How to Paint White Animals in Watercolor | Denise Soden | Skillshare

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How to Paint White Animals in Watercolor

teacher avatar Denise Soden, Watercolor Artist & Content Creator

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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.

      Materials & Prerequisites


    • 3.

      Evaluating & Selecting Colors


    • 4.

      Line Drawings for Light Subjects


    • 5.

      Creating a Range of Values


    • 6.

      Four Ways to Create Highlights


    • 7.

      Backgrounds for Light Subjects


    • 8.

      Class Project Overview


    • 9.

      Demonstration: Llama (Part 1)


    • 10.

      Demonstration: Llama (Part 2)


    • 11.

      Demonstration: Alligator (Part 1)


    • 12.

      Demonstration: Alligator (Part 2)


    • 13.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Painting animals at either end of the value spectrum can be challenging, especially using watercolors. This is the second class in a two-part mini series exploring painting black and white animals in watercolor to help you feel more confident and comfortable with these subjects.

In this class, we will:

  • Discover how to evaluate color in reference photos of white animals.
  • Explore how to use color to create interesting values in watercolors.
  • Learn how to create impactful contrast in lightly valued subjects.
  • Decide whether or not to include a background for your portraits.
  • Create both a realistically colored portrait of a white animal as well as a more whimsical portrait emphasizing colors found in their natural fur, feathers, or scales.

This is an advanced class that intends to help you harness your skills for your watercolor tool kit. It is not a class that will teach a single tutorial from start to finish. Ambitious beginners are welcome, but please participate in the prerequisite classes before attempting this one set yourself up for success.

Prerequisite Classes

Materials (Video #2)
You will need basic but high quality watercolor supplies for this class. I have listed the general information below and the specific supplies I am using in brackets.

  • Cotton Watercolor Paper [140lb Arches Cotton Watercolor Paper (Cold Pressed)]
  • Watercolor Brushes [Silver Black Velvet Round Brushes, Sizes 2-8]
  • Artist Quality Watercolor Paints [Da Vinci Paint Co. Watercolors (Affiliate Link)]
  • Mounting Board [Artist Loft Canvas Panel]
  • Masking or Paint Tape [ProTapes General Masking Tape]
  • Two Containers for Water
  • Reusable Rag or Paper Towels
  • Pencils [General's Kimberly Graphite Pencils, Col Erase Colored Pencils, Pilot Eno Pencils]
  • Erasers [Faber-Castell Dust Free & Faber-Castell Kneaded]
  • Masking Fluid (optional) [Jackson's Masking Fluid]
  • White Ink or Gouache [Mission Design Color Matte White]

Use what you have on hand, but if you need any recommendations, check out my "Skillshare: White Animals" list over on Amazon:

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Class Project (Video #8)
In this advanced class, you will ideally be choosing your own subject and color palette. However, this class also includes two demonstrations that you’re welcome to follow along with as well if you would prefer. These demonstrations are not fully detailed tutorials, however they will show you how I apply the concepts from this class into an actual painting. I am so excited to see everyone’s pets and other favorite animals in the Class Project Gallery!

Demonstration: Llama (Videos #9-10)
We start off our demonstration paintings with a more realistic color palette of greys and earth tones. Using my favorite grey mixture of Da Vinci's Cerulean Blue and Indian Red, we begin with a value map to block in the areas of the painting that will not be stark white. This demonstration is organized with the following segments:

  • References, Supplies, and Color Selection  (Part 1, Timestamp 0:00)
  • Step 1: Prepare the Sketch  (Part 1, Timestamp 1:40)
  • Step 2: Prepare the Paper (Part 1, Timestamp 3:50)
  • Step 3: Begin the Value Map (Part 1, Timestamp 6:25)
  • Step 4: Add Color (Part 2, Timestamp 0:00)
  • Step 5: Backgrounds & Negative Painting (Part 2, Timestamp 2:10)
  • Step 6: Add Dark Values (Part 2, Timestamp 6:50)
  • Step 7: Adjust Midtones (Part 2, Timestamp 10:55)
  • Step 8: Gouache Details & Painting Fine Hairs (Part 2, Timestamp (11:25)
  • Step 9: Removing the Masking Tape (Part 2, Timestamp 17:55)

