Watercolour Basics: Paint a Stormy Prairie Sky | Kristina Moyor | Skillshare

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Watercolour Basics: Paint a Stormy Prairie Sky

teacher avatar Kristina Moyor, fine 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

8 Lessons (40m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Class Project

    • 3. Watercolour Tools

    • 4. Wash Techniques

    • 5. Paint Lifting Technique

    • 6. Glazing Techniques

    • 7. Charging Techniques

    • 8. Conclusion

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About This Class

There is something magical about watercolours that draws so many people in. If you’ve always wanted to learn watercolour but didn’t know where to start, then this is the perfect class for you! Kristina will guide you every step of the way, including what materials to get started with and where she suggests investing your precious dollars. Learn the fundamental skills of washes, paint lifting, glazing and charging. With the right tools and practice, you will be able to successfully paint a stormy prairie landscape with billowing clouds of colour. 

With over two decades of experience drawing and painting, Kristina will guide you with valuable tips and tricks along the way. She believes art should be both a growing experience as well as a very therapeutic and joyful one. 

Technical skills included in this class will focus on:


-paint lifting



These skills will be able to help you gain confidence to continue working with this medium on your own. Once you feel secure in these skills, you’ll discover more techniques to add to your skillset. To get the most out of this course, share your progress in the project gallery and connect with other students and of course Kristina is always happy to help.

Ready, set, let's ART!

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Kristina Moyor

fine artist


Hello, I'm Kristina.

I'm a 2D artist currently residing in Turner Valley, AB., Canada. I am passionate about the Arts and love to paint, draw, sing and dance. I earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Lethbridge in 2010. My dream is to continually evolve and elevate my craft while helping others achieve their artistic goals.

I have almost two decades of teaching experience in art, dance, English and religion. I believe that art is for all and can have an incredibly positive influence in our lives. I hope you will embrace this opportunity to learn, create and connect with me and the other students. 

Let's Art!

