Anyway, enough of the lesson. Somehow, Cotman's pigments are very vivid & bright. I've tried a few other brands & don't like them as much because they seem murkier. I also paint on hot pressed Arches watercolor paper blocks & I use granulation medium and salt. On cold press or rough press, the color gets absorbed a lot by the paper, so I'd rather have hot press and add my own texture with lots of pigment, granulation fluid & salt, sometimes rubbing alcohol, etc. I use blocks because they are readily available, don't get dented on the way back from the art store (the way sheets of loose paper do), and because I am pretty lame at stretching watercolor paper! That is an art form in itself, and I don't know if I have the patience!
I use a lot of water but try not to use too much, otherwise the pigment gets washed out. When I was first learning watercolor, I told my teacher I thought that I was a wet watercolorist, not a dry one, and he laughed. ~grin~ I realized that I hated doing dry watercolor, which is very detailed & exacting. I do some hybrid of dry-on-wet and wet-on-wet technique, but I never do dry-on-dry. Water adds all the spontaneity, and who likes work, anyway? I'd rather let the water do the walking...and the work.
I use as little brush as possible. I use a palette knife to add a lot of the pigment directly to the paper. When I do use brushes, I use all my old ones! I have some favorites - one is a leftover size 12 round oil/acrylic brush from an ex-boyfriend who was an artist. It is sable-haired and bent from sitting water cups for too many days at a stretch. My other favorite brush is a size 7 round sable-haired watercolor brush. Both brushes have the paint peeling off and sometimes I have to screw the head on a little tighter because they become a little loose and jiggly. I do have some new brushes, but I really don't deserve nice, new brushes. I end up ruining my brushes by always neglecting them in murky, pigment-filled water cups for days at a time. I need to go through a brush rehabilitation program :~) I am so thankful I don't paint with acrylics that much!
The main reason I don't use brushes that often in my work is because I think they are a hindrance, not an aid. Brushes inhibit me when I do my work. They help create work that is tight and controlled - especially watercolor brushes, which have short handles (but which I prefer because oil/acrylic brushes are too long to take on trips.) My two biggest mentors - my mother and an ex-boyfriend - both do art in a tight and exacting fashion. I think it expresses more of who they are more accurately, but Mark, one of my dearest friends in the world, pointed out that I am not a tight, exacting, or technical kind of Jane. He helped push me to find what feels good to me.
When everything is dry, I use gum arabic and try to bring out the glossiness of the colors - what they looked like while wet.