To paint blonde hair, you might want to just paint it yellow, and you would be mistaken. Some blonde hair, in fact has little to no yellow. Regardless, you're going to want to mix your yellow with purple to tone it down.
You'll also notice, in this reference photo, that while this woman's hair is pretty light, there are some very dark parts to it too. Getting that variation in is important. Now that I'm looking at it again, I even see a little bit of blue in this woman's hair. It's subtle, but it's there.
Note: Okay, I realize this model's hair is probably dyed, as evidenced by her dark eyebrows, but I really like the shade. Beyond that, I love the angle she's at and the position her eyes are looking, so I really wanted to use this photo.
The first thing I did before painting this was wet the paper. That way, I could utilize the water on the paper, as well as the water I mixed into the paint on the palette, to get the super light color I was going for.
After I got the base tone down, I dipped my brush back into the same yellow mixture, and with less water mixed in it now so it would be darker, I painted "lowlights" or parts of the hair that are darker than the base. This helped give the hair texture.
Remember I said I noticed some blue in it? Well, I mixed some black into the prussian blue that was already on my palette. I was going to use this, until I remembered a very important rule when painting portraits. When using bright colors, blue, red, etc, always mix the color with it's complement. You want to use muted versions of these colors. So I mixed a bit of orange into the blue. Then I used a filbert brush to paint streaks of it on top of the yellow. I did all of this with the surface wet, so my edges would be soft.
If you were doing this in oils or acrylics, the process would be pretty much the same, except you would use white to lighten and blend out your edges with your brush as you went, instead of relying on the water to do the lightening and blending for you.
When I looked at the painting again and compared it to my reference photo, I noticed that I painted one of the blue streaks too thick. Now, watercolor isn't easy to paint over, but I'm going to try layering over the blue with orange to neutralize it(which I did) and then painting over that with my yellow mixture.
I also noticed that the yellow overall was too bright, so I layered more purple over it.
Even in this woman's very light hair, there were some parts that were actually pretty dark. I mixed the blue that I'd used for the blue highlights into some burnt umber and then mixed that into the same yellow mixed with purple and, using my smallest filbert brush, painted on the streaks that you see.
I was careful to make sure the streaks were the right shape, which is tapered at the top and getting thicker going down, and at least approximately in the right places. If you just put in streaks randomly, it won't work.
Here's my painting, "Kate Moss(2005)". Doing this painting was actually the first time it occured to me to mix purple into the yellow to make it more natural looking.
But you can see for her under layers I used burnt sienna, which is pretty dark compared to the yellow.
You can watch this process in action in the video below.
Here are Amazon Affiliate links for the supplies I used for this painting. If you buy from these links, I get a small percentage at no extra cost to you.
Amazon affiliate links
Winsor and Newton Cotman watercolors
Royal Talens Van Gogh watercolors
Fabriano Studio 140 pound cold press watercolor paper
My mom loves turtles and the beach, so I decided to combine them in this fantasy painting I made for her for Mother’s Day. In this post, I’m going to discuss some principals I took advantage of for this painting.
For the baby turtle’s shell, I chose to use warmer colors, ie, a golden brown, to represent youth, while for the Mommy Turtle’s shell, I chose to use a more grayish brown to represent maturity.
To me, these turtles represent my mom and me.
Now, for some reason, I really love painting patterns on turtles' shells and I just realized that as I was working on this article and video. While I'm pretty loose with small patterns, such as the scales on the head, where I just try tp follow the general pattern, for the shell patterns, I try to get as close to the reference photo as I can, both in terms of shape and how close the colored spots are to eachother.
Speaking of the pattern on the turtle's head, I could see in my reference photo that the scales were largest at the front of his head and got smaller going back toward the neck, so I mimicked that in my painting
For the waves crashing onto the beach, I used blue and purple. I shook my wrist slightly as I painted so the lines would come out a bit zigzagged. The last thing I wanted was straight harsh lines. I wasn't too concerned about keeping things neat. In fact, I wanted things to be a bit messy and wild here.
