A Watercolor Tutorial

Watercolor SymmieI think I would definitely enjoy doing some tutorials for you guys. I know I did the one from before, but I wanted to do something a little more traditional as well. Maybe in the future I’ll throw together some more Illustrator things, possibly Photoshop, hell, maybe even InDesign, if you’d like (definitely let me know if you’d like to see anything specific down in the comments). At some point, I would also love to add in more about Android/iOS App design, Website Design, and maybe touch on Logo development as well. I’m not too sure just yet. I think I’ll probably just start documenting any of my future projects, from here on, just to make sure you guys see the process as well as the final product.

Today, however, I wanted to touch on the Art style I do most: sporadic Watercolor. The items I usually work with are:

  • Cream Watercolors – you can use the solid ones, but I find it easier to work with the cream, and it gives you the ability to give more depth because you have more control over the amount of saturation you add in. I also really like that it has both the properties of normal paints, but work well when adding water – this gives you the ability to work with several different consistencies with the colors, and I feel as though you can get more emotion worked in there when the paint no longer feels static. It’s like, with most paint, you just get the image it’s conveying, but with watercolor, you get the image, as well as the feeling behind the action of laying those paints down.
  • Mechanical Pencil – Now, you could easily work with a whole slew of different pencils, if you’d like. But, for me, since pencil is simply used for the sketch that the ink and watercolor will go over, I don’t feel as though more than one pencil is needed, since shading isn’t going to be used from the pencil. And, with a Mechanical Pencil, you always have the sharpest lines. I just feel like it saves me time.
  • Black Pen – I’ve used several different types of pen in the past, and honestly, I actually prefer just a smooth ball-point pen. Sure, in some instances, I do enjoy certain fine-tipped pens, but ball-point just feels so nice to me. If you find a pen you like more, though, go for it; use whatever works best for you.
  • White Gel Pen – I use this as a last step kind of thing. This tends to be used just as a highlight; as a means to accentuate certain areas of the piece to draw more attention, or make it flow a little better.

You can start a couple different ways. I usually find some kind of reference pose to use, but it’s also constructive to work on a unique pose on a scrap piece of paper, then go over to your actual piece when you’ve decided. I don’t recommend sketching up your actual pose on your primary piece unless you know exactly what you want to do – the sketch graphite will be much more difficult to get rid of afterward.

I’ll first sketch up the idea I want, then go in with the Mechanical Pencil and refine the lines. I often don’t add shading in at this step, but rather, I will just section off areas where shading will later go, with a light pencil line to remind myself.

When I have the design sketched up, I go in with Ink and finalize the Lineart. On this step, in addition to adding solid outlines, often times I will also add in small areas of Crosshatching to emphasize later shading. I find that this adds depth to the piece; incorporating more styles and goes well with the splatter Watercolor I later add.

After the Lineart is finished. I decide on a Color Scheme, mix up the more unique Colors, and start adding the Watercolor. Personally, I start working on the outside areas first; not the most important areas, like the face in the example. The reason behind this is that I want to get the feel for those colors and the paint first, before working on the areas I want the most attention drawn toward. Remember: when working with Watercolor, you always want to work from lights to darks, unlike other mediums where you do with midtones then add highlights and shades. This is because everything starts with a watered-down color (hence “watercolor”), and the more you add, the darker the color gets.

When I get the base coloring down, I often will then add drizzel or splatters to areas that I feel either need more attention, or sometimes where I need it to blend more. It really depends on the usage.

After you get all the colors down, I didn’t do it in the displayed image, but you can often use a white Gel Pen to add highlight lines onto important areas like around the eyes, or highlight on the lips to make them look glossy. This is obviously an optional step, but it really can give substantially more depth to the piece, if you want to give it a try.

There are a few other optional things you can add, such as large brush strokes to the background, to add more of a framed appearance, or sometimes accent shapes or further shades and highlights. At that point, it’s mostly your call for what you think looks best.

Hopefully this tutorial helped out. If there’s anything you’d like to see in the future, just let me know. I’m definitely happy throwing these together for people.

Watercolor PencilWatercolor Ink
Watercolor Final

  • Scott Loper

    I really like the texture that the spatter watercolor adds, it’s something that I haven’t seen a lot of in watercolor. You put a lot of thought into your work, and it looks great!


    • Joel

      I’m definitely glad you like that style. I’ve been kind of “out of the game” recently, focusing on things like making a Blog, instead of making Art. Maybe I should try to do something new over the weekend. I do miss making pretty things. But, I do thank you for the kind words.