Color Therapy: Stress Relief and Unwind with Watercolor | Esther Nariyoshi | Skillshare

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Color Therapy: Stress Relief and Unwind with Watercolor

teacher avatar Esther Nariyoshi, Published Illustrator based in the US

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.

      Class Trailer


    • 2.

      Supplies and Alternatives


    • 3.

      Preparing Paper


    • 4.

      Beginning Steps


    • 5.

      Paint and Guiding Thoughts


    • 6.

      Paint and A Chat on Unexpected Benefits


    • 7.

      Paint and A Chat on Overcoming Creative Block


    • 8.

      About Neutrals and Beyond


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About This Class

Creativity has the unique ability to unwind your mind in the midst of stresses life throws at you.

In the course of weeks of series creative blocks, Esther, who is a digital artist primarilydecided to start using her unopened gouache and watercolor for stress relief. As a result, in just two short days, she not only fell in love with color chip painting (and accumulated 300+ of them), she also has abundant color inspiration for her next projects. And mostly importantly, amazed by the almost therapeutic impact of the creative process. You are warmly invited to join the journey <3


Know how to hold a brush :P


  • Watercolor or Gouache paint of any grade
  • Watercolor Paper (cut into 1.25 x 1.75 inch rectangles)
  • Ruler
  • Rotary Cutter or Scissors
  • Water Jar
  • Paper Towel
  • Brush


Connect with Esther:  Shop Esther's Handcrafted Procreate Brushes | Portfolio | Instagram 

Follow Esther on Skillshare for her new upcoming classes on Illustration.