Demonstration: Alligator (Videos #11-12)
We continue our exploration of painting white animals in watercolor with an albino alligator using a much more colorful selection of paint. Using our reference for inspiration, we're going to bump up the saturation to create a lively portrait. This demonstration is organized with the following segments:

  • References, Supplies, and Color Selection (Part 1, Timestamp 0:00)
  • Step 1: Add Main Color (Part 1, Timestamp 1:05)
  • Step 2: Add Second Color (Part 1, Timestamp 4:50)
  • Step 3: Begin Placing Shadows (Part 1, Timestamp 8:55)
  • Step 4: Begin Working on Details (Part 1, Timestamp 13:15)
  • Step 5: Add Background (Part 1, Timestamp 14:55)
  • Step 6: Adjust Values (Part 2, Timestamp 0:00)
  • Step 7: Build Details (Part 2, Timestamp 1:25)
  • Step 8: Darken Shadows (Part 2, Timestamp 18:20)
  • Step 9: Refine Teeth (Part 2, Timestamp 24:10)
  • Step 10: Adjust Values (Part 2, Timestamp 30:15)
  • Step 11: Add Highlights (Part 2, Timestamp 31:10)

Copyright Free Photo Reference Sites:

Remember to:

  • Ask any questions you may have under the “Discussion” tab.
  • Upload your finished painting as a Class Project.
  • Leave a review to let me know what you thought of this class.
  • Follow me here on Skillshare so that you can be notified when the next class is released! 

I hope to see you in the next one!

Music & Photography
All music sourced from and is listed by lesson number.
Blue by iamdaylight 
2 Sliders by Assaf Ayalon 
3 Ready to Go by Assaf Ayalon 
Blue On by Assaf Ayalon 
2days by Assaf Ayalon 
6 Altitude by Noted
Blue by iamdaylight 
First by iamdaylight 
Blue On by Assaf Ayalon 
11 Blue On by Assaf Ayalon 
13 Blue by iamdaylight 

Other Artists' Work Behind Me
Fairytale Fox Designs (Succulent TARDIS)
Mary Doodles (T-Rex Unicorn)
Sushi Art Studio (Eagle & Badger with Scarves)

All of the animal photographs used as reference for this class were sourced from Pixabay, a royalty free photography website.

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Denise Soden

Watercolor Artist & Content Creator


Denise Soden is a watercolor artist and online educational content creator. She's been captivated by both animals and art since before she can remember. In 2015, she left her career, passion, and lifestyle as a zoo educator to tend to her personal health. However, around the same time she found watercolors and has since fallen completely head over heals for them. Connecting her artistic roots with her passion for wildlife and education, she is now a full time artist and educational watercolor content creator.

