Step-by-Step: Watercolor light in the forest | Maria Smirnova | Skillshare

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Step-by-Step: Watercolor light in the forest

teacher avatar Maria Smirnova, Watercolor artist

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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

14 Lessons (1h 42m)
    • 1. What is this class about?

    • 2. Supplies

    • 3. A few words before we start

    • 4. Exercising color values

    • 5. Spatter exercises

    • 6. Drawing

    • 7. Background

    • 8. Forest: Step 1

    • 9. Forest: Step 2

    • 10. Forest: Step 3

    • 11. Forest: Step 4

    • 12. Forest: Step 5

    • 13. Forest: Step 6

    • 14. Final touches

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About This Class


Mastering the color value is the one of the most important skills for watercolorists. And the light in a misty forest is my favorite picture to practice it. 

Join the class and you will discover: 

• How to paint shining light
• How to improve your sense of color value
• How to create a perspective effect in a forest
• How to combine wet and dry techniques

The class may be interesting both for beginners and advanced artists who never stop improving their technique.

I'm looking forward to seeing you in the class!

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Maria Smirnova

Watercolor artist



I'm Maria, a Russian watercolor artist, currently based in Paris.

An electrical engineer in the past, I've changed my whole life chasing my dreams.

I draw and paint since I remember myself and the last several years were about practicing watercolor. I totally fell in love with this amazing material and it has become a big part of my life by now.

Almost every painting I’ve made is about light. It is all about something instant, flash slipping away. 

I'm glad to share with you some techniques and tricks I use in my work!

