Watercolor tutorial (Beginner)
Watercolours may seem like an intimidating medium to handle if you’re new to them but it’s mostly about patience, giving yourself time to learn it and experimenting, there are many tutorials on YouTube for free on how to paint with watercolours and they can be very helpful to understand how to make the best out of your materials.
One of the first things you need to focus on the most is:
I will be focusing on the types of paper you can get in Qatar exclusively, usually Jarir is your best and safest bet but recently they have hiked up their prices, a watercolour pad with 15 pages would be around 35/45QR but now is 65QR, although the quality is not questionable at the very least and you can find hot and cold pressed paper. There are a lot of alternatives you can look for such as Ibn Al Qayyim, the branch near the old airport has many types of watercolor paper at a cheaper rate and however, this does mean that you are sacrificing the quality of the paper. You are most likely to come across the cold pressed paper or rough paper.
Hot press or Cold pressed?
This depends on your preference so feel free to try out both of them; you can tell which paper is hot press and which one is cold pressed by the texture of the paper.
- Hot pressed paper has a smoother texture and very few grains so it’s less “bumpy” it is ideal to use with pens for inking and light washes of colors as it cannot handle multiple layers of paint and water so be careful with it.
- Cold pressed paper has a more grainy texture which makes it difficult to achieve smoother lines by fine pens but it makes up for that by its capacity to hold more water.
Now while we look for watercolor paper, we often notice the words “GSM” written on the black or side, it’s important to pay attention to this. Gsm simply stands for grams per square meter which indicates its weight, the higher the gsm, the more capacity it has to hold water. A paper which has a lower gsm, such as anything under 150gsm will be prone to wrinkle or shrivel up after more than one wash but a paper with 300 gsm or above can be used for multiple layers and extremely fine details.
There’s a lot of aspects we need to take into consideration for watercolor paper but these are the simple basics that you can look out for, however one last bit is that if your paper has a gsm of less than 356 then it’s best to stretch it out or else it will buckle.
Alright moving on!
I recommend going to Cass ART in Doha Fire Station and colornote, they have one of the best selection and variety of brushes; they are at the medium price range but of great quality in my opinion. The subject of brushes and their hair type can get a little overwhelming so to keep it simple, there are two major types of brush hair; Natural and Synthetic.
- Natural brushes are brushes that are made from animal hair such as; goat, horse, camel, boars, squirrels etc. They are able to retain more pigment and have a better water control for a longer period of time. However, since it uses animal hair, it tends to shed often and these brushes are very expensive.
- Synthetic brushes are made from nylon or polyester, you can use them for a wide variety of mediums, and they are cheaper and easy to wash but cannot hold a lot of water or pigment.
So feel free to experiment which brushes and use whatever you are comfortable with! There’s a huge variety of sizes and thicknesses and shapes!
Finally, the last part of this extremely long introduction
When it comes to watercolors, you get what you pay for and it also depends if you use student grade paint or artist grade paint. In stores like Ibn Al Qayyim and CASS ART, you can find amazing watercolour sets and brushes but their price still remains extremely high- an artist-grade watercolour set can cost anywhere from 250-300QR to more than 1000QR, some sets can be cheaper on certain websites such as Amazon so it’s always a good idea to look out for sales!
For a beginner I would recommend using Koi Watercolours by Sakura, you can find them in Jarir.
FINALLY, NOW WE HAVE THE TUTORIAL
Everything starts with a rough idea, so take a rough sketchbook and doodle away!
After you’re sure about what you want to draw on the watercolor paper, have a basic scheme in your mind for the colors you want to use or a simple theme, you can look across on websites such as https://coolors.co , have fun looking around!
Once you know what you want, you can start sketching on your watercolor paper but be careful with your lines and don’t press your pencil too harshly. And now we stretch the paper, if you don’t stretch your paper it will wrinkle or buckle up, by stretching you are expanding the paper so it cannot buckle while you paint. However, if you are lazy like me then just buy watercolor blocks.
The most commonly used watercolor tricks are:
- WET ON DRY (WD)
- WET ON WET (WW)
What’s wet on dry? Take your brush and make it wet(only the brush), apply some paint and paint on your paper! That’s it, you can use it to make lines or sharp shading.
Wet on wet is also pretty simple, you make your brush wet and the surface you want to paint on, take your paint and go! The paint will spread and create interesting patterns and such.
- Now you can freely sketch on your paper, there might be a few rough lines here and there, just to make things a little easier you can buy an electrical eraser, it helps to have sharp and clean lines.
- Next up, is optional but if you have any sort of negative space in your drawing then you can use masking fluid, it can help and provide you with some satisfying peeling action.
- I always start out with the skin, it’s hard to mess up when you paint the skin, I prefer making the surface wet with a light wash and apply a base colour, after I let it dry I build up the colour with multiple small washes and slowly adding around 3 or 5 layers, I would suggest that you add loads of water to your pigments to make them sheer.
- To add more depth, mix a reddish tone with the skin tone mixture/ color and apply them to areas at the corner of the eyes, the tip of the nose and the apples of the cheeks and the tips of the ears! For the lips, make an orange-ish and pinkish tone and follow along. Also don’t be afraid to experiment with different undertones! For darker areas of the skin, use colors with a blue or purple undertone such as under the chin, the ears, sides of the face.
- And then we can add highlights on the nose, lips, chins, corners of the eyes and on top of the cheekbones. Using white paint can help, or if you use a white pen you can use water to blend it out so it looks more softer, unless you prefer a stronger highlight on your drawing.
Now it’s time for painting hair! Although I didn’t mention this before but knowing where your source of light is can be helpful in terms of knowing where you would want to shade, look up reference photos of real people or models. We’ll be following the same rules as we did while painting skin tones, first comes the lightest colors wash, you can slowly build around with that and adding more and more details and the shades become darker and darker, for highlights don’t be shy from using complementary tones or similar colors! And the same goes for shadings, you can make a painting “pop!” when your painting the hair. For example, let’s say that the character I drew has pink hair, for adding highlights I will use yellow and for the darkest colors I would use purple and red or violet.
7. Next we’ll be tackling the eyes and eyebrows, now for this step I don’t prefer to use black unless the general tone of the drawing is black (and white) but instead of using black, use different dark shades of violets, blues, browns, purples, reds etc.. using black can sometimes make the drawing look more flat, and use a light blue or violet colour for the whites of the eyes. For my painting, I used a blue and red ballpoint pen.
For eyebrows I would say the same, don’t stick to just black, and make them the same color at the hair of the character but it’s fun to spice it up by using different colored eyebrows or letting the character have a different hair color than their eyebrows/eyelashes.
8. Finally, the clothes! I used a simple way of coloring the clothes by building the colors twice, for the pink coat I I used WD and for the purple, I used WW (refer earlier to the article)
For any questions or suggestions for more tutorials, please contact the artist on Instagram: @vani.kim