Watercolor for Beginners: Create a Magical Illustration | Giulia D'Andrea | Skillshare

Watercolor for Beginners: Create a Magical Illustration

Giulia D'Andrea, Skillshare Teacher - Artist

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10 Lessons (21m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. The Project

    • 3. Materials and Supplies

    • 4. Inspiration and Sketch

    • 5. How to Use Watercolour

    • 6. Two Different Techniques

    • 7. Warm Up Exercise

    • 8. Layering Watercolours

    • 9. Final Details

    • 10. Done!

123 students are watching this class

About This Class

Create a magical watercolour illustration! In this class you will learn how to put some of this magic in an everyday object.

Galaxies, stars and outer space are magical and fascinating to me and I love to incorporate these elements into my artwork.

You will learn:

  • The basic equipment needed to start painting in watercolour
  • How to sketch your subject
  • Some basics on how to mix colours with watercolour
  • Two different techniques: Wet on Wet and Wet on Dry Techniques
  • Some quick warm up exercises
  • How to plan and layer your illustration
  • How to create an “outer space” Effect
  • Two ways of adding stars to your watercolour

I am also adding a pdf in the resources in which I put a Color wheel that you can download.

I am so happy to share this class and I am looking forward to seeing what you will create.


Class Resources:

Color wheel PDF to print out if needed

Pinterest Board with galaxy inspiration

Free Reference Pictures Link Shutterstock

What I used for this class

  • Paper: Canson 300 gsm paper with 60% cotton
  • Watercolour: Winsor&Newton Cotman Watercolor Pans. It is also available in 12 set pan, very handy and I totally recommend the latter if youre going to make a first purchase. If you’re going to buy primary colours: Cadmium Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue. I would also buy a Van Dyck Brown to mix with the blue for the darkest shades.
  • Brushes: Round n.4, Round n. 0. Winsor&Newton
  • Mechanical Pencil Pentel Orenz 0.5
  • Any Pencil HB
  • White Titanium Gouache by Talens +++100
  • Uni Posca White Pen


Check out my first class! I explain what is my strategy when I want to find new elements to incorporate in my artwork.


