Watercolor Your Pen and Ink Character Design | Ron Mulvey✏️ | Skillshare

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Watercolor Your Pen and Ink Character Design

teacher avatar Ron Mulvey✏️, Artist / Art Teacher

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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.

      Start Your Character Design


    • 2.

      Design and Draw with Pen and Ink


    • 3.

      Effective Watercolor Techniques


    • 4.

      Bring Light to Your Character IDesign


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About This Class


This is a Fun Class ! I love teaching character design and have done so for 30 years. Some of my students are now in California working as illustrators and in the animation industry. We all started with Watercolor Your Pen and Ink Character Design, the digital work came afterward.

Learn the hard copy then digitize.

I would really like to get some of these character  illustrations going in a special series of classes that would show you how to get from the initial concept sketch all the way to a pro level digital drawing or what we call 'enhancement' that is proof ready.

This class is perfect if you want to get a book with illustrations going or just make great cards or posters for a small home art business. Maybe you would like to teach kid's art or teach at a community centre. It all starts with learning how to take your drawing to the next level and then the next level and then the next level and then the last level.

Here is a project I am working on called DinoEggs, that is approaching the final level. the video is a bit 'epic' at 2 hours but it stands alone as a project at each level. watch how it has developed. This started as a watercolor and is now moving into a digital form. ( send me some feedback if you would be interested in a project like this)

See the shine on the eggs.



Here is a 'sketch' for the monkey with the glasses you will be painting in this class. Sunshine Bear said he could borrow them.


In this short course, you'll learn a simple way to create 'shine and glow' in your Character Illustration, with a step by step drawing in black permanent pen (or pencil), and then finish up with your favorite watercolors.

 No prior experience needed! I'll lead you through the entire project.

Time to complete is about 40 minutes.

  • Make your painting glisten and shine
  • Give realistic depth to your light and shading 
  • Follow along with my simple steps 

This Project is Ink and Wash with a 'Shine and Glow'. You can put the shine and glow on any hard reflective object.

Project materials are outlined in videos.


Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Ron Mulvey✏️

Artist / Art Teacher


I've been working as a full-time artist since 1980. I have had the pleasure of teaching art since 1983 and have taught thousands of classes on drawing and painting. I would consider it a privilege to assist you in achieving your artistic goals.

I have taught the basic and advanced mechanics and principles which give us the skill and confidence to express creatively, for the past 30 years. Sharing them is my passion! 

What Do I Like Teaching?

Watercolors and Acrylic are my specialty. I work with oils also but not as often as the water based mediums.

