Welcome to the world of watercolors! If you've ever found yourself hesitating at the thought of diving into this enchanting technique, you're not alone. In this blog post, we'll explore three fundamental concepts that demystify the seemingly intimidating realm of watercolors. Have you ever wondered why they can feel tricky to master initially? It's probably because of the mesmerizing range they offer, from flowing washes in abstract paintings to the intricacies of hyper-realistic artworks.
Fear not! This guide is here to be your friendly companion, easing you into the world of watercolors without the need for an overwhelming number of tutorials.
Let's break down those initial barriers and make it crystal clear – understanding your tools is key, and the magic happens with a mix of practice and your unique artistic flair.
Alright, pick up your paintbrushes and get ready for an adventure into a world full of possibilities. We're diving into the colorful realm of watercolors!🎨✨
Understanding the Essentials: Beating the Scary Stuff!
Watercolors, with their fluidity and boundless potential, can initially appear daunting. However, fear not! In this guide, we will demystify the art form, breaking down the basics that make watercolors a versatile and enchanting medium.
From abstract washes to intricate details, every stroke will become a confident step in your artistic journey.
👉🏻Download all the templates for the practice exercises from the Freebies page
👉🏻You can follow the step-by-step guidance for each exercise in this video created especially for you:
The materials we'll be using for these exercises are:
- Watercolor paper sheets, 240 grams or more
- Watercolor brush with a fine tip (I used a size 8 for all the exercises)
- Palette for mixing colors
- 1 clean water container for preparing the paint
- A second water container for cleaning the brush
- Cloth or paper towels for drying the brush
- Graphite pencil and eraser
- IPERARTIKA templates, you can download them from the Freebies page.
- And: Your favorite infusion to enjoy while painting
Optionally, you can also use:
- LED Light Pad
- Piece of paper to place between your hand and the watercolor paper
- Scrap piece of watercolor paper for color tests
- Colored pencils
- Fineliner Ink Pen
- Plywood and masking tape to secure your sheet
- Kneaded eraser to remove excess graphite.
The Three Fundamental Concepts
Before we begin, we will define the three fundamental concepts on which all the practical exercises in this guide are based.
Here they are:
- Pressure: We'll explore the kind of lines you can achieve with your brush.
- Amount of water in the paint: We'll see how your painting looks when you add a lot or a little water.
- Drying Time: And, we'll delve into what happens when you let your painting dry or don't let it dry before adding more layers.
Step 1: Transfer the templates to watercolor paper
First things first: we'll trace our templates onto the watercolor paper. I personally use an LED Light Pad, but if you prefer, you can trace them with tracing paper or just rely on a well-lit window. (Check out the article on our blog about tracing techniques for more details.)
You can place a piece of paper under your hand to avoid smudging the paper with the pencil.
Don’t forget to write the titles of each page; it'll be super helpful when you revisit your practice sheets in a week and try to remember what you worked on.
Once we've traced our template, if you notice that the pencil lines are too dark, you can gently lighten them by erasing some of their intensity with a kneaded eraser.
Step 2: Preparing the Color Palette
Now, let's get our colors ready. We'll be working with four different shades, but don't worry too much about precision as these exercises are for practice. Simply opt for two lighter tones and two darker ones.
I'll be preparing Green, Magenta, Yellow, and Blue in two variations: one with ample water (resulting in a nearly transparent color) and another with minimal water (yielding a vivid, intense hue). Ensure you mix sufficient paint to avoid any interruptions during the process.
Having a scrap piece of paper on hand for color tests is always a smart move.
If you're looking to expedite the water addition to your paint, consider using a dropper. While not essential, it can save you time during the painting process and is especially useful for prepping all your colors in advance.
Step 3: Brushwork Exercises
For these exercises, I'm using a size 8 round watercolor brush to keep it simple. Brushes come in many types for watercolor painting, but I find one or two favorites from my collection of around 40.
The key is to work comfortably, rotating the paper if needed. Start with the finest lines, then experiment with thicker lines using different brush orientations.