1. Introduction: Hi everyone. I'm Julia. In this Skillshare class, I will show you how to create a magical watercolor illustration. Galaxy stars, and outer space are magical and fascinating elements to me and I'd like to incorporate them into my watercolor artwork. In today's class, I will put some of that magic into an everyday object, which is a cup of coffee. This class's great, if this is your first time using watercolor. I will go through the whole process, and you will need just some basic equipment. If you already used watercolors, this can be a fun twist, and you can discover something interesting to add to your personal style. In this class, you will learn the basics on how to use watercolor paint. I will tell you what equipment I use, how to use it, our sketch on paper. You will see how I the choose color that I want to see in my final illustration. I will explain also how to make layers, and how to add the finer details. I am so happy to film this class, and I am looking forward to seeing what you will create. Let's get started. 2. The Project: For your project, I would like you to pick one everyday item and add a galaxy on it. This is a great exercise to train your imagination. Just have a look around you and imagine how you can add a nebulous or a galaxy to an everyday object. Or you can follow me through my coffee mug project. You can go step-by-step to the video and then post your version. At the end of this class, you will have a new magical illustration with a personal touch. If you use a reference picture, I would love to see the original photo along with your artwork. I would love to see how this lesson led you to a magical illustration, and I'm really curious to see where you did imagine a nebulous or a galaxy. Follow me into my next lesson in which I explain which materials that we use. 3. Materials and Supplies: Let's have a look at what you are going to need for this class. First, you need some paper. There are tons of different watercolor paper and they are different in the weight and composition. My suggestion is to try different paper and find the one that works better for you. For today's class, I will be using 300gsm paper with 60 percent cotton. Then you will need some watercolor paint. You can find it in tubes, bands, or cakes, They are also called Goodwin. If this is your first time using watercolor, I recommend your smart selection of bands or tubes. Just make sure you have the primary colors, which are red, blue, and yellow. Today I'm going to use some of my favorite bands by Winsor and Newton. Bear in mind that if you decide to use watercolor in tubes, you will also need a surface to squeeze the color and mix it. But anything like a plate or a lead would work. Next you need some brushes, and there are tons of different brushes that you can choose from. But for today's class, especially if this is your first time using watercolor, just a couple of brushes will do. In fact, for this painting today, I will use two rounded brushes, which are number 4 and number 0. Just make sure that you use watercolor brush because watercolor brushes are made in a way that helps retain their water and their pigment in the bristles and allows you better control. Remember to take care of your brushes. Always wash them and dry them once you're finished painting and let them dry flat on a surface and never leave them in the water. Then I'm going to use a sketching pencil. I really like to use mechanical pencil, but any pencil will do. I will also need an eraser. I usually use mutable eraser, but the regular one would work. Then you will need a paper tower on end and of course some water. Take two jars and fill them with water. One will be for dirty water in paint and the other one would be for clean water. When cleaning the brushes, you want to get rid of the paint in the first jar and then suck the air of the brush into the clean water. Having clean water is really important because that allows the colors to come out much brighter and clear on the paper. Make sure that you fill the jar with clean water if you see that starts to get muddy. Another tool that I'm going to need today is some white crush. It needs to be titanium white because that will allow me to paint on top of the other layers. But you can also use a white acrylic or ink pen because that will allow you to be more precise with the stars. Now we're ready to start. 4. Inspiration and Sketch: I had to look around my apartment here in Milan and I went looking for places or objects in which I could hide the galaxy in. If you cannot find anything that works for you, you can use one website that has free pictures like Shutterstock. My final choice is a small espresso mug. I will now take a picture of the mug in the exact same way that I want it to be on my paper. Then using the picture as a reference, I will start tracing the lines on a regular piece of paper, printer paper or sketching paper. I always keep in mind the proportion, by mentally dividing the object in different parts. In this case, I have the plate, the cup and the handle. I will start drawing the outer part of the mug, and then I will add the small plate. Then I will draw a line more or less where the coffee starts, and finally I will add the handle. If you want to focus just on how to paint the galaxy, a quicker way to do this would be to print your reference picture, and trace the main lines of this object, then copy your reference lines into some watercolor paper using the carbon paper. In this way, you will avoid adding mugs on your watercolor paper. Making your carbon paper is really easy and I explained how I craft it in my other class, Develop Your Styles. Then you're set to sketch. 5. How to Use Watercolour: I will start talking a little bit of how watercolor works, and how I like to use it. I had my set here, and I have chosen some of my favorite shades. You need to wet their color pants first. Just wet your brush enough to release a drop of water onto the pan, and then you pull the color up into the mixing area. If you want it to be more intense, you need to pick some more pigment from the pan. I will now pick a blue, and make a swatch for you. Some colors are quite saturated, and dark, and to lighten them down, I will dilute them with water. You can see that the more water I add, the lighter the color becomes. To make this blue darker, you need to use the opposite color from the color wheel, and mix it. In this way the color gets intense, and in other cached. You can do the same thing with any color of your palette. If you need to have a closer look at the color wheel, you can find one in the research section. 6. Two Different Techniques: There are two different techniques that you can use today. I will show you the wet-on-wet technique and the wet-on-dry technique. Wet-on-wet is when you apply a wet paint on a wet surface. What you're going to do is wet the surface of the paper with clean water, spread it a little so that the paper soaks it a bit. With the paper still wet, let's apply some color. You can see that the color brooms into the area. While the color is still wet, you can work it around to see how it reacts and how you can control it. Wet-and-dry is when you apply wet paint into the dry paper. You can see that the effect is completely different because the brushstrokes are really defined. One thing to keep in mind when using watercolors, is that we work from light to dark. Before starting painting we need to plan that a little bit, keeping in mind outer layer of the colors and also taking mentally note of which part of the sketch needs to remain white. Take some time to experiment with your watercolor, with the paper, and the pigment you will need because this is a great exercise. This will help you to get to know the paper and the paint and how they react, and will allow you to be way more confident when painting. As a little warm up exercise, just try to mix the colors and the different techniques that we just went through. 7. Warm Up Exercise: In order to decide which colors to use for my illustration, I will now make some swatches in wet and dry technique. I will make little squares with some colors from my palette so I can see how they look if I watered them down. To make the color lighter, I just add a little bit of water to my puddle of paint. I always avoid to make puddles and I work the water with my brush. I remove excess water or pigment with the help of my paper towel. I try to make all the swatches roughly the same size because this is a good exercise for me to warm-up. If the paint goes too far, I can use the paper towel to fix the mistake and if the paint is still wet, I would just damp my towel into the color, in this way. This is really relaxing and also useful to gain controlling confidence with the amount of water and the brushstrokes. Now that I have them all on my paper, it's easier to decide which color to use for the illustration. For my galaxy, I want this shade of blue and I would like a darker shade of this blue so I will try to darken it down with the red. Also another thing that I like to do is to darken the blue using this Spain gray here. I really like this pink for some highlighting the galaxy and I will use the Spain gray for the coffee mug. If you want to keep exercising for brush control, you can keep drawing lines. Draw the lines as close as possible because this will give you an idea on how you can control the water and the pigment on the brush. Next step will be layering the colors, so I will see you in the next lesson. 8. Layering Watercolours: Now, we are ready to add some color. I'll wet the paper, and I want it to be glossy. I always avoid making a paddle, because otherwise the paper will fold too much. I cover half of this section. I leave the bit closer to the pencil line dry. I will put just enough water for the paper to soak it a little. If you accidentally put too much water, you just use your paper towel. With a smaller brush, I start painting from the edge. I don't put water on the pencil line because I want it to be sharp and dark, and I also want the color to bloom and fade when touching the water. This is a really cool effect that you can get with watercolors. To me, it really gives me the idea of outer space. I want to add some pink, so I move onto the next bit, adding water little by little. Then I keep moving into the next section, adding more gray and maroon. You can see that the wet on wet technique gives you that great blooming effect, and this is a perfect moment to experiment with pigment and water on the paper to see what happens. Now you can put color onto the paddle and maybe mix with the colors that you already have on paper or drag them around and see what happens. The galaxy part is now done, and now I will move onto the marked part. For the mark, I'm using the wet on dry technique, and I start with the shadow using the gray. To make the edge of the shadow lighter, I soak my brush in clean water and collect some pigment from the paper and blend it. For the next section, which is even lighter, I just use some clean water, and then connect with the light gray part to let the color blend into the last water paddle. Then I drag some color and water, going back to the darker part to blend everything together. I will do the same thing on the opposite side, experimenting with pigment and water until I get the result that I had in mind. I will apply the same process on the remaining parts of the mark. If I want any part on the painting to be white, I just paint around those highlight areas. Keep in mind that you need to be patient and wait for the layer to dry completely before moving to the closest one. Because otherwise, the section will blend one into the other. Once it is all completely dry, we are ready to add the stars. 9. Final Details: Lastly, we are going to add the final details. We can also use a small brush or a neat pen or some white ink, or white acrylic or whitewash. If you like a more cartoonish effect, you can add some fun details with our white marker. 10. Done!: I hope you enjoyed Venture with me today. Let me know if this was your first watercolor ever, if this was an inspiration for you, or a fun exercise to improve your skills. Thank you so much for joining me in this class. I can't wait to see what you create so feel free to share your paintings into the Projects section. I'll see you next time.