Basic Watercolor Techniques
I get questions about my process all the time so I thought it would be a good idea to put together a basic water color techniques tutorial to help people who are just getting started find their way. I’ve never been trained in watercolors and what I created here is a guide based on how I’ve learned to use watercolors. There are many other tutorials online if you looking something more in depth or formal.
- Strathmore 300 Series Watercolor Paper Pad, Cold Press, Tapebound
- Sakura 24 Assorted Koi Watercolors Field Sketch Set
- Pentel Arts Aquash Water Brush Assorted Tips
- Sakura Micron Fine Liners
When working with watercolor, here of some things to keep in mind:
- Use waterproof ink pens. Copic Liners and Sakura Micron Pens are both waterproof.
- Be patient. Colors will mix and bleed when the paint is wet. Some techniques require the paint to be dry. It’s usually best to work on a different section of a piece while one is drying.
- Under many circumstances, you will have to add multiple layers of ink to get the depth and vibrance that you want.
- Use heavier paper. Printer painter will not absorb enough water and probably start peeling.
- Always have a tissue handy BEFORE starting.
- Relax! It takes a little bit to learn to control your brush/ink and the only way to gain that skill is by practicing.
- Be one with the water (lol!).. which really means that sometimes you just need to let the water do its thing and let go of trying to control it.
One pigment of watercolor has the capacity to take on a very wide range of value. On the left side, I picked up ink on my brush without watering it down at all. On the right side, I mixed in quiet a bit of water. As you add more water, the ink becomes more diluted and, as a result, looks more faint.
When you are blending colors, place your first color down on one end. In this case, it’s the bottom part of the circle. While the ink is still wet, clean off your paintbrush, pick up the next color, and work from the opposite end, towards the first color. In the example, I picked yellow and started at the top, and gently blended the yellow into the green as I worked down.
When shading, always put my solid color down first and wait for it to dry. There are many ways to do it but I find this works with my style best. When dry, pick your second color, blue in the example, and fill in the area you want to be in shadow. If you’re looking for a hard edge, you can stop at the second step. If you want a soft transition, you can use your brush, without picking up anymore ink and maybe adding a bit of water to help the ink thin, and blend the color towards the center. It would be good to make a note here that I always start in the darkest parts of the shadow and work my way out when I shade.
Blending and Shading
It’s possible to combine the above two techniques. If you want to blend more than two colors, it’s possible to do so, as well. Just make sure than your base is dry before shading. In the example above, I did a 3 tone sphere, waited for the base to dry, and adding my shading.
Wiping Away Color
Sometimes when you add to much ink and the color is too dark, if you act quick enough, you can press the wet area with a tissue and lift most of the ink off. The paper stains but only a little bit. I often use this technique to help when I’m shading with multiple colors.
- When your color is too dark, wipe the excess ink off your brush and see if you can lighten the value by adding a bit of water and pushing the ink around.
- In order to get a hard edge, the area you’re working in HAS to be dry. If its not, the color will bleed.
- It’s better to start light and build layers as you get darker and darker.