See full profile

Level: Advanced

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1. Introduction: Have you ever wanted to paint your best fur friend, a love one's fur baby, or other species in the animal kingdom, but have been stumped on how to approach painting such a lightly valued subject? Hello, everyone. My name is Denise Snowden, and I am a wildlife water colorist. In addition to my own artwork, I also create technical watercolor classes here on Skillshare and educational watercolor content over on YouTube. This is the second class in a two-part mini series, exploring how to paint black and white animals in watercolors that you can feel more comfortable and confident painting these challenging subjects. Using value to create a compelling visual story is always important for your watercolor practice. However, it becomes even more important when working at either extreme, and using a translucent medium can make this task even more difficult. White subjects in paintings are not just the white of your watercolor paper. They can include an entire rainbow of colors in a wide range of values. In this class, we're going to learn how to evaluate reference photos in order to choose the best colors for your project. We will explore how to use realistic or more colorful color palettes depending on your preference, learn how to prepare a sketch for a lightly valued painting, revisit the importance of balancing values within a painting, and discuss how to use negative painting to create backgrounds around light subjects. For your class project, you will choose a unique subject that you want to paint. Decide on a color palette that you want to use and set out to put all of your new watercolor skills to practice. This is an advanced class to help you harness your own skills to add to your watercolor toolkit. It's not going to be a single tutorial from start to finish. Instead, it aims to help you build your own skill set so that you can paint any light-colored animal that you come across. For this reason, there are several prerequisites or previous experience that you will need in order to make the most out of this class. We'll talk more about these classes in the material and prerequisite lesson coming up next, but they are also listed in the class description below. Ambitious beginners are, of course, welcome to join us. Just make sure you take those prerequisite classes so that you can avoid frustration and set yourself up for success. I am so glad that you're here today. Let's go ahead and get started. 2. Materials & Prerequisites: Before we talk about supplies, I just want to stress one more time how important the prerequisites for this class really are. We're going to continue to build into your water hug toolkit, but in order to do that, we need to start with a foundational skill so that you can excel in this course. Mastering water control is the most essential watercolor class that I have on Skillshare. It begins with discussing various watercolor supplies, and moves on to a variety of exercises to help you harness the power of water in water colors. In this class, we will be building on those concepts, but not recounting them from the ground floor. Fur, feathers and scales will take your understanding of water control, and show you how to apply these skills to painting animal textures in watercolors. This detailed class has seven texture demonstrations, and three class projects to really become comfortable painting animals. I also have a class on how to draw, and paint animal eyes in watercolor. While this isn't as essential as the other classes mentioned here, this will help you if you are painting eyes in your own watercolor portraits. I will briefly show you how the eyes in my demonstrations here are painted, but for a full understanding of the process, please check out that more detailed class. Finally, we have the first-class in this mini-series called how to paint black animals in watercolors. This class will teach you how to paint darks by focusing on creating interesting color palettes, and emphasizing the importance of values paired with this class, it should give you all the tools necessary to paint at both extremes of values. Now, with all of those classes under our belts, we can use this class to exclusively focus on how to paint light values in a delicate but exciting way. All materials for this course will be listed in the class description below. You will need a high-quality cotton paper for best results. You will not be layering as much as we did in the previous class. However, now that you are well acquainted with cotton paper, it will give you the best results. I will be using Arches, 140-pound cold press watercolor paper, but you can also use hot press paper if you prefer. My favorite hot press watercolor comes from Blick, and is called Blick Premier. For our watercolor brushes, use whichever brushes you are most comfortable with as you are moving through the prerequisite classes. I will be using silver black velvet brushes in sizes 2 through 8 round. If you are looking at for a limited number of new materials to purchase, I would recommend a size 8, and a size 2. You may use any artist-quality watercolor paints that you have on hand. If you have any favorite colors that do not have high tinting strength, and are often bullied by stronger colors on your palette, now is a great time to use them. You can use masking, or painter's tape to secure your watercolor paper to a hard surface, or use a watercolor paper stretcher. I most often use masking tape and the backside of a Canvas panel. You will need two containers of water. I always use two containers of water, but it is especially important when working with lightly valued paintings as you will always need one that is super clear to soften off your edges. You'll need a reusable cloth, or