Watercolor BlueJay: Pro Techniques Explained | Anna Bucciarelli | Skillshare

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Watercolor BlueJay: Pro Techniques Explained

teacher avatar Anna Bucciarelli, Professional Illustrator

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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

12 Lessons (1h 11m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Supplies & Tools

    • 3. Color Palette

    • 4. Your Project & Process Overview

    • 5. Step 1: Outline & Mask

    • 6. Step 2: Background Layer

    • 7. Step 3(a): Definition Layer (Body)

    • 8. Step 3(b): Definition Layer (Head)

    • 9. Step 4(a): Accent Layer (Body)

    • 10. Step 4(b): Accent Layer (Head)

    • 11. BONUS Lesson: Scarlet Rowan Berries

    • 12. Final Thoughts

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About This Class

Watercolor birds are a joy to paint, and BlueJays are a perennial favorite! Their vibrant blue feathers look great in any setting - from summer rose bushes to winter trees.  

In this class, you will learn how to paint this beautiful bird step-by-step as I walk you through my painting process in real time, with detailed instructions. I will also provide you with detailed recommendations regarding the materials and techniques I use for bird paintings, and provide a list of alternative brands and products you may wish to consider.  


What you can expect to learn in this class:

  • Layering watercolors to achieve a vibrant realistic result with intricate details: from the Background wash, to Definition and Accent washes,
  • Applying masking fluid: when and why,
  • Building a perfect palette: including base color, highlights and shadow pigments, as well as the supporting colors to help you boost the vibrant blues on the feathers,
  • Interpreting light and how it affects your color choices,
  • Using brush strokes that bring your bird paintings to life - from small feathers to intricate patterns.

A bonus lesson will include a demonstration of the Scarlet Japanese Rowan including berries and leafs. Of course, you may choose to place your bluejay on any tree branch or flower bush of your choice - the vibrant blue feathers will look gratin any setting! Check out some of the compositions I've painted recently, featuring bluejays:



This class is suitable for intermediate artists who are already comfortable with the basic watercolor techniques, including wet-on-wet and wet-on-dry. But if you are a beginner, I would encourage you to challenge yourself and try a few lessons so you can get more comfortable with the layering techniques, and learn more about the palette building. 

Happy painting!


Meet Your Teacher

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Anna Bucciarelli

Professional Illustrator

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Hello and welcome to my Skillshare channel! My name is Anna, I am a Canadian money designer,  and illustrator of all things intricate and beautiful. You may have seen my art on Canadian silver dollar coins, Starbucks holiday cups, or the streets of Toronto. My painting style is influenced by the decorative tradition of “Petrykivka” painting – an Eastern European art focusing on floral and plant motifs.

I teach advanced watercolor and gouache here on SkillShare. You can also find lots of painting resources on my YouTube channel, visit my website or follow me on Instagram @anna.m.bucciarelli if you want to learn more about my work or simply say Hello!