See full profile

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1. What is this class about?: hi, everyone and Maria. From time to time, my sculpture students and instagram followers recommend me different things for a new online classes. And the most popular off recent requests is Guess what, exactly? The life in the misty forest. I'm quite surprised, but here we go. I think it's a very relaxing thing to pain and also a great way to practice Working with different color values. Painting monochrome forest seems quite easy, even for beginners, so I decided to use two colors instead of one. To make this project a bit more challenging. In this video, you'll find a couple of exercises demonstrating the techniques we're gonna use. You'll learn how to keep the lights shining, how to create a perspective, effect in the forest, different types of victimization and, of course, as show you step by step the whole process of creating this watercolor light in the forest , join the class and enjoyed border dollars 2. Supplies: Let's take a look, um, supplies and gonna use this time. First of all, the paper. Today's Fabbri, Andretti Sica It's 100% cotton called purse Natural white paper, 300 grams per square meter in density. I'm gonna stick it on a wooden board with the masking tape toward the papers. Information. What's for drawing any? The bouncer and and a razor. Also, I'm gonna use several brush such Aziz rounds. Quiero brush Chinese cartographic brush Was this interesting tip? Are you also synthetic or house ended in brush actually have both of them here. One is a bit smaller. Both are for detailing. If you have only once more brash, it's OK to don't worry, it's enough. Next I need a wide brush for a moisturizing paper. I'm gonna use these gold brush. You have bigger one eat, maybe even better. And depending on your future of painting size. As for pains, I'm gonna use only two colors. It's burnt sienna by Van Gogh, and the dukes is in purple by city and you can use pains off and other brands. Of course, it's not important you actually can take any couple of brown while it pains you have on the even different cars. Just make sure, first, that they blend in nicely with each other for palate. Today I'm using simple white ceramic plate, and I put some color to its border and, of course, water. Also, I always keep some paper towel nearby for exercises and color test that used to the lowest paper. It's thinner, but it fits well for that purpose. Andi, that's it for to date. 3. A few words before we start: if it just begin to paint with watercolors, you can make this work easier By making a wanna chrome version of this painting, it means to create the scene using only one pain for that. By the way, not every painting, which seems monochrome, really is here. For example, I used three colors on not only for the road. Of course, if you suppose that one color is too boring for you, just take two. As I didn't in this class in this painting, I used the same color as for today's glasswork. Or you can also override the colors and take another brown while it or brown blue combination, and you'll get a different result. The men principal workings stays the same, though. Let's see what's common in all of this works. I use the color very variation, which means how light or dark it is. I paint trees on the bedroom lighter Onda. They also should be seen. Er, trees on the first plan are bigger and much darker. The higher this contrast will be, the more voluminous will be space in your painting. For that, as I've mentioned before, the easiest way is to take on Lee one color, which can really have dark tones, so it will be possible to to paint this dark trees on the first plant. Also, take a small four months of paper, never mind horizontal or vertical orientation and choose maybe even easier. Picture with trees without leaves, for example, so the color values scale is the first thing you need to exercise if you're beginning watercolors. 4. Exercising color values: Let's refresh the basic knowledge about watercolors, namely changing the amount of water in color blend. We can arrive the color ready very describes the amount off lightness or darkness in a huge . If you take a lot of water and less of a paint, you get light. Whether color spots adding more color, we're getting darker, bland and docker and even darker. Normally, making the light watercolor blend brings no problem to beginners. It's easy, but getting really dark really can be an issue sometimes. Ah, let's take now, really dance pain just right from the tube. Perhaps it is the darkest possible very I may have for these color. I'll make this one of the darker, too eso. Here we have a color values kale Exercising yourself. Making the scale is great. You choose one color and painted from light to dark, making each following piece a little different value than the previous one. How many of them you can make, tried with different colors? Also notice what is the darkest value for each pain to drive. For example, I made these for Payne's gray color. I've got 10 blocks. Obviously, not every color will have such a long rallies. Kale even being painted with a dance color almost without whether they won't be as dark as black, Here is an interesting way to train your eyes and tone sensitivity. First, you make a venue scale for a black. Then, in the next row, you put another color from light to dark, trying to reach the same color value into related blocks. And it's one be easy because we feel the value off chromatic colors differently than off black or grey. You can check her precisely. You've made it by taking the photo with it in the photo, making a situation to zero so you may see only the tone of the colors in the picture we're going to create today. There are some really dark parts, and we also may have noticed that burnt Sienna itself can have these darkness. It means that we need something else. Let's add something else. Off course. We can simply take a black color, but it can make the color blend dirty, so I'm decided to take a complementary color. Violet. You can also try various colors on the See how it turns out. Of course. Try to meet these two colors to see what you have before you start your painting to make sure that you like the huge I makes these, ah, two colors together and you see what we have. This new color is apparently darker than burnt sienna, and if I put more while it, I can get it even darker. So, using only these two colors, we have everything we need for our painting. Next, I'd like to pay attention on one working moment. When