Meet Your Teacher

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Esther Nariyoshi

Published Illustrator based in the US

Top Teacher
Level: All Levels

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1. Class Trailer: Hi, my name is Esther Nariyoshi. I am a surface designer and illustrator, and also top teacher here on Skillshare. Welcome to my class. My works are seen on fabrics, wallpaper, and a variety of magazines and online blog. If you have taken any of my previous classes, they're very program and project specific. For example, I go through a drawing with you from the start to finish, or I teach you how to use a specific iPad program or desktop program, but this class is a completely on paper. I really believe creativity plays a huge role in our lives and really helps us to engage our mind, but also relax it at the same time. To be honest, I wasn't funny on this class until I hit a very hard credo block and I just didn't know what to do for the next step, so I just started painting color chips. I'm a digital artist. I've never used watercolor for this long period of time. In the course of two days, I've produced like 300 color chimps, and I was really in love with the result. I almost feel like it's selfish to keep this creative outlet as a secret, so I made a class for you. Then, who is the class for? So basically this class is for anyone who can hold a brush. It doesn't require any specific skill to go through this class, and you definitely don't have to be an artist. As a result of this class, you will have a collection of some really pretty colored chips and a messy palette, and some really nice mood. Maybe you had a long day. Maybe you just really love color and maybe you got some nice watercolor as a birthday gifts and have never used them before, or maybe you just want to create something that wasn't there before in the world. My goal is to help your mind to relax in creative ways. What do I do about the color chips? If you are an artist or you can use them as your color inspiration to jump start your next project. You can also use them for home decor and just to add a bit of creative sparkle to your home. To be honest, they're really nice looking themselves and they make great series of Instagram posts. Without further ado, let's get started. 2. Supplies and Alternatives: In this video, I'm going to quickly go over some of the materials that we're going to use for our class. The first one you are going to need is paint. It can be watercolor, or gouache, or acrylic, or acrylic gouache, whatever you can use. The watercolor paper would be fine. I used mainly gouache together with watercolor and acrylic. It's just because that's what I have on hand. I made a rule for myself not to get any new paint for this class so that I can encourage you to use whatever you have on hand, even if that means that you have to borrow from your four-year-old kid's watercolor supply. Whatever paints you already have, I'm sure you'll be great. The next thing we'll need is a cutting mat or whatever surface that you don't mind having scratches on. We're going to use the cutting mat for cutting our watercolor paper. Then we'll need a rotary cutter or scissors or X-Acto knife, some safe cutting tool to cut our watercolor paper. Then you'll need some watercolor paper. I used 9 x 12 inches student-grade watercolor paper. It doesn't have to be super fancy. This is just a creative exercise, it's not going to be final and you won't be selling it as an original. Don't spend a whole lot of money on paper. You also need a brush. In my opinion, for this exercise flat brushes are a little bit easier to paint a little square. Mine is about half an inch by width, but you can also use other shapes of brushes to achieve the same result. You also need a water jar or any container that will help you to rinse your brush. You also need a ruler to measure the size of your little squares when you cut them. Last but not least, remember to have some paper towels or old rags for some quick disaster relief. That's pretty much what you need for this class. In the next video, I'm going to show you how to prepare your watercolor paper and turn them into little color chips. 3. Preparing Paper: First, let's prepare our paper. I have nine inches by 12 inches of watercolor paper. Student grade will be just fine. In terms of size, I made my little chip one inch and a quarter by one inch and three quarters. It really depends on what kind of brush that you are comfortable with. I'm going to use a medium-sized flat watercolor brush, which you will see later that I can comfortably paint on my little square. If your brush is larger, feel free to make your chips larger as well. For each 12 by nine inches, watercolor paper can yield about 45 little colored chips. I only cut three sheets for this class, but feel free to cut more and just store those little chips somewhere else. Whenever you feel like you want paint, just grab a couple blank ones and start adding to your library. 4. Beginning Steps: To get started, I basically just squeeze some of my individual paint. They can be watercolor or wash or both. At the lower left corner of my palate, maybe it's a little bit hard to see, but I have a puddle of acrylic. The goal of that is to add some opaque white later in the process. For the first scholarship, I just want to document what the pure tube color look like. I simply just added some water and use this light blue on the left. On my palette, I've mixed different paint, including different brands, and there is also watercolor and guage. So the consistency is very different. At the beginning, you may require some of learning. For some colors, you will have to add a little bit more water to make sure that your brush is not thirsty. Which means that you will not run dry halfway through or have some unintended umbrella effect. As you can see, I've loaded tons of paint on my brush. I'm just going to use it for mixing with the next color. Each chip is going to have its own character. You can clearly see the marks of your pen. I think that's a really charming aspect of a handmade color chip. I'm just going to use the leftover blue to mix with this bright yellow, at a third spot. So I get this nice grassy green. It seems like I've really overloaded my brush with blue the first round. You can still see the leftover blue on top of my brush, but it's okay. I'm just going to give it a try and see what result I will have over here. There's a little bit of gradation happening. But who says one chip can only have one color? As long as you're okay with that and just go for it. With my brush mostly dry, I'm going to feed it with a tiny bit of water and continue to unload the blue to my palette. As you