Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wild World of Watercolor

I am definitely wild about watercoloring my stamped images! Not being very good at rules or instructions, I developed my own watercolor style.

I created the card above last year and I really liked the way it turned out. I am going to use this same image for my step-by-step guide as it has a lot of common elements that are good for watercoloring - cute creatures, pots, leaves and flowers.

Part of what I love about watercoloring is the amount of color variation and shadowing that is possible. As you can tell in the sample above, I spend a little extra time adding in some colors. Not to fear, it doesn't take as long as it looks!

Here are the things I gather around me when I watercolor - a water brush, a variety of inks (I like spots and cat's eyes for this technique), a good sturdy surface, watercolor paper and some StazOn.

For an image like the card above, I would use the following steps:

1) Choose an image with lots of open space.

2) Stamp the image with a solvent-based ink. My favorites are Staz-On's Jet Black and Timber Brown. I often use Timber Brown as it gives a slightly softer look. On this image, I went with the Timber Brown. Some papers have a rough side and a smooth side. I tend to use the smooth side when stamping for a crisper look.

3) While lots of stampers use re-inkers and a palatte when they watercolor, I prefer to stamp my ink pad onto an acrylic block and pick up the ink that way. It saves on re-inker as less ink is wasted and it allows the artist to pick up as much or as little ink as desired. To pick up the ink, I use a water brush which is simply a brush with a refillable water reservoir. A Stampin' Up! Aquapainter is my brush of choice but there are several great brushes on the market.

Choose a color for each area to be painted. Once you have the core colors chosen, pick one or two additional slightly darker shades for each area.

4) Using the lightest shade, tap your ink pad on the acrylic block. Squeeze your water brush gently to release a small amount of water and dry on a paper towel so that the brush is only slightly damp. If the brush is too wet, the ink will pool and dilute.

Pick up color with the brush and in smooth strokes apply it evenly to the desired area. Try to avoid squeezing the water brush unless the brush becomes dry. You want to keep the brush moist but not dripping as this will wash out your painting efforts.

I generally do all the base colors first so that when I go back to add shadows, the image has slightly dried. When changing colors, simply apply the brush to a piece of paper towel until no further color is visible.

5) When you are ready to add shadow, pick up the next darkest shade and apply around the outline of the area lightly. Brush more color onto the area where you want to create a deeper shadow. If using only two colors, you can add depth by adding a second coat of the first shade.

For the pot in this example, I actually used the same color as the second layer. As long as you let the ink dry for a few minutes you can get a lovely soft shadow with the same color.

Follow the same procedure, add an additional layer of the base color where you want shadows. I usually do this as a fairly deep shadow as it is so soft. When creating shadows, try to ensure that your shadows all fall on the same side ie from the same "light source". Also remember that shadows are soft, organic shapes so there are lots of curves and very few sharp edges.

Here I added a light shadow to the leaves around the left edge and just a hint of shadow along the pansy petals.

6) If you are using three colors, take the deepest color and run it down the edge of your shadow to give it a nice deep color.

I went around the edge of the pot again with a deeper shade and added a little darker shadow to the bunny's head and paws. Leaves are a little different. When I did the leaves, I had already applied sufficient shadow to the edges so I took me deeper shade and ran the color along the veins to give the leaves depth as well as shadow.

7) The last step is optional - to create some ground so that your image does not float. Depending on the image, you may want it to float or stand alone.

In this case, I wanted the pot to sit on some ground. To do this, I start a little bit above the bottom of the pot and drag a line away from the image letting it fade out. I then add another line to the other side doing the same thing. Finally, I fill in the the rest of the ground in a very hap-hazard inverse triange shape. Remember to keep your shapes organic and free-flowing.

Now, your watercolored image is complete and ready to incorporate into a lovely creation!

Here's the finished product:

Peaking Bunny
Pansy Bunny (Penny Black)
Paper: green gingham, hot pink dragonfly paper (unknown from my scrap drawer); orange with hot pink flowers from Pocket Full of Posies Matstack (DCWV)
Cardstock: Rose Red and Garden Green (Stampin Up); watercolor paper
Ink: Pumpkin Pie, Really Rust, Creamy Caramel, Close to Cocoa, Chocolate Chip, Certainly Celery, Mellow Moss, Pretty in Pink, and Pixie Pink (Stampin Up); Timber Brown (StazOn)
Tools: acrylic block, Aquapainter and a little paper towel; Crop-o-dile; cutting system (Creative Memories)
Embellishments: 3 small green eyelets and 2 large orange eyelets

As you can see by my samples below I am addicted to using Penny Black stamps for a lot of my watercolor work.


I hope you liked this step-by-step tutorial and the samples!

Just in case, you think all watercoloring has to be adorable mice, bunnies and ponies, I did make another card that is a little more serious. I'll post that one tomorrow so visit again!


  1. Holy Moly! Did you ever remind me of watercoloring. I tried it when I first started stamping and don't think I've done it since! I'm so used to my Copics I completely forget about my Aqua-painter pen. This is great!

    Love the cards. The horse is adorable!


  2. I popped in from TJ, because I thought your card was just awesome. I love that bunny in the flowerpot. I am going to look over the rest of your blog and come back often. dar

  3. This is a wonderful tutorial! I love your tips on keeping the shadows organic with no sharp edges. I struggle with this, so I follow your tips - THANKS!

  4. this is so informative, i try to do alot of watercoloring, but this will really improve them. thanks so much, can't wait to see the other lessons for watercoloring.

  5. I love my H2o watercolors and find an excuse to use them on so many cards. Thanks for sharing - I love the tip about picking up the color from the paper, not off the ink pad. Great idea that I am going to try.


Thanks for your wonderful words!

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