paper towels to dry your brushes on. In this class, we will also need to pay closer attention to our drawing supplies. In this class, we will be discussing different types of pencils, and I highly recommend a kneadable eraser. We will be exploring several methods of keeping, or adding white highlights to our paintings. First, we will take a look at masking fluid, and how to apply the masking fluid in order to preserve the whites of the paper. We will also be looking at adding highlights using either white gouache, or white ink. I don't have a strong brand preference at the moment, but in this class, I'm using what I have on hand, which is Mission matt white design color. White gel pens can also be used to add highlights in lieu of white gouache, or ink, and my favorite brand for watercolor paintings is Jelly Roll. Finally, you will need a reference photo for your final class project, or projects. I will include six optional references in the class resource section, if you would like some guidance, but I would also love to see some of your own fur babies, and favorite animals in the class project section as well. You can find a list of class product recommendations on Amazon using the link in the projects, and resources section below this video. 3. Evaluating & Selecting Colors: Unlike the previous class on painting black animals, there isn't a ton of mixing that you will need to do in this class. Unlike opaque mediums like wash, acrylics or oils, the lightest highlights of our watercolor paintings are generally going to be at the white of the paper since it is a transparent medium. However, there are still plenty of other colors that we can add to the mid-tones and the shadows to make our paintings interesting. To figure out which colors we should use. We're going to step outside of watercolors for a moment and head on over to the computer. When we paint an animal from a reference photo, there are a lot of things to consider. What color is the animal itself is actually white or is it cream or gray instead? What is the ambient lighting like, and does that light reflect in the color of the fur? In this reference photo, we have a white wine cub on an overcast day. The soft lighting makes it so that there are no harsh shadows. Before I tell you what colors that I see in the fur, I want you to take a moment to look at this photo and jot down some of the colors that you notice. To me, this cub is actually more cream colored than pure white with cooler graze in the shadow areas. To confirm my perception of color in this photo, I'm going to bring it into Photoshop and use a color selecting tool to see what we can find. Depending on how your brain works or your preferred learning style. This segment may or may not be helpful if what I'm about to show you is really overwhelming and you're not really sure what I'm doing, please don't worry about doing it for your own photos. For those that is helpful for I'm going to go ahead and explain what I'm doing and then we'll all reconvene back together so that we can take a look at some examples and illustrate how I use this technique or method or approach in our actual watercolor paintings. In Photoshop using the eyedropper tool over any part of the photo, I can click my left mouse button and hold down. There is a gray outer circle on my tool tip which shows the tool itself, and then inside there is a wheel that is divided in half horizontally. The top of the circle is the exact shade that you are hovering over at the moment. The bottom half of the circle is the last selected color. In this case, I made it white so you can see just how white or not white, the other colors were hovering over really are. Using this tool, we can isolate what colors are actually in the animals fur, feathers or scales. Here is a slide with five colors that I saw come up most often during that exercise for the lion cub. Aside from the bright white highlight, we have a very pale, warm gray, a grayish yellow ocher, a warm mid gray, a warm dark gray, and a cool mid gray. If I were to paint this with a realistic looking colors, I would probably paint much of the face with a very diluted yellow ocher that is neutralized a little bit with either an ultramarine blue or a cool violet. I'd use soft graze and the shadows and even darker grays for the detail areas like the eyes, nose, and ears. Let's try another example with a cooler photo. What colors do you see in this rabbits fur? This rabbit was photographed on a bright day in the snow, we likely don't see many harsh shadows because the snow is so reflective, which softens the shadows edges. I saw very warm grays or possibly grayish browns depending on your perception in the highlight areas and a range of cool blue graze in the shadows. For this painting, I do some very diluted, raw umber, cerulean blue and either a neutral tint or specialty black like so delight genuine for the darkest shadows for the ears and the eyes. Let's try a few more. This egret, it was photographed while the sun was up, but low in the sky. We do have some strong shadows and you can see that the side of the head and neck are definitely not white when compared to the highlights on the wings. In a painting, we'd want to preserve a lot of the white of the paper for the front edges of the wings, chest and forehead. I'd use a very diluted, a warm gray in the transitional areas that begin rotating away from the sun, like the definition on the distal ends of the wings, due to the curvature of the wings, the area of the wings that are closer to the body and dropping away from the sun are a very cool toned, blue-gray. Cerulean is my favorite blue for this type of shadow. The last color to consider is the far side of the wing, which is reflecting the light from below, and it's actually quite green. Blues are most commonly seen in the shadows