I love trees, mountains, rocks, water, flowers, and all that nature has to offer. Getting out into nature always gives me a creative boost. You get the real energy and feeling of space and belonging.See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Start Your Character Design: Hi, I'm Ron Mulvey, and welcome to Ink and Wash. I've made it, so this class has several projects that you can follow. One of the things we'll be doing, I'll just give you a quick look, is the Sunshine Bear, which is a very simple drawing. So this ink and wash painting maybe took 20 minutes, 25 minutes. It's got little finishing up on the glasses in the water. Look at the effect on the glass is the iridescence or shine. That's one of the things we're going to learn with ink and wash. Ink and wash is basically at grief free experienced. You get some blocking, you'd make a drawing, you throw some color on it, stand back and take a peek. Could be a great class. So sunshine bear is inviting you. Come on down and get some sunshine into your painting. And remember, no mistakes in art. 2. Design and Draw with Pen and Ink: We have 140 pound of paper here on a piece of mat board. You can use anything you want, piece of wood, a book, piece of glass, right on your table or desk. Here we go. We've taped up with painter's tape. Low tack comes off easily, on this angle, not like this, it'll rip with that angle. We have a 140 pound paper here and we're going to draw today the sunshine bear. Here we go. I think I'll put my paper right here. I think I'm going to put it this way, the long way, so I can get a good bear. Here we go, we start with the nose, see that's one line. It doesn't have to be totally round. I think a lot a little bit of a shape like that and then I'm going to ink in with my pen and leave a little white mark showing. See the little tiny white mark showing. Clean up an edge. There we go. Then I'm coming down. Now you can come straight down but it's better on a slight curve. It'll give it more of a three-dimensional look. Now, the part here doesn't have to be symmetrical. As a matter of fact I really like that. Really push on the pen and squeak because I want one complete line. You see I've done it so it's a little bit off balance. If you like nice and straight, make a perfect circle. No problem. Then we squeeze in a few of these little lines, it didn't shape. I'm going to count them 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 is good. Remember, the odd numbers work better and here comes his little lip. You'll hear that squeak, that means I'm really applying pressure to keep my line the same thickness. There we go. He's got an attitude in his mouth. For the glasses, there's a million ways to draw glasses. I'm going to do a simple version here. I'm just going to go up with a zigzag, and then I'm going to go. Got to mark the middle hear so that I get a good line and I'm going to do a nice arcing line. If I want a good line here, got my arm on the table and I'm letting the weight of my arm sit on the table and I'm going with one good long straight line. Maybe maid them a little big, but that doesn't matter at all. Now I'm going to bring the right in here and right in here. These are more like goggles, I like this. Might have turned out like goggles, I might add another line inside here. I'm designing something on the inside. Sunglasses or goggles come in all different shades and I think you known what, I'm going to add another one here and here. He could be a motorcycle bear, whatever. We've got that much. Now here's the next thing you need to do. The glasses do have to sit on the ears, so I am going to put in some squared ears. Probably good to have them basically the same simple shape and now to make it a bear, you need to come out this way. If you want it to be a dog, comes straight down like a pincer, but this is a bare, so I'm going to do what's called an incident. Here's what an incident is, if you're going down with a line like this, it can be boring. What you do is you make an incident. Now the middle, not always the best place maybe after the middle. We're going to look at our line now, bring it down and I'm going to put my incident right there and then he's coming right down there. Got that. On the other side, I might do a little little different coming down from the ear, coming down, just let it happen there, you see that? Then they stop the pen. That way, I get a nice free line. Now before we join these up, we need to add the top part. I want to see where the ear is going to cut. I think I want to come out here and I'm doing a different pattern. I'm not even going to let that piece of tape influence me, see. Now bringing that one by the ear, see. When that tape comes off, it'll really look like we've got a little snapshot of him, see. It's going to look good or I could add more there. I'm going to leave that there and now here comes what we call zig wiggles. What I have to do, if hit him, I have to pretend. I'm going behind him. The only line I have to be careful with is this one, I have to make sure I connect with that. Then I put one behind so that it looks like he's actually in the water and I could put another one in here but I think I'll leave it there and here comes one in the beginning or leaving going to. There we go and that's good, put my name. I always put my name before I'm finished, and then I think what I might do is