can see, the color turned a little bit more like a moody green. For the next a few chips, I'm just going to use the two color but with different proportions to see what results I can produce. I'm not going to use too much of blue because the color is pretty cold already. I'm just going to add a little bit of yellow each time I paint and to see what group I can get. I like to put them side-by-side as I worked on this tiny greenish blue group so that I can see the result and know when to stop. As we are learning the personality of our paints together, I think it's really fun to slow down and give ourselves space and time to process and to make mistakes like this one and learn to fix it and move on to the next one. The technique itself right now is to just mix two colors to keep one color as a constant and add the other color a bit at a time. I will let music do most of the talking right now and to give you some time to work on your own color chips. Now we have a little nice group. As you can see, I've introduced a couple of different colors. One is the white acrylic. Basically, it will make everything you are working on more pastel. That's what happens to the previous screen and also in this current color, I added some darker green to the mix. I like how refreshing the darker green has been. So I'm going to continue to work a little bit at a time to see where this is going. See you in two minutes. I've intentionally washed off all my previous lighter blue and to work on this darker blue. I could have gave you the specific brand and the specific name of the paints, but that's not really the point of this class. I really want to encourage you to use whatever paint you have even that's like a student grade or kids grade. That's completely okay. The point of this class is to enjoy the color and enjoy make sane, enjoy learning itself, and relax your mind in the process. In real life, I'm very much a type A person. I want to get things done as quickly as efficiently as possible. It is a very big challenge for me to sit down and to work with paints that I have to wait for them to dry. To be honest, I got this set of paints about five years ago and I've never opened it. I never even used them because I thought water color and wash is so slow until I really hit a creative walk. I normally work on screens, either a computer or iPad. But for weeks and weeks, I just wasn't able to produce anything that I could really be proud of or I even enjoy drawing. I knew I have to do something drastically different. What I did is to unplug from all the screens that I have been working on and struggling with for now and to pop open these paints and to see what they do. As a result, I found myself really, really enjoy the process. That's why I'm so excited to present this process for you. Hopefully, it can be this refreshing stab for your own creative journey and to give you brand new inspiration, whatever your practice is focused in. Right now, I'm jumping between different colors. Sometime I work on the purplish puddle above and other times I jumped to the ocher puddle on the right. There's really no rule. The only thing I want to mention is that if you want to make things pastel, just add more white. If you want to have some neutral color like a warm dark black, all kinds of gray, I would say wait until the end. Because when things are really, really messy, when you mix all different colors together, they will naturally turn gray and you can't work for a neutral colors then. The latest three chips have a nice gradation, even though they come from two different puddles. One it's the top one, which is based on dark blue, the other is the bottom one, which is based on yellow. It's very interesting to see how they converge into the same group of colors. Now I'm going to grab a bit of yellow and slowly you bring it to the red, to warm it up a little bit to make it orange. You may be able to see a slight trace of green. I think that's solely because I needed to change my water and I got lazy. I'm trying to undo that on the paper on the fly. This can be easily solved just by changing the water. If you want to save time, you can have two water jars. One is for rinsing warmer color, the other is for rinsing colder color. The more you incorporate second color, the quicker the transition will be. If you want the gradation to be more subtle, you can incorporate just a tiny bit of a painting at a time. Your color transition will look more smooth and subtle. 5. Paint and Guiding Thoughts: As you can see, I like to jump between puddles. My method, is definitely not systematic. You probably have seen something like a watercolor or a color chart on the Internet, it's very different than what we're doing here. According to, a watercolor chart is a grid of colored squares using all or some of the pains in your palate. The grid is labeled on top of the site axis with the names of all your paints. Each square in the chart, is at the intersection of a row and a column of the chart. You fill each of the colored squares on your grid by mixing the colors on one side axis with the colors on top of the axis. This method, is very, very detailed and very methodical. The goal of a watercolor chart, is to reproduce the color. For example, three month later, you want to draw the exact same color, you can trace back to your steps and know which exact colors that you have used. That is very different from what we're doing today. I'm not really following any particular order, I'm just going with the flow, I'm not trying to memorize the sequence of my color mixing process, because I am a digital artist. Someday, if I want to revisit a color, I will probably just simply snap a picture and sample the color from there. If I really like certain color or even the area of the color, I would make the transition a little slower. Basically, I will have more chips to choose from in my favorite colors. I would say work between two colors until you're tired of the direction, and then add the third one or even the fourth one to see where the color is going. For the remainder of this video, I'm going to do some light editing, which I will show you what colors did I incorporate and what the result looks like. If you want to produce similar results, you can use this as a reference. I'm going to give you a couple of minutes of music break. Afterwards, we will talk about another topic. 