*This post contains affiliate links. I receive small commissions for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you. These commissions help me keep this site up and running, in order for me to keep providing helpful and inspiring art content. :)
Tired of having to depend on tracing and/or using grids when drawing or preparing for a painting? Do you want to be able to confidently sketch while out and about, in a coffee shop, at a park, while on vacation, etc.? Confused as to how artists are able to recreate shapes and proportions effectively when drawing freehand?
Most of my students and community members know that, even though I enjoy using references when drawing or painting (I use both photos as well as draw/paint from direct observation), I'm not a very big believer in tracing and using grids.
Because, after we've gotten to a certain level with our drawing, sticking to those methods for long periods of time and never challenging oneself with freehand drawing or sketching, tends to hinder our progress in a variety of ways.
For one, tracing and using grids doesn't do much for our development when it comes to our visual measuring skills or our ability to lay down lines confidently.
Not to mention, these methods primarily teach budding artists to create carbon copies of the reference. This may very well be what certain types of artists are seeking, but for artists like myself who are looking to bring expression, personality and even certain amounts of imperfection into our representational pieces, progress would just come much more slowly.
Finally, because these methods focus primarily on copying, there's no reason for artists to further their knowledge of the subject on hand when it comes to proportion, 3D form and even perspective, which are all very important Art Fundamentals to wrap our heads around.
If we don't understand important Art Fundamentals such as perspective and 3D form (and others such as anatomy if we're drawing human figures or portraits), there's just no way that we're going to be able to draw freehand with confidence and ease.
For me, if my drawing practice is not somehow preparing me to draw from direct observation (otherwise known as drawing from life), it's holding me back.
This is just me, though. And I'm aware we all have different goals, styles and ways of working as artists.
But it's also important to be honest with ourselves regarding the types of practice that will help us get to our goals.
Even though I like using references in order to have something to jump off from, I'm not going for 100% replicating or creating a carbon copy of what I'm looking at.
I'm always taking away elements, bringing in elements, manipulating color, looking for ways to bring myself into my work and thinking of ways to improve the overall composition.
And yes, I do believe that using tracing is a great option for beginners just getting started on their drawing/sketching journeys. It could also very well be a great jumping off point, even when the artist has already developed his/her drawing skills and is getting into a new type of subject.
For example, when I was getting started with figure drawing, tracing over full-body poses helped me understand shapes throughout the body and develop that mind-muscle memory to a certain extent before drawing freehand.
I also believe that there is a time and place for tracing and using grids, even when the artist is already highly skilled. Namely, when he/she is short on time, the composition is very complex or large, he/she is teaching classes, working on studies that focus primarily on the painting process, etc.
It's one thing to trace and use grids when one already knows how to draw and quite another to continue tracing and using grids forever, and ignoring the importance of learning to draw because you want to skip straight to the painting process or whatever it may be.
If you're creating art for the fun of it, then it's perfectly ok.
But if you're really looking to improve your art skills at a deeper level, it'll hinder you.
I've said this once and I'll continue saying it:
Drawing is the basis for all kinds of art.
Even though I sell my paintings and consider myself to be primarily a painter, I'll always continue practicing my drawing/sketching alongside my painting, because I know how much this practice enhances and simplifies my process with everything else.
And, if you're asking yourself if knowing how to draw is necessary if you're looking to develop a highly abstract style, I would say yes.
The only scenario in which I'd consider learning how to draw as not necessary, would be if an artist is looking to do pouring type paintings or Jackson Pollock-type paintings, in which the paint in itself organically creates shapes and the composition is more erratic/less planned.
But, if you're looking to ever leave that, it's essential to know how to draw and learn about Art Fundamentals.
If you know these two at least on a basic level, not only will moving on to painting be much easier, but you'll be able to create higher quality work much faster.
This is why,over on the Becoming Artists membership site, I share both watercolor and drawing/sketching tutorials, as well as full classes and assignments on Art Fundamentals.
In the following video, I share my preliminary sketching (outline sketching) process for recreating effective shapes and proportions freehand.
This is what I do every time I'm working on a new drawing, as well as before getting started with a new watercolor piece.
I also provide lots of tips along the way that'll help beginners move forward faster with their freehand drawing.