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1. Introduction: Hello, and welcome to my part of the world. We're in the sunny Southern Alberta, nestled in the rolling hills over Rocky Mountains in Turner Valley. Welcome, and thank you for joining me. My name is Kristina Moyor, and I'm a two-dimensional artist. I have been drawing and painting since I was a little girl. I'm in a family full of other artists, so that was just destined for me to create and it's my happy place. Welcome to this and I hope that it becomes your happy place too. Today's class will focus on beginner watercolor techniques. We're going to look at four techniques: Washes, which are so important to really get started in watercolor. Paint lifting, which helps with highlighting and various other things. Fixing mistakes, which I need a lot. Glazing, which helps us control our colors, and charging, which is so medical and fine. I can't wait to show you each technique. Then you'll be able to create your very own landscape piece, I'll guide you into that, and then you can make really anything you want with it. It's so much fun and these fundamentals will really help you get started and get a good grasp of watercolor. I'll even show you some tools that I like to use. We'll look at some good brushes, bad brushes and just have lots of fun. All right, let's get started. 2. Class Project: Let's get started with a materials list. Here's all the materials you'll need. You can pause that or checkout the project.outline section. First of all, we're going to tape down our piece that we have a nice crisp border. It just gives that extra professional edge to it and try to make it as equal as you can on all sides, so you don't have one side really thin and then one side a thicker edge. You want to make sure you have enough tape on the sides. Now I'm going to prep all my colors because my palette's been sitting dry. If you have one that's been sitting dry, you just wet your colors that you're going to be using and make sure you clean your brush in between each color you're doing. I'm getting the blue and red ready. That's what I'll be using to start out, so that's what I want ready. I'm going to take my mop brush and just use clean water to brush on water to cover the whole about two-thirds to three-quarters of the top. Now I'm going to do my background wash. I'm going to use that graded wash technique that you've learned. You don't have to do blue sky. You can follow exactly or go your own way. That's fine too. Now we're using the charging technique that we've learned and we are adding in some purples and reds to give a back, round cloud look to it. Now that lifting technique's going to help us get some highlighting in the areas where we want that to happen. This just comes with practice and your own creative intuition. Where do you want color? Where do you want to lift off? Did you want the darker in there? That's up to you. I have a craft dryer. I'm going to use that because it doesn't push my color around if there's areas where it's really wet. But you can just wait to let it dry on its own or you can carefully use a hairdryer. I would use it on a lower setting though. Now we're going to do another wash. So I put my water down and then put in some red colors and browns. I feel I'm creating a dusk, stormy time frame here happening with this guy. Then we're going to do the glazing technique. The area at the top is already dry, remember that. Glazing, we always use wet on dry. I'm creating some more depth and we're doing a stormy sky, remember, so now I'm adding more color. Some areas, it was glazing, and then now I'm charging because I've got wet, and I'm working wet on wet and some blue. Feel free to add what you like. I'm even creating a bit of a dripping effect. I know it's not one of our techniques, but you can give it a go if you'd like for this project, or just skip that part and just continue using charging and glazing to create more depth in your sky. But it is fun to lift your board that's holding your paper and let the waters dripped down and dry in an interesting way. If you don't want certain parts to dry, you can keep lifting like I'm doing here. I'm lifting in the center so I can have more control of what the final outcome will be. You can see how those are still wet in that area and that's why it's creating that a spreading effect there at the base. I'm just using a mixture on my palette. I like to work with the palate that gets a bit muddy, and then certain times, I want it to be brighter and bolder. But for this stormy sky, I think having a bit of a muddy look works for it. I let it drip upwards that time. Again, I don't want those lines to try like that, otherwise, it'll be seen. That's why I am lifting that off those areas. I'm just trying to create blending. I don't have any harsh lines. That's why I'm wetting those areas and lifting. I'm getting in my darker because we want to work lighter to darker the best we can when we're doing glazing and some of that is glazing. It's getting some of those colors ready. We're going to have a brownie green base and I want it to be a warm feeling. If you've ever sat and watched a storm, it has that gray, oh, what is that feeling? When you see it's dreadful, but beautiful at the same time. It's the feeling I'm trying to create this to me art is all about the feeling, the mood that it creates for the viewer. I did some charging in there to create more of a muddier, neutralized greens and browns in there. I didn't want it to be too bright. I'm just doing a little strip of blue because I just love when I look at the sky and just at the horizon, you can see this bright blue. There might be a stormy