What do you love to paint the most? You’ll never know until you explore a wide variety of subject matter. This online workshop presents a sampler of popular watercolor subjects: landscapes, still life, and portraits. Kelly Eddington will show you how watercolor’s unique properties can do the heavy lifting in each painting. Watch watercolor create a serene blue sky, a soft shadow defining a cheekbone, and reflected light on a shiny surface—all in seconds. Watercolor is challenging and can take decades to master, but this medium’s special quirks are so seductive you might find yourself under its spell for the rest of your life.
Watercolor can be one of the simplest mediums to use, but it does seem to have a mind of its own at times, giving it the reputation of being fussy and unforgiving to work with. In this four part workshop Steve Mitchell gets into the mind of watercolor and see what makes it tick. Success with watercolor depends greatly on discovering and anticipating how it reacts in real painting situations.
Why take the time to make watercolor mixing charts?
Color Mixing Charts (or grids) are terrific tools for learning, for color referencing, an excellent way to understand your DANIEL SMITH Extra-Fine Watercolors, and see some of the range of colors that can be mixed. For our example, we’re making a color mixing chart or grid with the 6 colors from the DANIEL SMITH Colors of Inspiration Watercolor Half Pan Set.
As a Learning Tool
When you are mixing colors for your chart, you are learning what colors can be made with each color mixed with every other color on your chart, and get an idea of the color range that can be mixed. Without the opportunity to explore (play!) and see what your colors can do with one another, you may never discover some gorgeous color mixes! You can make glazing color charts, mix colors on your chart (wet into wet) or as we’re doing for this article, mixing them on a plate or palette then painting them onto our Mixing Chart.
While this might seem like a chore to do, it is actually really interesting to see what your colors can do, it is color swatching with a purpose! We generally try to vary the how the watercolors are painted for each box. For example, a little heavier application on the lower right, lighter at the upper left to show more variation for each color and mixed color in the boxes. Painting them that way allows you to see some of the colors’ properties like transparency and granulation. Every color mixing chart you paint becomes a helpful reference tool, so be sure to keep them and make new ones when you add more watercolors!
How the Mixing Chart is organized
The colors are laid out chromatically in both the horizontal rows and vertical columns as shown in the example below for the DANIEL SMITH Colors of Inspiration Watercolor Half Pan Set.
Wisteria, Lavender, Rose of Ultramarine, Moonglow, Shadow Violet and Serpentine Genuine.
Photo 1. After transferring the lines from the downloadable pdf. (link further below) label your colors as in photo 1., and paint out in the order shown in Photos 1 & 2.
- Paint the first vertical column with your colors, we used less water for deeper colors.
- Paint in the first horizontal row with the six colors, here we did a mid-tone wash.
- The main diagonal, we painted with a light wash.
- Using different ratios of water allows you to see a range of each main color, deep, mid and light.
Photo 3. Now the color mixing begins!
- Working by columns painting both down the column and across a row at a time, you can begin mixing your first color in column 1, Wisteria.
- Mixing Wisteria with Lavender, in a slightly larger portion of Wisteria to Lavender, paint that mix in the box below the light Wisteriawash (that is the Wisteria column) next to the Lavender box on the left.
- Take that same mix of Wisteria/Lavender and add more Lavender and paint that mix in the second column just below the Lavenderbox (that is the Lavender column) in the Wisteria row.
- Repeat these steps for the remaining 4 colors as shown in the following photos.
Photo 4. Lavender column and row.
Photo 5. Rose of Ultramarine column and row.
Photo 6. Moonglow column and row.
Photo 7. Shadow Violet and Serpentine Genuine columns and rows.
As you paint your way down each column and across each row, it becomes faster and faster until your fifth color, Shadow Violet, only has 2 boxes, and the sixth color, in this case, Serpentine Genuine is finished when you finish the fifth color!
Adding extra colors
When you add new colors, it’s a good idea to mix them with your existing palette of colors like the example above, mixing our new Gray Titanium with our 6 color Essentials Watercolor Set. For this, we used our 6 color mixing chart template, and added a 7th row and 7th column to accommodate Gray Titanium as the 7th color.