leave it. I can put little bubbles all over the place, I can put rain falling. No, I think I'm going to leave it just like that, that's good enough. Maybe put it in a little line here, little line here, that's it, and that's going to get inked. Anyone could draw that, if you don't like the idea of it being cutoff there, you can always shift it down, redraw or I could see there's enough room there. I could do this, I could add one more there and I can add one more here, see. Then shift my tape up a bit. There we go. Remember no mistakes in art but sometimes we do have a little adjustment. There we go. There's our little bear, sunshine bear. We're going to be using the big brush. You can use a brush that size, that size, and you're even able to use this Robert Simons, which is a 12. Anything from a 9 to a 12 depends on, remember a small piece of paper, you can even use smaller tools or bigger tools. But if you have a big piece of paper, this would take a long time with this brush. This is a different technique, this is called surface wet, tie dye explosion. If I'm teaching my first watercolor class, this is exactly the first thing that we do, and I'm going to wet the entire picture except for the glasses. The reason we do this is so that we can isolate one area of the picture and preserve some white paper without touching it with any paint. There we go, we've put some surface water on there. Now, not all paints will explode with this, what we call the tie dye explosion. We've inked the paper and we've wet the paper with our big piccasso brush. Now I'm going to stick with the western brushes here. I'm going to show you that thalo blue is your best explosion color. Here's a little thalo blue, and I've added a bit of water to it, it's not really running. Let me just see what it does, okay, look at the magic there, see? You can wait a little longer, you can take a little bit of the paint off and see the less paint you put in. Children love this little technique and so do adults when they begin watercolors because you're really learning about what does the water do on your paper? Now you'll see here, it didn't quite do the same effect as here. We're just experimenting here, just having a great time. Now we'll try a little more, just around the edges like this, now you see how much water is on this. See the water isn't really all over the place. So sometimes you can just tilt it up, give it a bang, and let it sit for a minute. Let's try a little stronger color, it's still the thalo, but it's once again, less water and watch this, thalo just really goes all over the place, which is great if you know how to control it a bit. Now taking a little bit of the alizarin crimson and the alizarin crimson will do the same thing as the thalo, it's of the same family. Oh, look at that, nice precipitation of color. I'll put a little bit of red at the bottom here. I'm not really getting fussy here, I'm just doing a little bit. As you learn to paint, you get little instructions, where they come from, well. Little darker there, see that one. The beauty of painting water with water is that you actually do capture the essence of the water because of the fluidity of the watercolor pen. Now here's my little English watercolor style, I'm starting to pick up a few drips. Because you see the surface is starting to dry, the water is penetrating deeper into the paper. You can get really good with this technique because if you can keep adding paint, the paper keeps getting a little bit of water, and it starts to get just really responsive. Here's my, I believe azo yellow. I think I've got a little bit Indian yellow in there too, and that's okay. But as long as my yellow is clean, let me see, yes, dirty yellow's not a good idea. Now the azo is going to be a little thicker, so watch, see. Now, yellow is a very optimistic color, children love yellow. Seems to me there's a drop of blue in that yellow, just a drop. Of course, we have been using thalo blue, so there's bound to be a drop in my brush. So I'm going to isolate that, you can have a little tray ready if you need it. Wow, still we have thalo in our brush. There's only one thing to do when a brush is getting stubborn, is get a new brush, a clean brush and there we go. Now sometimes the yellow will actually look blue, but that's because of the lighting situation in your room. So I could be just stressing over nothing. There we go, we're just painting it in, it's not hard. Just a little yellow. Now where could this yellow go? It could go green, it could go orange. See how it's pulling in here, we're getting some nice stuff here. It could go brown, it could go gray, but it couldn't go purple. No, never, you're not going to make purple with yellow but we do have some options. I probably want to keep this nice and clean. Always have some tissue ready to get back some white. I think if I did this picture again, I think I'd leave that dry too. We'd have two spots away. But notice we've got a little white here and there on the waves and our original spot, I really like that. I think I better pick this drip up. So notice I'm just taking my time, I'm not touching this. Don't touch that. But this is still wet, so I'm going to drop in a little bit. This is very interesting, it's quite thin. If I made it thick, it wouldn't spread. So I'm going to drop in, first on this part, drop in a little bit of the red. Notice I'm