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Hi there!

I did this picture for my watchers that have asked for a comprehensive tutorial about how I do things, as well as different aspects of watercolor. I tried to focus as much on the  "why" as on the "how". Please bear with me, and forgive me for the poor quality of photographs, they were taken under lamplight. I've chosen a scene that is adaptable and can show different ways of doing things.




1 by Wolf-Smith


I start off with a doodle. I don't waste too much time with these, as most of it will be lost as I transfer the drawing to the paper. To transfer a drawing you can use a graphite stick and just blacken the entire back of the paper. After that, I place it on the watercolor paper, fix it with a masking tape so it doesn't move, and redraw with the ballpoint pen. After that, you put on the masking fluid, if there is any white of the paper you wish to preserve. If there are some delicate white lines you wanna save, it is best to use a ruilng pen. If you don't have one, a toothpick will do, just soap it up before dipping it into the masking fluid. The numbers on the drawing are general value notes for myself. Value is much more important then color in any painting, so try an keep it in mind, always. The distant hills in this drawing are the lightest value, apart from the white of the paper, so I start off with them.




2 by Wolf-Smith



I start off by wetting the paper, then dropping in a light wash of gray, mixed from phthalo green and quinacridone red. On top of it, I drop in a less diluted greenish version of the same gray. Te paper is tilted, so the color will flow downwards, creating mist at the bottom. To create some texture and more mist rising, I splash in some pure water to create blooms. If you mess up the timing like I did here, and splash in the water too late, it will start creating hard edges. But don't panic! You can soften them with a damp brush. :D Basically, every time you add a wetter color ( or pure water) to the one that is on the paper, you will create blooms and backwashes.  They can either be soft-edged, if its only slightly more wet, or hard, if its much wetter. On to the closer hill!

3 by Wolf-Smith

As this hill is much closer, we are starting to see more color. Still, I wanna keep it subdued, and stick to the grayish tones. The principle is the same, drop in the wet color, then the less wet, darker color into it. I want to create more mist at the bottom, so here you can use a tissue  to lift some color as it dries (be careful not to do it too soon ). On to the foreground trees!


4 by Wolf-Smith



These trees will be above the main foreground foliage. The lines are the masking fluid. I start using more color, and purer color. As colors get closer to us, they get more chromatic and more intense. This is true for every color except pure black, which gets grayer the closer it is to us. It is also the reason warm colors such as red and orange are considered advancing colors, as they are generally more chromatic then the cool colors. You can always gray them down though, and make cool colors seem closer if you so desire. Here i use some tissue paper and lift out the top of the trees, and I'm showing them as an example of semi-distant trees.  You can always make them come closer by painting in some detail and adding more contrast.

6 by Wolf-Smith


I want these to be closer to us, so I mix LARGE quantities of paint. I paint in the general outline of the mass, then drop in darkness into the wet paint. It is important that the paint you drop in as the darks is much drier then the first wash, or it will run all over and you wont be able to control it. It is also important that you never run out of paint, so mix in large amounts! Watercolor is deceptive that way, so always mix more color then you think you're going to need. As the trees dry, I drop in almost neat cadmium yellow for the lights. Opaque paints, such as lemon yellow, cadmiums, cerulean blue etc.  tend to push back the water and are a great way of controlling your washes. Once this is dry you can go anywhere from here, add individual leaves, lift the color where needed or paint in more contours. Like this, for example:7 by Wolf-Smith

Pardon the glare! I want to keep the mist here but add more contrast, so, with pure water I wet the paper around the outline of leaves, like shown in the photo. Then, you can drop in the dark color for contrast at the edge of the wet surface, and it will flow upward, following the water, while keeping the strongest contrast at the raggedy edge.I've dry-brushed the leaves next to it, just as an example. For those that do not know, dry brush is a technique where you take barely moist paint and catch the surface of the paper, usually by dragging the side of the brush gently across the textured surface. It is an excellent way of painting foliage and texture on buildings, and looks much less contrived then painting individual leaves. On to the bridge!

8 by Wolf-Smith

I apply very light washes of gray-red for the roof, and a mix of cerulean blue and burnt sienna for the stonework. In this painting, it would be optimal to keep these washes very light, as the bridge would look distant and hazy by the end. The same principle that goes for mountains and trees goes for buildings - more contrast, more detail and more color will make it look closer. however, I wanna show both a distant building and a close building.

