Paint lines and wash-lines on mats

A simple way to enhance the plain mat is to add a series of painted lines. A well planned series of lines tend to draw the viewer into the artwork.

Usually the lines become thicker, closer together, or stronger in colour the nearer they are to the window in the mat.

Lines are best applied using a ruling pen with watercolours. A ruling pen consists of a pair of blades that are attached by an adjustable screw. The gap between the blades is filled with ink or paint and the tip is adjusted to the width of line to be drawn.

The pen is run along a ruler or straight edge (make sure you turn the ruler upside down so no ink bleeds under the edges) transferring the paint onto the surface.

How to paint lines on mats
1. Cut an appropriate coloured or plain mat to fit the artwork.
Note: Smooth surfaced alpha-cellulose and rag boards work well for drawing lines on.

2. Measure out diagonally from each corner of the window the start and stop points of each line. Mark these points with a pin prick or faint pencil dot.

Note: It is useful to create a marking gauge by gluing a ruler at 45 to a 90 set square. This can then be placed in the window of the mat flush to the corner. The ruler sits on top of the mat in the right place to facilitate easy and consistent measuring.

3. Mix watercolours with water to achieve the desired colour of the lines.

4. Using a soft artists' paintbrush, load the nib of the ruling pen with paint.

5. Test the pen and colour on a scrap piece of mat.

6. Align a bevelled ruler, with the bevelled side on the surface of the mat, between two points that you marked in stage 2.

Note: The ruler should be bevelled side down. This ensures that no paint bleeds underneath the ruler.

7. Load the ruling pen with paint and test again before running it along the ruler between the two points. The pen is held vertically and placed on and lifted off at the start and stop marks.8. Repeat stages 6 - 7 for all the lines until you have completed the board.

Note: Make sure the lines are dry before ruling any ajoining lines. The ruler or your hand can smudge a damp line, ruining the mat.
How to paint wash-lines on mats

Wash-lines are an extension of the straight ruled line.

They consist of a series of ruled lines with panels of painted colour in between.

The production of fine washes and lines requires constant practice.

1. Cut a window mat to fit the artwork. Note: Smooth alpha-cellulose boards work the best.

2. Using a corner gauge mark out the positions of your lines and washes using a pin.

3. Draw light lines in pencil either side of the panel where the wash will be.

4. Mix the wash from artists' watercolours and water to the desired colour.

5. Align a ruler or staight edge with the outer pencil lines and supported above the surface of the mat by 10 - 15mm. The ruler can rest on two blocks of wood to raise it to the required height.

6. Using a flat sable brush, close in size to the width of the panel, paint the panel with clean water by running the ferrule along the straight edge. Try to avoid wetting outside the pencil lines.

7. Leave the board for a moment until the water wash has just soaked in.

8. Charge the flat sable brush with the coloured wash and paint the panel as in stage 5 & 6, starting in the top left hand corner of the mat. Try to work quickly and do not wait for the brush to run out of paint before reloading it. When you reload the brush you must start on the panel again picking up the puddle of colour left behind when you removed the brush.

9. Leave the completed wash to dry before applying the lines as explained previously.

It is better to paint the wash paler than required because another wash can always be applied to strengthen the colour.


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