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1. Introduction: [MUSIC] Hello everyone, and welcome to my channel. Today we're going to paint a watercolor bird. This is actually a part one of a two-part series where I'm going to show you how to paint different birds. But we're going to start with this beautiful blue jay. If you like the class, don't forget to subscribe because in the next class I'm going to show you how to paint a red cardinal and a yellow chickadee. Hi. My name is Anna. I'm a professional illustrator, designer of Canadian money and I love teaching watercolor. In this class, we're going to paint a blue jay step-by-step. I'm going to share all my tips and techniques with you so you can come up with a beautiful, realistic bird. This approach can be applied to any watercolor painting. It will definitely help you feel more comfortable with watercolor medium and plan your layers and washes in the way that will achieve the most realistic result. I will share my list of supplies, and these are just suggested supplies. I also have a list of alternatives that you may want to consider. We will talk about how to build our color palette. If you've seen my previous botanical classes, you know that I have a very specific structure for a palette, we'll use something very similar to organize our colors for this beautiful bird. If you ever wondered about how to build your palette around a particular subject, this will be very helpful as we talk about our base colors, our light and shadow colors and our boost colors that really help accentuate your work and really make it pop. In terms of the process, there are four key steps and I will explain the rationale for each step. We're going to start with an outline and masking fluid. We'll talk a little bit about the reasons for using it and how it can enhance your work. In Step 2, we're going to talk about our background layer. We'll talk about the direction of light and how it affects your subject, and how it can really inform your color choices. Step 3 is all about the definition and that's where we're going to start adding more details. I'll talk to you a little bit about different strokes and different approaches on how to create a realistic effect of feathers on a bird. Step 4 is our accent layer, and this is where we finish our painting and put on those finishing touches, those accents that will really enhance your work. The bonus lesson, I will show you how I painted these red leaves and some berries with snow, but you can pick any surrounding for your beautiful bird. This will be your class project. Now this class is more suitable for those who are already familiar with the watercolor mediums. But if you are a beginner, don't be afraid to try. You will definitely pick up some useful tips and techniques. You will be able to see my every stroke in real time and I'm going to narrate. You will also have a written explanation on the side of the screen so that you can understand every stroke and every color placement. If you're ready, let's take it to the table and get started. 2. Supplies & Tools: [MUSIC] Hello again and welcome to the class. Before we start painting. I wanted to talk a little bit about the supplies you need and please keep in mind that this is just a general guide. I encourage you to use the supplies you have. If you see something that catches your eye that you really like, you will find the full list in the supplies handout, which I saved in the class resources section on SkillShare website. But I also created a list of alternatives for you and you can modify any of these and substitute for your favorite colors or your favorite brushes. The only thing that I always mentioned is, paper will absolutely be key for this painting. We're going to put down three layers of color and you want to make sure that your paper can withstand that. Going with professional watercolor paper is my most important recommendation. I use Arches, cold pressed, 140 pounds. You can go up to 300 but 140 will be enough for three layers of color. For the actual painting, I used quite a large block, but you can use Arches in smaller blocks or use loose sheets, which you would have to stretch. The reason why I prefer blocks is because they prevent the paper from buckling and they're already stretched so it's convenient. But again, you don't have to use Arches brand as long as you use professional watercolor paper, that's 100 percent cotton, you will get good results. Another thing we will need is a pencil to create an outline and I recommend going with a hard pencil so you can find that specification usually on the side of the pencil. If it says 2H or 4H, which indicates hardness. That's good enough. We will need a soft eraser to erase our masking fluid. I like these pointed erasers because they let me get into the details without lifting the paint around. The masking fluid we will need in the very first step of the painting. This is to make sure that we protect little spots on the bird that we want to keep white. It's possible to paint around them, but quite difficult. I usually recommend starting with a masking fluid just to preserve those highlights. I'm using Winsor and Newton masking fluid. There are many wonderful brands of masking fluid and you can find all my favorites in the list of supplies in the project resources section. Now in order to apply masking fluid, you'll need a good applicator or an old thin brush. You can also use a matchstick. I prefer rubber applicators. They act like a brush but don't require cleaning and they're quite flexible. The brand I use is Royal Sovereign. We'll need a jar of water. I know a lot of people like to use two jars. One to clean your brush and the second one to make sure it's completely cleaned because your water can get quite dirty during the process. So one or two jars of clear water and a piece of tissue paper. You can get rid of excess water on your brush when you need it. In terms of the brushes, you have a couple of options. What you will see me using is Kolinsky Sable brush. It's a natural sable brush. Sable brushes are one of the best for watercolors, but they're also quite expensive. In Canada anyway, rare to find. The reason why I use just one brush is because I wanted to focus on the process and not switching between different brushes. Kolinsky Sable retains a lot of water, but it also has a very precise tip. I'm able to do larger washes and also smaller details. If you don't have a Kolinsky Sable brush, you may want to pick a couple of synthetic brushes or squirrel brushes in different sizes. Depending on the size of your bird, you can choose something larger, like in size 4, 6, or 8. Also. a couple of smaller brushes in Size 1 or even zero if you're painting on a smaller piece of paper, for those smaller details. We'll need a palette. I prefer porcelain palettes because they don't absorb any color unlike plastic ones. You can really see what your pigment will look like on paper when you're mixing it. In terms of the optional supplies. Some people like to use watercolor medium. I'm using core watercolor medium, just a few drops in your jar of water. It helps with water control and it keeps your water from drying too fast. It also improves the flow of color on paper. It's not necessarily the bird we're painting is quite small, so you will have good control over your pigments. But it's a good, nice-to-have tool that you can add to your favorite supply list if you feel like it. These are just recommendations and in my supplies handout that I created for this class, you can find some great alternatives, other brands, other sizes. Let's move on to our next lesson and talk about the color palette. 