Watercolor Postcards - Create Beautiful Abstract Watercolor Designs! | Arleesha Yetzer | Skillshare

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Watercolor Postcards - Create Beautiful Abstract Watercolor Designs!

teacher avatar Arleesha Yetzer, Watercolor Illustrator & YouTube Artist

Watch this class and thousands more

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

Watch this class and thousands more

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

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.



    • 3.

      Wet on Wet Techniques


    • 4.

      Wet on Dry Techniques


    • 5.

      Using Masking Fuild


    • 6.

      Subtractive Painting


    • 7.

      Details: Stamps, Metallic Paint, and Colored Pencils


    • 8.

      Thumbnailing: Value


    • 9.

      Thumbnailing: Color


    • 10.

      Class Project!


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About This Class

Sometimes, all you want to do with watercolors is throw some paint onto a piece of paper just for the fun of it! Creating watercolor postcards can be the perfect way to turn that enjoyable experience into an extremely rewarding craft - and I'm going to show you how to refine that process so that you can appreciate the results even more. 

In this class, you will learn: 

  • Useful materials for making watercolor postcards
  • Creative watercolor techniques like glazing, blending, and subtractive painting 
  • How to create small thumbnails you can use to plan out your art before getting started

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Arleesha Yetzer

Watercolor Illustrator & YouTube Artist


Arleesha is a watercolor artist and YouTube creator based in the northeastern United States. Her work primarily features dynamic and whimsical representations of the human figure. Primary professional endeavors include her budding YouTube channel with a current subscriber community of over 100 thousand as well as this growing library of Skillshare classes!

Here, you'll find classes on anatomy, figure drawing, and watercolor techniques - all directed to help you improve your portrayals of the human figure. 

If you'd like to connect with me and see more of my work, you can follow me on Instagram or check out my YouTube channel, where I post videos every week. 