After finishing with the preliminary sketching process using regular graphite pencils, I use alternative shading/mark-making techniques (hatching and crosshatching in this case) to develop a wide range of values and create interest/depth.
If you enjoyed this video and found it helpful, make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel. I share a brand new video every week with art tips, drawing and painting tutorials and mindset/productivity tips for artists. *Subscribe HERE*
Freehand Sketching Tips for Beginners
What are the main things I need to know in order to achieve realistic results when drawing hair? How can I break drawing hair down into simple steps to follow?
There's no denying it.
Achieving realistic results when drawing (or painting) takes great skill and patience.
And for those of us who love drawing portraits and animals, knowing how to add hair texture in a believable way is important!
I'm very excited to share a super helpful, step-by-step tutorial with you that the extremely talented Austrian artist/illustrator Sabrina Hassler prepared for us.
Today, she'll be spilling the beans on her method for adding beautiful (and very realistic) hair to her graphite portraits!
It takes only a quick look into Sabrina's website and social media to know that she's the real-deal when it comes to realistic drawing.
She loves drawing portraits, animals and botanicals and, just like me, she has a passion for sharing her knowledge with other creatives who are looking to progress their skills.
Without any further ado, let's get into her tutorial!
How to Draw Realistic Hair in 8 Steps
Many artists find it difficult to draw interesting and natural hairstyles. I've been asked many times: "How do you make hair look so realistic?”
Some complain: "Drawing hair is so complex!"
But it doesn't have to be that way.
In this tutorial you will learn how to draw hair in 8 simple steps, using the example of a long wavy hair.
Curious? Here we go!
Supplies you'll need:
• Pencils (H-4B)
• Black colored pencil
• Eraser and pen style/barrel eraser
• Blending stump
• Drawing paper
Some of my favorite drawing supplies:
How to prepare:
Print out your reference photo several times.
Print out the original photo on regular printing paper once (preferably in grayscale/black and white if you draw with pencils).
Other copies should ideally be a little lighter and a little darker than the original. You can make small brightness adjustments using any photo editing software.
Why do you need lighter and darker copies?
In the lighter copy you'll be able to see dark areas in more detail and in the darker copy the highlights will stand out even more. This will help you to create a high level of contrast between lights and darks later on, which is important for realism.
You’ll also need an extra copy to draw in some helpful guidelines.
Link to my reference photo.
1. Draw basic outlines
To begin, carefully draw the outlines of the head, neck and hair on your drawing paper. Use a harder pencil grade (for example H or HB) and make sure not to press down too hard on your paper as you're creating your sketch.
In the beginning it’s completely normal to make mistakes and you’ll often have to fix something. That’s why your strokes shouldn’t be too dark, so they're easily erasable.
If you have trouble getting the proportions right, try breaking down your subject/reference into simple shapes (such as circles and rectangles). It also helps me to draw guidelines, for example along the central axis of the face (from forehead to nose to chin).
In this example you can draw a circle for the head (chin to top of the head) and then draw an identical circle beneath it, to get an idea where the hair
2. Analyze shapes
It's time to analyze the separate strands of hair. To do this, take your extra copies of the reference photo and try to recognize abstract shapes throughout the hair.
Draw these abstract shapes with a pen or drawing tool that you'll be able to see clearly on your photo. I used a yellow acrylic pen in the example below.
Once you have divided the hair into shapes, transfer these shapes onto your sketch, once again, without pressing too hard.
Reference photo with shapes:
3. Start shading
The next step is very basic shading.
I'd recommend using a softer pencil grade such as B or 2B, and shade the darkest areas on your sketch where least amount of light reaches the hair.
Mostly the areas around the neck and on the parting are very dark. Start there.
Take a look at your lighter copy of the reference photo and detect the areas where the image is darkest.
Next, give your hair more volume and three-dimensional form by adding individual hair strands inside of those basic shapes you created.
By dividing the strands into shapes (step 2), this process is much easier for you and you can work your way over the head one strand at a time.
Make sure that your strokes flow in the same direction as the hair naturally grows. Constantly observe your reference photo for clues.
Try to leave the bright spots (highlights) free of graphite and concentrate on the dark tones and midtones.
*Tips and techniques to give hair a 3D look
In the sketch below, you can see how you can shade in a single lock of hair.