We also wanted to see how colors mixed with the Essentials Set colors look, for example, New Gamboge mixed with Quinacridone Rose, an orange, looks when mixed with Gray Titanium:
- New Gamboge mixed with Quinacridone Rose – 4th box down in the Quinacridone Rose column.
- New Gamboge mixed with Quinacridone Rose then mixed with Gray Titanium – 5th box down in the New Gamboge column.
- Note, all the colors below the diagonal wash colors are mixed with Gray Titanium.
- Those boxes with the 3rd color, Gray Titanium, mixed into the 2-color mix are noted with (plus GT) in the boxes in the 7 color diagram below on the right.
You can download the 6 color mixing chart template HERE
The 6 color template was designed to be printed on 8.5 x 11 inch standard copy paper, you can trace or transfer the lines onto 140 lb. watercolor paper, we cut the watercolor paper down to 8 x 12 inches so we would have a wider border.
Adding more columns and rows is easy, just print out more 6 color templates, cut them up and tape the extra columns and rows you need, then transfer to your watercolor paper.
We used the 6 color template as a guide when we did our 15 color DANIEL SMITH Ultimate Mixing Half Pan Watercolor Set Mixing Chart, so you can modify the basic template to accommodate larger collections of colors as well.
As a Color Reference
Once completed, your color mixing chart becomes a wonderful color guide to reference when needed. Painting charts like these are also great exercises when inspiration is low and can help stir your creative juices when you discover beautiful new colors.
Have fun painting your DANIEL SMITH Extra-Fine Watercolors Mixing Charts!
M. Graham believes that the best paint makes better paintings. Consequently, the best ingredients make better paint and this video explains the difference M. Graham’s ingredients make in setting their fine paints apart. Whether it’s the walnut oil, the honey used in their watercolor, or the high solid acrylic emulsion, M. Graham vehicles are chosen because they are qualitatively different: In terms of their appearance. In terms of how much pigment they can carry. In terms of how they feel and respond on the artist’s brush.
Drawing a blank on what to get her for Mother’s Day? This Mixed Media Mega Set by Art Alternatives includes everything an artist needs to create dynamic, mixed media artwork: 165 pieces housed in an attractive wooden box with metal clasps and a sturdy handle. The box folds outwards to reveal an extensive variety of supplies for drawing, sketching, painting and pastels. The set includes 30 oil pastels, 28 colored pencils, 24 watercolor cakes, 16 6ml watercolor paints, 16 6ml acrylic paints, 16 watercolor pencils, ten 9″ x 12″ activity sheets, eight sketching pencils, three charcoal pencils, three plastic palettes, two golden synthetic brushes, two natural hair brushes, two tortillons, one blending stump, one plastic palette knife, one 2-hole metal sharpener, one vinyl eraser and one kneaded eraser. Did we mention it’s ON SALE at 20% OFF? That’s $87.96 (list price $109.95). Mom will like that.
Spoil her with gifts that will cement your status as Mom’s favorite. Koi Creative Art Colors (CAC) Watercolor Sets and/or Pocket Field Sketch Boxes by Sakura are great for beginners and/or more experienced artists. Make every single day she paints a celebration.
Koi Creative Art Color (CAC) Watercolors are compact sets packed with unique colors and effects for one-of-a-kind projects. Koi CAC are pocket sized with essential accessories for painting on-the-go. Create your own unique washes and blends with the metallic, fluorescent and pearlescent paints. Explore a whole new spectrum of stunning effects by mixing these Creative Art Colors with your traditional watercolor set.
On-location watercolor painting is simple with a compact studio right at your fingertips! Koi Pocket Field Sketch Boxes by Sakura are great for on the go, and great for in the studio. Each set includes a large water reservoir barrel, a detachable medium brush tip, two dabbing sponges, a snap lid that acts as an easel for postcard size papers, a detachable, pegged palette that secures to the set base either to the right, left or center sides and a base pull-down ring that allows for easy gripping.
The 12-color set contains Chinese white, lemon yellow, deep yellow, vermilion hue, crimson lake, Prussian blue, cobalt blue hue, viridian hue, yellow green, yellow ochre, light red, and ivory black. This pocket-size set weighs just 3.8 ounces and measures 4.5″w x 3.5″h x 0.875″d.