3. Color Palette: [MUSIC] Before we start painting, let's talk about the color palette, and I have a very specific way of organizing my colors for any painting. If you've seen any of my previous botanical watercolor classes, you know that I have a whole system and you may have seen this little diagram. Essentially, it helps me organize my background colors, my light and shadow colors, my boost colors, and some additional colors for darker spots and things like that. When it comes to birds, my palette structure is quite similar. For birds that don't have many different sections of color, that have one main color, like our BlueJay, the structure of the palette is exactly the same in the sense that I always pick my base color. In this case, it's going to be blue, and I'm using ultramarine blue from my Winsor & Newton scent. You may find something similar in your set. Ultramarine is quite common and exists in virtually every brand. Here's what it's going to look like on paper, and we're going to use quite a different range of values so from very dark to light. For our boost color, which is different from a highlight color, this is just a color that we choose that's similar to our base, but much more vibrant and potentially adds a little bit of warmth and intensity. I will use my Winsor blue green shade. It also comes in different sets from different brands, and it's typically called Phthalo blue Winsor & Newton calling it Windsor blue, green shade. You can see it's a lot more saturated and it does have a bit of green in it. We'll often use it with our base color. For our dark spots, our BlueJay has a lot of those, especially on the wings and the tail, a bit around the eyes, we want to choose the darkest color on our palette. I always say, don't use black because black can make your painting look a bit unnatural. Indigo is a very good choice because it's almost like black, but it has a bit of those blues in it, and it will blend nicely with our base color. If you don't have indigo, you can use a mixture of black and blue, or you can also use something like Payne's gray and add some blue to it. Now, we also will have just a couple of highlights, not a lot. If you don't have this teal color, It's optional. But I did use just a few drops of teal in the beginning, and so let's say this is our highlight color on the spots that are closest to the sun where I really want to add some warmth. Now, the two final optional colors are coral and purple, and these are optional because you can get away with using your base color on white feathers. But I like to add some variation and some visual interest on my white feathers because white often reflects other colors and I want to choose something warm and something that's complimentary to our blues. If you have a nice coral color, I'm using Quinacridone Coral from Daniel Smith and some purple. I'm using dioxazine purple from Qor. It's one of my favorite two colors, and they will blend nicely with our blues. I'm going to use them just a bit, just on the chest of the bird and some of the other areas where I have white color, but they're optional. You can use your favorite blue or purple or violet here again, we'll only use a bit of these and only as a very, very light wash or a few very light strokes. In the next lesson, I will talk about our process, start to finish really high-level in our drawing so that you can understand the steps that we're going to go through. 4. Your Project & Process Overview: [MUSIC] For your class project, you're going to paint a blue jay. I will show you all the steps very slowly in real-time. In terms of the background, you can choose where you want your blue jay to sit. It can be wintertime, which is what I painted with these red berries and a little bit of snow, or it can be summertime. I often painted blue jays sitting in flowers because they create such beautiful contrast with their blue feathers. Any flower bush would look great. It can simply sit on a tree branch or another thing that I like to do is paint them in red maple leaves, which again, just creates very beautiful contrast against the blue feathers of the bird. I encourage you to pick whatever plant or a flower, or tree you like. If you are interested in seeing how I painted the leaves and the berries, in this particular painting, I saved a bonus lesson for you all the way to the end. Now let's quickly talk about the process of painting that we're going to follow and the key steps you need to be aware of and prepare for. Before we start applying the colors, we're going to need to create an outline. You can download the reference picture from the resources section of our class. We'll use masking fluid to mask some white spots on the bird. Once the masking fluid is dry, we're going to proceed with our color layers, and there will be three layers in total. The main thing to remember here is, as we always do with watercolors, we paint from light to dark. We're going to start with a very light layer, I call it my background layer. It's not an official name, just a term I use to help me differentiate between different steps. The background layer is key in the sense that the colors that we're going to use here and the different value, different saturation levels, are going to help us define how the next steps are going to proceed. We're going to keep it very light and what you're going to end up with is something like this. Just a general shape of a bird. No details. Very light color areas blending one into another. We're going to use wet-on-wet technique here. The second step will be our definition layer. This is where we're going to switch to wet-on-dry, meaning painting with a wet brush on dry paper, our first background layer will be completely dry. We're going to start adding some definition to our areas of light and shadow. You will see me using a lot more saturated colors. Not quite the darkest most saturated, but much more saturated than in the first layer. We're going to really start creating some texture here. This will be our opportunity to start defining some of the areas on the feathers, on the head and you will see the shape of a bird emerge and starting to look more realistic. But we're not quite there yet with our details. Until we move on to our next color layer, our third color layer, which I call an accent layer. Essentially, this will be our finishing layer where we're going to really accentuate our areas of light and shadow, accentuate our colors, add some boost to the areas that we want to stand out and add a lot more detail on the feathers, including some tiny details around the eye of the bird and the beak. This is also the step where you're going to paint those beautiful details, those markings on the feathers and the tail and so the bird will start looking a lot more realistic. 