Exploring Watercolour: Lovely Lingo & Sexy Skills. Begin like a Pro! | Stevie Biffen, PhD | Skillshare

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Exploring Watercolour: Lovely Lingo & Sexy Skills. Begin like a Pro!

teacher avatar Stevie Biffen, PhD, Illustrator, Teacher, Neuroscientist

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

8 Lessons (38m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Supplies

    • 3. On Paper

    • 4. Selecting Colours

    • 5. Adding Water

    • 6. Getting Salty

    • 7. Class Project

    • 8. Well Done!

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About This Class

Looking to embrace your creative chaos and master watercolour?

Each journey is a series of  individual steps, so let's walk together for a while and learn about the joy that is watercolour. My goal for this class is to ease you into the medium by balancing technical skills with playful creativity. We learn best when we are having fun. 

Although this class is aimed at beginners, it may be fun for anyone who just wants to explore a new type of paper or brand of paint or just feels a bit creatively blocked.

In this class we will explore:

  • Different ways to use water to get watercolour to work for you.
  • Why some colours behave differently to others (pigments are unique little creatures).
  • The jargon around this medium (future strangers at cocktail parties beware!).
  • Finding the courage to share your work (fear not, you are not alone).
  • Developing your style.

We will start by playing with our paints and end with an artwork. Spoiler alert, this is how all masterpieces are made.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Stevie Biffen, PhD

Illustrator, Teacher, Neuroscientist


Hey there lovely person, I'm Stevie.

I have a PhD in Neuroscience and am an Illustrator, YouTuber, amateur photographer, dog owner, explorer, animal lover, human being and adventurer - in different orders depending on the day. I love the beautiful, the unusual and the wonderful. Personal growth is my jam and I love finding the talents of others and giving them a supportive space to thrive. 

During my Masters and PhD studies, I found my passion for something completely different - illustration. Now I am a jack of many trades and I'm loving them all! I particularly love the science and study of what makes us human. Bones to brains, we are atoms with stories and I love exploring how thoughts and physiology link to make us who we are.