Always draw your lines from the ends of that strand, going in (see arrow direction) so that your strokes end gradually in the widest area in the center. In other words, those pencil strokes are going towards the direction of the highlight in that strand of hair.
The hair usually shines most in the middle of the strand because this part protrudes outwards most and thus captures the most light.
Therefore, it's helpful to work from the ends towards the middle section, and not fill in the area in the middle with as much graphite, as this will be the lightest part.
Your focus should be more on the overall shape of the strand, and not on the individual hairs.
The more lines you draw, the darker everything will look. This creates more contrast with the lighter (empty) areas in the middle and this will make your stand look three-dimensional and shiny.
One lock of hair:
5. Smooth things out
The next step is a suggestion and not a requirement. It mostly depends on the overall look or result you'd like to achieve.
I think it makes a big difference to smooth out the transitions between values (lights, midtones and darks), and to soften out individual lines. I like using a paper bending stump for this part of the process, but you can also use a cotton swab.
Carefully (and gently) trace over your previous pencil strokes and let the flow of the hair guide you.
Try your best to not go over areas of lighter values/highlights. It often happens that I accidentally smear something or bring graphite into areas that I wanted to leave very light.
But don't worry, if this happens! We will correct this in the next step.
6. Pull out highlights
Next, take your pen-style/barrel eraser (or a pointed-shaped kneaded eraser) and erase the highlights (i.e. the shiny spots that reflect the light the most).
Most of the time I accidentally smudge these shiny spots with my blending stump in the previous step, so I have to pull them back out by erasing the graphite.
Observe your darker copy. There, you'll be able to notice lighter areas even more distinctly.
A pen-style eraser is perfect for this because it provides a lot of precision and you can even erase individual hairs.
7. Add contrast
By this point, your drawing will probably already look pretty good, but you shouldn’t stop there!
Using a black colored pencil, darken the darkest areas of your drawing again, using the same strokes/direction/overall motion that you were previously using with your pencil.
Colored pencils provide a more opaque/less shiny finish than regular pencils and will help add more depth and contrast, making your drawing look even more realistic.
8. Final details
The last step will really make your drawing stand out. If you want your drawing to look natural, you should also invest some time adding the final details.
By that I mean details such as smaller hairs that don’t follow the general flow of the hair, such as flyaways, stray hairs, and all the small imperfections that make hair look "real". These can be added around the head or even over the face.
You can draw a few flyaways on the outside of the head with a hard pencil grade. Flyaways are usually very thin and hardly recognizable from a distance. The pen-style eraser is suitable for drawing individual hairs over the main hair areas. Use it to erase small lines over larger, dark areas to add in a flyaway hair.
Take a close look at your reference photo and decide for yourself which details you would like to draw in and which make the hairstyle unique.
You can also add some details from your imagination, if you want to achieve a messy look for instance.
*Final tip: Adding details
In the image above, you can see examples of “imperfections” such as flyaways and stray hairs in greater detail. Some single hairs also cast their own shadow on the hair underneath.
Avoid dark ends in hairs by releasing the pressure on the pencil at the end of your stroke. Try to get your hairs darker at the roots and remember to create a line weight variation within your lines (from thick to thin/dark to light), instead of having one continuous line weight from one end to the other.
Never forget to draw your lines in a dynamic motion so they don’t end up being wobbly. If you move your hand in a fast and confident way, you will achieve a great look!
I hope that these tips will help you to draw complex and believable hairstyles and that from now on drawing hair will be much more enjoyable for you.
Drawing hair is a great way to practice our shading skills and advance out ability to draw different textures. Not to mention, we're also able to progress out observational skills via analyzing complex references.
Once you understand the basic principle, you can let your imagination go wild and draw interesting hairstyles or fur.
I would be happy to hear from your experiences - you can contact me here.
Was this an amazing tutorial or what?
I certainly learned a lot of things that I'll be putting into practice when drawing hair realistically, and I hope you did too.
For more helpful tips and tutorials from Sabrina, check out her blog.
Sending out a huge thank you to Sabrina for this incredibly helpful tutorial!
*This post contains affiliate links. I receive small commissions for purchases made through these links at no extra cost to you. These commissions help me keep this site up and running, in order for me to keep providing helpful and inspiring art content. :)
Interested in watercolor food illustration, but don't know where do start? How can higher levels of realism be developed using watercolor? Why is layering so important and how does it work when using this tricky painting medium?