The 18-color set includes one half pan each of Chinese white, lemon yellow, permanent yellow deep, jaune brilliant, vermilion hue, crimson lake, purple, cobalt blue hue, cerulean blue, ultramarine, Prussian blue, yellow green, viridian hue, permanent green deep, yellow ochre, light red, burnt umber and ivory black. The 24-color set includes one half pan each of Chinese white, lemon yellow, aureoline hue, permanent yellow deep, permanent orange, jaune brilliant, vermilion hue, cadmium red hue, crimson lake, quinacridone rose, purple, cobalt blue hue, cerulean blue, ultramarine, Prussian blue, yellow green, viridian hue, permanent green deep, olive green, yellow ochre, light red, burnt umber, Payne’s Gray and ivory black.
We are delighted to introduce DANIEL SMITH Watercolor Artist, Natalia Ushakova! Natalia will take us step-by-step through her process for making a watercolor portrait. All Daniel Smith Watercolors, Sets, and Grounds are on sale for 40% off during Plein Airpril – so now is a great time to test out some colors, treat yourself to that set you’ve been eyeing, and/or experiment with new techniques!
All my studio works are based on sketches, which I do while travelling the world. For example, in 2017 I participated in the IWS Portugal. At the gala dinner, we listened to a woman singing traditional Portuguese Fado chants. Despite not knowing a single word of Portuguese, I quite accurately understood, Cristina was singing about an unanswered love. Her performance was very artistic and emotional. She poured her soul out, and one could understand the song without translation. I could not take my eyes off her, and kept drawing sketches. Later on, I came up with an idea to make a watercolour series on Portugal – and of course the music and musicians had to be the first topic. It is a series in progress, and I have many new ideas.
Step 1. Here are some sketches made while listening to the Portuguese musicians and singers that I used for my watercolours.
Step 2. A preliminary sketch in pencil on 140lb. watercolor paper.
Step 3. First, I used a large brush to add light and transparent tones while painting the faces and light in the window. For this, I used Naples Yellow, Hansa Yellow Light, Cadmium Red Scarlet Hue, Burnt Sienna Light and a bit of Wisteria.
Step 4. Using the same brush, I filled the entire sheet of paper with the middle tones, leaving a blank area for the details of the magnificent scarf. Tip, mix Neutral Tint with some colours with you already used in your painting like I did with Cerulean Blue, Chromium to add some coolness, and Burnt Sienna Light to add some warmth to the background.
Step 5. Add more mid-tones to the face and the scarf. I added Cerulean Blue, Chromium for the eye shadow and for the scarf, I mostly painted with Naples Yellow and Hansa Yellow Light.
Step 6. Setting the darkest, dominant tone of the entire piece – the velvet dress. Tip. I prefer mixing Perylene Violet and Perylene Green to make rich, deep, dark colors instead of using black paint straight from the tube.
Step 7. Enhancing the faces and hands of the singer and guitar player with a thinner brush, for those details, I used Burnt Sienna Light andCadmium Red Scarlet Hue.
Step 8. Adding some red on her lips and manicure with a fine brush using Cadmium Red Scarlet Hue.
Step 9. To finish the work, when my paper is nearly dry, I enhance the details: faces and hands, and special features, such as the huge turquoise stone ring which I painted with Cobalt Teal Blue. Deciding that I did not like the red nails, I washed off the color so that it would not divert attention away from the ring.
The entire work was done with DANIEL SMITH Watercolours:
List of DANIEL SMITH paints on my palette.
- Buff Titanium
- Naples Yellow – The Portuguese Fado Singer
- Hansa Yellow Light – The Portuguese Fado Singer
- New Gamboge
- Pyrrol Scarlet
- Cadmium Red Scarlet Hue – The Portuguese Fado Singer
- Quinacridone Red
- Quinacridone Lilac
- Perylene Maroon
- Perylene Violet – The Portuguese Fado Singer
- Cobalt Blue Violet
- Cobalt Blue
- Ultramarine Blue
- Cobalt Teal Blue – The Portuguese Fado Singer
- Cerulean Blue, Chromium – The Portuguese Fado Singer
- Prussian Blue
- Prussian Green
- Perylene Green – The Portuguese Fado Singer
- Mars Yellow
- Burnt Sienna Light – The Portuguese Fado Singer
- Raw Umber
- Burnt Umber
- Payne’s Blue Grey
- Neutral Tint – The Portuguese Fado Singer
I first discovered DANIEL SMITH watercolours accidentally by surfing on the internet. When I found the web site, I couldn’t take my eyes off the pages displaying the magnificent range of colours, I wished to buy them all! With great difficulty, I chose my main colors. Thanks to my brother-in-law who lives in America, I got my first paint tubes and fell in love with them for their quality, brightness, purity and sophisticated hues.