using my sable brush now because that other one I figured had blue in it, and I'm gently putting in a little bit of red. I'm watching the dispersion, it's pretty much staying put. I can do the little tap method if I want to get it a little thicker in areas, maybe on this side. Maybe the sun is coming from here, looks like a blue sun, that's okay. You see, just dropping it in. Remember what we've learned in the other classes, watercolors dry lighter, and they never look the same when they're dry as they do when they're wet. So you see this one's spilling over a little bit, no problem. There it is too. So if you've got too much water, just let it dry. Smart thing to do now is let it dry, excellent. I might, no, let it dry. What's going to happen if I add more thalo here? What's going to happen is that it's going to bleed into here. So what would be the smart thing for me to do right now? Ask yourself, Mr. Marvey, what should you do right now? Mr. Marvey, you should stop and let it dry. 3. Effective Watercolor Techniques: It's about four or five hours later, papers dry. This only took 16 minutes and probably four minutes to actually draw. We're looking at 20 minutes altogether. If you came home from work, or you had a few moments on a weekend, you could get this project done probably in less than an hour, and do a good job of it. First thing I want you to notice is these glasses that he's wearing could be goggles, they could be totally transparent glasses, or they could be a smoky color of glass, but what we would see is the fur behind here. So I'm going to actually show you how to make it look like the glasses that you're seeing, the fir or the color of the bear through the glasses. Let's just think this out, and let's try and get what's called a lighting effect, transparency or translucence, and let us do what we did to this, but we're also going to do it here. Now we're going to decide that it's going to be a little darker here than it is here, and maybe we'll leave a little shines. You have got to think it out. I have to make these glasses appear to be shiny, so I'm thinking the first thing I'm going to do is I'm going to give them like we did with the other part of the bear, and we're going to bring over the same color, a little bit of the yellow. That's the start with, and I'm going to leave a white patch right up the middle. That will make it much easier, I'm going to make it even more apparent by doing something, you might think it's a little strange, but I'm going to put a piece of tape right up the middle just to make sure that you understand what this principle is, and you can actually do this at home if you want to. This is not going to be transparent, it's going to be a wild color, and notice how I'm doing right across here with my yellow, and I'm not going to take tape off yet. I'm going to do exactly what we did here, and the next step was to add a little bit of red. I might make it just a little bit darker though. seen that? Now it looks pretty red on top, but this is going to mix together, clean my brush off again, and I'm actually going to do one more little rubbed with the yellow. Remember we're using the hansa yellow, and now I'm going to brush in the water, I'm going to take my tape off. You can't do this with cheap paper. Now I'm going to soften the edges, and this is step one. If you are doing this on Photoshop or Adobe illustrator or paint.net or GIMP, any of the computer drawing programs, you get the same effect when you put a bar of color down and on paint.net, it's called gossamer effect, blur, smudge. Actually the principles that you're learning here on this simple little illustration with ink and watercolor is the same effect that you would use on a computer program. We looked at dry and I'm going to now give my bear taking a little yellow, this is my yellow, taking one more code of yellow, and I'm going to put yellow on part of the bear, not everywhere, but I'm giving it another coat of the yellow. It's still pretty transparent. But because the paper is dry, I can control completely where the paint goes. Now you notice over here it's even more yellow, is slightly and got a little bit of a green tinge from the initial paint that we put on there. Now I take my red again and I just drop it in because it's all wet, I just drop it in, and I'm going to let it randomly mix. Why am I going to let it randomly mix? Because you'll get a better effect if you let the paint mix on its own, I just help it around the corner here, little bit up in the air, and now do the tilting, and if I have to coax it a little bit like that, but I'm not rubbing viciously, I'm being very gentle. Notice that half of his nose or his muzzle, half of it is darker than the other. So now I'm basically grading the orange wash with my sable brush or you could be using your synthetic brush. Now, I've dried off my brush and taken the paint off it so that I'm going to end up with more yellow over here. Same thing on a computer program, you do an exactly the same thing. I don't know how we got on computer programs, but I remember when I first did my first one, I was trying to find the tools that simulated painting. I needed to do so a graded wash, I had to found out how do we make a graded wash with this technology. Now, these are the same values, so here's what I'm going to do, a little trick. Whenever you have something in the shadow area, there's