Watercolour Charger Tutorials Introduction.

© John Salmon.

In essence, the charger is a simple tool that presents the user with a self-replenishing, narrow strip of water suspended in mid-air.

This allows the user to charge water into a horizontally held brush at any point along the length of the brush in place of the usual dipping method. This can profoundly alter the painting process and will enable the user to do things with watercolour that could not be done before.

Because the brush is charged in the horizontal plane you can visually monitor the brush by seeing how it swells with water and by monitoring the sharpness of the brush tip. Brush charging can be quick (depending on the brush size) and after a little practice, the user will be able to accurately charge a brush with the required amount of water every time. This helps the painting process enormously because the user doesn't have to keep adjusting the water content of the brush.

Gradations are more uniform because the paint to water ratio in the brush is not disturbed by dipping which would push the paint up towards the ferrule. The process is fast, easy and comfortable to use and allows the user to work at a rhythm suited to the task in hand. It allows for multi-coloured brush charging which enables the user to paint complex multi-coloured shapes without masking.

In my watercolour set-up, the charger has simply replaced my clean water pot, but I would recommend that a new user retains their normal set-up and uses the charger as a supplementary tool until they are comfortable using it.

In these tutorials I list the items that I actually used to paint the examples. Your method may need to be slightly modified if you use different items. I painted on bone dry paper unless otherwise stated.


Here is a typical painting setup that I would use for my smaller paintings. If you have been painting for a number of years, you may find it difficult to alter your working habbits at first. When I first started to use a charger, I couldn't get out of the habbit of wanting to dip my brush. The best way to counter this is to set an hour aside and just try to do some experimental painting with the charger on it's own. You'll soon get used to working in a different way and probably make some exciting discoveries on the way. Once you've got used to using the Charger, re-introduce your water pot and use a mix of methods.

I used to have a dirty water pot and a clean water pot. I now have a dirty water pot and a Charger. I found that I wasn't using the clean water pot any more and was taking all my clean water from the charger.

You'll need to experiment and see what it is that works best for you. If you've been suffering from an artistic slump with the dreaded artists block or you just feel your work has got stale and you are looking for a new direction, I can guarantee this will drive out the demons and get you going again. Give it a go. What have you got to lose?


Rootcharging a brush. Just touch the brush on the Charging Cradle and give a slight twist. The charging process is ergonomically comfortable and fast. Note the pile of folded kitchen towel used for discharging and wiping the brush clean during the painting process.


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