you mix colors, the bland on the palate may look very dark. Sometimes beginning watercolorist think that it will be the same on paper, but with check. Then they start painting and see that the color is not even close to it. To get really dark, you we need to make a dance intensive, bland with much color pigment inside and less water. I'll make it here aside. You see the pain is not as liquid as before, so it will be darker for sure. Even though both plans look almost the same on the palate, this one gives us light you on. That one gives a much darker 5. Spatter exercises: you probably already know how to make a water cars batter Are you this method often, too? But anyway, let's see what kind of spreader will apply for this painting. Generally, I seem to take a small genetic brush, put some water coronate and clip it like that. It gives me what I call a drops on paper. In this particular case, on dry paper on, definitely. I can do the same on wet paper whether car drops will be spread, mostly changing their shape and the color will become lighter. Here we will compare both methods. Let's see now what else we can get. For example, I can apply offend brush. It creates a lot of small collar drops. If it is hard for you to flip the brush this way, you might try to use the pound sel or something else You see on with paper. We always have these blurry and lights better. There is another option as well, but less clean. I can use the brush steep like this. And here I have a class ter of tiny drops on the direction they're being spattered is more under my control. I'm easy to get bigger drops with the same brush. I just need more water on it. And finally, there is another type off splash which appears and watercolor paintings rather often. I'm gonna take clean paper for that. You probably know it to Onda. Uh, you know it for sure. If you have watched my classes about sounds it in the field or five ways to paint white, I create a color field on while it's Morrison. I'm gonna spatter here some clean water. It takes a bit of time on down some water stars, flowers or snowflakes appear Ah, the more whether I have on the brush, the bigger drops I may get, I can equally make them colorful. Artists used this method to complicate water car spot for more interesting and good looking background, for example. And I'm gonna apply these, um, in these glass for sure. Don't hesitate to experiment with this trick. Look here. Um, you see where I put more water, these spots became bigger 6. Drawing: as usual, I started with a light pencil drawing first. A droid ground outline. It's not flat girls a little uphill. I use one of photos I've made for the inspiration. There also will be road going around the corner. Please pay your attention to this part of the road, and it's with here and drawing a contra future bush, but not to precisely. I also need the trees outline. Of course, it's not necessary to do pencil drawing all the time. If you feel confident enough, you may start directly with the water car. But I personally prefer to have a preparation drawing. There is a group of trees on the right. I don't draw small branch now as well as leaves here. We gonna paint trees as well. One of them I paint here, but move it to the left because if I planned it in the center, it will divide the painting into two parts and I don't want it. So I put it here. It won't go very straight. Something like that, I can make it maybe even closer. - There are some trees next to it, generally for trees which are behind. I may Onley Bain modern parts on all the branches and leaves and gonna paint already with the brush shapes of some trees. I draw similar to the photo, some of them I create by myself. A copy of four is not my goal, but it helps a lot to begin a drawing. - Then I just add new elements and details. Depending on how it's going. I raise excess graphic with softer razor, but the darkest final lines still stay on paper. More trees here on the background, another tree here, Let's make it these unusual shape on the one more next to it. I'd like to draw its branch here behind. I continue here. Sometimes trade trees may work well, too. Tried to make a drawings visible, not too light. But also it's better not to use very south pencil. Well, I like this drawing as a whole. During the working process, some new trees probably will appear, but anyway, I guess it's enough to begin water car ing 7. Background: I started by most arising the paper surface with clean water. The paper is made of cotton, so it absorbs water Very well. So I'm trying to put enough of it. Gold brush fits perfectly for that. As the most off natural brush. It sucks up a lot of water and gives a lot of eight to paper. I need to make the paper surface shining long enough for that purpose. I put some water and give it a minute to absorb. Meanwhile, I can prepare pains for work. I need quite a lot of it now. I with paper once again, especially borders needed they normally dry much faster. I start from a road, and by the way, a paper towel is always somewhere close. I want to try to create something like some rays going here. The light source will be there. One Ray will go this way on. The 2nd 1 will be there. So I'm gonna paint them working wet on wet. And I moved the brush in the light direction. It is important to paint it on wet paper. Um, well, I guess I've put some color to the light area. If you also have some unplanned color spot. That's OK. You can take it away while the paint is too wet. Just clean your brush, squeeze water and take away the car carefully, and I also replace it with some clean water. After bad, these ray goes to the road and I can make the road darker. Um, besides this light sport, it becomes darker in these parts. Please mind the direction which brush should go around here is darker, so I'm adding a while it color. I'm trying to work on different parts of the painting. It helps them to dry evenly, so I'm aiding the color here and there. These rays need more contrast, and it's better to make the shadow deeper. I tried to keep the race direction all the time. One of them is here. The 2nd 1 goes to the road, so I take away the color from here using clean brush. In addition, I'd like to start painting leaves in the background. They're deep in the forest, so we only can see some diffuse spots. So I paint them well, like these kind of color clouds here in this area as well. Some bluestar aside in the light part of background. I work with light color blend some access pain. I wash away like this every time After you took away color, it