These are the steps I used for a watercolor piece called Crow's Trick.

Rough Sketch
Crow's Trick sketch 1
This is the rough sketch, done on a 9x12 sketchpad. 

When I start a piece I usually already have some kind of mental image of what I want it to look like.  The rough sketch should capture that without worrying too much about the detail.  This is the time to think about proportions (notice that some areas are sketched in as if transparent, so the framework underneath the clothing is sound). 

When making a rough sketch, try to focus on the flow of the piece as well.  Make your lines loose and play with shapes and positions.  If your drawing looks forced or stiff, it's probably because you didn't play with it enough in the rough sketch.  Don't get uptight about making it perfect.  Don't focus on the detail - focus on the composition and proportion.

Second Sketch
Crow's Trick sketch 2
In this sketch I have transferred the important lines of the rough sketch to 9x12 watercolor paper with a sharp H pencil, making sure the lines are light and easily erased.  I have used my light table, but in some areas the drawing won't look exactly like my rough sketch.  Something always changes during the transfer to another piece of paper. 

I have also thought more about the placement of my drawing (it was not centered in the rough sketch, but high on the right side of the paper). 

Notice that this sketch is still lacking in detail.  The border is barely a suggestion.  Her hands are not defined. 

Details & Adjustments
Crow's Trick sketch 3
 Now I have refined the transfered sketch, adding detail and finishing the hands.  I also shortened her forearm, since it seemed too long.  I sketched in the basic pine and feather frame surrounding her. 

This detail work could have been done on a second sketchbook paper sketch, and the result transfered to watercolor paper, but I prefer to refine my drawings on the finished piece. 

Crow's Trick sketch 4
I have chosen to ink in colors complementary to the final color scheme (brown next to skin and hair, blue next to the blue shawl, etc.).  Sometimes I find that black ink is too harsh and unnatural for watercolor.  Using a neutral like brown will blend in and add to the overall look.  It is not necessary to ink when using watercolor.  I could have painted over the pencil, but I prefer to ink and then erase the pencil, leaving just the ink outline.

I inked in everything but the border, prefering to leave that in pencil for a subtle look.  I may ink after watercoloing it. 

Once I finished inking I erased the pencil (except for the border) and sprayed the piece with fixative.  Colored inks are not waterproof, and they will bleed into the watercolor without fixative.

Watercolor - partially finished
Crow's Trick sketch 5
Watercolor - finished
(Click for larger scan)
Crow's Trick sketch 6
I find it helpful to layer colors in watercolor, first applying light shades and then painting over areas with darker variations.  This helps prevent you from using too dark a color at first, controlling the color, and allows you to think about the highlight placement.

This was scanned halfway through inking.  As you can see, some areas are unfinished (her clothing and hair) and still need work.  Her clothing in particular is lacking in value, making it seem flat.  The pine border seems unballanced - I will probably fill it out. 

Don't be afraid to mix colors when painting.  None of the colors I used here were straight from the cake - they are too bright and false looking.  Blend complementary colors (green to red, orange to blue, purple to yellow, etc.) to dull or darken a color - blend enough together and you will get brown.

Making a realistic flesh tone isn't that hard.  My watercolors have a peach tone (or use a light orange mixed with white) which I start with, mixing with brown and a little purple (obviously using more brown for darker skin tones).  Test each color out on scrap paper before applying it - add water to thin the color.

I added a puplish background behind her, since purple is a complementary color to yellow, and there is lots of yellow in her shirt, and lots of brown in the piece in general.  I added a light wash over the pine needles to soften them. 

Now that the piece is completed I realize that I drew her carrying too high.  Doh!  Either that or she has a very short ribcage.  Plus I outlined the feathers on her tunic in black, and I should have done them in brown.  I am not pleased with the red ribbons, either.  The ink was too bright.  Overall it turned out pretty good, though.  I wish I could have put more detail into it.

I primarily used a #1 and #2 round for the watercolor, along with a #8 round for the wash behind her.

If you have any comments/questions, feel free to visit the message board.

Graphics, Content, Artwork © Copyright 1989-2004, Jennie Seay
All Rights Reserved - ask for permission before using anything on this page

Thanks to the many talented people who can code and provide their stuff online for people like me, this site looks great.
Credit goes to:

Javascript and CSS code snippets from The JavaScript Source and Hypergurl.
DHTML menu by Milonic found at Dynamic Drive.
Beautiful java applet liquid/ripple effect used on title graphic and elsewhere made by Tarek Fouda.
Some quotes found at Famous Quotations.

This page last updated .