5. Step 1: Outline & Mask: Welcome to Step 1. Before we start painting, you will have to download the reference image of the Blue jay. It's in the resources section of this class. You can use whatever technique you're most comfortable with in terms of transferring the outline to paper. Either do it by hand or you can use a light-box tracing paper. You can also use a window and some sunlight. Just print off the outline, put your watercolor paper on top and trace it lightly with the pencil. The key here would be to use a very light pencil, so you don't leave a lot of markings on paper. Once you outline is ready, we can start applying masking fluid. The reason why this is our first step is because we need to mask some of the white spots on the bird. It's possible to paint around them with watercolor, but it would be quite difficult. I recommend just putting a little bit of masking fluid using your favorite applicator, so you can grab an old brush or a matchstick. My favorite tool for masking fluid is actually a rubber color shaper. It's this tiny applicator that allows me to put really thin lines and you can see my favorite masking fluid brands on the left. I'm using Winsor and Newton right now. Just looking at the reference drawing, I'm going to cover the areas that I want to keep white with a light layer of my masking fluid. Mostly on the wings, a few lines on the tail and around the back of the bird, just a few strokes and this will help me create some highlights on the feathers. I'll also put tiny dot on the eye. This is for the highlight. I'll put a line along the beak. Do a couple of tiny strokes on the head of the bird. Again, this is just to indicate where the highlights will be and this will help us create a very realistic effect. When you're ready, let your masking fluid dry thoroughly. I left it for about an hour and we can start painting our first layer of color. 6. Step 2: Background Layer: Welcome to step 2, and we're just creating a background layer of color, very light. Our goal here is to create a very soft color wash so no details will be applied at this stage. We're going to use what's known as wet-on-wet technique. So first, cover the whole area with a very thin layer of water and then start adding paint. Another way of doing it is apply a very light wash of color and then add additional drops of paint, see them spread. Here I go with a very first drop of color. I'm going to do a super light cobalt teal highlight just on top of the wings. It's really warm. I'm going to do the same thing on the tail. That's about it for our teal color, I really want to focus on my blues. The first one I'm going to use is ultramarine blue. I'm using Winsor & Newton. This color is very common and you can find it in your favorite set. I'm going to just add a few drops of it all around the bird's body. You can see that I'm trying to leave certain parts white on the back of the bird. That's because I decided that my source of light is on the left. This will be very important because it will help us organize our colors and makes sure that the saturation is correct and it all follows the logic of light. On the tail as it slower and more in the dark, I'm going to use more saturated blue and on the back of the bird, I left a few spots completely white. Now I'm doing the wing. I'm going to add a few additional colors right now. These are not required. You can just leave the ultramarine blue without any additional colors. But if you do have some purple or coral, you can add a few for visual interest and it really does help creating beautiful shimmering effect. You can see I dropped the few purples on back of the bird and also on the tail. Now I'm moving on to the area of the chest of the bird. The chest of the bird is hidden away from our source of light so even though the feathers are white, I want to add a little bit of color because of the shadow and also because of the potential reflections that we get on white feathers. I'm going to use again my purple and my coral and do a much lighter wash there. Now we're ready to add our boost color. In my case, I'm using Winsor and Blue Green shade. You can also find this color in your side and may be called something like phthalo blue. But essentially it's a much brighter blue and I just dropped a couple of color spots on the wing and the tail. Now let's do the shadows. We agreed when we talked about the color palette that the best choice is probably indigo and not black so I'm going to use my indigo. Now I'm watching the colors spread and dry and I have a little bit more control over how it spreads. So I'm going to go back to my base color and start building more saturated areas. So you can see on the tail I'm able to do some straight lines without color spreading too much. I'm going to use a little bit more indigo for shadows. I'm doing this very, very slowly. As the paper dries out, although it's still damp, allowing my colors to blend I have much more control. I'm keeping the areas that I want to keep light. I'm keeping them without any color. You can see there's a little bit of blending happening right now on the back of the bird. So that highlight is being more defined by the colors I put around it. You can see the masking fluid is starting to show and those will be our feather highlights. But overall, all colors are blending into each other. So it creates a nice background layer that will really help us define how our subsequent layers will look like [MUSIC] Now let's do the same thing on the head. So following the same process, I'm just going to do a super light wash using the base color. I'm going to leave top blank for now. I'm going to add just a little bit of teal for that warm highlight. I'm going to continue with my base color all the way down around the beak, [MUSIC] around the eye, underneath the beak. Now that it's drying out, I'm going to start adding my boost color. Again remember, the source of light is on the left, so the further away we get from the light, the more saturated our colors can get. That you can see I'm using just a tip of the brush to get into those areas where we have white feathers. Just to make it a bit