stays on the brush so you should wash the brush all the time to make it work. I put some transparent color here and there. It's important to keep an eye on the paper surface drying All these things are possible to do on wet paper only while the bottom part of the painting is still shining, I'm gonna work on its car and value. Generally all this part is supposed to be darker than the forest. I'll pain dark trees later. So now I'm focused on this area trying to put dark enough color. So he ripening boldly with wild color to make it dark here in the background. I also have some bush and I'm watching this color not to cover the light part of the road. - Next , I moved to this part when I was painting raise. I kept raised direction. I did like this for the road horizontally and this way for the bush important to put really dark and dense color to this part. We should burn mine that it will become paler once it's dry and the road needs to be darker in the bottom. Mariam as almost every flat surface, the claw authorities to allies, the darker we painted. Even if I don't see it on the photo I make, I gonna make it like that. It creates a perspective effect. The paper surface in this area is not reflecting light no more. It means I can't paint weather wet. So I continue with the bottom part. I think a small brush and I'm gonna add a few clean water drops next, some wider than CNN's. Better would be. Not that, too. They imitate leaves or small rocks or something laying on the road. - I get making the foreground darker and put some shadows somewhere. It's better to stay away from these areas because they're trying to, and the colors may move on. Be unevenly diffused on the surface. But where the papers the wet? I can keep baiting. Remember for the dark color. I just blend two colors all together with a little water and get what I need. - Let's battery be more here on the road. If you want to keep some part of your painting clean. Just cover it carefully with a paper towel, but I don't put it on the painting because it's not dry yet and changing colors and size of these drops. But it's mostly for the first plan. We don't see such a little ization from the distance. I also add clean water, and I can even try to put some to the forest onto the bush. You can also bring some details with the brush if needed. - This area is mostly dry, too, so it's impossible to add anything. So I just put some more water here. But be careful with that on Don't put too much Well, now it's time to this first layer to get completely dry. 8. Forest: Step 1: all right. The first layer is already completely dry Now. I prepared to brush one for painting and another one for clean water. Let's imagine this trees growing here in the shadow. It has a medium color value. I can even paint it like this. It treated front of it will be darker. So we cover these part. There is a branch here here where the race should be. I paint with the light color, so I washed the brush on da paint, a very light toe. I also make darker here and lighter under the rate it goes here beneath the trees, and I'm going to take away and exist color in some parts. This area. Keep in touch for a while. Ah, there will be leaves later. I keep painting with a medium tone color. I'm blurring the upper part where leaves off three will be in the light area. I paint again with almost clean water and make a darker in the bodden. At the foot of the tree. I put some clean water and let the color flow into it. Doing that, I gather soft edge here, trying to make this water spot big enough, and we soft ash to Ah, this brunch can be darker, too, because it's in the shadow. Next, I guess I should moisture these parts. So I'm taking a big brush. I work on cotton paper on. It allows the previous later to stay on washed. I am adding leaves applying mostly burnt sienna. - I also try to draw a few brunch here. I'm making it even darker on the bottom and adding more contrast to the leaves. - I don't really like how the water car has been spread here, So I wipe it up with on almost dry brush. Here on the foreground will be treat which will be dark on will be painted over the background. But behind it on the background. I have treats too, and I'd like to pay their leaves. War detailed on the edge. I'll do it with this brush. It gives spontaneous shapes off watercolor spots. Take a look here the papers dry. All these are leaves off trees from the back. That's why there are so pale here. I also just touching paper with the brush and getting the shape of leaves and the other very directories gonna be here later. Some not really good looking water spots have appeared in these area. It's because the edge were more wet on watercolor started to move. But it's okay. I will cover it with darker paint layer later. So I'm not worried. Let's add more color here. I act the same way in this area and for the light part. Transparent car is my choice. We get the impression off Bush. There they are almost invisible on their darker in the shadow. Of course. - Next , I tried to emphasize the road because it is life here too. The edge off these spots are being washed with a brush and clean water. A bush for these Part two dark around this time and soft edge as usual, maybe even darker for here. - These leaves. I'm brightening up with clean water. You see getting dry, it becomes much lighter. Let's do the same for these trees and painting, weather, weather and getting the drawing of leaves. And I'm changing colors and tones all the time. - I could make their old even brighter, making this push darker. But wait. Actually, there is the sum Ray going here s oh, that's a bad idea. Let's take away some color from here now I should clear the way. Raise going. It's not very important, though. We'll paint a tree over it, but anyway tried to keep the light direction since the very beginning. 