How to add detail to watercolour paintings
Detailed watercolours can look daunting, but with some simple colour mixing and layering, it’s easy to build up detail. We’re going to walk through some of my favourite mixing techniques, and then look at how to put those techniques into use on a watercolour piece.
I also get asked all the time how I'm mixing my watercolours, this simple guide is something I use all the time when blending colours to get the right shades and variations.
All colours have tints and shades. A tint is the variation of that colour when mixed with white; a shade is the variation of that colour when mixed with black.
Adding White, Black, or Grey to a colour results in a different Shade, Tint, or Hue. The best way to discover how much colour variation is at your fingertips is to experiment!
Let's take this Green and change the vibrancy, tone, and feel of the colour by mixing.
COLOUR + WHITE = TINT
COLOUR + BLACK = SHADE
COLOUR + GREY = TONE
Magic right?! Understanding how quickly and how much you can change a colour in this way eliminates the need to keep hundreds of tubes of paint on hand! You will always be able to find the right tone, or shade for your piece.
It's also really useful to be able to darken or lighten a colour, without losing the tone. I use this mixing technique often when painting more realistic work, using the darker version for shadows and depth, and a paler version for highlights.
So now we can put this into practice, by using layers to build detail. We want to start off with a fairly flat wash just to get some base colour down, so use plenty of water to dilute your watercolours. As we're going to build on this we need it to be a light base layer. Where there are darker areas, you can always go a little more opaque with the paint.
Use Grey, or Black paint to create darker shades or hues of the colours you just used to create the wash. For a subtle blend from light to dark, it helps to repeat this stage once or twice, getting darker each time, and applying less paint to less areas each time too, so your shadows are subtle.
Now for highlights! Use a white paint, or watered down Dr P H Martins Bleed Proof White to lift areas being hit by the light. (More about Bleed Proof White here.)
Finish up by adding detail anywhere that you feel needs it. This is your last chance to add depth, so look for areas that may need a darker layer, more highlight, etc. I filled in the leaves on the stem, and darkened the flowers' middle.
That's it! These layering techniques are so versatile, they can be used to add depth and dimension to your watercolour work instantly. I'd love to see your creations, if you try this tutorial tag me on Instagram @georgioudraws and use the #georgioudrawstutorial hashtag. Happy painting!