cloud forming coming at you, but then there's this bright blue just hiding the horizon, I think it's beautiful. Just as I continue adding more through glazing and charging, mostly, and lifting, of course, it's going to create depth in my piece and it creates a more interesting story. Here at the base, I've added these darker lines to show that depth of the horizon just extending into the distance. Then pulling the lines upward, creating a bit of a wash using the four techniques. The charging, lifting, glazing, all of these techniques washes. They're all helping me go back and forth using each one, to create that depth and a harmonious piece. I really love adding these darker clouds in the forefront. Because when I watch a storm coming, that's what makes it a bit eerie, is those warm, gray clouds coming forward and with the blue in the background, it creates this beauty. That's this terrifying beauty that I mentioned before. You keep just adding layer upon layer until you get to a point where you feel happy with it. Now I'm just blending those bits of deposited color. They're sitting because it's getting too dry. I'm taking a damp brush and moving them around to blend them a bit better. I don't want to lose my highlights so I'm lifting with my paper towel, or told paper, or whatever you have. Since I've been working on the clouds, the base has dried. Now I'm going to do a glaze to make it darker and more eerie feeling. You can even dab if you want to have a textured look to it. But I'm keeping it a bit smoother and I'm going to add a texture and more in the front of it. I'm going to actually use white. Now, we haven't really talked about this technique and I will in other videos. But I like to use white at the end of my piece to give it this different type of highlighting and look. That's just what I like to do, and I'm using it in the front to give this grassy field texture that you have this feeling that you're in the field. It shows us that foreground feeling of you're in this piece, and also within the lines in the clouds from the distance and even moving forward. Now, this white is actually different than an acrylic white. It's not really a true white, I would say. It's a creamy color, so maybe do a little practice with it before using this on your main piece. But we'll cover that in another video lesson. To finish it off, I'll give a little more detail in the grass and the front by adding a few layers of brown, green, and yellow. Then I'll sign it. Once it's dry, I'll peel off the tape, take a picture, and post it in the gallery. 3. Watercolour Tools: You want to learn watercolor and you're so excited, you go to your arts and crafts store. You go down to the watercolor easel on the paint section. You get there and you stop in front of this big long easel full of paint, brushes and other tools. You just lose that excitement and suddenly you feel this frustration. Don't worry, I've been there, I can spend way too long looking at different products and not knowing which ones to pick. Two solutions. Number 1, just follow the guide I'm going to give you. Number 2, you can go to an art supply store specifically. It's arts and crafts, you're going to have so much variety there that the staff also might not have specialization in those areas. But if you go to an art supply store more specifically for creating fine art, then you're going to find that the staff have more knowledge about the medium. Let's talk about though, if you just don't want to bother with that and you just want to go to the arts crafts store, don't worry. I shop there too. No shame. Where should you invest your dollars? What about these art kits? Number 1, these art kids that have pencil crayons, and pastels, and paints, and brushes and pencils. It looks so exciting and you're like, hey, I can get this whole kit for whatever amount and it's a lot cheaper. Well, just so you know you're getting what you're paying for with those kits. You're not getting high-quality materials and even for kits, I don't think it's worth it. Stay away from those kits unless they're really high-end kit, which I have yet to see myself. Where should you invest your dollars? Paint and brushes. That's where you should invest, and you should get watercolor paper. That's the third one. Don't just use a mixed media paper. I would really suggest getting watercolor paper. Those are the three things. You don't need a whole bunch of watercolor brushes of every size. I just use pretty much these two brushes to make all of my watercolor pieces. Very seldom doing, grab another brush to use. This mop brush is within the mixed media brushes. I found this in the mixed media section of an arts and crafts store. It's a good size for the pieces that I want to create. Then this one here, I got at an art supply store, and it was more expensive. This one was an investment, but I really was worth it to me because I was creating more watercolor pieces and I needed a brush that held more water. Because you're going to find with non-watercolor brushes that they don't hold as much water. Then you're trying to paint and you keep having to dip in your water, keep having to get more paint and that's a frustration. Make sure you get a couple of decent brushes. If you're really sure you want to go for watercolors and watercolor paper, like I said, and then paint. With paint, you can go for student quality. You don't have to go for professional quality to enjoy watercolors. It also comes in tubes or pens and that really doesn't matter that much. I have mostly used tubes and that's just because I was gifted tubes when I was a child and then I just kept using tubes. The nice thing about watercolors is