Watercolor Basics: Step by Step: Adding Shadows

Now that we've introduced the basics of Watercolor Basics, it's time to take you step by step through some of the most common processes for completing a watercolor illustration.  I'm going to take you from start to finish through my 2016 Christmas card illustration, explaining my techniques as I go.  I have a series of video tutorials recorded concurrently that should be available on my Youtube channel soon, if you need some live action explanation. 

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When we've finished these tutorials, this is what the finished illustration will look like!  This image was designed and used for my Christmas 2016 cards sent out to friends, family, and Patrons.

This image features Naomi and Kara from my children's watercolor comic, 7" Kara.  If you enjoy this blog, and enjoy my art, I highly recommend you order a copy through my shop!

Previously, I showed you guys how to render a watercolor illustration (link).

Today we're going to add shadows and shadow tones to our rendered watercolor illustration.  For me, this is the stage where things really start to come together,

Materials Used in this Tutorial:
Watercolors of your choice (I use Winsor and Newton moist half pans, Daniel Smith, SoHo, and Holbein watercolors)
Daisy watercolor wells or palette of choice- For mixing large amounts of color
Deep welled watercolor palette- I used a recycled mochi ice cream carton
Watercolor brushes (I use mainly rounds)
2 watercolor cups- 1 clean, 1 dirty- I like the Faber-Castell collapsible cups
Paper towels

Paper used:
Canson Moulin du Roy

Watercolor Brushes Used in this Tutorial:

  • For rounds larger than 6, I use synthetic brushes.  Your preferences may vary from mine- I have several brands, and still have not found a brand I think perform as well as natural hair brushes.  Synthetic brushes are much cheaper than natural hair brushes, especially at larger sizes, and are useful for blocking in color, as we will be doing in this tutorial.
  • Creative Mark Rhapsody Kolinsky Sable Brushes- 4, 2, 1, 0
  • Creative Mark Squirrel Brushes- 4, 6
  • Blick Master Studio Squirrel- 4, 6

Step 1: Mixing shading colors for skintones

Left:  Naomi's shadow color (more purple and violent, mixed darker) Right: Kara's shadow color (mauve, napthol red, mixed lighter)

Step 2: Mixing your overall shading color

I apologize that I didn't take a photo of my shadow color.  When shading background elements, I usually use a glaze of Holbein's Neutral Tint+Payne's Gray+Dioxene Purple, and mix it darker as necessary.

This looks messy right now, but I'm going to refine my shadows and shapes with further layers of cherry red and napthol red once this shadow has dried.  Sometimes it makes sense to add the shadow earlier on in the process, before the colors are too saturated or too thickly painted on.

I added a glaze of blue to Naomi's eyes to help give them definition.

You'll note that we still haven't really delineated fine facial details- we're going to be working dry into wet to do that, and doing that at this stage would mean those fine details are lost or muddied.

Coming Up Next

We're going to add final details to our watercolor illustration!

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For more beautiful watercolor work, why not pick up a copy of 7" Kara, Volume 1?  7" Kara is a lush watercolor comic the entire family can enjoy, following the adventures of tiny Kara as she discovers humans, explores the backyard, and befriends a kitten.  Created by Becca Hillburn, if you enjoy this blog and my art, you'll love 7" Kara.  Volume 1 is available in the Natto-shop.


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