Single layer watercolor is a very simple technique that utilizes simplicity and single flat layers of watercolor to add color to lineart. For this technique, we're aiming for a flat wash effect (although utilizing watercolor paints with interesting sedimentation or color separation can also be fun, and well worth exploring).
This post is a part of my Watercolor Basics watercolor course! You can find tons of great watercolor tutorials and inspiration on my Watercolor Basics hubpage, and real time demonstrations of watercolor techniques on my Youtube channel!
Watercolors (tubes or half pans- whatever you prefer)
Watercolor Paper (for this tutorial, I'm using Strathmore's Field Watercolor Journal)
Waterproof ink (in this tutorial, I'm using a Sailor Mitsuo Aida brushpen, but I also highly recommend the Sakura Pigma FB brush pen)
I begin with an inked lineart that's had plenty of time to cure.
Since this is in an Strathmore Field Watercolor Book, I only really need to secure one end to prevent unnecessary buckling.
To help 'place' the illustraton on the paper, I apply a very light wash of cerulean blue around the figure and flowers. I allow it to dry fully.
Next I apply a wash of skintone- retrospectively, I should have gone darker with her skintone.
I also apply a light wash of blushtone, and blend it out. Like the skintone, I should have gone darker for better impact.
I begin doing solid fills. Since I'm working in one layer, I want this to have as much impact as possible so I go for a limited palette with strong colors- reds, greens, yellows, and blues. To save time, I fill every area of that color at the same time.
I rectify my skintone mistake a bit with the hair and eyes- I initially apply a light color, but select a more saturated tone later on.
Of course, adding surface detail accents with gouache is totally allowed, and I utilize a little gouache to add some visual interest to Kara's clothing.
For someone who relies on multiple layers to build up color, definition, and contrast, this was a difficult challenge to undertake, but the type of technique utilized by many watercolor comic artists for efficiency. Watercolor is basically used to 'flat' the page and provide local color.
Color is basically applied one 'fill' (or flat wash) at a time, so you're going to want to go with saturated color for impact.
As much as I struggled with this, I'd love to try it on a short comic or a comic spread illustration sometime and see how it holds up! It's always good to push outside our comfort zone (even if that means minimizing), and it would give me more variety for my portfolio.
Like my art? You should check out my kidlit comic, 7" Kara!