I especially like the range of Perylene colours from Maroon to Green because of their qualities, they blend well and complement each other, creating rich, deep black tones. DANIEL SMITH constantly expands its range of paints encouraging artists to make new discoveries and experiments in creativity.
I love watercolour sketching and I’m so glad to know that DANIEL SMITH has released a new product line as if specially for me! The new Hand Poured Watercolor Half Pan Sets, which include some empty half pans that can be filled with your favourite colours, and taken with you on a trip. I can’t wait for a new journey to try them out!
My main media is watercolour, I like it for the freedom of expression and unpredictability. Also, I work in other graphic media like drawing, sketching and various hand printing techniques. I like to travel and a large number of my paintings and sketches are done in plein air. Those sketches are later used to create large-scale works, which I often expand with my imagination. I take part in many international art festivals and exhibitions, and combine my creative work with teaching art to kids.
Natalia Ushakova received a master of art at the Moscow State Pedagogical University Fine Art.
Member of the International Watercolour Federation since 1998, and Member of the International Federation of Artists & National Artist’s Union of Russia Department graphic section since 2001. Natalia has been exhibiting her work since 1999 and in 2006, began taking part in International Art Fairs, Exhibitions, Competitions and Biennales world wide. In 2016, she was awarded the DANIEL SMITH Prize at the International Watercolour Exhibition at Fabriano (Italy), the watercolor was displayed at the International Watercolor Museum. At Fabriano in 2018, she demonstrated a double kids portrait in Museum of town Genga.
Since 2002, she has been the owner and art director of Art Trophy Gallery, and lives in Moscow, Russia.
Check out this video which explains just what makes QoR Modern Watercolors different from other watercolors. SPOILER: It’s Aquazol®. You’ll want to check out the video anyways because the colors are so pretty. In any case, the patented Aquazol® formula is excellent for all your traditional watercolor needs but offers even greater capabilities than ordinary (traditional) watercolors made with Gum Arabic. Explore the range of vibrant colors and unique qualities of the only modern watercolor, QoR. Also, all QoR Watercolor, Mediums, and Grounds are on sale for 40% off!!! Sale ends March 31st, so don’t miss out!
We are delighted to introduce DANIEL SMITH Watercolor Artist, Joanna Barnum! Joanna will take us step-by-step through her process for making a watercolor portrait.
For this portrait painting, “Fae”, I started with a photo of my friend Amy, a dancer and professional fairy, who did an impromptu photo shoot with me at a festival. I liked her wistful expression and fanciful costuming as the main inspiration for the painting. This piece is an example of my typical portrait painting process in watercolor.
I like to work with photo reference as the jumping off point for my portraits because of how a photo can capture fleeting expressions and movements, as well as the memories of a particular time and place. Although I also enjoy painting the model from life, and this practice informs all of my other drawing and painting, a live model is more limited in what can be sustained for several hours. Sometimes I hire specific models I want to shoot photos of (or press friends and family members into service), other times I’ll bring my camera to events to capture more organic moments. I particularly love working with dancers, actors, and all kinds of performers, since they’re very at ease in front of a camera. I might have a particular concept in mind when I start shooting reference, or I might just file the photos away and see what they inspire for me later on.
I look for expressions, gestures, and light that inspire me in photos, but I don’t worry about keeping the original composition of the photo, or painting everything exactly as shown in the photograph.
In this case, I first crop from a larger full body photograph, and then move the portrait 2/3 to the right of a horizontal composition so that we can follow the subject’s gaze through the composition. I plan to eliminate the extraneous background information, and handle the environment in an expressive way. I also plan to paint the overall colors a bit warmer than what my camera captured, since the photo has a slight cool caste to it.
