will offer a clear, more controlled lifting. You can also use tools such as sgraffito knives to cut into the surface and create sharp highlights such as on the edge of a petal.


When the painting is complete and totally dry, seal the finished artwork with several layers of Krylon® UV Archival varnish or other final spray. Even though the pigments used may carry the highest permanency ratings, all artwork should be protected against the damaging effect of light and the pollutants in the atmosphere. First, spray the painting with two to three layers of varnish in order to seal the pigment and prevent it from moving. This is enough to protect the painting. However, for a more even finish, brush two to four layers of Golden Acrylic UV Filtering varnish on top of the sprayed varnish. This varnish come in a matte, satin or gloss finish and can be used according to individual preference.

The complete artwork is framed much like a canvas might be without glass! I use silk liners on my paintings. I find the silk is more compatible with my style with a texture suited to water color. The liner provides the visual space around the painting much like that of a matted watercolor. Have fun experimenting. 

Written by Karen Vernon
~Karen Vernon is known for her phenomenal rendering of light and color in her watercolors. Her paintings have been featured in museums and galleries throughout the country and are represented in such notable collections as the Amoco Corporation. A retrospective of Vernon’s work was done for PBS and she has been featured in American Artist Magazine. An exceptional teacher, she has taught watercolors over the last 30 years. One of her students says, “every time I finish my class with Karen not only have I learned a ton of new techniques, I actually can see my skills improve.”
www.karenvernon.com


Click here to explore the full selection of Ampersand panels and tools.

Aquabord 2.0 Revisited

Aquabord™ has undergone a number of important changes a few years ago due to a change in one of the raw materials we use to produce this unique surface for watercolors. We saw this challenge as an opportunity to make Aquabord even better than before. While the newer Aquabord is in essence, the very same, it does have a few differences: 

Above: New Version
Below:  Older Version


1. The new Aquabord™ surface has a flatter, more even texture. It’s less pebbly and feels more like a cold press watercolor paper.
2.  The new surface is slightly softer. You need to use less pressure when wet-lifting paint just like you would on paper.
3.  The new surface is more absorbent and emphatically more like watercolor paper (see helpful tips below).
4.  The new surface requires less water for washes and blends. It behaves more like a cold press watercolor paper now, so you don’t need as much water for wicking the paint across the surface – the paint moves more freely and blends beautifully.
5.  The vibrant color you’re accustomed to still applies.
6.  The lovely eggshell color of the natural clay you’re accustomed to is still around.
7.  You can still seal your watercolors and frame them without glass.

The new Aquabord surface is very porous. You may see some air bubbles come up when you apply very wet washes of color. To prevent this, flush the surface first before you start painting. Take a flat brush and apply big washes of water across the surface. Allow all the air bubbles to release. When the surface reaches a damp stage, then you can start applying watercolor to the surface. By allowing the air to escape first, you are basically opening up your surface to accept the pigment. This process will prevent those tiny air bubbles from affecting the consistency of the smooth transitions in your washes. 

More than a dozen professional watercolor painters and avid Aquabord users repeatedly tested our trial runs until we had the surface they felt worked best. We think the newer Aquabord is well worth the changes and we hope you do too. 

Above:  Washes on Aquabord
Below:  Washes on watercolor paper


We greatly appreciate thoughts about the reformulation, and you are welcome to share your feedback with us. We make Aquabord for you and it matters to us that you have a successful experience with our products.

Ampersand Aquabord™ panels are now available in both 7/8in and 1.5in Cradle Profiles that offer more flexibility for hanging and framing your work. Featuring a 7/8in and 1.5in total panel depth, these new cradle profiles are handcrafted with premium grade 13-ply birch plywood, designed to fit both standard canvas and floater frames. The cradle can easily be painted or stained to complement the artwork or primed in order to wrap the image around the edges. As with all Ampersand Museum Series panels, this product is eco-friendly, artist safe and made in Buda, Texas from US grown renewable wood sources. Other available options include a 1/8″ flat panel and 2″ deep cradle. 

All things Ampersand, 
Karyn Meyer-Berthel 
Artist & Social Media Specialist 
Ampersand Art Supply 

Click here to explore the full selection of Ampersand panels and tools.