In today's blog post/YouTube video, I'm taking you through my full watercolor painting process for a stack of doughnuts. Throughout the video included in this post, I share everything about my technique, no holds barred, as well as provide tons of tips on water control and much more.
I absolutely love painting food!
Food illustration is one of the first kinds of work I started doing when my journey with watercolor began a few years ago, and this is still my go-to subject when I feel blocked or frustrated creatively.
For the painting process I'll be sharing in this post, I used a photo that I took in my own home studio. Here's the photo and the final painting.
*To get immediate access to a vault of my original art reference photos that gets added to every month and that you can use with no attribution, join us on Patreon!
Check out my blog post titled How to Take Your Own Art Reference Photos Quickly and Easily to find essential tips on taking pictures to work from for future pieces. Forming your own art reference photo library is so powerful!
Or, if you're short on time and are looking to find great art reference photos online that you can use without getting into trouble, check out this blog post.
Below the video, I'll be providing the key takeaways for you.
Key Takeaways from Today's Watercolor Tutorial
1. Use a high-quality reference photo
When you're looking for a great art reference photo to work from, there are a few things to have in mind. These include: image resolution, lighting, cropping, etc.
You want to work from a photo that'll make the process easier for you and not harder!
In my blog post titled 6 Tips for Realistic Drawing, I provide the key things to have in mind when looking for a great art reference photo for realism in drawing/painting.
If we work purely from our imagination, chances are we're going to be guessing on important details such as different values (highlights, midtones, darks) found throughout the three-dimensional structure of the subject, shadow placement, and small nuances that can really make or break the realism in our painting.
Training ourselves to observe the things around us is essential, especially as representational artists.
When we're going for realism, it's important to remember that we have to draw or paint the subject the way it actually looks like in real life and not what we think it looks like. These are two very different things.
And unless we've been studying a specific subject for a long time, in all sorts of different perspectives and lighting situations, most likely than not, having a reference is going to be necessary.
2. Pinpoint highlights and keep them protected throughout the painting process
By doing this, you can map them out in your preliminary outline sketch (lightly!) and keep them protected throughout the painting process.
Remember that, when working with watercolor, the whiteness of your paper is going to stand for your highlights. If we cover them up, we're getting rid of that lightest value and there's no way to go back to the whiteness the paper once had.
Not to mention, when we're going for higher levels of realism, we need to develop a wide range of values starting from highlights, lightest lights, a wide range of midtones, and darkest darks.
With watercolor, we're using the medium's translucency, in combination with the lightness of the paper underneath it, to develop these different values.
If we're afraid of going in with darker/more saturated color and leave our painting very light all throughout, OR if we go in super dark and saturated right away and leave out lighter values, our painting will probably look very flat and/or heavy.
This is cool, if we're going for a more illustrative style, but not optimal if we want to create a sensation of three-dimensional form or depth in our painting.
3. Use layering
Also, I love using wet-on-wet for my beginning layers in order to create soft gradations and edges, and later move on to wet-on-dry techniques for my darker values and other details. In other words, I tend to use less and less water as the painting process moves forward.
Layering is awesome, but there are a few things to have in mind.
When painting with watercolor, it's important to remember that we're working on paper. Even though this paper is intended for water-soluble mediums, wet paper is fragile paper, and we need to stay mindful of when it's time to take a step back and allow it to regain its strength.
Especially when we're just getting started and haven't gotten our water control down, it's very easy to overwork/damage our paper.
It's okay to move the paint around a bit or even do some lifting with an absorbent towel while it's still wet if you do so gently, but going over the same spot again and again with your paintbrush is usually not the best.
Move the paint around minimally (if needed) and to allow that layer of paint to dry before going back in to darken certain areas or add further detail.
Also, it's important to have some sort of plan for your layers. Visualize and ask yourself how many layers you're going to need to create your painting and what techniques you're going to use for each layer to get the results you're after.
Ask yourself: Am I looking for the paint to blur out and create softer edges? Am I going for sharp, defined edges or marks?
If you want edges to be blurred out, go in while the paper is still wet (the level of wetness will determine how much your paint blurs out). If you want defined edges, make sure you've allowed your painting to dry completely.