9 by Wolf-Smith

When you are adding texture, I find it best not to over think things. I dart in heavier color, not worrying about keeping the tiles straight. Notice how the roof doesn't belong on that stonework, so I need to add more texture and more contrast.

10 by Wolf-Smith




Most of this was done with a dry brush, except for the shadows. Here I wanted to lift some color from the roof, and create some mist falling over it. There are several ways of lifting color, and it depends on the pigment of the paint. Some colors are heavy stainers and can never be lifted completely. Others, such as ultramarine, lift very easily, and that can be very annoying when you accidentally splash your sky with water xD. A good, universal way of lifting color is to use a damp flat brush ( non-syntethic) , with a touch of opaque white. Gently, patiently, rub off the color, dabbing with tissues in between rubs.  Opaque white has a tendency to pick up other pigments, just don't use too much.


Time to make or break the painting- on to the water!


11 by Wolf-Smith

Here I wanted to show two different types of water surfaces. These are classic watercolor reflections. The upper one is very suitable for distant reflections, and you can do a whole painting with nothing but soft reflections such as that one. It is done by wetting the reflected area with water, then dropping in the (much drier) color from the top. The color will simply spread downward and give you a blurry effect.

The second type, hard foreground ripples are done by wetting the reflected area with a wash, usually the sky color, then painting in the the ripples with the drier, darker paint, usually the same color as the initial (sky) wash, but you can vary it. Give yourself plenty of elbow space, and determine how dark and light you want the ripples and the contrast. You can add more color as you go along, but NOT once you see the paper drying, as you will create tidemarks. It is best to wait until it dries, then repeat the process if you want to fix something

12 by Wolf-Smith



For the trees' reflection I wet the paper again, then drop the color in from the left to the right. I also want to work on the bridge reflection at the same time, so as to unify them and not see where one reflection begins and the other one ends. Make sure that the ripples are flatter and more horizontal as they go away from you.



14 by Wolf-Smith


Here I do the same thing on the other side, then paint in the rest of the bridge and the boat and it's reflection. I've saved the boat until last because I wanted to paint them in at the same time so as to unify the boat and its reflection. I also drop in some lighter greens mixed with cadmium yellow

Here is the interesting  part! After I've painted the reflection of the roof , the boat and that of the figure, I've waited for the paper to be completely dry. Then, I glazed a wash of phthalo green over the entirety of water except for the figure, to show you the difference. Observe how the reflection of the roof is so much softer then the reflection of the figure. It just doesn't belong there. Glazing is an amazing way of pushing things back and forth in a painting, unifying the picture, adding value and leading the eye. In the next picture I will glaze over the water once more, to add more depth and to "push" the reflection of the figure under the water.

15 by Wolf-Smith

Now it is time to wrap up the painting with finishing touches. I will apply glazes of green over the front of the boat, to calm it and push it away from us. I will glaze over the trees and parts of the bridge to unify them and deepen the shadows. I will also lightly glaze over the top of the distant mountain (but not the mist) to pull it forward. Since it is gray the glaze will give it some color and let it come forward.

16 by Wolf-Smith

This picture was taken the next day, under natural light, and you can see the difference  in "coolness" compared to the yellow bulb light.

I hope this has been helpful. I don't know how to make better tutorials, so if you have any tips, please let me know. Also, if I have been unclear about something or there is something else you want to know, please ask!
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:iconriemea:
Riemea Featured By Owner May 19, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
A wonderful tutorial, thanks so much for sharing!
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:icondetectiveblue:
detectiveblue Featured By Owner May 8, 2014   General Artist
Really great! What kind of paper did you use? :D
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:iconwolf-smith:
Wolf-Smith Featured By Owner May 9, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thanks! I use a 300 gsm watercolor paper, cold-pressed. I stretch it before use and paint on the board i stretched it on.   Its manufactured in Taiwan I think.
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:iconfortitude1:
fortitude1 Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2013
what's with the oriental influence?
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:iconwolf-smith:
Wolf-Smith Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Just felt felt in some oriental mood after watching a movie :D
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:iconsairmeroc:
Sairmeroc Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2013
I don't know anything about watercolor painting, so this is something completly new to me. Despite that I really enjoyed the reading of your tutorial! This is just out of curiosity as I will not be able to apply anything. But... it was very interesting. Thank you for sharing this. :D
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:iconwolf-smith:
Wolf-Smith Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Well, if you ever get some Chinese brushes and feel like get playful with your inking, this could be applied! Your inking is superb and wonderfully imaginative, but I think that its also extremely stressful? ( it would be for me! :XD: ) so just having fun and playing with casual brushwork-inking could help you relax sometimes perhaps.