on a white fur. But in this picture of a white loma, most of the colors that we'd use to replicate this image as closely as possible from reference would be various shades of muted greens, leaning toward a yellow ocher or raw umber. There are some very dark shadows around the nose, lips, eyes, and ears that you might want to paint a more neutral gray color as well. My final color palette might consist of a sap or olive green, a raw umber, a yellow ocher, and a neutral tint. I also wanted to make sure that we had some really colorful examples in here. While we can push the colors further than any of the reference photos that we're using, some lighting conditions can naturally create some absolutely gorgeous colors as well. In this painting of a swan at sunset, the vivid warmth of the sun can be seen in the head, neck, and back under the wings. There's even a lavender or mauve color cresting over the top of the wings, transitioning the highlight to a much bluer shadow. For the bird in this painting, I would use a yellow ocher, cerulean blue, and perhaps a quinacridone violet neutralized with the yellow ocher for those mob tones. If that's too bold of a choice for your preference though, you could always use something like an Indian red for an earthier or vibe. Finally, we have a photo taken with a well-lit artificial lighting without much interference from reflected light, rather than the surrounding colors impacting the color of the animal. This albino alligator has some gorgeous colors on it skin itself. The beautiful pinks and yellows are most prominent on the skin, but if you look more closely, you can also see there's even a lavender on the shadows of the teeth. For this painting, you could use either a heavily diluted bright pink like a quinacridone rose, or a softer granulating paint like a potter's pink. I'd use yellow ocher for the yellow areas and then mix whichever pink that I wanted to use with a cerulean or ultramarine for the purple tones. Whether you're going to be bringing your photo into Photoshop or does using your good old eyeballs. I hope this lesson was helpful in helping you to identify colors within your reference photos and letting that help inform your paint color decisions. 4. Line Drawings for Light Subjects: When we were painting dark animals in the last class, it was fairly important to have decently firm pencil lines so that we didn't lose them underneath the dark washes. With light animals, we're going to encounter the opposite problem. If you do not want your pencil lines to show in your final piece, you're going to need to consider several factors, but luckily, you have a few different options depending on your preferences. Graphite comes in different hardness, the softer the lead, the darker the line, and the more smudging that you can expect on your paper. Soft lead is generally not preferable for watercolor paintings unless you're going for a specific style that shows the graphite. Soft lead is indicated with the letter B. Hard leads will be lighter in value and more tightly packed in the lead itself, so they aren't prone to as much smudging. However, with really hard lead you will need to make sure not to press down too hard or you risk permanently scouring your watercolor paper. Doing so will cause marks to show on your final piece. Hard leads are indicated with the letter H. If you are using graphite for lightly valued subjects, I'd recommend using nothing softer than an HB and definitely be aware of the pressure that you're using as you move further into the harder leads. If you're feeling fed up or bored with graphite, you might want to give colored pencils a try. There are a lot of options out there and I'm not an expert in this medium, but I can't show you a few of the products that I have tried with watercolor paintings. Col-Erase is an affordable brand of colored pencil that I find works well for watercolor sketches. It's a fairly hard pencil and they don't smear too easily. If you are looking for a mechanical colored pencil, I have used the Pilot Eno pencils as a well. I love these for more detailed sketches, but the lead is softer and partially water-soluble. This means that they are more prone to smearing and you might end up with color pencil in your watercolor wash once it gets wet. Regardless of the brand of colored pencil, you can either choose a color that closely matches your subject for a less noticeable sketch in your finished piece or you could choose a contrasting color for a purposefully chosen color composition. If you are looking for your sketch to completely blend into the painting, reach for watercolor pencils. This is the most expensive option, but while these look and feel similar to colored pencils, they are water-soluble and will soften almost entirely when water is added. Regardless of which pencils you use, cleanup is important. Once we start painting on top of our sketch, it might be difficult, if not impossible, to remove the graphite or colored lead underneath once it has locked into the paper. If your sketch ends up too dark, you can use a kneaded eraser to pick up excess pigment and lighten your sketch as much as possible before you begin painting. I also like to use my favorite dust-free eraser to clean up any remaining smudges that might be on your paper. Once again, you can find all of the products mentioned in this section of the class available on the class supply list. 5. Creating a Range of Values: In the water control class, we talked about different methods for controlling values. You can regulate the amount of water that you use or layer colors until the desired value is reached. Usually, we do both at the same time. For painting white and light animals, we're going to have a lot less paint on the paper than if we were to paint a darker subject. However, it is still important to