Week five and we are half way through my ten part series on decorating techniques. This week it's all about modern and artistic “watercolour” painting. Why the quotation marks you ask? Well, because – although this technique gives the effect of a watercolour painting it does not have to involve water in the application.
Watercolour painting on cakes is most definitely one of my favourite techniques. The possibilities range from the somewhat expected to the really modern, artistic, and inspiring – and I love them all.
SOME OF MY FAVOURITE EXAMPLES
SCENES. Fields to coastlines, hillsides to high street – a “watercolour” painted scene adds so much personality to a cake design. To keep the painting modern and artistic rather than twee or old-fashioned be confident in your style and (as I always say) balance the overall design. A slightly more 'wishy washy' painting style will lend itself to a romantic feel, where as a bolder/solid colour style will be more modern and creative. Either way you can create a style focused design by pairing watercolour painting with other techniques to really celebrate your personality.
A rough royal icing texture and some wafer paper flowers can add a grounded, nature-inspired, and modern touch to a slightly sharper painted subject such as a town scene. Where as metallics and clean lines will add a modern and artistic touch to a romantic and natural scene such as a hillside.
ABSTRACT. Perhaps the most modern and artistic way to incorporate watercolour painting in your design – abstract effects add so much interest and depth to a cake. Streaks of colour washed over a royal icing texture look incredibly style focused and creative. Roughly brushed watercolour strokes on a cleanly iced cake look modern, artistic, and grounded. Splashes, drips, and runs, bring a touch of fun creativity, and teamed with sugar flowers they balance an otherwise very classical and romantic design.
TREES. There is something so romantic about a watercolour painted tree and, depending on the painting style, they can somehow look both traditional and modern at the same time. They are an unexpected focus or feature on a wedding or celebration cake and for that reason add a creative touch of personality to any design. Paired with textures and wafer paper flowers they can feel artistic and style focused; or painted with paired back colouring and a careful use of metallics and they feel incredible modern and striking.
WHERE TO START?
So many people say to me that they could never paint on a cake because they can't paint on paper. I'm pleased to tell you that even if you feel you can't paint in the traditional sense – the chances are you can paint in a watercolour style on icing. I hinted at the beginning that watercolour painting doesn't always have to involve water in the application and this is where my biggest tip comes in...use vodka instead. You don't have to worry about the alcohol as most of it will evaporate off but vodka reacts differently with the surface of icing than water and, though it takes some practice to get used to, can really help you create gorgeous paintings.
Food colouring gels and dusts both work well for this technique, mixed with the vodka, and it really comes down to personal preference and your painting style to decide which mediums to use. If you don't want to use vodka then boiled water (that has been allowed to cool) is a perfectly safe alternative but in my experience vodka is the easiest to work with.
Whichever liquid you choose as your base – make sure you don't apply to much paint to your icing surface at any one time. This is one of the reasons vodka works well as it evaporates quicker than water and prevents the icing becoming too sticky. Unlike painting on paper, however, the paint will not be as permanently fixed and you can 'move' it around to get your desired finish.
If you are wondering what style or subject to paint first, I would probably advise some leaves. Their simple shape is a nice and easy starting point and there is plenty of scope to get experimenting with colour and detail.
When done well, watercolour painting on a cake design looks so special and certainly makes an impression. It's a wonderfully artistic way to add personality and, when balanced with other carefully considered techniques, can really celebrate what makes you 'you'.