I repeated the blue and purple them in the sky and used similar brush strokes. I masked off bits of the sky with masking fluid so they would stay white. I put a wash of very watered down blue over all the parts that were not going to stay white or have the darker blue or purple on them.
In the patch in the far left, some of the strokes ran together unintentionally. At first, I thought, oh, no, but over time I've come to like the effect I've achieved.
Mixing black into the same color I used for the base color, with very little water mixed into the paint and with the layer underneath dry, using a small brush, I painted wrinkles on the Mommy Turtle's neck.
When I started to paint the sky, I blocked most it in with a darkish blue, but left big chunks white. I didn't bother with masking fluid at this point, because these spots were big enough to paint around easily. When it came time to paint those parts, though, I did put down some masking fluid because there were tiny areas that wanted to make sure stayed white. As for the areas surrounding them, I wanted them to be lighter than my base color, by quite a bit. I mixed water into my paint to lighten it, but it still wasn't light enough for me, so I dabbed it with a tissue.
I find it really cool how you can manipulate the value of watercolor paint by how much water you mix in to it. If I want to lighten a color when working in acrylics, I actually have to get out white paint and mix it into the color I want to lighten, which takes more time. In this sense, watercolor lets you be a bit lazy. But then, maybe it's just giving you a break from all the painstaking work you had to do else where, such as making sure every line is in place in your drawing, and making sure every color is just where it should be, not stopping too short, or going too far.
To learn more about how I did this painting, watch the video embedded below.
In the past, I've made videos about painting black hair and also about coloring something that's black in general. I thought why not add to that series and cover black fur on animals.
For this demonstration, I'm going to be using this dog.
Now, as I said in my video on painting things that are black, you almost never want to start with straight black. This looks very severe and because you can't get any darker, you have no way to paint shadows and so whatever you're painting will look flat. If you really look at this dog's fur, you'll see it's really mostly shades of gray, brown, and blue. I can even see some purple in it. Very little of it is really truly black.
I'm not accustomed to doing this, but if you like you can use a color picker tool to help you find what colors are really in something before you start painting. Here are a couple videos that explain how to do that.
From Amie Howard Art
From Lachri Fine Art
I started by taking some blue that was already on my palate and mixing it into some black so it would more grayish and muted. I applied this as a wash all over the dog's face, except for the darkest parts. Over those, I layered brown mixed with black, and finally, straight black.
I thought the blue was too light and obvious, though so I built it up to darken it and make it more subtle
So why the blue? Well, like I said, I can't start with straight black, because than I can't add my shadows. I always need to start with a lighter color. Now, when it when you're looking for a lighter alternative to black, the obvious choice is gray. But, I try to avoid gray with animals, because it can make the animals look old. Using a bluish gray also gives a nice sheen to the animals fur.
Amazon affiliate links (If you buy from these links, I get a small percentage of the cost.)
Winsor and Newton Cotman watercolors
Royal Talens Van Gogh watercolors
Fabriano Studio 140 pound cold press watercolor paper
The basic principles here are: wet-on-wet is good when you need two colors to blend into each other and need the edges to be soft on both. An example of this is shading/highlighting. In this instance, we’re going to have different colors next to each other, but since we’re not actually dealing with separate objects, we want our edges to be soft, and painting with the layers still wet gives us that.
So, you might have already guessed, but if you need a sharp distinction between one color or shade and the next, i.e., if those colors represent different objects, you will want to use the wet-on-dry technique. This will create a harsher edge and thus a more precise distinction between the objects. For example, I wanted the nose here to stand out from the rest of the dog’s face, so I painted over it when the layer underneath was dry to make that separation.
I know I said we use wet-on-wet for shading, but that depends. For smooth shading, such as this dog here, on even a person’s face who has smooth skin, yes, use wet-on-wet. But for things like deep folds in clothes, or wrinkles in a person’s skin, since these things require harsher separation from their surroundings, in those cases, we use the wet-on-dry technique for part of them. Even in these cases, though, you’ll probably need to have a little area surrounding the harsher lines that’s more blended for your wrinkles to look realistic. As you’re working, you’ll probably start to see what technique works best for what you want to accomplish with the particular part of the piece you’re working on.
