i just started using watercolors, can you tell me about your process/share some tips?
Well first of all, congrats on trying watercolors! I’m by no means an expert yet but I’ll do my best to walk you through my process using some of the WIP pictures I have from previous pieces. There’s a ton to cover and I won’t get it all so feel free to ask more specific questions if you need help.
My first tip would be to play with whatever tools you have to figure out what feels right for you. If you don’t have any tools yet, I suggest the Sakura Koi Pocket Field Sketch Box (pictured below) since it’s really nice quality, comes with a water brush, and usually costs like $15-$25 depending on size/where you buy it. If that’s still outside of your price range, the first watercolors I ever did were with old crayola palettes and it worked out fine, it just took way more layers and time to get the color depth I wanted.
As for paper, I’m still looking for the perfect one but just make sure it’s watercolor paper (cold press means there’s a texture, hot press is smooth) or multimedia and not like, printer paper. As long as it’s relatively thick, it should be ok but might buckle when too much water is added.
Don’t worry too much about perfection when learning how to use your equipment. Make lines, blend colors, try making washes, etc. When I came back to watercolors, I mostly did a lot of meditative painting, where I doodled whatever felt right. Some of them even came out real cool looking??
When I sit down to do a more detailed piece or commission, I have a five-part process I pretty consistently use these days. It goes like this:
1) Traditional (or digital) sketch/concept phase. The below pic is from a pop-art commission concept where I really liked the flow of her hair.
2) Digital lineart (cleaning up/refining concept sketches)
3) Print the lineart and lightbox it to watercolor paper using either a hard graphite pencil (very light lines) or colored lead. I still lightbox with this ancient hunk of junk but you can even use a window or your computer screen (VERY CAREFULLY) to lightbox if you don’t have one.
Here’s what some of my pieces looks like after being transferred:
I think it’s important to note that you should keep a piece of scrap paper under your hand while working on the watercolor paper, since the oils in your skin can lead to areas where the paint won’t bind to the paper properly. I’ve had cases where I finished a background wash only to find an absolutely perfect thumbprint in the center of it.
4) Ink the lines. Make sure your pens are waterproof. If they’re not, I’ll talk about a way to get around that later so skip right to painting for now.
I used micron technical pens for the above piece. If you don’t know if you have waterproof pens, make a test chart like the one below. Mine involved copics, watercolor, and super heavy scrubbing to see how easily the pen came off when wet.
I’ve also “inked” after painting by using more concentrated lines of watercolor instead of actual ink. The below painting was too cute and pastel and I didn’t want to ruin it with black lines, so I used that technique here (along with some red pencil)
5) Paint! I’m not really consistent with this step but my main tip is: BE PATIENT! If you want flat blocks of color, wait until each wash is fully dry before moving on to one next to it. If you don’t, they’ll bleed into each other. This is also true when trying to create shadows with hard edges instead of soft blending. Not being patient enough is my #1 cause of “crap I have to start this over”.
(The weird coloration on the lines above is actually dried frisket I put over certain sections of the piece to protect them but it ended up being more of a hassle than anything else for this style of piece.)
So, what if you didn’t have waterproof pens? You can easily reverse steps 4&5 and paint first, wait for it to dry very well, and then ink (shown below).
The finished piece looked like this:
I hope this was helpful!