Mix it up with Thick line, Thin line. Try a dashed line, and practice wet and dry strokes using varying water-to-pigment ratios.
For a flower, use a wet stroke and thick brushstrokes for the first layer, leaving some areas unpainted. Once dry, add details with a fine, dry stroke.
Step 4: Layers
To master the effect of layering watercolors, patience is key.
Start with a very watery color and paint one petal, allowing it to dry completely. Load your brush generously, letting the paint puddle, and blot excess if needed.
Once the first layer is dry, paint the second petal. Notice the increased opacity where the petals overlap. Let this layer dry.
After the second layer dries, paint the third petal. Ensure each layer is fully dry by touching it.
With all three layers dry, observe varying opacity levels, creating transparency and shading.
Now, apply this technique to the example flower. Coat the entire flower with a watery color, letting it dry.
If you go outside the lines, use clean water to correct. Allow the first layer to dry.
Paint a second layer, leaving some petals unpainted for depth. Let it dry.
Continue adding layers, leaving some petals unpainted for foreground appearance.
Once dry, enhance details with colored pencils, accentuating veins or outlines.
See how layers add depth, with more layers making petals recede.
Step 5: Gradients
Let's explore gradients within a layer. Begin with a dry brushstroke in green, lightening the color gradually by adding water.
Apply the same technique to an example leaf, starting with paint at the leaf's beginning and blending with water. Repeat for practice.
Now, try a two-color gradient. Begin with a moderately watery shade, adding drops of a darker color to shift the tone.
Apply this to a flower, following the same process.
For a three-color gradient, transition from yellow to blue through green. Use paint not too watery or too dry, moving through analogous colors. Add drops of blue for the final touch.
Look at the beautiful gradient we've achieved
Apply the same technique to the example flower, ensuring enough prepared paint. Work at a slightly faster pace for a subtle gradient, or go petal by petal for a slower process.
Step 6: Basic Techniques
Let's delve into the four fundamental painting techniques, which are essentially various combinations of wet and dry strokes.
Wet on Wet: Applying a wet color to a wet surface, often with low pigment and lots of water. You can achieve this by layering wet colors or by creating a puddle of water and dropping paint into it.
Practice on flower petals by spreading wet paint and adding drops of another color where the petal begins.
Wet on Dry: Painting with fairly watery paint on a dry surface, such as a first layer of color or unpainted watercolor paper. Apply the first layer and let it dry completely before adding subsequent layers.
Dry on Dry: Starting with a dry first layer, then using less water and more pigment for details. You can paint directly on paper without a previous layer of color. After the first layer dries, add details with opaque paint.
For the flower example, apply a layer of color, let it dry, then paint petal details with less water and more pigment for a contrasting effect.
Dry on Wet: Starting with a layer of wet paint and, while it's still wet, using paint with less water and more pigment. Alternatively, you can create a puddle of water and paint with highly pigmented color before it dries.
In the flower example, apply a layer of clean water and paint with less water and more pigment for a dry effect.
Remember, these exercises illustrate the effects of water and pigment ratios. When creating your own art, choose the techniques that feel most comfortable, decide on layering, and combine these methods in a way that suits your personal style.
Extra Tips for Your Watercolor Journey
Explore Fearlessly: IPERARTIKA offers templates designed by professionals to help you overcome the fear of a blank page. These templates provide cool compositions to spark your creativity.
Act without Overthinking: Inspiration often comes when you start painting. Don't wait for it to show up on its own. Visit IPERARTIKA's inspiration page for a creative boost.
Paint Every Day: Incorporating art into your daily routine enhances your quality of life and self-connection, even with small creations.
Free Yourself from Perfectionism: Paint for fun, without constraints. Embrace mistakes as opportunities to explore new paths. Remember, there are no mistakes in art.
Enjoy the Process: Find pleasure in every stroke, drop, and color that leaves its mark on the paper. Don't obsess over the final piece.
Paint to Share: Consider creating paintings as gifts for your loved ones. Use IPERARTIKA's designs to make special cards and save on greeting cards.
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Let's keep creating! 💫