more realistic, you don't want a hard edge. You want to create a bit of a jagged edge there, just to indicate where white feathers will overlap with darker feathers. Much darker blue or indigo underneath the beak. I think I'm going to leave the head for now and move on to the legs. So the legs are really dark, but we're going to do a base layer under painting with our boost color or Winsor and Blue Green Shade or in your case, it could be phthalo blue. So you can see I covered the entire area on each leg with that color. Now I'm going to go back to the beak. It's roughly the same palette. So I'm going to also start with my phthalo blue underpainting and lastly, do the eye. Again, those will be really dark in the end, but I'm just doing the underpainting to give me a chance to reveal those highlights later on when I apply darker color. Now a super light wash of our boost color just on the white feathers. That's it. This is our background layer. This is probably one of the most important steps in the painting. We're establishing a background color palette. It will help us keep the overall color scheme cohesive. Up next, the definition layer, we're going to start defining some details on our bird. 7. Step 3(a): Definition Layer (Body): [MUSIC] In this lesson, I'm going to show you how to create a definition layer, which is the second layer of paint. We're only going to focus on the body of the bird. You want to make sure that the first background layer is completely dry. We're going to use wet on dry technique, creating definition and outlining our shadows, accentuating highlights. We're going to start adding some details on the feathers to create some beautiful textures. Our goal here is really to define areas of light and shadow that we started in the first step with our background layer. Here we can start applying more saturated colors. You'll see our bird emerging and it's going to look a lot more vibrant. I'm going to start with the back of the bird. This is our biggest highlight. I left it white, if you recall in the very first step. Right now, what I'm going to do is add a little bit of ultramarine blue all around that highlight. I'm going to, for now, keep the edge quite soft where it blends into the highlights. You can see I helped myself by doing a light wash of clear water on the highlight. But as we move forward with our layers, it's going to become more and more defined. You can see I'm not putting too much color on the area right on top of the bird on the left, but a lot more on the right and on the area where the wings start. Again, this is exactly according to the direction of light. I don't have a reference photo, but we have some good understanding of how the light lands on our bird because we decided early on where the sun is shining from which angle. Now I'm going to move on to our wings. Here I'm going to start with the boost color right away. It will help me differentiate the wings from the body of the bird and the back of the bird. I'm going to start with these side wings. Just a very light wash, although much more saturated than our background layer. I'm going to follow and add a bit more base color just to make sure that it's getting darker and darker on the tip of the wings. [MUSIC] Here I decided to come back and add a bit of our boost color to the back just again to accentuate that highlight. [MUSIC] The paper there is still a bit damp, so it's spreading nicely. [MUSIC] I like the effect it's creating. Now let's do the tail. First, just a light wash of our base color all along a side of the main feather and then a bit of a boost color. Now I'm going to do the other side. This one I'm going to go with the boost color first. The reason why I'm doing this is because that side is really facing the light so I want it to be a bit lighter in terms of the value and also warmer. [MUSIC] Really we're creating a realistic shape just by using our colors and values. You can see that I'm leaving a very thin blank line in between the two sides of the feather. There's a bit of a contrast because the two sides have slightly different angle and so the light illuminates them differently. I'm going to finish the right side with a mixture of my base and boost colors then I'm going to do the left side. This side is really much lighter and I want to make sure I keep it lighter than the right side. I'm just going to start by doing a bit of my base color at the bottom and then spread it up just with clear water. I really want to make sure I keep it light. [MUSIC] Now let's do the chest and the legs. These feathers are technically white but we do want to add some definition just by outlining the shadows under the wing. I'm using my indigo, a very light wash. If you don't have indigo, you can use a soft gray, like Payne's gray, and just a few tiny strokes in the middle of the leg. This is just to help create some texture and reflect that feathers sometimes stick out so there might be some additional shadows but again, super light. Now let's use a bit of a darker indigo mixture, or again, Payne's gray or you can mix your black with blue. Now we can do the legs. What I'm doing here is, if you recall in the previous step, we use a light wash of blue. I'm going to start outlining the leg with my dark color, leaving a couple of highlights. I don't want them to be white, so that's why we did that blue wash. The leg is still dark so our highlights will be darker than say the ones on the back of the bird. But nevertheless, there is some good contrast of highlights and shadows when we use our indigo and leave a couple of spots of that Pthalo blue shining through. [MUSIC] So far, this is the darkest area of the bird that we painted. [MUSIC] Now let's go back to our top feathers and start defining the beautiful patterns there. This part will require your smallest brush. I'm using a kolinsky sable brush in Size 4, and sable is super pointed. This is a pointed round brush from Muscoda. So I can get away with using Size 4. If you're using synthetic brushes, you may want to downsize to Size 2 brush just to make sure that you have enough control to create those little patches of color on the wings. It's important in this stage to really look at your reference photo or the reference painting just to make sure you get the sequence of light and dark spots correctly. You can see what I did on the left side. Now let's do the right side. I'm going to start by doing thin outlines and then paint those darker spots. I'm using my base blue and my boost blue. [MUSIC] I'm going to come back to this area later. I want it to dry right now. Let's do this cluster of feathers on top of the wing. Going to start with my boost blue, and a little bit [MUSIC] blended with clear water. Then as it dries out, continue adding more and more right there where the blue spots end the white spots begin. [MUSIC] Now let's move a little bit