Wednesday, November 12, 2008


A few of you asked for a tutorial on my watercoloring technique. I'm sure there are different ways of doing this - and that the "professionals" would probably cringe at the way I do this - but this is the way I know how to achieve the results I want.

This is the card I created with the image I watercolored for this tutorial. I might have gone a "little" overboard with the brads but even numbers didn't work and three to a side was too bare. The scalloped border was created with a Martha Stewart punch from Walmart.

The most important tools to my watering coloring technique are 140# Watercolor paper, Stazon Black Ink, a good stamp, SU Markers, Aqua Painter and Ink Pads (not shown). There is also a Copic marker which I use for skin tones because I haven't found an SU marker that gives a pleasing tone for skin. I am using a stamp from the SU! set "Summer by the Sea".
First, stamp your image using Black Stazon ink onto the wc paper.

I like to start my coloring at the top of my image and work to the bottom. When the paper gets wet this prevents your hand from accidentally sitting in the wet ink and smearing it into other areas.
The most important thing to determine to make your shading look real is to determine where your light source will be. For this image I've decided the sun is directly overhead which will make the top of the hat the lightest point.

So I began there. I chose two coordinating shades of marker - one darker for the shadows and a lighter shade to create the "color". Using More Mustard I started at the brim of the hat and colored a line at the base. It is best to work in small sections so that the ink remains wet. This helps the blending process.

Next I used So Saffron, coloring over the More Mustard and pulling it up into the crown of the hat. Leave a little white space at the top to produce the highlight the sun would naturally produce. You will pick up some of the darker color on the tip of your lighter marker. This is normal and will NOT permanently damage your markers. I do this ALL the time. After you finish blending the colors, simply color off the darker color onto scrap paper.

Using an aquapainter, squeeze a water bead into the bristles and blend the colors upward into the crown of the hat. Your colors will be blended with the darkest shade near crown and the lightest shade at the top.

If you can picture how the sunlight would naturally fall there would be a shadow below the ribbon on the hat with the color getting light towards the brim. I added a band of More Mustard below the ribbon then blended with So Saffron pulling the shading downward toward the brim of the hat leaving a little white space on the rim. Then I used the aquapainter to blend the colors giving the watercolored look to the image.

I worked on the dress next. The nice thing about coloring stamped images is that the artist has taken alot of the guesswork about where the shadows should go. Wherever there is a line, or dotted shading add some of your darker color. In this example I am using Brocade Blue to create the shadows.

Next I used Bashful Blue blend and color the dress. Because the sunlight is falling from directly above the subject the upper portion of her dress would be partially shadowed from her hat and getting lighter toward the bottom.

Here is the image with the Bashful Blue applied. You will notice I shaded more below her arm and under her chin and then left alot of white space on the bottom of her dress. This is where the light would naturally produce shadows and highlights.

To blend and achieve a "washed out" look to the dress I squeezed a large bead of water directly onto the dress and began blending as the colors started to run.

When I am shading and highlighting a part of the image that would be white (such as her blouse) I use Bashful Blue to trace the lines produced by the stamp. If you think of sunlight on snow the color of the shadow is usually blue - unless of course it is dirty snow then it's grey - but I prefer clean snow and clean whites. So I choose blue.

Do not apply water to these lines as you will color your white blouse a light blue.

For the ground I started off adding Close to Cocoa in areas that might have shadow. I basically just randomly placed ink along the lines of the image.

Next I used Creamy Caramel to blend making sure to leave white space for highlights.

I pulled the color from the Handsome Hunter Inkpad into it's lide for a quick palette. Then saturated the ground area with clear water using the aqua painter.

I made a pool of runny Handsome Hunter ink by adding a drop of water from the aqua painter then applied it as a wash to the wet ground of the image.

This is what the ground looks like at this point.

At this point I was ready create the sky with a Brocade Blue wash. It is very important to make sure that all of the Handsome Hunter was out of the bristles of the aqua painter so I simply painted a blotter until the water ran clean.

Somehow I missed a shot of this next step - but it is very easy to explain. To give the main image a little depth I outlined the image in Bashful Blue.

Next I used the aqua painted to wash out the shadow created with the Bashful Blue then I "painted" the entire sky area with water from the aqua painter making sure to completely saturate the paper. You notice in the picture that the paper has begun to curl. That is a GOOD thing when trying to produce a wash. I used a Brocade Blue Ink pad and pulled some of the ink into the lid - once again using the lid as a palette. For this wash however I did NOT apply a bead of water to the ink. I picked it up full strength then squeezed the aqua painter directly over the paper. As the ink and water mixed on the paper I lightly blended the color creating the sky. One squeeze will not create the entire sky however so you will need to repeat this step in sections of the sky.

While the paper was damp (not wet) I added some Always Artichoke Marker to the ground to create the grass and then washed it with bead of water from the aqua painter. A little Regal Rose wasadded to the flowers and butterflies.

Because the human eye is drawn to the lighter points of an image it is important to create a vignette effect to draw the eye to the image rather than the light space around it. To create the vignette I sponged Night of Navy ink to the edges of the damp wc paper. Concentrating more color in the corner than the edges.

Here is the finished watercolored image.

As I said at the beginning, there are many techniques that you can use to color your image. There really is no right or wrong way - it's just a matter of preference. The key is to try it. Practice the different techniques until you find the one that works best for you.

I hope that you found this helpful and that you have been inspired to give it a go for yourself.



Kerry H said...

Congratulations on a really great tutorial. I am always curious to see how others create their watercolor images and you gave me a couple of ideas to try. Also, thanks for the tip on the copic marker. Now I can justify trying one. :)

Gloria W. said...

I love how you explained to leave white space, and create shading!
I know I need lots more practice, but you are a fantastic inspirational teacher!
Thank you for taking time to teach and share your special gifts with us!

Laura (scrapnextras) said...

Beautiful card and wonderful tutorial!

Anne said...

This is a great tutorial, I've saved it to my computer for future refrence as I need a lot more practice at the watercoloring.
Thanks so much.
Love your blog, lots of inspiration!!

Yosha said...

Thank you for the tutorial! I love this image, will plan to try it. My problem, always is to figure out how to do the shading! Practice rigt?!