6. Paint and A Chat on Unexpected Benefits: We have covered pretty much most of the basic techniques, if you will. The rest of the class is basically just expanding the puddle and mixing different colors and see how it look like. Sometimes when you mix two colors, that seems to be like fighting with each other and the result can be really pleasant. I'm very much pleasantly surprised by how many unexpected combinations that showed up through this process. This is something that I have not experienced digitally because when I choose a color on a digital screen, I usually have an idea how warm or cold I wanted this color to be and how bright or dark, I want this color to be. With that strong direction in mind, I rarely get any nice little surprise like what I got today. That's something that I really grow to appreciate through this entire exercise and process. Being someone who is so used to the undo button, and the convenience of Command z, then it's challenging to face to whoops moment, and work around it. But I have to say the entire creative process is very therapeutic. When I was just trying it out without thinking about working this into a class, I think I probably spent a whole workday just going through the little squares, one by one, and completely unaware of the time passing by. I think that's such a rare state nowadays with our digital screens all over. When you work on your iPad and, ting, there's all notification to call your attention. The next thing you know, you spend 15 minutes watching cat videos. I find it so refreshing, just being able to sit down and focus for extended period of time. What I really like about this creative exercise is that it's very flexible in terms of commitment. For example, if you are a watercolor artist or wash artist, and you have just painted a masterpiece or a little tiny exercise and you have a little bit of leftover paint, or some color that you really enjoy, or even just before you rinse out your color palette, you can grab the leftover paint and just paint it onto this little squares. Over time you can have a huge collections of very rich colors through your past projects. I'm going to keep painting here and maybe give you a couple of minutes music break, and then afterwards we'll chat about another topic. 7. Paint and A Chat on Overcoming Creative Block: In this video, I'm going to keep on painting and keep on mixing. Then we'll also chat about creative block and ways that I find it helpful to break through it. One of the first thing is to ignore the fear of missing out and just take a break from your work. Sometimes we're so focused in the middle of it and it's really hard to unplug. When you square someone else's feet and you realize that, "Wow, they are being so productive," which may or may not be true. Then you feel the fear of, what if I don't work hard, what if I miss out? I think that's really debilitating. Sometime you do need to have the courage to drop what you're doing and just to walk away and do something completely different. If you want to just think about productivity, just know that walking away can be really productive. If that can help you to get your creative inspiration back sooner and do something you wouldn't normally do. For example, read a book about the galaxy or study the mushrooms in your area. Things that will engage your mind, but don't necessarily align with your line of work. It is okay to give yourself some grace to take a break from it and it is okay that you're not making a portfolio worthy piece every day. Although it's hard to tell how long a creative block may last, I think it's still very helpful to get your creative gears, get your creative tools ready. For example, if you're working on iPad, make sure your iPad and your pencil are charged to and turn off the Wi-Fi. Say that if you're super inspired, all of a sudden, you can just open it and get going. If you are a watercolor artist, you have a small set of paint and even fill your water jar and leave it in the dedicated area in your house and also have a sketchbook nearby. If you know that if you are inspired, you can just grab your brush and get going. If you're out about a lot, you can carry a sketchbook with a pen stuck in the middle, like a bookmark, so that you can quickly just jump to the blank page and start drawing. Whatever your creative practice is, just to make sure you create a environment that welcomes the creative inspiration back once you're done with the creative block. 8. About Neutrals and Beyond: Jumping back to our project. As you can see my color palette is pretty messy right now. I've added a lot of heavy colors, like blue and green and things looks pretty moody, which is what I want because in this section, I want to work on neutrals. Which is different shades of gray, basically. For most paints sets, you have the option of using pitch dark black. It comes in a tube but if you use it, it's like straight black. I think I've managed to avoid doing that, so if you just added a bunch of different colors, it will naturally turn darker and darker. I think that's the ideal black that I want to mix. Believe it or not, there are different shades of black. Some are lighter, some are darker, some are warmer, and some are colder. By customizing your dark color, that will really increase the level of sophistication of your work. I would work on some of the darks until I think I have a good variety, then I will gradually add white to it to make it a little bit lighter, to give me different shades of gray. For example right here, this gray is significantly warmer than the gray next to it right here. Because I have some yellow into this particular puddle, and I'm adding more white and this shade is ted more pastel than the previous one. Just make some adjustment for each chip and you will have a pretty good variety for your neutrals. I think over the course of two days, I've painted like 300 something color chips in my collection,and I've really enjoy everyone of them. I have selected some of them to take good pictures and to give me some color palettes that I normally wouldn't go for. But I somehow really enjoy the new refreshing combination. I hope this class can challenge your color comfort zone like it did for me, and if you have any questions regarding to this class or any other of my previous classes, please feel free to reach out to me. It's really a joy and privilege to be part of your creative journey. If you have reached out before social media or on Scotia, you know that I answer every question. Whether it's technical or in general, questions on equipment purchasing or on a specific technique. I would really like to hear what you think of this class or any other of my class and what suggestions that you have for future topics. Of course, if you have painted any number of color chips, please take a picture and show me over the project area, I would love to see. Instead of awkward silence, I'm going to play some music and that'll be it for this class. Thank you so much for watching this class, and I will see you in the next one. [MUSIC]