Finally, remember to be patient! Achieving higher levels of realism is almost always going to take quite a bit longer than more expressive, loose pieces do.
But it'll totally be worth it!
4. Stay away from stark looking shapes or marks, as well as obvious outlines
The way we're able to tell one plane from the next or one element from another element, is because there is a difference in values amongst them, not because there is an outline in between them.
And oftentimes, this difference in values is very subtle!
This can be a difficult thing to grasp when we're just getting started, especially because a lot of us get started with art by copying our favorite cartoon characters (which often have black or dark outlines all throughout) and/or because we get started coloring pages with our crayons that contain images composed of line drawings.
The more you practice drawing and painting, and continue developing your observational skills, the easier it gets to pinpoint subtle differences in values.
In this same vein, we want to stay away from marks that are way too stark looking as they also detract from the realism of the piece. Marks that are too obvious, or heavy/flat shapes are distracting and, if we need to incorporate marks, it's important to have line weight variation in mind, as well as gradations in values around them.
Also, it's important to keep things irregular, imperfect and organic, especially if we're drawing or painting something that isn't machine made. This leads to more natural results.
I like visualizing the different values throughout my subjects as abstract shapes that fit together as a type of puzzle.
5. Add your shadow to place your subject in space
This is okay, in situations in which we're looking to create a completely background-free illustration, such as the type of work that we'll be editing digitally to place on products or to send to a client for some sort of editorial purpose. Like the ones I'm working on in my blog post/YouTube video titled How to Remove Backgrounds from Scanned Art (Photoshop for Beginners).
I love creating my largest area of cast shadow using wet-on-wet and then placing my area of occlusion shadow (darker area closest to the subject), on top of the first layer of lighter paint while it's still wet. This way the second, darker color dissipates and gradates into the lighter color.
Usually, there are different values even throughout areas of shadow. Sometimes there's a sharp edge between them, and other times they gradate softly into each other. It depends on the light situation present.
And remember, shadows should always be consistent throughout a piece. Otherwise, something is going to look off at the end and this will detract from the realism in the drawing or painting.
Before getting started with a new piece, locate the light source. Where is the light hitting the subject from? Is it in the top left? Top right? Right in front of the subject? Somewhere below it?
Wherever it is, keep in in mind throughout the painting process and make sure all the shadows you add in make sense.
*BONUS TIP: Careful when painting white subjects with watercolor!
If we don't develop enough values in these areas, the object will likely appear flat and will not be consistent with the other elements in your painting that you have developed a three-dimensional look in.
It's similar to how we never want to leave the whites of the eyes (the Sclera), or the teeth completely white when painting a portrait. White or off-white objects are never completely white in realism.
There are shadows falling over them that have to do with their structure and the elements around them, as well as colors in the environment they are in that affect the way we see them.
The material the subject is made of (bone, glass, ceramic, silk, etc.) also has a huge effect on its reflective qualities and how sharp those highlights are, as well as if we're able to see reflected colors on its surface.
On the other hand, if we go overboard with adding way too much paint and aren't careful to leave enough white paper unpainted, it won't look white anymore!
It's a very subtle balance, for sure.
I would recommend taking a step back from your work every few minutes, observing your piece from further back and comparing it to your reference. Ask yourself if more paint or detail is really necessary to create that illusion of three-dimensional form.
If it's not really necessary, leave it as is!
Watercolor supplies used in video:
Is there a specific process to follow when using watercolor pencils? What things should I do to ensure a better outcome when using this medium? What are some good watercolor pencil options for beginners just getting started?
In this blog post, I'll be providing five key tips that will help make the learning process less frustrating and enable you to create amazing artwork as soon as possible. In the video included here, I'll also be sharing how I personally use watercolor pencils by painting a yellow rose.
Watercolor pencils are not only an extremely versatile art medium, as they are simultaneously a drawing and a painting tool, but their practicality makes them ideal for many beginners that are short on time and space.
They also allow for much more control when compared to regular watercolor paint and can help us start getting a feel for what it's like to work with watercolors without having to master water control.
Watercolor pencils are basically watercolor pigment that has been encased in wood, in the form of a pencil.
They can and can be used either with or without water to create different effects, which can range from a heavily-textured colored pencil look, to a smooth and painterly watercolor paint look.