once you use a tube, you can squeeze up the paint and just have it sitting there. It can dry up, and it's okay, you just add water to it. It's a beautiful thing, I love watercolors for that reason they don't waste easily, and you can use small pallets and things. Let's use red to demonstrate how this brush works. Just wet on dry. When I say wet on dry, I'm using this wet brush with paint onto a dry surface just to demonstrate the brush. I'm just going to do a nice line. You can see some texturing in there, which is cool. Partially because I've textured papers really the main reason that happens. If I do really light pressure, I can do really thin line as well. That's really fun. You can go thick to thin, all kinds of fun things. I'm going to wash out my dirty water,. Wipe it, and go into clean water. I don't like to leave my brushes with paint sitting in them, and I like to leave them horizontal so that there's not water dripping down the stem and the handle of it. You don't want water to get past this point either because this is where the glue is, especially if you're using hot water, you don't want it to be too hot. Let's go ahead and show you that. We're starting with the good. Get some red again. I'm just going to keep it all consistent with the same color just so you can get an idea of what it's like. I'm going to push down, oh, I've got another color in there, I guess. You can see doing a couple brush strokes there, I'm trying to mix that color in. I got a nice chunk of purple in there too, which is okay for this demonstration. That one's nice and this one actually can do this in line too. You're just going to not have as much control depending on if you've got your brush, really thinned out on the side, and if you do really light pressure that can work to. Clean it out, the dirty water and then clean water to try and keep our clean water little cleaner. Let's go with this brush. Get it wet, get it in that now mixed reddish purple color. First, I'm going to just push down. See how it only went to here and then from here on it dried out. That's because this brush doesn't hold as much water. It really, at that beginning part, it really held a lot. Then you probably could do some nice texturing and then again, nice thin. That could be, test your brushes first to see what they can do before you're working on your final masterpiece. Then now let's go on to the bad brush. I feel bad calling it a bad brush because it's a not a bad brush is not its fault. It's just that it's not great for watercolor and let's see why. Let's get it wet. Typically you should be going into your clean water, actually, I shouldn't be showing you that be a bad example. But just because I'm using the one color, I'm not too concerned about that. Getting my brush prepped, getting some color on it. Let's go at the top. We've got the bad brush at the top and actually did better than the bottom one. But do you notice how on the ones that I said were good, how the color dispersed a little bit better. I didn't expect that actually. Now let's try a thin line. This one's not going to do as thin of a line. It's quite faint because I didn't dip back into the paint. But I guess this one I'm actually surprised, it did a lot better than I expected because it has stronger bristles on it. It wasn't expecting it to brush so well. But if you're doing a wash, one line is fine. But when you start to add in colors and blending, you're going to have stronger lines with a brush like this, which can be a good thing if you want that. But typically if we're doing a wash, we don't want strong lines. We want to be absent. We want to have it disappear. We have our good brushes and our okay brush. I'll give it an okay, but this one's not going to be great for class. If you can find a soft brush that can hold more water, you're just going to have an easier time working through all the techniques and practices. 4. Wash Techniques: I'm going to start off by using clean water to wet the surface. I'm going to leave a bit of a white border, but you can tape your edge if you want. I'm going to try and get a nice even area of water. You don't want one area to have lot more water than another. You also don't want wet too much. I have some blue ready to go, so I'm going to get my brush full of blue and we're going to get color on there. The trick is to try and make it look flat, meaning all the same level of color, not one area darker than another. I want to make it a bit darker. Any areas where I see a little bit of color settling, try to move it with my wet brush so we don't have deposits of color in one area. That's how you do a flat wash. What I'm going to do again, same with the flat wash, I'm going to get my page wet. I do find this one a bit easier than the previous one. Then I'm going to get my color. I should have had my color ready to go just before this, but I need to get a little bit more of it. While your page is still wet, start at the top. This is where the most of your color is going to be, and then brush down. Then go back to your color, add more color at the top. Got a little deposit of pigment there. I'm adding more to the top and then we can wash our brush to remove some from below if it's not quite as drastic as we wanted it to be. But just make sure that your water isn't settling too much at the bottom. You don't want it to get more wet. You chose how drastic you want that shift to be. Make sure we're working with a nice clean brush unless we're getting into deeper tones here. We can go over still wet enough for me to work into it, I believe. So I'm going to keep going a bit just to give it a little bit of a stronger top. Got some pigment sitting in a little bit over the paint, sitting there. You see these little puddles. We don't want to keep little puddles as you want things to dry at the same rate. We don't want lines in it either. We want this nice gradual, this change in color. Go back in, the wet brush, damp brush it says, not super wet. You can see the difference between my flat wash and my graded wash. Note that it will dry a bit differently, but you can see the different effect. Then this little guy that caught in there, don't mind that. Then you can also practice. We can learn how to do one color and then another color coming up as well. But let's just start with this one step at a time so you get confidence in doing flat washes and graded washes. 