See full profile

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1. Introduction: Hi, my name is Alicia. Welcome to my watercolor postcards class. In this class, we're going to be equipping ourselves with all of the tools, tips, and techniques needed to create beautiful abstract watercolor art. We'll go over different types of wet on wet and wet on dry techniques in detail, including fun processes like subtractive painting. We'll even talk about how to include a few other fun mediums to create exciting and unique textures like masking fluid and stamps. By the end of this class, you'll be excited and ready to create your very own unique, vibrant watercolor postcard. Get ready, because we're about to dive into the heart of what makes watercolors an enjoyable medium to explore in the form of abstract postcard painting. Grab a seat and a sketchbook and let's get started. 2. Materials: To get started, we're going to talk about some materials that you're probably going to want to have handy. Starting of course, with watercolor postcards. I'm going to be using these ones by Strathmore. They come in a nice little pack and they're really easy to use. I like to attach my postcards to a clipboard like this, it makes the tape easy to put on and take off. Speaking of tape, you're also going to want to have some artist tape or a drafting tape. Something with a lower tack that isn't going to rip your paper when you take it off. Of course, we can't forget our watercolors themselves. I'm going to be using this 36 color set from Mijello Mission Gold. You don't need these many colors, but having them all right in front of me is I find to be very inspirational. You might also find it handy to have some watercolor paper nearby for testing out ideas or swatches, or just taking a look at what colors look like before you put them down. We're also going to use them in our thumbnailing process, which we'll talk about a little bit later. Of course, last but not least, we can't forget about our brushes. If you have a variety of shapes and sizes, I would highly recommend that as it's going to give you some really unique textures that you couldn't achieve by using just one brush. But then again, having just one might be a good way to challenge yourself as well. While I would consider these to be the essentials, I'm also going to be showing you how to incorporate a few other fun things like masking fluid, stamps, colored pencils, and metallic paint. Just serve some fun detailing and other effects and textures. One of the greatest things about a project like this is that everyone's utensils and techniques are going to be a little bit different. I'm really excited to see what you guys will be using. It might not look exactly like what I have, but that just makes it all the more fun. With all of our materials together, let's jump into talking about some watercolor techniques. 3. Wet on Wet Techniques: The first set of techniques we're going to talk about are wet on wet. As you can see, I've divided my paper into five different categories so I can show you a couple of different ways that you can manipulate putting wet watercolors onto wet paper. A flat wash is exactly what it sounds like. We're just going to saturate our paper with water and then lay down a single flat color in one layer. Technically your paper doesn't have to be wet to do a flat wash. But I find this to be a nice, easy way to get an even, soft distribution of color. A fade is very similar to a gradient, except that we're not going to be fading from one color to another. We're just going to be fading from a color straight out to white. Again, like all of these, starting with our paper being wet. The best way to achieve an effect like this is to start by placing paint at the top of your area, and slowly dragging it down, stopping intermittently to wipe your brush clean so that every time you're adding more clean water and using less paint as you pull it down, hopefully it makes more sense seeing it. If you want your gradient to be a little bit stronger, you can always go back up to the top and add some more color. Again, not required that your paper is wet for a technique like this, but it does make it a little bit easier. On the opposite side of that, if you want your gradients to be lighter at the end, you can always use a paper towel to bloat up some of the paint at the bottom. To be honest though, don't stress about getting it perfect. The more you work at this paint, the less natural and organic the look is going to be. Our gradient is like the fade, except that we're going to be switching, instead of going from a color to white, we're going to be going from one color to another color. Now, there are a lot of different ways to achieve this, but I'm going to show you my favorite way which is just treat it like a fade in the beginning and then just add the other color to the bottom. With our paper being wet, it really allows the colors to meet in the middle and create a soft, seamless edge. The random section is one of my favorites for watercolors, it's really important to start with a wet surface for this one, as are all of them as we're in wet on wet. Then using a round brush, I'm going to drop color in two different areas. Extra water can just be picked up with a clean brush. Soft edges technically starts on dry paper, but we're going to be using water to soften the edges. To start, put some paint on dry paper and then clean your brush. Using the clean brush, touch the water to your already placed paint. It's a little bit like creating a gradient. I'm a big fan of this technique as it leaves you with one soft edge and one hard edge which can be used in a lot of different ways. Go ahead and play around. This is a great time to start your class project, experiment with a wet paint on wet paper and let me know what you come up with. 4. Wet on Dry Techniques: For our dry-on-dry techniques, we're going to be covering three different variations. Two of them are pretty similar, but I thought it would be really cool to show them to you separately. The first is going to be standard glazing. Generally speaking, glazing is the process of adding one color on top of an already dry color. Wow, that would have been easier with a flat brush. When your first color is completely dry, you're just going to apply a second color over the top. I've chosen two very different colors, red and blue, to show you how useful this technique can be in creating colors that are kind of harmonious because the same color is underneath both and you can get some really interesting layering techniques. Watercolors really like to be layered. One of the coolest things about glazing is, in theory, you can glaze as many times as your paper will allow, so you can overlap multiple colors to get really interesting variations. The final effect here gives us a green color with the yellow on top of a blue. This here is the red on top of the blue, and here is blue, then red, then yellow, so we get sort of this multicolored brownish color. The second technique I want to talk about is another form of glazing. Again, we're going to start with our flat base color. You can see how much easier that is with a flat brush. Once this is dry, we're going to go back and do a gradient wash over top of this flat color. So we're almost going to be treating the paper as though it was blank now and then doing a normal gradient over top of it. We'll have two colors overlapping each other to create a new color. But we're also going to have one color fading down into something else. Sometimes just for fun, I like to lift up some of the color at the very bottom so I can see what my original color was when I started. Lastly, I want to show you how to create some really beautiful hard edges in watercolors. This is one of my favorite watercolor textures and I love being able to use it. Here, I'm just going to start by painting in some random shapes. Once I've got something I like