I like to work on 300lb cold press or rough paper. I don’t stretch my paper, but I might clip it to a board to make manipulating the piece easier as I work. I’ll start with a fairly well defined preliminary drawing, which allows me to be looser and more relaxed with the painting process- I know that I already have my likeness nailed down. To avoid overworking the paper before I begin painting, I will transfer the basic lines for the image from either a separate preliminary drawing or a draft copy of my photograph, and then I will refine and develop the drawing using an HB (#2) mechanical pencil. I try to avoid excessive erasing.
Since I want a loose, expressive background for this piece, I begin there. I work mostly wet on wet, painting a soft interpretation of the natural environment in the photo, leaving out extraneous elements. I also add a big swath of pink radiating out from the flower, to create sort of a magical feeling. I allow some of the background to merge into the shadow side of the figure. I also sprinkle some salt in areas of the background while it’s semi-wet to create small salt blooms as an additional atmospheric element. When I’m working a large area like a background, I try to use the largest brush I can, only switching to smaller brushes for more control when I need to.
My basic process for painting a portrait in watercolor starts with a cool colored underpainting. This is a personal quirk I developed through trial and error when I painted lots and lots of (too cheap) portrait commissions right out of art school. Painting believable flesh requires using not just warm colors, but including some cools- and I found that painting some of the cools first helped to set them “under” the surface of the skin, and helped me get a good sense of the overall value structure of the painting right from the get-go.
It’s vital to note that this is NOT a full-value underpainting like one might do an umber “grisaille” in oil painting. Since everything put down on the page in a watercolor will remain visible through subsequent transparent layers, going overboard with this initial cool layer would be completely overwhelming. I just focus on the cool shadows I see. Large sections of the portrait remain unpainted at this stage.
Cerulean Blue, Chromium is the color I used most often for this stage. It has a slight warmth to it, and even at full strength, is not too deep in value. However, I will sometimes integrate greens, other blues, and purples at this stage, depending on the complexion of the subject or the lighting of the scene. On a subject with dark skin, the cool underpainting might shift to using more ultramarine blue and purples.
During this stage, I also make sure to put the white of the eyes and any visible teeth mostly in subtle cool shadow. Aside from any bright highlights on these areas, they are never fully the white of the paper. I also usually carry the cool shadows into other areas, like clothing, for consistency.
Overall, I tend to think in shapes of value and color, leaving fairly hard edges to my shapes. I might soften the edge of a transition within a face with just a little bit of clear water or with a dry brush texture, but “smoothness” is not something I concern myself with- I don’t think of it as a fundamental characteristic of watercolor. The major relationships are more fundamental in creating the illusion of realism. And any blooms or organic textures that arise in the course of painting are embraced and appreciated.
Once the previous layer is fully dry (I use a hair dryer if I’m impatient), I look at my photograph and identify both the pure white highlights on the flesh, and the lightest light warm flesh tones. I put down a large wash on all of the flesh areas, except for the white highlights, in this light flesh color. It goes right over the cool underpainting. Indian Yellow, Pyrrol Scarlet, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, and Quinacridone Rose are the colors I usually choose from when mixing this color. There is no one exact formula- it depends on what I observe. In this case, the lightest light areas in the subjects face seem to shift more yellowish, so I used mostly Indian Yellow and Pyrrol Scarlet, well diluted. While this wash was wet, I drop in a little bit of Pyrrol Scarlet under the subject’s chin where there is a particularly warm sunny glow.
Once again, I allow the previous layer to dry fully. Now I am layering my mid-tone warm flesh color on top of the lightest lights, leaving some of those previous light areas unpainted. Indian Yellow, Pyrrol Scarlet, Permanent Alizarin crimson, and Quinacridone Rose are again usually the colors I choose from for the mid-tones, although for a dark skinned subject, I may also introduce Burnt Sienna at this stage. The mid-tones on the subject look more pinkish to me, so I use cooler reds in the mix. There will also be variety from one area to the next in this layer. It’s important not to be too hesitant when painting the warm mid-tones. At this stage of the painting they will be the darkest thing on the face, which can lead to a tendency to want to paint them too light. Better to be a little more aggressive now, rather than realizing at the end of the painting that all of the mid-tones are too washed out.
