Watercolor Commission- Process

My favorite commissions are the watercolor and marker renders.  I really enjoy rendering using traditional media, and I love how immediate and transparent alcohol markers and watercolors are.

For watercolors, I always do a graphite transfer to transfer my sketch to the watercolor paper.  I used to ink it first, but I've found that I greatly prefer the gentle effect that watercolor then a touch of gouache for lineart give to the piece, as opposed to the near coloring book effect that lineart with watercolors tends to have.

My process isn't very complicated.  I'll usually do a simple background wash first, let it dry, and then start doing the skin.  My skin tones are usually a mixture of burnt umber and a nice red, and I use a combination of pan watercolors and tube colors.  I don't know many fancy watercolor tricks, and I don't really use expensive brushes.  I'm sorry about the shadows in the photos, I'm at my mom's house and trying to figure out how to get the best lighting/angle.

I've done a tutorial on graphite transfer before, but for my new readers, I'll print out a copy of my sketch as bluelines, coat the back of it with graphite (usually from a graphite stick, the softer the lead the better) and tape it onto my watercolor paper.  I choose to use bluelines because it makes it easy to see where I've drawn when I go over it with mechanical pencil (pressure is key here).   I use painters tape because it has the lowest tack (that I've found) and won't tear the paper if I remove it carefully and don't wait too long.
The finished graphite transfer.  Watercolor paper has a lot of texture, and can kind of 'take' your pencil if you're not being careful.

First I laid down a layer of just water, and then I applied the blue background.

My materials.  I use a Cotman travel set of pans as my main watercolors, and while in Japan, I put together an auxiliary palette (the blue one) that has colors not covered in my main set.  I also use a variety of tube watercolors.  

Putting down the first layer of skintown.  The father and daughter have a more yellow cast to their skin, whereas the mother is more rosy, so I mixed them separately.

This is what the piece looks like before applying the gouache lineart.  I'm a jerk- I should've done process for the mother's hair, but I got into the watercolor.
After applying the gouache, I went in and darkened the background a bit.
The finished piece that I mailed off today.


  1. I've been trying to work with watercolors lately. They're interesting, occasionally very frustrating, aren't they?

  2. @Peppermint Monster Ohhh yes. If I find any good watercolor blogs, I'll link you, if you do the same. There are so many effects I've seen that I'd love to learn the technique behind.

  3. Actually I would like a good list of links for watercolor blogs if either of you two don't mind. :D


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