I like teaching what I lo... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Hi, Stevie. And welcome Teoh. Exploring watercolor, lovely linger and 60 skills. Did you ever wish that you could elucidate on the grand relation pigment properties off watercolor? Talk about sizing and Kolinsky brushes. And what What? Well, we're going to do some of that fun stuff in this course and hopefully, by the end of it, you can also use it, which will be great. So have fun. And most will remember that it's part off the process, not what you make at the very end. 2. Supplies: Okay, so we will need a palace of some kind and some pains off some kind. Anything you have is super cool. We also need some water, one clean and one dirty, some mark making instruments like brushes. Ah also recommended different materials have different traits, so synthetic won't halt a lot of water. But it's nice to learn with Hey, brushes are more traditional. So this is a sable brush which holds a nice points and a lot of water. This Princeton Neptune acts like a sable brush, but its cruelty free. We also have squirrel, mop soul quills, which hold a lot of water, but not a great point. And the DaVinci is the true T free version off that. 3. On Paper: Okay, So for this class, we're going to be working in my mole skin, a four journal, which is watercolor paper. But its cellular paper can be really overwhelming. So I'm also going to show you some other types, such as the simile, a rough which I am gently caressing. I just wanted to show you that it has a lot of texture and the texture can really reflect on your painting. A middle of the road paper is a cold press paper. And this one is from February Ana and it has a sort of cross hatching type of texture. And we're gonna be run to the Sydney earlier hot press, which again I will caress and it's super, super smooth. Yeah, but joking aside, these are all 100% cotton papers. The makeup as well as the texture of your paper, can really help you to communicate your message or your subject more effectively. So here are some examples off how different swatches look on different types of paper I really enjoyed during these swatches. They give so much inspiration and there are really low pressure. Way to be creative. I mean, for example, we have this Cascade Green from Daniel Smith, which is very must see with no water bad with a lot of water. Does this amazing granule ation effect and you get to practice your flat washers and look a different color mixes, which we will look at later. And you get to practice things like glazing, which is really, really fun if you look here, which I have upset down because that's the kind of genius I am. You can see the rough paper so again, much caressing. But you can already see that Cascade Green has a completely different effect. You can also see that the flat wash has some really, really cool ages. And you can even see those ages when you're glazing so you can see that this paper is really, really a favorite for landscape artists. And I mean the sky's the limit of the paper. It's just about the creative tea and understanding your medium. So this is the Fabbri on a cold press again, and you can see it's very different to the rough and also very different to the cold pressed small skin, which is what we're working in today. And that's because cellular zand, cotton behave quite differently so you can see the water really enjoy sitting on top off the cellulose paper. And this is because off a thing called sizing, which is basically the kind of mixture that they put into the paper, allowing it to absorb the water color pains at the February honor has a slight issue which I'm not a fan, er which was that little modeling that you just saw in the glazing. So now we're back to caressing Cem smooth paper from sin, Elia. So you can see that I think of all of them. It behaves the most, like the cold pressed small skin paper. But again, this is just one brand. So again, between brands, you might have different effects as well. And that's why I've made thesis watches so that I can see off the paper that I have, how different things react. So, for example, if I put a drop of water into the pains, is it going to sit on the papal? Not how does the glazing look? Is a clean? Is it a bit Markley? Do you see a lot off blossoming, which is where you get those ages on the water color around where use put water droplets. I also like to test my pins on the paper because they'll also have different textures. These are all pigment pins, which are light, fast and which I can use under or over the water colors. This is actually an extra bonus swatch, which is Ah, hot pressed paper from Archer's, which you can take a look at if you pause the video. So go do this on your paper and don't forget to share it with us in the class project section. 4. Selecting Colours: okay now for the fun pot colors, so I chose a granulated Cutler. And I love this turquoise green by Cinelli A. But you can use liken ultra marine or any other granulated color. The pigment of the sky is peachy 50 and serious Force says that it's really expensive, and the three worry if your granulated pains has separated from the binder. Watercolors often do that, especially if they are granulated, where the pigment is quite heavy and separates from the gum Arabic. So Schmidt K is last second color. It is scarlet. Rid is very light, fast, fairly expensive. At Siri's three level, the little half colored blocks will show you if it's opaque, Samir, Pake or transparent. And this pigment is PR 2 to 54 which is like a pie RL red type of color. Often the pigment itself is more important than the brand of paint, so we also got a very tame color, which is from white nights. It's Quinn, Rose magenta, and it's the epitome of a normal water color color. It's transparent, it's well behaved, and I'm just adding waters of the three colors now just that you can see there different qualities. So, for example, you can see that that red shot into the water so very, very, very quickly the pigment information of others. Quinn Rose Magenta is PR 1 22 So now comes the super fun part. We're going to start mixing colors. Mixing colors can be so intimidating, and even now I love my convenience colors like I am all the. But the convenience colors don't do some of the coolest things, which you could do with watercolor. And one of those things is mixing a granulated in paint with a non granulated picked. So this is a classic mix. It's a kobold, teal, turquoise, whatever your brand calls it and apparel or scarlet red. And what's gonna happen is you're going to get this, like, neutralized if he looking color and then you're gonna wait. And even now, you can start