To create marks and colored pencil textures, we simply use them right on our paper, which can be completely bone dry or pre-wetted with clean water.
Of course, the type of paper used has a great impact on the amount of texture created. Smoother paper will lead to smoother effects, while rougher paper will create more texturized effects, as the pigment isn't evenly distributed throughout the tooth of the paper.
On the other hand, to create painterly effects, we lay down our color on our paper just as if we were using regular colored pencils and then smooth it out by going in with a dampened paintbrush. There's no need to use heaps of water for this. *You can also use the impromptu paint mixing palette method I demonstrate in the video included below.
When using quality watercolor pencils, water really activates the pigment and makes the color look a lot brighter and bolder.
These techniques can be used alone or in combination. For example, if you were painting a landscape, you could use more painterly techniques for your background, and more textured/detailing techniques for layers in your foreground.
There is no specific process to follow when using this medium. It's use is going to depend on the specific style and effects you are personally going for with the piece on hand, which is why it's important to give thought to the overall look you want to create before starting.
All this said, many of the regular watercolor "rules" (if they can even be called rules) apply.
In the following video you'll see how, even though my general method is different to what I would do when I paint with regular watercolor paint, I still protect my highlights throughout the process, work from light and translucent to dark and saturated, and allow my paper to dry in between layers.
In this past blog post/YouTube video, I do a comparison between regular watercolor paint and watercolor pencils, and share a complete demo in which I paint the same apple using both mediums. They are very similar, but very different at the same time!
Watercolor Pencil Tips for Beginners
Using regular printer paper for watercolor or watercolor pencil work will most likely lead to frustration during the process, as well as undesired results. Not to mention, the learning phase will last longer, as the beginner artist isn't actually able to get a sense for what the medium is like.
This said, I don't believe in necessarily going for the highest quality watercolor paper right-off-the-bat (if you have the budget- then by all means go for it).
I'd much rather you practice consistently on decent quality (and accessibly priced) student-grade paper, as opposed to not creating art because you're afraid of wasting your supplies.
Check out my blog post/YouTube video titled Watercolor Supplies for Beginners and Things You Must Know to learn more about my opinions and suggestions on specific watercolor painting supplies.
I always recommend working with watercolor paper that is at least 140 lbs. or thicker/heavier in weight, so that it's able to take a bit of a beating. Thinner paper not only warps a lot more easily, but it doesn't allow for layering and scrubbing techniques and is very easy to damage.
And when we're just getting started (with any medium), most of us tend to overwork things, often damaging our substrate and/or tools.
Stay mindful throughout your painting process in order to ensure that you're not scratching your paper with your sharp watercolor pencils and that you're allowing layers of paint to dry in between if you're using a dampened paintbrush to smooth out your color.
Lay down your colors gently and patiently, without pressing down to hard (this will create scratches and burnish the paper-creating an uneven sheen/finish).
2. Create your preliminary sketch lightly
One of the main characteristics that sets watercolors apart from other painting mediums such as acrylics, oils and gouache, is its translucency.
Because of this, if we create a preliminary sketch prior to starting with our painting process that's not very light, it will likely show through our paint.
There are lots of watercolor artists out there who like their line work to show through their paint, but if you don't want this to happen, it's important to make sure that you're outline sketch is created lightly. I usually use an HB pencil for this phase of the process and make sure I'm not exerting much pressure at all.
Being light-handed when creating your preliminary sketch will also help ensure that the graphite left behind on your watercolor paper won't dirty up the colors you start placing on top. You want your colors vibrant and fresh.
Something you can also do, is use a light colored watercolor pencil to create your preliminary sketch. This way, once you start using water, your line work will disappear completely as you go!
3. Plan the colors you'll be using before starting to paint
It's incredibly important for people starting on their painting journeys, to look into the color wheel and Color Theory.
Color is an Element of Art that not only plays a huge role in making an artwork look harmonious and cohesive, but knowledge about the color wheel enables us to create color mixtures effectively throughout the art-making process.
Over at my Patreon site, I offer sequential classes that cover all must-know Art Fundamentals. You can also get immediate access to my Drawing and Watercolor for the Total Beginner Mini-Courses by becoming an art email insider here (the third class in the watercolor course is all about color).