and while those are still wet, I'm going to get my brush wet with clean water and just drop the water into the shapes. It's important to do this while your paint is still wet. The effect of this technique is that the water pushes the paint out from the center, creating some really beautiful texture. With techniques like this, there are seemingly infinite number of ways to apply them. Go ahead, have fun, experiment. There's no harm in trying as many times as you want. You never know what you're going to come up with. 5. Using Masking Fuild : Next I want to talk a little bit about using masking fluid, I'm going to be using this masking fluid pen by fine line, it has a really nice fine tip for dispensing the fluid but you can also get it in a larger container if you're planning to cover larger areas and then you can just use an old brush. I love using masking fluid to cover up areas that I either want to remain white or as we'll see a little bit later, you can actually use them on top of watercolors to preserve small amounts of color. Now it's really important that your masking fluid is completely dry before you try to paint over it or you will ruin it, and unlike water colors, you're not going to want to use an embossing tool to speed up the drying time. I've found that if you use something of such a high heat on your masking fluid, it just stains the color onto your paper and that ruins the whole effect. So just to give it time to dry. In the meantime, while we're waiting for that to dry, I can show you another really cool way to use masking fluid. We're going to start with a flat layer of color. Exactly the same as when you're applying this to clean paper, you want to wait until your layer of color is completely dry before you apply any masking fluid. Once that is dry, I'm going to go ahead and make some random patterns on here and while I'm doing this, you're seeing a lot of contrast between what the wet masking fluid we're working with now looks like versus what it looks like when it's dry, it turns a little bit more green, at least this variety does and gets a little bit transparent. With our masking fluid on the left dry here we can go ahead and start laying color right over top of it. I'm going to mix things up and use a few different colors. As you can see here, pressing the wet edges of a color to another color causes them to blend together a little bit, which is nice. We're going to let that dry while we move on over to the other side. On this side let's just stick with one flat color on top of our pattern. The hardest part is going to be waiting for it to dry before we can reveal the magic. With our paint finally dry, we can go ahead and peel off our masking fluid. Let's start with the white side over here. There are a couple of ways to peel off masking fluid, you can just use your finger or you can use an eraser on a pencil or something like that. I wouldn't recommend using a brush as you're going to want something a little bit more abrasive and you don't want to damage any of your brushes. So as you can see over on this side, we're left with the white of the paper showing through and creating some really interesting patterns. Over here, if we peel off this side, what we should have is the original color underneath, retained underneath this new color that we placed on top. While the masking fluid will pull up a little bit of the color if you like color underneath, you can tell that the lines on the one side are a little bit more orange than the lines on the white side. Ultimately, this effect is going to give you more contrast, but it's really fun to play around with these. 6. Subtractive Painting: I'm really excited to talk to you guys about subtractive painting, which basically is the process of manipulating the negative space to create your subject or your focal point, instead of just drawing it straight onto the paper or painting it. It's going to make more sense as we go, trust me. To start out, I'm just going to lay down a base color. You can use one color or two colors, but don't get too complicated. Because as you can see and are going to see in future steps, complexity is just going to be added as we add layers. I would recommend starting with a lighter values for your first layers, it's going to give you something to build up to. Don't worry about creating texture too much in this initial layer, just put down some colors that you like. Subtractive painting is one of those things that can be as many steps as you want it to be. I could go in with a really darker value right now and just define my shapes right away or I can build up multiple layers over time. For this example, I'm going to do a few layers just to show you what the technique actually is. As you can see, I'm focusing on the negative space here, which is the space around our subject. So instead of just drawing the lines in and focusing on the inside, I'm focusing on this space outside, which is the negative space. This is allowing me to create the shapes in a different mindset and coming from a different place. You can plan this out as much or as little as you want to. If you want it to be more detail than you want to have more control, go ahead and sketch over or top of your initial layer, so you can see where those lines are going to be. Or if you want it to be more spontaneous, you can do what I'm doing, which is to just start painting over its faces. It's really up to you how much you want to plan, plan until it's not fun anymore. If you're not enjoying yourself, then just go for it. But if you enjoy the planning, you can do that too. Depending on how detailed your pieces, this process can take time so just enjoy it. Enjoy every detail and every brush stroke. As I've said in previous classes, right now, you're working to create something that simply doesn't exist in the world yet, and it won't until you create it. That's a really exciting thing, so enjoy it as much as you can. It can be really beneficial to train your brain to start to think in different ways and this is a really great exercise for that, and it'll definitely translate beautifully onto a postcard. The hardest subtractive painting lies in selecting which colors and spaces from previous layers, you want to retain a lighter value and slowly working up to darker values. Create as much texture and use as many layers as you want for this technique. Of course, it's not limited to just the shapes I'm doing here, you can use circles, or squares, or triangles, or many different colors, especially when you can combine this technique with other things we've done before like leasing and layering and gradients, the possibilities, as I've said, already, are pretty much limitless. Now that we've covered a ton of basics in watercolor techniques, let's go ahead and move on to preparing for your postcard. 