down. Using our boost blue color outline the cluster of feathers add a bit of indigo, let it spread. The further you move the darker it will become typically. Now, let's apply the same logic to these long feathers on the side. I'm using a mixture of indigo and sometimes my base color. I'm just shaping those feathers according to the direction of light. Even though the color of those feathers is solid, I want to make sure that I create nice outlines underneath each feather just to show that there is a shadow there. Couple of thin lines on the top feathers. Now let's leave it to dry. I'm going to use a very light mixture of my purple, but slightly darker than the one we used in the first layer. I'm just going to do a couple of tiny strokes on the chest. [MUSIC] Let's allow this section to dry and let's focus on the head of the bird. We're going to apply the same principles start creating some definition on the head. 8. Step 3(b): Definition Layer (Head): [MUSIC] In this lesson, we're going to create a definition layer on the head of the bird. Just like on the body, our objective here is to define areas of light and shadow. We're doing it with a wet brush on a dry background layer, so wet on dry. We have a lot more control. We're applying more saturated colors and really focusing on defining one section at a time just like we did with the body. Let's start with the head, and I'm going to add a little bit of my base and boost colors. More details on the tips of the feathers. More saturated color as I move towards the beak because of the way the head is illuminated by light. Our source of light is on the left. If I need to lift some color while this layer is still dry, I'm just going to use a dry brush. Now, let's move down to that area around the eye using our boost color. Just a little bit of a shadow around that cluster of feathers. On the bottom side of that cluster, let's do the white section under the beak. We know that our shadow will be more intense there. Again, the wings are blue. Just a few strokes. Now under the eye, we have four clusters there of white feathers and those are the ones that we're trying to define. Very carefully, we don't want to cover the entire area in those four sections with color, but we do want to create a sense of the shapes. On the right side and under the beak we can add a bit more color. Now, let's do the beak. A light wash of our boost color. We'll come back to this section for sure and it's going to be very, very dark in the end, but I want to create an opportunity for us to reveal some beautiful highlights on that black beak, just like we did with the legs. I'm going to start with an underpainting and I'm going to intensify that blue. Now the eye, I'm not going to do anymore underpainting here, just go in with my purple color. When it comes to the eyes, you want the top part of the eyeball to be the darkest because of the way the eyes are shaped, that area is really a sphere. Your shadow will actually be most intense on top, and that's it for now. Let's leave our bird to dry thoroughly and we'll move on to our third layer. That's where we're going to do lots and lots of details and use much more saturated colors. 9. Step 4(a): Accent Layer (Body): [MUSIC] In this lesson, we're going to create an accent layer, but before we start, let's make sure our bird is completely dry, and now I feel comfortable to remove our masking fluid and reveal our white highlights. Everything we do from this point on will be without masking fluid. We're going to paint around our white highlights just with the tip of the brush. Time to add our accents, and this is where the real fun starts. Let's do our feathers on the wings first. I'm using a much darker indigo right now, and I'm now creating those patterns on the wings. Here, don't be afraid to use saturated color, but not the darkest you can do. But here I'll show you how I go about getting the right value. We have a bit of my indigo in the palette bowl, I had a little bit of water. I can see, this is why I like porcelain palettes, I can see how saturated it is in the palette and I just grab it from there. If I need to add more, I add a little bit more; If I need to add less, I pick it up from the lighter side of the palette. We still have an opportunity to have some variation in value. You can see that on the right-hand side, I'm adding a bit more saturated indigo and I'm just dropping it in the area that's already wet. Again, according to the direction of light, I know that the further away I move from the left-hand side, the darker I can go because our source of light is on the left. You can see I'm going quite dark here. I really want to make sure that those long feathers on the wing are well-defined. As I move up, it gets a little bit lighter. Now the beautiful pattern on those long feathers, a couple of tiny strokes and a long line. That's what I'm doing essentially step-by-step, feather by feather. I outline the shape of the feather from the bottom up, and then add a couple of details on the feather. Now that cluster of feathers all the way on the top-right. Further up outlining the feather, and then adding a couple of spots, those dark spots. You can use your reference picture or your pencil marks or both. But the key here is to use your smallest brush and decide on where those dark spots are before you put the brush down. There's not a lot of opportunity to fix mistakes at this stage. Wet on dry, very small details, so I think I'm happy with what it looks like now. We're going to come back to this later and make it even more dark in certain areas. But for now, let's do the tail. This is a bit easier because the feathers of the tail are a bit larger than the ones on the wing. I can clearly see my pencil outlines. I'm just going to fill those in with a very saturated indigo. Again, there's still an opportunity to have some variation in how saturated my color is. On the right side of each feather, on the right side of the tail, I can go a bit darker. This will help us, again create a more realistic effect because the light is on the left, so it's not reaching the areas on the right the same way as it does the areas on the left. I also want to create a very thin outline for each feather. It's going to be more pronounced on the right where the shadow is. Just like that, very carefully, spot after spot, and then a quick outline. I'm also going to outline the feathers all the way at the bottom. The tips are white, I don't want to add any color there right now, but I do want to have a nice contrast so those white spots don't get lost on white paper. If you're painting your blue jay on a colored background, if you want to add some color later to the background, you can skip these outlines and just use your background color to create a sense of a shape. But I'm painting the bird on white paper and I'm going to keep it white. That's