Okay, so that’s pretty simple. But working wet on wet can pose a problem. As you’ve heard me say before, watercolor goes where the water goes. That means, if you’re not careful, you can have paint go all over the place when trying to utilize this technique and that’s usually not what you want.
I’ve been watching another artist named Sayanti Chadhauri. She has a youtube channel called Sayanti Fine Arts. Anyway, I was first inspired to explore the possibilities of what could be done with wet-on-wet when watching her videos. Sayanti uses this technique with remarkable precision. I asked her how she paints wet-on-wet without the paint going all over the place and I’m going to share on of the things she told me with you, and that’s to avoid pools of water on your paper. That is, keep your water layer relatively thin. Believe me; this has made all the difference. Since I started paying attention to how much water I’m putting down, my layers have been much more controllable. So wipe your brush on the edge of your water container and even dab it on a paper towel if you have to, before putting it to your paper.
Don't stress out too much about which technique to use. You're going to misjudge sometimes. Use your eyes. If you use wet on dry and the edge is too harsh, soften it with a wet brush. This is easy to do while the paint is still wet. If you use wet on wet and the result is too fuzzy, dab it with a tissue and start over.
The most obvious reason to use masking fluid is it acts like a little stop sign to keep paint from getting on areas where you don’t want it. Meaning, that if you have masking down on an area and it’s dry, paint can’t go there. It literally stops it in its tracks. You never have to worry about accidentally painting over a place you wanted to keep white, no matter how small.
A lot of times there will be very small areas that you want to keep white and trying to paint around these can be very stressful and time consuming and forget about trying to do this with wet-on-wet!
A few warnings, though.
1. Don’t use any of your good brushes for masking fluid! Masking fluid will ruin your brushes. You’ll never be able to get it out completely. I use brushes that are damaged for masking fluid. You can buy a cheap brush or two for this purpose. For pinhead size whites, I like to use the head of a needle.
2. Don’t leave the masking fluid on too long. Masking fluid has been known to stain paper when left on too long, so if you want a clean white space, just put it on in preparation for painting the area you’re going to be working on in that session and peel it off once the paint is dry, which brings me to my last warning. Also, to avoid staining, try not to have masking fluid on an area more than once, especially if you’re using it to preserve that area as white.
3. Don’t start painting until your masking fluid is dry and don’t take the masking fluid off until your paint is dry. If you do try to paint while your masking fluid is wet, or remove masking fluid while your paint is wet, you’ll have a mess on your hands.
You can buy special tools to remove masking fluid, but I just use my finger and I’ve never had a problem. I just rub it gently until it comes loose and either peel it or keep rubbing until it comes off completely.
Besides using it to preserve whites, you can also use masking fluid to keep a certain color of small areas that you want to be a different color. For example, in my latest painting, I wanted the main part of the grass to be green, but I wanted there to be subtle bits of yellow in it. I used masking fluid to block off the parts that I wanted to stay yellow while I was painting my green on.
I use Winsor and Newton's masking fluid. You get yourself some at this link. If you buy from that link, I get a small percentage.
Watch the video below to see the steps I described above in action.
Last week, I explained that shading with black is usually a bad idea and offered alternatives. In this post, I'm demonstrating the importance of using multiple values to shade.
You probably already know that the value you use to shade should. Just one value is hardly ever enough to get depth, though. I almost always use at least two, putting my lighter one down first.
Take the folds in Adelaya's top, for example. Of course, I used a darker blue than the base for the first level of shading. But then I used a darker, or blacker shade of blue, for the second level of shading.
Take a look at my current piece. This is a close up of the cardinal in the black and white version. You can see I used a somewhat light gray for the base color. Then I added a slightly darker gray. Then I added a shade of gray that was quite a bit darker than that. That was my second level of shading. But I still wasn't done yet. I added a still darker shade than that one for a third level of shading.
You might even find yourself using a different color entirely from either your base color, or its complement, in your shading. For example, I’ve shaded part of this red cardinal with purple.