Before I move on to adding more detail to the face, I make sure that all other areas of the painting are blocked in with an appropriate light color. I try to work a painting as a whole so that I can understand the overall relationships, rather than totally finishing one area while another is still totally unpainted.
At this stage I may switch to using mostly smaller brushes, as the areas I’m handling are getting smaller. I build up details and darker areas as needed to complete the painting. Colors here could be anything. As I darken some shadows on the flesh, I may return to using some cool colors. Small shadows that define the features can be warm darks or cool darks. I mix neutrals and darks using a variety of complementary color pairs.
It’s important that the lights and darks in the finished painting feel well balanced and create a pleasing movement around the page. Sometimes there is a tendency for beginners to make the nostrils and the pupils of the eyes the only dark areas on a face, which looks odd. And when it comes to details like the texture of hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes, it’s important to observe carefully and not default to a cartoon idea of what these things look like. Think about bigger shapes first, with individual hairs being just an enhancement in certain places.
Tips for painting portraits in watercolor:
–Use the largest brush comfortable for an area, and switch to a small one for more control or detail only when you really need to. Don’t get caught up in trying to cover a lot of area with a tiny brush.
–Think of breaking down the major value changes in the face like creating a stencil. Big shapes and accurate values are more important than smoothly blending one value into the next. A preoccupation with blending and smoothness can lead to an overworked painting, or a face that lacks structure.
–Embrace the fundamental character of watercolor. Allow it to be alive and do what it wants to do, to some degree. Accept blooms, tide lines, and other organic textures that arise naturally during the painting process as a beautiful, natural part of the process rather than fighting them or trying to “correct” them. An organic “accident” is more beautiful than overworking an area trying to force it to behave in certain way.
–Don’t isolate features – don’t think of a “nose” or “lips” as separate objects that need to be worked separately from the rest of the face. Work in big connected shapes.
–If realistic full-color flesh tones are the goal (as opposed to an intentionally limited palette- which can also be great) it’s important to have both a warm and a cool red.
–All flesh contains cool tones as well as warm tones.
DANIEL SMITH Watercolors – I love how pigment rich DANIEL SMITH Watercolors are, enabling me to achieve intense color saturation easily; and and how readily they re-wet back to full strength even when left to dry on a palette – just like new with no scrubbing or rubbing! The wide selection of colors offered, including those with unique properties not available elsewhere, means each artist can choose precisely the palette that works best for them, and find exactly what is called for in any circumstance.
- Quinacridone Rose
- Permanent Alizarin Crimson
- Pyrrol Scarlet
- Indian Yellow
- Sap Green
- Phthalo Green (Blue Shade)
- Ultramarine Blue
- Cerulean Blue Chromium
- Ultramarine Violet
- Burnt Sienna
- Payne’s Gray
- #1 round – Synthetic white sable
- #4 round – Synthetic white sable
- #10 flat – Synthetic white sable
- 3/4” flat – Synthetic white sable
- 2” flat – Synthetic white sable
- #16 round – Faux squirrel
Palette – For small pieces and travel, I use a plastic one with individual wells for color and large divisions for mixing. For large paintings, I use a variety of enamel butcher trays and individual ceramic dishes.
About the Artist:
Joanna Barnum uses watercolor to express universal emotional states and the unique spirits of her portrait subjects, balancing experimental, abstract use of the media with sensitive realism and symbolism.
She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2006, and has since made her living as an artist across the realms of fine art, illustration, and teaching.
She is a Signature Member of the National Watercolor Society and serves on the boards of the Baltimore Watercolor Society and the Mid-Atlantic Plein Air Painters’ Association. Joanna’s work has been recognized by American Illustration, Illustration West, the “Splash: The Best in Watercolor” series from North Light Books, Infected by Art, and at juried watercolor society exhibitions and plein air painting competitions around the country.
She has worked with clients and collaborators including Renegade Game Studios for the game Overlight, NASA, AARP, Cricket, Faerie Magazine, Eating Well, and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Her work has recently appeared on Every Day Original online, at Abend Gallery in Denver, CO, and at Rehs Contemporary Galleries in New York, NY. Joanna also teaches her approach to watercolor as a guest workshop instructor for watercolor societies and institutions.
Joanna currently lives in Harford County, Maryland with her husband and their greyhound (and studio manager) Zephyr.