5. Paint Lifting Technique: Now that we've worked on our washes, and feel free to practice as much as you like, now we're going to talk about lifting. Let's actually look at this little bit here that is caught on there and I don't like it. What I'm going to do is I'm going to get a damp brush. You don't want it dripping. I'm going to dab on there. With some toilet paper, I'm going to dab on that area and it's going to lift the paint. If I'm lucky, I can actually go in with some more water, carefully, try not to go into other areas, and find a clean part of your tissue or paper towel or a cloth and dab that area up. Now we have a cloud in our sky. Then you can add and lift, and this is just different practices. This one's a little bit more dry, still a little damp, but let's just see if we can lift. Get some clean water. Then I'm going to want to make sure that I dab up that water so it doesn't start affecting the other colors in the area. I was able to and I'm starting to get that overworked pilling happening. You got to be careful when you're doing a wash, if you're brushing back and forth too often depending on the quality of your paper, you can get pilling. That's something you want to be aware of. Getting a little bit of that happening here. Let's practice if we're actually starting a new piece and we're lifting. You can use something else. I've got this disposable cloth and lets try different color just to jazz it up a little bit. I'm going to grab my taper brush, get it wet. Let's go into some red and purple. I know I've put a little bit of purple there. I flicked. Careful not to flick. Flicked some paint on there. In fact, because I did that, let's just see if I can remove it. If you act quickly in certain areas you can remove. Now, the challenge is if you have a flat wash and you have a flick of paint, it's almost better to just leave it than trying to remove it. That's my personal opinion, others might say differently. If it's in an area where there's nothing else that you're worried about or you're going to be doing something over top anyways, then that's fine. Let's just paint on. Love that, and we did a little flick at the end, maybe it'll help. Wash my brush. It doesn't have to be very wet. If I want to add some texture somewhere or I'm going to be putting some green trees or something, see how it's quite wet and then it pulls down, so I need to keep dabbing. It's going to still be dispersing because it's still wet in those areas. If you really want it to dry so you can lift with your brush like I'm doing here or you can also lift with your towel or a sponge or whatever you have using, and that's going to pick up that paint and the water and give you a stronger pull than the brush does. With my brush because these areas were still wet, it gave it more of a faded appearance. It depends on the look you're going for. I just dab the whole thing, see how much I pulled. That's lifting. It can be a great way to get the white of the background to show in the back so that you have that highlighting versus adding white on top after, which isn't really what we do with watercolor though you can do that if you're more mixed media. 6. Glazing Techniques: Let's try out glazing. I'm going to start out with a couple of primary colors, I'm going to get some yellow or just straight out color whatever from your tube or from your trays, whatever you've got. We're going to do a stripe, I want it to be a little stronger, so you can try your hand at glazing. Now, I'm going to wash my brush. Let's try out blue, red, yellow, and blue, primary colors. Some blue, oh my goodness, I got some paint, a little chip of paint, that's the one problem of using a tray. When you're using a tray that's kind of messy and we're using the same one again and again. Let's try to use a flat wash. I don't mind if it's a little graded so I can see how colors will react on top. Wash that out. Let's try out some red stripe and you can even do other colors. You don't just have to do red, yellow, and blue you could do a stripe of green or we can just take those other colors and go across it, which is what I'm going to do. We want to let this dry, so you can either use a craft dryer or just air dry it, go have snack, comeback, whatever you want to do. All right now, I'm going to do a little strips almost like plaid, little stripes across, and I want to go right across so that I can see how my color will interact with each of these colors. Now, this is completely dry, it's not coming off. I'm going to use this guy because it's going to hold water better than this one as we saw in the demonstration. Get it wet, let's start with yellow because it's nice to start with something light. Let's just draw a stripe down to see how they interact. Look at how this one here, you can see a bit of green, and what's lovely is you can still see the layer underneath so I really like that. Now, let's wash our brush and we can do a bigger stripe if that's easier to