9. Forest: Step 2: and making dark and dance collar bland. Wow, be careful with while it. Well, now I imagine leaves, which are closer to me, painting them. I'll look after your masking tape. Don't let the color go under it. - Inside this spot, I can add details on and fix these branch. Finally, I can also add some brunch to the space between leaves. It's not as gently as I wanted, but that's okay. Let's keep painting now. You may see how the space becomes three dimensional. We have trees on the background and something in front of them, and it's not even the darkest layer. Wait for it. Let's paint one bush under the light, - and here it is, the grass from the foreground. It will be darker. We'll paint it later. One more tree's gonna be here by the first. I need to wait until papers dry. I am heading leaves. - Take a look at the tone radiation inside the water car spot, and this is the place for other feed retreat 10. Forest: Step 3: There will be a very dark tree at this spot. - It looks horned as always. I'm washing it here. Well, now it seems like we finally have all the layers. The lightest one darker medium one and the most contrast want to The next tree should be darker than this. I makes you need with some water here I decided that should stay behind the bush. Let's move forwards. I also planned a pale tree here. It's becoming darker to the bottom. Wow, that's too bright. I'm gonna take away some color for sure, because the tree behind the sun rays should be kept lighter. Klay water again for this place. I see Now I'm not very happy about this tree. I'm gonna make a darker because this one is further on. I want to show it. So that's why I need to paint over the tree again. The same on this side. I paint a bright tree here. You can make a darker radio by aiding either more Sienna or some violet. It's your choice. - This part will be in the shadow too. This dark tree is coming up next. - These branch I leave graduated like that for a while I'll decide later what to paint here on the upper part. I also will paint over these body parts soon too. 11. Forest: Step 4: all right. I paint the tree bravely with a dance color, - and I make it going softly to the ground, helping some details on the background later. And for now, I put bright brown here because this tree is closer to the light. So I paint a couple of reddish projects on that switch. Back to the dark, clamped another trees dumb. Let's add one more to the family. I start from the bottom to let a watercolor spread of mix between two trees. You may notice now that I don't follow the drawing lines all the time, and in this area, I can't see any pants Who actually here ? I'm gonna add leaves. Later, I begin to paint branch in the zone with a brighter color, of course, - and now I can add some shades in the button. Finally, we have trees on the foreground. A few branches and leaves will appear here soon. The tree on the back should be lie there than this one. Uh, I keep painting its price on these side, too. I had more wily to the bland to get these really dark color makes, but first I paint with red issue. Though the light goes behind the tree. So I paint these dark tree over it. - Always the same method for the bottom part. Glean weather on big brush. I'm gonna change something in this area, but I'll go back to it later. 12. Forest: Step 5: Finally. Now it's time for leaves on the foreground, right onto spatter a bit here, the same way. As for the last site, I'd like to add one tiny tree here, even without any pencil drawing. - This one turned out to bride. Um, I wash it away. Yes, it's better now, and I could make it brighter here. - I make watercolor, verily good, transparent and almost invisible in the life part of the painting. Sometimes I started with bright color and then switch again to almost clean water. - Let's add a few brunch. Something is missing in the area to now. These boats look very dark, but no worries. They'll become lighter. It's because I used very wet brush. I'm not painting over the tree because these leaves are behind it. We're slightly moving to the moment of detailing because we already have all the main elements off. The painting leaves under the light could hardly be seen while I paint them more situated in the shadows. I had some spontaneous color drops here and there 13. Forest: Step 6: Now it's time to work on the bottom part. I can connect it here. Now I'm using brush with clean water. I feel like I want to see this part being darker on baby more detailed. The right side I'm gonna keep blurry like it is now. But here utilization is missing. This is how I'm gonna paint it just to bring more life in their more contrast. It gives an impression that we see grass or branch or some leaves here. - I'm doing that by means of suitable brush and its movements. Some very key paper dry in some parts. I gonna wash with water. I'm meeting more Violet. This spot is too wet, so the pain spreads and the sport has soft ads. I'm gonna add something here to something lighter this time, I think. But I need to wait for paper to get dry and I put some deeper shadows here. Spatter is good for digitalization as well. These color drops won't be that dark once they're dry because the color bland is not that them's. They'll just bring a transparent texture. No high contrast. An impression of leaves or rocks on the road. There is an area I need to pay my attention to. I'm taking the same color as I used for the background here. Let's it some more shadow to it. - So here we have bush behind the tree. I could make this shadow even deeper here. The tree is like growing from this grass. Now I cover this part with shade to make the road shine more and off course, it'll become lighter while drying this tree's closer to me. So I've decided to make it to be darker. I am not following the follow no more. I'm Onley focused on the painting I have now on the paper. I like this part. It looks more interesting now. So I have only some laws details left to be done and for you. Now it's time to check out your work. Maybe it's already finished. 14. Final touches: the painting is almost finished, but I still want to complete this treat. I'm making a darker and with a better car graduation. A couple of leaves will look nice here on that. I had some time details to these area. I would also like to connect to parts of my dark foreground, so I paint some conscious leaves. Some darker leaves will bring more volume here. I think maybe a bush in the background wouldn't look bad. I take a color away from trees and off course. You already know what to do in the bottom. - I'd like to correct the role to be to. I put clean water and just drop of Sienna some worse. Better would be nice. You got too much. Use a paper towel to take care about it. Well, let's see. I guess so. Now it's time to take away the masking tape. Don't forget to completely dry the painting. Use a hair dryer if needed. Here is the forest I've got. I hope the instructions were clear for you. And now you can paint your own meeting Sonny forests of your paintings to the project section to get a commentary with tips from me and share he result on your instagram page. Don't forget about our hash tag. Good luck with your future works. Thank you so much for watching. See you next time. Bye bye.