7. Details: Stamps, Metallic Paint, and Colored Pencils: Before we jump into our specific postcards, let's talk a little bit about a few details you might want to add, starting with stamps. Now, these stamps that I have here are just some quick ones I carved out myself. There's this really great class on handmade stamps here on Skillshare. I'll go ahead and link that in the about section about the class if you'd like to check that out. I had a lot of fun carving them. These stamps here, you can stamp in a couple of different ways, really in a lot of different ways. But the two I want to show you here is stamping with watercolors first. You can just make up a pool of watercolors or you can paint the color that you want. If you want something more specific, you can paint the color right onto the stamp and then just stamp it right on over. It can either be over-designed you've already placed or it can be the first thing you put down and you can paint over it, however you like. I've really enjoyed stamping with watercolors, or you can stamp with good old fashioned ink. The only color I have right now is black, which is why it's fun to play it up with paints. The black stamp is going to give you some really high contrast and some really nice crisp lines. Other than stance, I also really like to use metallic paints. Metallic paints are really fun. It's so fun to watch them activate. It takes a little bit longer than your, normal watercolors, but I really enjoy watching it. Once they do activate their so creamy and smooth and it's really nice to look at. Metallic paints can be a really great way to add accents to your visas. It's a really good idea not to get too attached to a specific thing unless you absolutely love it, then leave it the way it is. But you never know how adding that one more extra detail might change things up and take things to a whole new level. Between stamps and metallic paints, these are just a couple of little things that I like to use to add details to postcards and illustrations in general. But they're not the only way. You might also really like using colored pencil to add specific tiny details, or add contrast to a piece. Get creative, try new things, but most importantly, have fun. 8. Thumbnailing: Value: Now we're ready to start talking about thumbnailing. Generally speaking, thumbnailing is the process of creating a smaller version of your piece, whether it be in this case a postcard or a larger illustration, so you can work out the details of the composition and the value and the colors and things like that before you get started, so you have a bit of a reference and you know where you're going. I would definitely recommend having some of your thumbnails be landscape, meaning long ways and some be portrait, of course then more upright, just because it's good especially with a postcard, it's rectangular generally speaking. You never know, sometimes you might automatically think, I'm going to want landscape, but if you try it portrait, especially during this thumbnailing state when you're not making any specific long-term permanent commitments, you're really allowing yourself to experiment and try new things before you dive in with your final piece and you don't have to worry about colors or anything distracting or getting in the way at this point, you can really nail down and lay out the composition before you even get started. Now, I know you're probably thinking, this is a watercolor class, why are you thumbnailing with pencils? Well, before we start thumbnailing or creating thumbnails for color, I want to start by talking about creating thumbnails for value. By value I mean the range of dark to lights within a piece. So before we start to talk about color, I want to narrow it down a bit more to talk about composition and value. So where your darks are going to go, what kind of shapes you're going to use, where things are going to be placed, and this can be super helpful to lay things out ahead of time, just to give you a better idea of how things are going to look in your actual piece. While the spontaneity and the surprise can be really exciting sometimes, sometimes you want to create something in the end that you know you're going to be happy with and you know you're going to enjoy. This process can be extremely helpful to get your ideas out there, try a bunch of different thumbnails, do some brainstorming, and find a composition that you like and also a good range and a good balance of dark tones to light tones. 9. Thumbnailing: Color: We really can't talk about thumbnailing for color without briefly going over the color wheel. If you're not familiar with color wheels, it's just the 12 basic colors I would say, essential colors, there's no official art word for them. Twelve colors that work together to blend into all of the wonderful color magic things. This is just a cheap one I picked up the last time I went to my local arts store and you can see that it basically lays out where the color sit on the wheel with the warm colors being here on the right side, and cool colors on the left. Mine also is divided on the back to give some ideas about how colors relate to one another, so straight up and down as complimentary and then triad at the three separate points, and split complementary, all different kinds of things like that. It's really helpful, even if you just Google color wheel to look at those things and see how the colors relate together, and that makes it a little bit easier also trying to choose colors that you think might go together, and also I really like just spinning this thing around. Definitely, check out a color wheel just to get an idea of the different relationships between colors. It gives you a good place to start as far as ideas and things you might want to put together. The first little color scheme I did here was just an example of complimentary colors, which just like this, yellow, orange, and blue. After that I did an analogous color scheme with purples, and pinks, and things like that, just to get an idea of how those colors lay together. Watercolors are also a really nice while they are wet, you can see a lot of the texture before it dries. Another thing I would highly recommend, which I did here is to look at how light granulating colors look together when they mix, so not just the two colors separately, but what does those colors look like when you actually combine them and put them together. The rest of these pallets that I'm going to be laying down for you here, were just some experiments where I wanted to test out different textures of the paint as well as what are the colors look like when I felt them out or when I blend them on paper instead of in the palette. What do two colors that might be seemingly close to each other look like right next to each other, and then you can see the difference is a little bit better. Experiment with warm colors, cool colors, even just one color like I did here with these sepia and neutral tense where it's just like, okay. If I take this one color and just gradient and out, what does it look like with one color? What does it look like if I use super bright neon colors? Just experiment as much as you want. There is no limit to how many times you can do this. In reality, the more you do it the better it's going to be, the more you're going to be able to see different things that you might not have thought of before, different ways that the watercolors react with each other, the textures, all that stuff. Take your time and experiment with color, this is definitely a really fun part of the process. 10. Class Project!: It's class project time. Congratulations, you made it to the end, I hope you've been sketching along or painting along and brainstorming some ideas and thinking about some things you might like to put out in some abstract watercoloring design, I cannot wait to see what you guys are going to create. I hope that you'll share your process along the way as you do your thumbnails or your texture experiments or whatever it may be. I would really love to see the process of how you got to this point, to your project point. Go ahead and share those if you haven't already, the two postcards I'm going to be sharing with you today are very different as far as color scheme go but ultimately, I wasn't super happy with how the first one came out, I just disregarded everything I had been teaching in the class and said, I know exactly what I want and I'm not even going to plan it, I'm just going to do it and ultimately I wasn't super happy with the result, but I wanted to show it to you anyway, so you could see the process and how I got to where I did, the second one has a lot more texture and I'm a lot happier with how that one turned out, so I'm going to go ahead and let you guys enjoy this process, I hope you do because I really enjoyed making it, and again, as always, I love creating this classes for you, so share your progress. Let me know how you're doing, and let me know if you have any questions. Thanks for checking out the class guys, I'll see you in the next one.