always one side of the shadow that's a little brighter than the other, and this is where I take my yellow it's through live yellow yet, a little bit bright there. That's it, I'm going to let that dry, but remember I wanted to put some color in here. Now's the time to do it. Let's take a little bit of the fellow, not much, just a bit, a little bit of the fellow, tilt my board upside down, and I'm going to pull it across right here, not going to touch anything, and here we're into our wash. It's a good thing that most of you have done the English watercolor style painting because you know exactly what I mean when I say wash. Be careful and don't touch anything there, and then come around hear and hop over, and end up just water here, and now because it's wet, I'm going to have a little bit of boldness. That's going to take a little bit of boldness here right up the side. I can't refuse that wonderful vertical there. I've got a dot and a vertical. I think you known what? I'm going to leave it there. I'm just going to leave it. We're back. I just did the mouth here with a little yellow and red. Ideally what I'd like to do is have a pair of scissors, but I don't. I'm just going to use this. I'm using less tape this time, see. You can get really organized and you could have all different thicknesses. This painters tape comes in very skinny tape, it's great for masking. Once again, I just go through the procedure one more time. I take a little bit of the yellow, here we are. Remember I'm trying to get a darker tone then over here. On goes the yellow, right up to the edge of the tape, right over, and then clean the brush off. This way we keep our colors clean. Always clean your brush. I even clean my brush when I'm using the same color. That's maybe going a little too far. Then a little bit, drop it in let the wet paper, mix the color. I'm even going to tap a little, not too much. Clean my brush off, remove the tape carefully. Notice I left it sticking up a little. Make sure the brush is very clean, and here we go. I'm going to soften the edge. Remember, the middle of the paper is dry. I'm going to point the brush at the edge. I'm actually going to follow my own advice and we'll point the brush at the edge that I'm softening. Like we did in our earlier class, we wouldn't want to soften from this edge, we want to soften from this edge. But notice I'm leaving that little white spot in the middle very carefully, because I will not get that white back once I have put paint on it. You'll never get the paper as white as when you get it out of the package. I think that's good there. Let that dry. Is it going all the way through there? I have a feeling that it's invading. Now I have to be very careful, not to get excited. Notice how I'm stroking, I've got it in time in the water, on the rag, shaped the brush with my fingers, and I'm pushing back the color there. Pushing it back, it's perfect here, that's going to be fine here too. Let that dry. Now, it's going to take a couple applications. I can see that we've got a very good yellow here but it's not orange. What I'm going to do is I'm going to put a little bit of a wash on this side of the bear now with the red, notice point to brush at the edge that you're painting. Now I can flip the paper around, and complete the wash, and then let the wash disappear into the water so it looks like he's under the water there. We've got about the same tone now. I think we've matched it up, haven't we? These is same now. That is good. I think I'll do the same over here. I'm going to take my Alizarin Crimson wash, and I'm pointing, clean off the paint getting a little too much there, pointing the brush at the edge that I'm painting. It really does help when you do this, you just feel like you're in control. I'm going to leave this little yellow spot here as a variation in the fur. I might even left a little bit off here. There we go. It's starting to dry here. Don't add water if it's starting to dry, you'll get bleach marks. I'm going to stay out of there, but I think we've done a good job there. Once again, we're going to let that dry, but what about this area here? What can I do there? I'm going to take a look at that from this angle. I'm going to go a little deeper, blue in here. See you looking around, now this is the fun part. You might only do a little bit each day, might do 10 minutes painting a day, that's okay. Lots of people knit ten minutes a day. See him darkening that one. Just washing on a color. I'm going to leave this one white but just put a little bit of blue here. See, don't cover the white until the very end of the picture, like that. You know what, I think now that I've see this nice vertical I put in, I think I'm going to come right up to the pair here. But because it's dry, it's going to work out. I'm going to bring that wash right up beside them and then I'm going to lose it because I'm taking the paint off my brush and I'm going to lose it over here. Imagine the early animations, say the Walt Disney Studio, that people made the picture with watercolors, this is one of the techniques they used. Ink it, then someone would do the flesh tone, someone would do the clothes, someone would do the eyes, someone would do the hair. It's like an assembly line, went on and on and it took them long time to make a movie. Each one was photographed. I'm going darker here, because the paper is