Thank you for reading :hug:
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:iconsairmeroc:
Sairmeroc Featured By Owner Oct 29, 2013
Yaah you're so right. It is indeed stressful. I have difficulties to go over that crazy sense of details and add shapes "with no hard lines"... if you see what I mean (completly ODD for me :D ). I want to try though and I might read again your tutorial for inspiration!

Please continue your amazing work! :)
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:iconcantdz:
CantdZ Featured By Owner Oct 24, 2013
Great!! recently started painting with watercolors (well, yep, I'm just a beginner)  and this is really helpful, even inspiring, heh Happy pink emote - new style 
Thank you!Mr sun is happy 
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:iconwolf-smith:
Wolf-Smith Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
:huggle:
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:iconhixateez:
Hixateez Featured By Owner Oct 24, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Hey, this is really helpful. I'm a complete newbie with watercolors and have been wondering about a lot of the technical aspects; this explanation of yours really helped me understand a lot of different things. So I thank you:hug:
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:iconwolf-smith:
Wolf-Smith Featured By Owner Oct 24, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you for enduring my incompetence at tutorials xD If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. I can never talk enough about watercolor xD
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:iconhixateez:
Hixateez Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
:hug:
Oh, then, may I ask what sort of paper you use? I've tried using masking fluid, but it tore the paper I used a bit.
Reply
:iconwolf-smith:
Wolf-Smith Featured By Owner Oct 25, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I use 360 gsm paper ( just means it weighs 360 grams per meter square).  Generally speaking, the heavier the paper,  the better, and papers over 400 gsm you can paint on without stretching them. when it comes to masking however, I don't think the paper weight matters, but whether it is cold pressed or hot pressed. Cold-pressed have a rougher, textured surface, which is perfect for watercolor, but it also allows for masking to seep into those tiny grooves, catch more surface and tear off a layer.

It happens to me all the time as well when I use a lot of masking. If you can help it, its best not to mask the whole shape you want to save, just the edges.  It also helps if you rub off the masking from all the sides at once. For example, if you mask out a round shape,  rub it off from all the sides toward the center.

When it does happen, and you get a tiny tear, you can get a razor blade and cut off any irregularities in the surface. Take a razor, bend it into a 'U' shape and catch the tiny tears with the bottom of the 'U'.
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:iconhixateez:
Hixateez Featured By Owner Oct 26, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I see! I never realized the difference between hot and cold pressing might be the problem. The bottle of masking fluid mentioned that the paper shouldn't be too "soft", so I assumed that a heavier paper would be less soft. I don't know if that makes sense, though.

Certainly. It'd be a waste of the fluid, too, to cover the entire area.

That seems like a great way to "save" the torn parts!

Thank you for the in-depth answer:hug: You've been really helpful!
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:iconwolf-smith:
Wolf-Smith Featured By Owner Oct 26, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
It depends also on the cellulose used for making them. Cotton cellulose is much more enduring, but expensive.

Glad I could help. Oh , one more thing, just so I don't give you a wrong idea. Hot pressed paper would be very unsuitable for a painting like this, with heavy washes. They are best used for wet-on-dry and dry-on-dry techniques,  if that matters to you.
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:iconhixateez:
Hixateez Featured By Owner Oct 26, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I see! That was an useful tip, since I often mix media, so I sometimes do a lot of washing and sometimes I do wet on dry:nod:
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:iconbleistiftkind:
bleistiftkind Featured By Owner Oct 23, 2013  Student Traditional Artist
Ohmygod this is sooo fantastic! Thank you so much! :tighthug:
I'm only online with my phone and it is late and I will have to get up early for school tomorrow, so I hope it is okay that I'll give you a proper comment tomorrow. Just wanted to let you know that I've seen it :heart:
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:iconwolf-smith:
Wolf-Smith Featured By Owner Oct 23, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
:huggle:
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:iconheartinart:
heartinart Featured By Owner Oct 23, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Very helpful!!
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:iconwolf-smith:
Wolf-Smith Featured By Owner Oct 23, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you, and happy birthday once again! xD :hug:
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