anchor our artwork with a few darker values to create interest through value. How to paint black animals in watercolor, we started off with a wash to knock back the white of the paper to a light gray. This first layer represented the lightest values of the subject. For white animals, the lightest value is the white of the paper, so we will not need to use that first wash. Instead, we're going to jump right into our value map, placing smaller layers around the painting in areas of mid-tone and shadow. To keep highlights intact, which we will cover in more depth in the next lesson, make sure that your water remains clean. That way you can always soften off to the white of the paper without using contaminated dirty water. Once you feel comfortable with these values, we're going to anchor the piece with the darkest values, which are often around the eyes, ears, and nose of animal subjects. Once these darker values are in, we may decide to go back and deepen some of the shadows throughout the painting to help with the overall balance. This is completely normal, so don't worry if you didn't get it right on the first shot because I rarely do. Finally, if you've lost some highlights that you wish you hadn't, don't fret. You can always correct them at the end with ink or gouache. 6. Four Ways to Create Highlights: Now that we have values in mind, how should we preserve the lightest areas of highlights in our paintings while we work? Today, I have four different methods to show you so that you can choose the one that you like best. Painting around highlights requires the most attention to detail and careful execution of any of the methods we'll be looking at, especially when you're working with furry critters. In this demo of a gray cat, you're going to see me painting around white whiskers. With this method, it not only requires us to be very careful around the areas of highlight, but also with the grays that continue from one side of the whisker to the other. We want those grays to look like a continuous patch of fur not different values on either side that are disconnected. Personally, this level of detail takes the fun out of watercolor painting for me, because my inattentive brain checks out and the painting usually suffers because of it. However, it is the best option for watercolor purists who don't want to use a large quantity or any other mediums like gouache, ink, or acrylic. If you want to keep the white of the paper intact without the level of attention that the last method required, masking fluid or liquid frisket might be a good option for you. Masking fluid is a lead text-based medium that protects the areas of the paper that you apply it to. It starts off as a liquid that you can apply in an applicator bottle, a ruling pen, a brush, a toothpick, or any other applicator tool, and then you let it dry so that it forms a protective rubber across the top of the paper. My favorite method of application are these fine tipped bottles which allow for really fine detail work. You squeeze the bottle and adjust both speed and pressure to apply the desired thickness. Do you note that the area where I start each whisker is unavoidably thicker than the tapered ends that I'm able to achieve by lifting my hand away from the paper later in the stroke? Once the masking fluid is dry, you can paint over the protected areas, so it is much easier to keep the areas of gray on either side of the whiskers continuous from one section to the next. However, one drawback to masking fluid is that you're much more likely to get little outlines of darker paint around the edges, the frisket where pigment collects as it dries. You can lift or soften these edges once the frisket is removed, but there's still additional work that needs to be done to make the piece look more natural overall. Wait until your pigment is completely dry before removing the masking fluid to avoid tearing the paper. One other thing to note is that you want to make sure that there isn't too much paint that has settled on top of the masking fluid and dried there. If there is, you can very gently try and clean it off with a barely damp piece of paper towel, by removing this before you try and remove the frisket, you will avoid dragging that pigment across your painting. After you have removed all of the masking fluid from your paper, go back and touch up the edges. The touch ups that will need to be done are dependent on your subject. In this demonstration, I am adding a very slight drop shadow to areas where two or more whiskers overlap, and I also went back to the base of each whisker to try and narrow down that initial blob that the applicator tip lay down that I mentioned earlier. Masking fluid is great for watercolor purists who want a bit more freedom while working around highlights. However, there are some sizable drawbacks. If you are using cold or rough pressed paper, you're masked lines may have bumpy edges that follow the texture of the paper, rather than the straight line or smooth shape that you are trying to create. At the end of your painting process, you will need to touch up the formerly protected areas that aren't stark white, and fine details might look a little bit more rigid than some other methods that we'll look at today. Obviously, this is also not a helpful technique for anyone who is allergic to latex. The next couple of methods will allow us for more freedom throughout our painting process, and I personally find it to be the most satisfying experience overall. We are going to start off by painting the main areas of our image normally. We will, of course, be mindful of our values making sure that we keep interesting contrast between light and dark, however, in this example, we will not be concerning ourselves with painting around each individual whisker. Once we're finished with all the base