seeing that rid lifting whilst the cobalt drops into the bottom and it's so exciting. So that's what we're going to be exploring. And I feel like the most important thing when you choose your colors is not that you have the same colors that I do, but that you choose a granulated ing and non granulated color and a very well behaved, non granulated color 5. Adding Water: some more fun things. We're gonna practice sting some weights on dry paper action. This is very traditional, very basic, but I feel like this is the first thing you should do with your colors whenever you get them and with newspaper, whenever you get that and with new brushes. And if you have all three of them being knew, you definitely needs a practices. So this raid is going to go on ready nicely, and you can see I'm using a cool brush. It's synthetic but will behave as though it's a squirrel hair brush on. You can see that I only lived the tiniest, tiniest little bead of water. They and I did that on purpose because I wanted to show you what this particular pigment will do if you leave the tiniest bit of water. So if you'll remember from the last video, it shot across the palace when we added water. And again, you can see that when we do wit on weights, which means that we with the paper and then added weight paint to that, it again just dispersed so beautiful, which can be scary. But it also is ready fun, So the cobalt is going to be a little bit more well behaved because it's a bit denser on. And it's also not ish minke a page, because I think sh mink a. As far as I know, adds Arc school to their pains, which makes them disperse much more readily than other pains. You can add your own arcs goal to the water, But, um, that's just part of the excitement of water colors that there's always new things to try. So before we get ahead of ourselves, we're gonna go back to it on wits. I left a little bit of red in the brush, which was both unfortunate and fortunate because, fortunately, you got to see where exactly I put the water, and you can see that this blue also dispersed, but in a very a different way. And the pattern is difference, and it's not as lively as that raid. Okay, now, for the alleged well behaved child, it's not my favorite child because I love all my pains equally, but you can see that it lays down a beautiful flat wash, and you're going to see that it dries in a much more even way than that raid you really don't have to worry about tiny drops of water being left behind as much. It also distributes really nicely, and it does this dispersion in a calm, cool way, which is really good. This is especially nice for beginners because you get that full watercolor effect and full pay off without any of the crippling anxiety. The two pain started separating on the pallets, which looks supercool. But I wanted the magic trick to lost forever, so I mixed them up again. And honestly, you can use any colors for this as long as you use one that's granulated ing and one that is non graduating. So a common example that in most watercolor say it's would be ultra marine blue and that granule it's really nicely. And then you just choose any other color that you feel would make a cool mix with it. You can also use thes particular colors. I felt that it wasn't dark enoughto have like that really full effect, and I wanted you guys to see really, really what this mix is capable off. So I had just added a bit more of each color to the overall mix, and I'm just gonna let a chilled A and separate because basically, what you're going to see is that the light blue is gonna fall into the grooves of the paper , and the non granulated red is gonna search in the water above the paper and you're going to get this beautiful two tone effect. The queen rose and cobalt will also separate into the school. Two turned effect as well any granulated and non granulated mix. But the further the two colors you mix are away from each other on the color wheel, the more striking this mix will be. 6. Getting Salty: Okay, so it's roughly 4000 years later, and everything has tried. And you can see that if you left ones high Any little drop of water that rid wind bananas. The blue is granulated beautifully, and our beautiful Quinn Rose has made a beautiful flat wash. Okay, but now we're going to get extreme, because why not? So what I've done and what you're going to do is pains a weight on dry switch off the color you want, and then you're gonna rinse your paintbrush and stick a fat drop off water right in the middle of that square, and it's gonna look like nothing's happening, but you can already see and that rid with the effect that the water is having on it. And this is also something to check with each pigment that you use because each pigments and each brand of pains may behave differently. It's always good to practice saying these swatches or just on a scrap piece of paper, just that you don't ruin your beautiful artwork by trying something Europe, the Boston Pinette, which is easier said than done. Okay, we're going to get salty. So basically, I'm just using normal table salt. You can also use ground soul. The granule size will just change more what the pattern looks like, or the size of the pattern. Then what will actually happen? So if you've never used salt before, hold onto your britches. If you have you sold before you know that it is very unpredictable. Even when you practice, you may not get the same result butts. You will be able to see what sorts off salt effect you're going to get. Andi. Right now we're living in suspense because watercolor never does anything quickly. It always does it at its own pace, which is really good. It's part of the medium and pod off who you become. So we're gonna test us with each of the pigments, and you can do this honestly with your whole palette if you like. It's a really pretty exercise, and it has some. I don't very weird characteristics, and it's kind of unpredictable. But that's also kind of why we're in the whole water color thing, because what a color is kind of unpredictable. So you can see in that raid it's already starting. Teoh make some interesting, almost like snow type off patents but yeah, it's still developing. So what we're gonna do is we're also gonna taste it with the mix and see what happens if you mix two different pigments and then add salt to those. So for science and Shia curiosity, I also decided that I would try Marquinhos, magenta and cobalt and add some salt that mix and see how that would behave. Uh, maybe the cornrows. Magenta is not the well behaved child, but actually a rock star, punk rebel. Maybe not. Who knows? I also decided to see what would happen if I made this mix of its stronger to