I want to give you an idea of what this guy looks like with only one level of shading.
You can see that, even though he's technically shaded, there's not much substance to him. There's no real contrast. It's not until I add the really dark darks, which offset the lights, that he really starts to come to life.
'See how some of the shading is almost black? I was worried that people might misinterpret what I was saying in last week's post. i wasn't saying to never use black for shading. I was just saying not to jump straight to black for shading.
It seems obvious to just mix brown into yellow to make yellowish brown or golden brown, but if you do it this way, the color can easily end up looking muddy. I found this out for the first time when I did this painting.
To fix this issue, I mixed a tiny bit of red, an almost imperceptible amount in fact, into my yellowish brown mixture. This brightened the color, without making it look ruddy.
I actually got the idea to try this from the makeup artist, Bobbi Brown, who describes using red lipstick to brighten other colors in her book "Teenage Beauty".
In addition to using this little color mixing trick in the painting above, I also used it for this golden retriever.
This will not work to brighten green, though as red and green are complements. If you want a bright green, the only way I can tell you to get it is to buy one in a tube.
In this video, I'm demonstrating the use of warm and cool colors to create depth in a landscape. I'm painting mountains over a lake near Silverton, Co. I used Liquitex and Amsterdam acrylics on a Belgian Linen canvas from Fredrix.
One of the worst things you can do, if you want your piece to look realistic, is to immediately reach for black when getting ready to paint your shadows.
Here's my painting, "Couple In Costume At Balboa Park.
I want to direct your attention to the blue overhang in the upper left hand corner.
For this particular piece, I used cerulean blue as the base color and ultramarine, mixed with black for the shadows. You can see it has obvious dimension. In the pic below, though, I've digitally colored the shadow on the side black.
Next, take a look at how I painted this table in my painting "Woman With Cabinet".
Here, I've painted the base of the table burnt sienna and for the shadow on the side, I used a burnt umber shade. Both shades were mixed with other colors, of course. Now here's that same table, with the shadow on the side digitally colored black.
Here's a graph of the mockups side by side.
Truthfully, when I paint a shadow, I usually just make it a darker version of the base color. Now, I ususlly mix black with the base color to darken it for this purpose, but that's not the same as actually painting the shadow black.
Thinking about shading for this post gave me the idea to try seeing how using complementary colors to shade would work. I painted six circles in different colors. Then, mixing each color with it's complement, I used that complementary color to paint a shadow on each circle. So, to put it more simply, I mixed orange with blue and painted a shadow on the orange circle, red with green and painted a shadow on the red circle, and so forth.
I wasn't crazy about the results, so I decided to try glazing some of the dominant color, so red over the green shadow on the red circle, and orange over the blue shadow on the orange circle, etc, to see if I could get any better results.
I think using a complementary color to shade works well when the complement is a cool color. Meaning that using blue to shade orange, green to shade red, and purple to shade yellow can work, but the reverse, orange to shade blue, red to shade green, and yellow to shade purple, does not. This is because shadows must always be cooler than the base color. That's because not as much light is hitting those areas and when less light is hitting an area, colors just appear cooler and grayer. I'm sure you've noticed if you've ever looked around a dark room, there's not as much light.
But I must emphasize that even using complementary colors that are cooler than the base to shade can only work if those colors are muted. No color will work as shadow if that color is bright.
But maybe you're thinking, okay, so I won't use black for shadows cast by objects, but what about using black for shadows cast by an object? Black is a perfect color for those right? Well, lets try this out with my painting "Cody The Dog.
In the image below, I have the painting as is, with the shadows cast by Cody's paws colored a darker purple and in one pic where I've colored the shadows cast by his front paws black.
I think you can see, even for shadows cast by objects, black is probably still not the best choice. It just doesn't look natural.
In the video embedded below, I'm demonstrating using size and placement to create depth in my landscape. Things that are closer to the viewer I made larger and sharper and things that are farther away I made smaller and more fuzzy.
I also painted the mountains, not in neat rows, but with some placed here and there.
Painter of portraits and wildlife