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Floating is a technique commonly used by Folk Artists to provide a quick and easy graduated shading (or highlighting) to a project.

It is often done with brushes such as shaders, angle shaders or dagger brushes. The best paint for this technique are Matisse Flow Formula paints - they have been specially formulated for this kind of thing!

Basic Technique

  1. Simply fill your brush with water, and put a small amount of paint onto the tip or edge of one side of the brush (normally the toe of the angle shader or dagger brushes).
  2. Blend the paint into the brush on your palette, patting the paint from side to side. Note: you should be pushing the paint into the brush, not wiping it off.
  3. The colour on your brush should now graduate from an intense colour, fading to nothing. If the paint has worked its way through the full width of the brush, wash it out and start again - there should always be just water at the end of the brush (no hint of paint).
  4. Apply this to the area to be shaded (or highlighted) by putting the most intensely coloured part of the brush to the point where you want the most colour.
  5. Make sure you have the entire face of the brush on your project and either use a single stroke, or a soft patting motion, paint in the shading / highlighting as directed.

Tricks of the trade

How wet to have the brush: The hardest part of this technique is knowing how wet to have your brush. Too wet, and the paint will puddle and clump. Too dry and the brush will drag. A good rule of thumb is to have enough water on the brush so as to have the bristles looking like satin finish (not glossy, not matt). If there is too much water, just simply touch the tip of the brush to a piece of kitchen paper or an old towel. If there is not enough water, tip the brush (very gently) into your water jar.

Making the job easier: To make the job of floating a bit easier, try making up a "floating mix".

In a small glass bottle, add a small amount of MM3 Surface Tension Breaker, and fill the remainder of the glass with water. The Surface Tension Breaker should make up no more than 1/10th of this mixture.