see if it would be have in a more exciting way. So was he. Ah, the point of this whole class is just to experiment with your watercolors and just do it in a way that's chilled and fun and calming. And once we add, the sold will take a look at all the swatches and yeah, take a look at your swatches and see how they look, so you can see that red kind of gave a flat wash. But any water that was left, they just made a chew push into blooms. We got some nice granule ation because a beautiful flat wash with that Quinn Rose magenta, you can see the granule ation falling into the little steps off the paper. And wow, that raid with that Salter. It's amazing. And I mean, it makes sense because the bloom or Cali flowering that you get when you drop the water into the wash is fantastic. Which is very different to this one off the cobalt blue, where you'd really just had the outline of the salt crystals standing out. And you could see that the mixed does exactly that. It does the what it does with the raid, and it does what it does with the blue, and it behaves a so they're independent but lying or for each other, so I will behave. Child seems to behave normally on dyuh business, her hidden rebel inside that child. It's just a well behaved watercolor, and for some reason it did even lace when there was more of that pigment in the mix. So that's the moral of water colors. Sometimes it does stuff. Sometimes it doesn't. Please, please, please add your swatches for this part of the class to the class project section so we can see what did or didn't happen to your pains. 7. Class Project: okay, Time to put those skills to use. So for the class project, there is a pdf off this money so you can do the same bunny if you wants. You can just trace the bunny on a lightbox or put the printed version underneath your page against window, or you can do your own illustration. I just did this so that if you feel intimidated by what you've learned and you don't want your drawing skills to interfere, you can just do this in a very nice, relaxed way. Okay, so full disclaimer before you put any pressure on yourself, this actually took me an hour to pains. And I've spit it up just so that you guys can watch it and you can do it at your own pace anyway. Just pause us mixture colors, agile EOS, wait for it to dry. All of this will be different according to who you are and how you paint and what paint and paper you use. It's all it's all very, very variable. So what I'm doing now is I'm actually making a mix with a granulated and non regulating pains. So I have ultra marine and burnt Sienna. This is an amazing gray, it granulated so that it makes the shadows look much more vibrant. But I was actually inspired by the Swatch way the little snowflake patterns formed in that rate, and I wanted to see if I could get the same sort of effect. So I did a swatch on the side, and I did see that the ultra Marine and burnt Sienna do seems have very similar effect. And I thought, woo, what if the spend years in a snowy landscape? So I started with that. Now what I'm doing is mixing a sap green with the ultra Marine again so that that ultra Marine will cert into the like little crevices off the paper and the sap green is non granulated ing, so it should sit on top. I decided to stop with the area on top of the bunny's head just because I was lazy and I paid for this. As you will see, it actually was fine overall, but if I could paint it again, I probably would have just rather been patients and waited for the actual paper to dry and then done a flat wash, which is wet on dry paper Andi let that dry. And what you want to do with this wash is you really wanted to be quite weak, so you can see that I've actually watered it down a bit. And this is because I want to use a layering effect like I wanted glaze, and I want the furthest bushes to be quite far away, and the way that you make that effect is by making it more gray or less saturated. I also thought one or play with muscles, so I had it salts of us. And then I painted the tree with the burnt Sienna so that I kept my palate to as smallest possible, because one of the great tips and tricks for watercolor paintings is that keeping a small palate really, really had some sort of continuity to your painting that people who are not trained may not even notice, but they will appreciate. So I've gone back into my trouble area, and you can see that even though I spelt a tiny but on the bunny's ear, it was okay because neither of the's pains is very staining. So I just could mop that up with a little bit of tissue paper. I also used this tissue paper to create a bit of an effect because if you crumple it up and you dab it on the paint, you lift some of it up and get like a really interesting texture, which can be really nice for, for example, cloudy skies. So I also added more green toothy areas that I wanted to really pop into the foreground so that we get that feeling of depth and you can see that when I glaze the screen over that back, Bush really got pushed right rights into sort of oblivion. And I thought, you know, why not play with your brush? So this brush makes a beautiful leaf like Patton, and I thought, You know what? This is perfect. Why don't we make a nice sort of evergreen kind of spiky looking bush? And I just dabbed the pain fresh and it added a lot of texture. I then added some of the sap green to the burnt sienna so that you sort of had, like, this green under turn for the tree for some of the tree bark, and I just did some random brushstrokes. And remember in nature, the more random. The things you do are, the more likely they are to look realistic. Even though it's an illustration, you still want to give some sort of texture to your work. So now I'm adding some more ultra Marine and some more beer and sienna. But I've putting a lot of water in there because I wanted to be super transparent, and you can actually see me touching the paper with the back of my hand because pro tip. If you do that and it's cold, the paper still waits. And even though it might look dry to the touch, it's not. And the touch doesn't I? And if you feel that cold, do not put any, uh, paint on the paper because you will get a weight on what effect and it'll run into each other. In this case, it wouldn't really have mattered because I'm busy making the sort of gray, sludgy snow her kind of look, which, if it had picked up a bit of the reflection off the green, would have maybe actually been a bit more interesting. Who knows? Um, but, yeah, that's just part of watercolors. Sometimes happy accidents happen, so I'm leaving that to dry, and I'm using my ultra marines, who mix with a raw amber so that I get, like, a darker