why it's important to create a very thin outline. Also, you probably noticed that I didn't use my darkest indigo there. I kept those outlines quite light just to keep it more realistic. I just want a little bit of a line there to create a shape to complete the shape of each feather. Now I'm going to move on to the left side and do the same thing just slowly, one by one. Outline those dark spots, fill them in, and complete the left side of the tail. Be careful at this stage not to paint over the white line in the middle of the feather. We used to have masking fluid there and it was helpful. But now it's just paper. If you paint over it, you can't erase it. That's why I'm painting the right side of the feather first and then the left side of the feather, making sure I'm keeping the white line blank. It's looking good, I'm going to complete the last two feathers on the right and outline the white tips. Create a little bit of a shadow on the white tips very lightly. Again, this is to create a sense of the shape. There's actually no color there on the real bird. These are just shadows. Now let's accentuate the legs of the bird. Our first and second color layers are completely dry, and you can see when the watercolor dries out, it's much lighter than when it's wet. We have an opportunity to add a lot more definition. I'm doing it mostly on the right-hand side, which is the shadow side. You can see the leg looks a lot more defined. Now I'm going to very quickly come back to the wing. It's completely dry now, and I'm just going to add a couple of lines there. I see an opportunity to add more shadow and more definition on the right-hand side. I think it's necessary, and now the feathers on the leg, again, just a few more strokes there. Now the right leg, saturated indigo, mostly just on the right-hand side and under the feathers. Now I'm going to move up the feathers using indigo still. Being careful not to paint anything in the middle of the chest, but just around, and a few more very small details on the top wing feathers, and there we go. Lots of details now, it's looking very close to where we want to get to. In the next quick lesson, we're going to paint the head of the bird. [MUSIC] 10. Step 4(b): Accent Layer (Head): [MUSIC] It's time to create some accents on the head of the bird, and we can really spend a lot of time here. There's a lot of opportunity to accentuate our darkest spots and further outline our highlights. That's why I'm doing this part separately just so you can see all the details. I'm going to start with the eye. I'm going to outline the eye with my indigo and then just add a little bit of a shadow on top and around the highlight. Now I'm going with a very saturated indigo, tiny strokes. This is a very dark area and what I'm doing here is very small, careful strokes with a bit of a jagged edge. I'm just getting into the white feathers with the tip of my brush. I'm going to come back really quickly to the eye and add more saturated color there. I think I went to light. You can see that the four sections of the head where the white feathers are, the four big blocks, each ends with a very dark tip, and so that's the shape that I'm following. There's a bit of a dark feather going into the eyes, so I'm going to outline that, a few dark feathers between the eye and the beak. I can actually continue straight from those feathers to the bottom half of the beak, leaving a small highlight. Now back to those feathers between the eye and the beak. Very saturated indigo, very tiny strokes. Not really much room for mistakes here, so that's why I'm going very slowly and making sure that I have full control. I'm going to outline the eye, add a couple of tiny strokes. Again, this is just to create a realistic feather effect. We don't want a lot of blending here. Let's move up to the top of the head. The tips of the feathers, I really want to define those, so I'm going to start, but I'm going to keep my white highlights, the ones that used to be covered by masking fluid, I'm going to keep them white. Now a little bit of color on the beak. The top side of the beak, we want to keep it a bit lighter than the bottom side, so I'm going to go in with my blue first, leaving the highlights white. Go back to the top feathers, add a bit more definition, maybe add a little bit of blue around the eye just so that it's not so harsh with our indigo against white paper. The blue will help us soften those edges. Now I'm going to accentuate the back using a mixture of our base blue and our highlight blue, just using very precise short strokes on the areas that are already quite dark. I'm adding more definition, creating more of a shadow effect, but no blending. I'm just using the direction of the feathers and creating some beautiful textures. You can see my strokes. I'm not going to blend them into the background. They just mimic the texture of the feathers and I like it that way. Go back, add a little bit more under the beak. Now let's do the top of the beak. I added a few flyaway feathers there with my indigo and a bit of a shadow on the top part of the beak. Now it's looking almost ready. One thing I want to note here is, no matter what you do with the bird, you want to keep the head of the bird, especially the eye and the beak area more defined, so a lot more smaller strokes. The reason for that is the more detail you add, the more drawn your eye will be to that area, so we want to keep the eye in focus. Lots more contrast there, lots more saturated colors, and small strokes. I added a couple of more flyaway feathers on the chest and a couple of highlights on the right side of the tail with my boost color, my phthalo blue or Windsor blue. We're almost done. You can see it's looking very well-defined, very vibrant. The only thing that's left to do is finishing touches. 11. BONUS Lesson: Scarlet Rowan Berries: [MUSIC] Welcome to the final lesson. In this lesson, I will show you what I painted around our blue jay. Now for your project, as I mentioned in the beginning, I encourage you to choose a plant or a flower of your own choice. You can either take a reference photo in your garden or anywhere outside. But if you want to see how I painted these berries, you can follow along and I'll show you step-by-step what colors I picked for the berries and the leaves of this Scarlet Japanese Rowan tree. I like the contrast between the blue feathers of the blue jay and the red of the tree. I thought it was a really good choice. Let's take it to the table and start with the leaves. For the first background layer of the leaves, I created a smooth transition from green to red and then to purple all the way on the tips. My color choices are hookers green, Winsor red. You can use any of your favorite warmer reds here. The same purple Dioxazine purple from core, the same one we used on our blue jay. Using the same pigments here and