see. This might not be the exact same blue going over top because I added more color onto my palette. Let's do a sticker stripe to see how that interacts. A little bit more clearly even a second layer on top of that, so I just want to try and disperse that line a little bit. It holds do much water, just pull some of it off to equalize, it's kind of like practicing a flat wash skills too. It looks like a more like a graded wash. Let me make my yellow one bigger, wider so you can see it a bit better. We could try other colors too, let's try adding more yellow first. Just going to dab my brush, because I think it's just folding a bit too much. There, so that's going to help you see a bit better. Glazing just adding one color on top of another after it's dry. It has to be dried to do this. If you're the person that likes to do a little bit here, a little bit there, this probably is a really great technique for you, to have more control as to what colors you're going to getting. It has a lot of really good positives in doing glazing. Let's get some red on there, I'm going to do the red over here, that was a bit better, wasn't too wet. Let's do some green, always need to see what's going to happen when you add a green to a red, all these different outcomes so that you can create more realistic looking objects or more vibrant depending on what you want. Anytime you mix a color, it's going to dull that color a little bit, so if you have a really strong red and you want to dull that red, see how that bit of green added, that's still red, but now it's a duller red, it's not so vibrant. That's one way glazing can help in your painting techniques to give you more control in watercolor, whereas in some other techniques that we're going to try, there's less control. Have fun, try more colors, let's try another one I've got on this palette. I've got this peachy, muddy color because it's been mixed with a bit of browns, I think. I don't have a lot of them so I'm going to do a center stripe. Go ahead and try this with all the colors, if you have tons of colors you want to see how they work together, it's a really great exercise to see, as well as straight from the two, make a little square and mark down what that blend is or what that original color is, and use that as your own little color wheel guide. 7. Charging Techniques: Let's just go with a little circular shape, and then we're going to add, let's start with a light color. Let's start with green. With charging, you want to work while it's still wet. Let's say I want to go from a lighter to a more bluish color. We want to add like maybe a bit of a shadow down here, so with charging you want to add your color while it's still wet to blend. You're going to have less control than if you're a glazing these colors, but I find it to be a lot of fun. I'm going to add more green in here. You can use the other techniques like lifting, can really help in this too. So wash your brush, make sure you're not working too wet. Then right now I'm just trying to disperse the color using a cleaner. So I'm brushing and dabbing to get to a nice light spot here. My brush holds so much water, that is just not lifting it as much as I wanted to. I might just have to really squeeze out my brush so I can pick up some of that. If you want to have a little light spot, you can always dab some paper towel or toilet paper to get that spot really light. Then if we want to add another color like that blue is kind of strong. What do we add to blue to make it more [inaudible]? Typically would be the opposite color, but since I don't have an orange made up, I'm going to take up this peachy brown and I'm going to add it underneath. Now because it's already starting to dry, we're going to have an interesting effect happening there, and I might actually have cauliflower that might have been too dry to add. That's okay. That's the fun of working in wet and wet like this is also the challenge of it. What's going to happen as you're mixing. But I do like how it dulled it a bit. I'm just going to add a bit more. It's a little bit wet, so I'm going to dab off my brush. I still need a wet brush, so it's a delicate balance between wet and then too wet. Let me add a little more blue in there. Just in the area where I think it would be darkest. That is still wet, it's still going to blend and bleed around. I'm going to try and disperse those colors and blend them into each other, and it's so fun to work like this with watercolor. I think it's also a challenge because you're moving your colors and maybe you end up moving them in a way actually didn't want to happen. But that's charging, it's a lot of fun and keep practicing with your colors. Try different color combinations, and see what you prefer for different situations. Where you want more control using glazing or where you're giving yourself a little allowance to have some fun, and blending and mixing colors with charging. 8. Conclusion: You finished the project, and now you have these four skills under your belt. You've got washes, you've got paint lifting, glazing, and charging, and now you feel like a rock star. But there's more to learn. I hope that you practice these techniques and make other projects as well as completing this one. Whether it's other landscapes or you want to try still life or portraits, whatever it is, you can use these techniques to move forward in your watercolor journey. Congratulations, and thank you so much for joining me. I hope that if you had a good time that you will take a moment to post a little review about the class so that next time I can make it even better for you and that much more enjoyable. I will see you next time. Bye-bye.