color for that really hard outside bark. And again, I'm literally just at random just applying it to the tree trunk because I really wanted to look like one of those installed old trees that has thes thick splotches off Barkalow verts . And I'm using the tip of my brush not just to at make it a little bit more detailed. I'm also sort of adding some shattered to the little routes because that really gives the tree some volume. It looks like it's occupying some space, and it's really part of that environment, which is also how I selected where to put that gray, ultra marine and burnt sienna mix. That was for the snow, because you can see that I put a lot more underneath the basis of the tree and a neat the base off the bushes because I really, really wanted it to feel like they were three D objects that had light interacting with them. So because a white bunny was also just not super exciting, and this is an illustration and art, I decided toe actually use ultra Marine, and that scarlet raid to make a beautiful purple and the granule ation was not great because the color was so so light. And also the ultra Marine is a blue that has a little bit more raid in its than that cobalt turquoise had. So because they're slightly cut closer on the color wheel, the colors will not be as garish together. And now, Like I said previously, I'm giving my bunny a little bit of a shadow and making sure that he really fits into that environment and darkening the other shadows. And because that rid is in that purple mixture, you can see that as soon as the water touched on the pilots, things got out of hand. But it's fine because all the colors were part of the palette, and it it was a happy accident. We're going to go with that. So I moved to in a Skoda brush, which is also a synthetic brush that acts like a Kolinsky sable brush. I'm feeling. If my papers dry on, then I'm adding hair texture. So this is super super easy and really makes animal illustrations look more lifelike. So Basically, all you do is make tiny, tiny, little parallel sort of marks that looked like his on Did you go sort of online important lines off dark and lights Or like if you want, outline your bunny in a more illustrative style like I have done, you just sort of follow the edges and you can see I'm still shaking. That'll my paint is try because I don't want that raid running anywhere else. And then you just do sort of little dots for the way the whiskers are, and you paint around the eye to give it a little bit more life and every here and there. I just put it two or three little lines just to kind of remind everyone that this money is three D, and all that you need to worry about with these lines is that they follow the direction off the face. So if, for example, in the middle of this bunny's back I had done 180 degree lines, we would have been like what is even going on? Because we know that that's not how bunnies for goes. I'm also now just adding the pink with ah, that's college raid on and the way and water colors that you make Pink is just by really, really, really diluting red. So I just added a ton of water. And that's how I got the years and then because it was wit on which I could add a tiny bit of red A to the darkest pots. And it's just sort of seeped up into the giving it a beautiful Grady int So bunny footprints and little bunny shadows. And we're finally just adding sort of some light and dark and thus, again, is just something that you can look at your reference for. Or you can observe in real life and A and add that to your repertoire off random images in your brain that for some reason are gonna pop up while I do know you're trying to shower or whatever, and then you can use them for the power of good. So this is one of the pigment pins that I had tried out on my different swatches of paper earlier. It's a uni pan, and it's a point to a really, really like these pins. I know that micron pins are more accessible to a lot of people and that the micron pins are very popular. But this black seems to be more blue or green based versus Raid based so already like that . Just because I have a kind of deep love for anything Cool s Oh, yeah, When you're doing the foliage and when you're doing the tree you can do a straight line or you can do a broken line That's all stylistic on. Do you really, really want to make sure that you give the impression of staff? This isn't necessarily a pen and ink drawing or realism or even a pencil drawing where you really, really need toe Put out every line here. You're just trying to let people imagine what you're making. And here, because full disclosure, I made a terrible mistake. I really didn't like how I did the bunnies. I onda. I decided that I was gonna try and fix it. Onda son my painting and I was like No, Stevie, you're fine. You'll be OK. You're over reacting and I did the very therapeutic thing of pulling off the washi tape which reveals your beautiful clean lines, and it was magical. And at the back of my mind. I really, really didn't enjoy what I had done. And I was like a Kenner. I I can't. So I thought, why not add this as a learning experience? So what you can do if you mess up your watercolors is you can use whitewash mixed with the color that you have painted. Whatever you've missed up in this case, I mixed shrink a white Grosh with what was left on my palette. And then I just painted over the eye and quash is a pig. So I let that guy dry. Andi I waited in perfect agony, Andi. Then I took out its smaller pin because I decided that actually, what was wrong was that I used to point to instead of a 0.0.1, and I read it and it's OK. I mean, one of the surest ways to kill your artist over where could. But if you're not happy with it, you could change it, it's yours. So that being said I was much happier and I decided, Okay, I like this. I'm getting out a little bit of whites to it just to make it pop and to give it the highest contrast of any point in the picture so that that's where your eyes drawn because it's white on black. So please put your project in the class project section below because I would love to see how what you learned in this class translated into something that was uniquely yours. 8. Well Done!: cool. Okay, well, well, then on making it this far. Jolly good show, old chap. And what? Waas. But I hope that you had a lot of fun in the class. I hope that you recorded everything that you did on. Please feel free to shake any that you did in the class project section. Because as a the wonderful Bill Nye, the science guy says in a paraphrase, everyone you meet has something you to teach you. So I'm very excited to see what you guys can teach each other and teach me kid of you by