Instead of randomly picking colors throughout the painting process, take five minutes to observe your reference picture and pick out the specific watercolor pencil colors you'll be using. Take them out of your package and place them beside you as you prepare for your new piece.
Don't only think about the colors of the subject in and of itself (ex. if I'm painting a gray cat I'm not only looking for different grays), but also think about what colors you'll be adding in to create your darkest values, cast shadows and background colors.
Take time to swatch your colors on a scrap piece of watercolor paper, as they really tend to look different once they are applied vs. the color shown on the pencil. Test any color mixtures you're planning on using.
Keep things limited and as simple as possible.
I promise, it'll make a huge difference in terms of both your organization during the process, as well as the outcome.
4. Use a good reference photo
If you're looking to create higher levels of realism, make sure you're stemming from a good reference photo (or have your subject in front of you in good lighting).
Not only will a good reference photo enable you to see details and the tiny nuances that will make your drawing or painting more realistic, but it will also provide you much needed information in terms of light behavior and locations of highlights, midtones and darks.
Remember, it's these different values (highlights, midtones and darks), that make drawings and paintings look three-dimensional. If you're unable to locate them in a photo reference, you'll have lots of trouble trying to recreate them.
Always make sure your reference photos have a great resolution that will enable you to see details and zoom in (if necessary), and that they show good lighting.
You'll know a photo has good lighting if it shows a good play between lights and darks. *Photos taken with flash are usually washed out and make everything look very flat, which makes the drawing and painting process a lot harder.
If you don't have a good reference to work from, you're basically guessing at what things look like and have to make your own conclusions in regards to where highlights, midtones and darks are located.
Unless you've been drawing or painting a specific subject for years, you're drawing or painting it the way you think that subject looks like, and not what it actually looks like in real life.
Learning to observe and learn all we can about the subjects we're interested in improving at by actually taking in all sorts of references (photos, life subjects, videos, etc.), is so important, as artists!
And, remember, just because you're using a reference, it doesn't mean you can't bring in your own creativity into your work.
5. Give thought to what kinds of effects you want to use in each area of your painting
Because watercolor pencils allow for so many different types of techniques, it can be very easy to get lost during the process and end up with effects we weren't intending to create.
Give thought to the specific techniques you'll be using, as well as when and where you'll be using each, throughout the painting process. This will make it much more likely that you'll end up with an outcome you'll love.
Think of how you can combine different techniques to create impactful and contrasting effects in your different layers (foreground, middleground, background), as well as how you can use them to bring more attention to your focal point.
There are so many ways you can go with watercolor pencils!
Explore, have fun and don't forget to bring in a bit of yourself into everything that you create. :)
Great watercolor pencil options for beginners:
Why is it important to plan colors before starting a painting? How is a limited color palette useful? How will learning about the Color Wheel help us create more successful and professional-looking artwork?
In the video included within this blog post, I'll be sharing how I go about selecting my colors prior to starting a new piece. I'll share my thinking process as I go through this method and will be offering lots of tips pertaining to color.
In past blog posts and YouTube videos, I have mentioned how color is an essential Element of Art to learn about as a beginner artist. The reason? When we're looking to create a visual composition, we have to think about how different parts fit together into a whole.
And color plays a huge role in making a visual composition look harmonious and cohesive.
When it comes to a visual composition, all individual elements are connected. Each one has an effect over how we perceive the elements around it.
And just like how you wouldn't throw on an outfit with a ton of different colors and textures that don't mesh well together, you have to think about how things will look like in a painting when appreciated as a whole.
It's not about one element in the piece, but how the different elements included intermix to effectively transmit the idea or message we're trying to get across.
It's incredibly important that any beginner artist who is serious about improving their painting makes time to learn about the Color Wheel. This is an incredibly important tool that allows us to understand relationships between colors so that we're not only able to create effective color mixtures during the painting process, but also prepare color schemes that work well.
Limiting the amount of colors that you use in a painting is also very useful because the more colors you use, the more disorganized your palette will be, the more likely color mixtures will lead to mud, and the more incoherent the end-results.
Whatever you do, stay away from randomly selecting colors during the painting process and dedicate at least a bit of time to plan for your painting. I promise you, there's much more of a chance that you'll end up with great results.
Watercolor Supplies Used in the Video
Links To Useful Sites
My Artwork For Sale
Painting With Oils
Student Art Shows
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