Watercolor Primer with Diana Trout, Part II

In the first part of this two-part primer, I introduced you to my favorite watercolor colors and helped you get started on setting up your own palette. In this second half, I hope to inspire you to really dig in and play with your colors to see what they can do.

It is a good time to share some of the videos I’ve made relating to Watercolors.


Now, I want to introduce you to the process of layering! I often like to layer transparent acrylic colors with my watercolors to create interesting combinations and I encourage you to play around with both kinds of paint as well. Below you will see several examples of layering color. To try this yourself, use a 1″ flat brush to make these color samples.

Lay your color down on a dampened paper. Don’t scrub it—just a nice, smooth brushstroke—and yes, that takes some practice. Let the paint dry and then lay on the second color. Keep in mind, a lighter value (yellow), should be laid down first and a darker value (blue) laid down in a lighter wash on top. The darker the value of the color, the stronger it is!

Red and blue on lower right. Note that the purple is slightly grayed. That is because the Permanent Red color tends towards the orange (it is a warm red rather than a cool red, such as Alizarin crimson).

The green on the left in this sample is from layering blue and yellow. The Permanent Red and yellow makes an excellent orange. Once you have the green patch made, let it dry and wash over a part of it with the Permanent Red. You should get varying browns and grays. The same goes for the purple and yellow.

Here is a sample using Cobalt Blue, Magenta and Raw Sienna. Note that I used a dry brush in some of the areas. This technique (practice!), with the pure white peeking through, makes a sparkly look.

Here, I used Quin Burnt Orange, Permanent Red, Burnt Sienna and Sap Green. The small neutral patch is the Sap over the Red.

We’re just about done with this watercolor primer. Here are a few really important things to remember when working with watercolors:
• First, it’s all about the water-to-paint ratio. In fact, it is as much about learning the properties of water as it is about the properties of color.
• Second (this is a BIG DEAL): Paper: Use the good stuff. The cheap stuff will frustrate you.
• Third, if you mixed mud, figure out why. Was it the colors you used or too much scrubbing? Pay attention to the mud. It is useful. Mud is not always a bad thing. It makes clear color sing.

Ultimately . . . play = practice. They are the same thing. If you take a playful approach to practice, your mind will remain open to letting in all sorts of new observations.

Here is a video outlining some basic information—stuff that I’ve discovered over the years.
Watercolor Primer

I hope that you enjoyed this little series and that you now feel more comfortable with your watercolors. One of the reasons I put this together for you was to let you into one of my online classes in a small way—to give you a taste. You might now feel more comfortable laying out your hard-earned money on one of my future classes (online or in person).

Here are some links from my previous blog posts about watercolors that you may have missed.

Diana Trout is the author of Journal Spilling : Mixed-Media Techniques for Free Expression. You can see more videos from Diana, here. To visit her blog, click here.


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