there helps me tie the whole composition together visually. I will occasionally drop a bit of sap green as well on the leaves. You don't have to use two green pigments here. I just like to have a lot of variation in my color transitions. Feel free to use one of your warm greens, but I ended up using two from Daniel Smith here. When I paint the leaves, I paint one side first and then the other, leaving a thin line in the middle. There's no masking fluid here. I'm just using the tip of my brush. This will help me differentiate between the two sides of the leaf because each side will be illuminated by the light in a slightly different way. The darker the leaf, the more saturated pigment I will use, and more red I will use, as you will see later on. I will continue just like that, starting with my green transitioning to read and then purple all the way around this branch. On the back of my leaves, I will use more red and much more saturated red. But on the leaves facing me, I will use lighter pigments and much more green and purple. As I paint, I don't follow the leaves in order. I paint them switching from left side to the right. The reason I'm doing this is because I don't want my colors to bleed too much, so I give each leaf a couple of seconds to dry. I'm going to use a light purple wash for the stem. Then I'm going to leave this layer to dry, paint my berries and come back in about half an hour to paint the second layer. For the second layer, I just want to accentuate the shadows. This is a very similar process to what we followed on our bird. I'm just going to use a violet color. You can use a deeper red, more saturated red, or violet, or brown. It will give you a bit of a different feel depending on what pigment you go with. I'm just going to carefully add a bit of color on the sides of the leaves that are more in the shade, especially the back of the leaves. You can see I'm adding more and more pigment towards the edge, just building more color and then lifting with the brush if there's too much pigment. This layer is a bit more saturated than the one underneath, but it's still quite light. The background wash with green and red and purple is shining through. When I'm done, again, I'm going to leave the leaves for about half an hour and let them dry. When I come back, I'm going to add some accents. I'm using my quinacridone coral just to warm it up a little bit and visually tied together with my berries where I used a lot of coral. What I'm doing is on the lighter side of the leaf, I paint the veins with the tip of my brush, and then a darker side of the leaf. I paint the background with my coral color, leaving the veins blank. I'm creating a negative painting effect there. That's about it. We don't need a lot of details on the leaves because I want the bird to be the center of our composition. I want to be careful not to over paint it. It feels like this step is done and now I'm going to show you how I painted the berries. First I created a light background wash and I went with pyrrole orange from Daniel Smith. It's an in-between, a warm pink and orange. You can create your own mixture if you don't have parole orange or use your favorite warm red. The only thing to keep in mind here is that I didn't use masking fluid. I wanted to work fast. I just painted around my highlights. You can see a couple of small white dots. This is important to help us create a sense of shape on each berry. If you're not comfortable painting around the white, you can use masking fluid and just leave a couple of dots, let them dry, and then paint this layer. Now that the pigment is sinking in, the water is drying out, but it's still a bit damp. I'm going to add a few drops of Bordeaux in the areas where I know there's shadows. Mostly at the bottom and on the right. I'm going to let this layer dry out completely and then add a branch with my Dioxazine purple. I'm going to keep it very light. But a few shades darker than the berries underneath. At some Perylene violet you could just use brown if you want. But I like the colorful mixture that this violet and purple are creating together. Adding purple helps me tie this back visually with our leaves. That's why I picked those colors. When the branch is dry, I'm going to add some snow. Usually my preferred pigment for snow is indigo. You can use a light blue. As you can see, I'm also adding a little bit of purple Dioxazine purple, and this is to capture the reflection from warm pink berries on our white snow. When the snow is dry, I'm going to come back to the berries and create a second layer. What I'm doing here is using a mixture of my cooler reds, so quinacridone red and a little bit of magenta. What I'm going to do is paint the second layer inside each berry around the highlight. I'm going to leave some space on the edge of the berry to indicate the shape. Each berry is a sphere, and I want to make sure that I capture that shape properly. As the colors are drying out, I'm going to continue adding more and more pigment wet on wet, especially on the berries that are closer to us. I want to use more warmer red, the center of each berry and the ones that are further away, I'm going to use cooler red just building that shape slowly. Again, I don't want to over paint it too much. The more detail we add, the more the closer the berries will appear. I want to avoid drawing too much attention to the berries. I'm going to leave it for now. As a final step, I'm going to add a little bit of that Perylene violet, mostly on the berries that are further away so I'm trying to set them back visually. As the final step, I'm going to use a little bit of my warm red on the branch that I already painted with purple, and I will also add a few thin branches on this berry cluster. Overall, I'm quite happy with the slope. It's a nice contrast to my blue jay. I hope you enjoyed this demonstration. Again feel free to use any plant, any berry, any flower as a background element for your blue jay. I look forward to seeing your projects. Up next, a very brief video and my final thoughts. Thank you. [MUSIC] 12. Final Thoughts: [MUSIC] Congratulations on finishing the class. Thank you so much for watching. If you have any questions whatsoever, you can leave them in the Discussion section of this class on the Skillshare website. I very much look forward to seeing your projects both on Skillshare website and on social media. Let's connect on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. I love sharing my student work in my Instagram stories. You guys are really inspiring me and blowing me away with your talent. I also look forward to your feedback, I'm always very interested in class reviews and things that I can do to improve my teaching styles, and f you have any ideas for future subjects, do leave them in the review. Have a lovely day, and I'll see you guys in the next class. [MUSIC]