wet, I can afford to put a few little bold strokes in here and there. But I'm going to make a fade right here. I'm going to lose it right here because I don't lose my nice blue dot. There's something about that blue dot, that's unusual. One more at the bottom. Now that it's all wet, I'm going for the dark at the bottom. Putting in a dark and I'm going to let it run up a little bit. There it goes. Just be patient, because the paper is wet, it's going to be fine. The letter writer right up to his ear. Beautiful. Just thinking it out now. I like this area right in here, because it's over there. There is a little too much here. Too blue. What do you think? Yes, Ron, you can do it. Just a little bit coming down here, a little bit of red, a little bit of blue in there and then lightly mix it in. It's not quite so white. I think that's going to work there. Might even steal a little bit of that. Put it in and see, still a little here, put it in here. Purple and orange, very good combination. Soften the edge. There. Turn it up. Looks like sunshine bear and bring it out of the water soon or we're going to have an incident here. They say there's no mistakes in art but I tell you something, there's a few tense moments here and there. Especially if you're going to try and be a little bit brave. There we go. We've got a little floaty going up there. Take this almost dry brush, and just gently pull it like that. We got some sunshine coming in the winter. I'm going to let sunshine bear sit for awhile. 4. Bring Light to Your Character IDesign: I'm doing my sunglasses now on my bear, he's all dry. I've done it by wetting the paper and dropping in the colors, especially near the bottom here so that's where it's darkest, and I add a little here and a little here. Now I've decided I'm going to do these bright yellow. I'm going to make sure my brush is really clean here for Mr. Bear, and I don't want to touch the blue. If I want to turn that green later, I can turn it green. There's my yellow. I think a good thing to do now is take a little more red and turn my picture on the side here, and get a little darker down near here. Now you see what happened there? That's a good thing because now it's made the decision on how to make this side of the bear a little darker. I mean, how many options do we have? We have blue, we have yellow, we have red, we have orange, we have violent, and we have green, and then a whole range of grays. There's that little spill there, and I think what I'll do is clean that up, just dry it up a bit, there we go, and move it down, making sure I don't disturb the paint underneath. Okay. That has darkened that side of the bear. You'll notice it's not as orange. I might even just make a little bit of blue now, put it on there. Blue over orange will definitely neutralized the orange, and it will dry differently than what it looks. There we go, and up here. One more red into it. A good strong red. There. We don't want it looking too gray. If it looks too gray, it doesn't have too much of an appeal. Fine if we're doing realism, but this is a sunshine bear. He's looking a little cloudy though, which is okay. We all have cloudy days. I'll bring a little more up in here, and here. A little bit on this ear, maybe a little bit right there. Just adding a little bit more texture there. Get a good one in here. There we go. It's turned out pretty brown. I think we better get a little more in here, soften it, and a little bit in here, and little in here. Notice how the black has lost its blackness because the paint's going over it. A little dry brush, listen? It gives little texture there. Leave that little bit of white there. Good. Coming along. Now I'm going to work on this little section here. I just think I'm going to add a little bit of cobalt to it. A little cobalt. See? It sort of matches that. I'm going to make that wave, just take on a little more shape. I'm getting the whole wave wet, it's going a little darker. Usually the foreground, it's nice to have the foreground a little bit more intense, a little darker, and throwing it right into that little corner. Get maximum color saturation in that corner. You know this almost looks like it could be in the clouds too. Okay, we'll let that dry. The last thing I'm going to do is I'm going to lift off the blue paint off these little teardrops I've thrown in, and I've outlined my glasses again with ink. I took a couple of colored sharpies, or you can use any of those really good German felts, and you can put little felting into your picture to bring it out. Haven't decided about the eyes yet. Maybe I might just go darker to make them look like they're goggles that are dark. Still pulling off the teardrops. Rub it on the paper, put in the water, rub it on the rag. Rub. Tap it. They're starting to show up. Adds a little bit of spray to the picture. I just have to leave them there. There's one there. Okay. I decided to be bold. What I did was I put in the [inaudible] a blob here, and a blob here. Bright like that. Then I've gradually moved it over, lifting it off until it's in the middle, very gently. I've got that pure white in the middle. There we go. I can even add just a little more there. Just a little drop. There we go. Then I let that dry. Because the orange is underneath, by making a little bit of a round shape in the middle with your Kleenex, you're going to pick up. There. There we go.