layers, we have a few options for how to add our whiskers back into the painting. Gel pen is the quickest, easiest, and most portable option for adding highlights. The drawback is that it's difficult to achieve line variation and lines can look a bit stiff. However, with enough coaxing, you can usually make something work. This is my preferred methods for sketchbooks and for traveling. For finished paintings, I prefer to use an actual brush. With this method, you can use bottled ink, quash, or acrylic paint. My favorite is quash as it is closest to watercolor and gives the most seamless appearance between the two mediums. Using a finely pointed brush, you'll want to prepare your medium of choice to a smooth, paintable, yet still opaque consistency. For inks, this means you'll probably be ready to go right out of the bottle. However, for quash and acrylic, you'll need to water down your paint ever so slightly. Just enough water to allow your paint to glide smoothly over the paper without skipping it, leaving it pigmented enough to leave a solid opaque mark. For longer lines especially like these whiskers, I highly recommend silver black velvet brushes. I used to use stiffer synthetics that I had more control with, but they just never held enough paint for me. A size 1 or 2 in this brand that will get you so much to work with when it comes to these fine detail hairs. Playing around with this method to get the right consistency and technique can take time, but I absolutely prefer it to any of the other methods that we've covered. You have full control over line variation and you don't have to worry about saving the bright white highlights throughout the rest of the painting and I feel it's more organic to the painting process. For animals specifically, I actually prefer the way that the white looks when it lays on top of the other colors as I feel, it helps give dimension to fur or feathers. I don't recommend using the large amounts of quash, ink, or acrylic to compensate for major errors or to fill in large spaces of white, unless you're specifically going for a mixed media appearance. You can definitely tell that it's not the white of the paper and I use it as fairly as possible and any given painting. Here are the four methods that we tried today so that you can see the differences and similarities between each technique. I highly recommend pausing the class here and doing a few practice studies to find out which method you enjoy painting with the most. Since there are several options, please feel free to use the tools that you have on hand. You don't need to go out and buy new materials like masking fluid or ink if you don't already have it in your space. I love to hear which method you think looks the best, and does that align with the method that you enjoy painting with the most? 7. Backgrounds for Light Subjects: In how to paint black animals in watercolors, we had to make the decision pretty early on whether or not we wanted to add a background, and if so, when? When painting a white animals, I feel like the answer is more often than not to include a background since the white of the paper can blend them with your lighter subject. However, if you are undecided, you can always wait till the end of the process to make your decision. For this lesson, I have prepared two sketches to the same stage of completeness. In the first sketch, we will not be using the background. Instead, I will be very lightly outlining some of the edges that are subject to set it apart from the background. If you're using this technique what I mean for a more realistic outcome, there is a very fine line between a subtle outline and a more stylized inking at, look. I'm using a very finely tipped brush with a very diluted solution of paint. The lines are not solid all the way around instead, some of them are just implied. If you are looking for a more stylized approach, you can push it even further to get the look that you're after. For the second image, we're actually going to be using the background to help us define the subject through negative painting. Instead of painting the white of the fur itself, we are going to be painting around the fur leaving a white fur texture in the areas that we are avoiding. When using this technique, I still like to alternate between hard and soft edges, meaning some of the fur will be clearly outlined, while other areas will have a more softened edge. You can choose which edges are most important to you and leave those hard to draw attention towards them. Areas that are less important to you that you don't want the viewer's eye going to first like the fur at the bottom of this particular sketch can be softened, opt for a more gentle transition. When using this technique with a fur or feathery subject, I will often go back in after the background has dried to add some finer details. You can see that these two approaches make for very different moods in the final piece. You can decide which you prefer for your painting on a case-by-case basis. 8. Class Project Overview: As I mentioned at the start of this class, I am so excited to see you put your new found knowledge into practice. For your class project, I'd love for you to choose a subject that you are passionate about, whether that's an animal you know personally or just one of your favorites from the animal kingdom. To start you off with some ideas, I included the six pictures that we took a look at earlier in this class in the projects and resources tab below. If you do use one of the copyright-free images that I have provided, they are formatted to print an 8 by 10 inches. If you'd like a different size, you can re-size or crop them on your own computer. To show you how I approach these subjects, I've included two demonstrations in this class that I highly recommend you watch before starting on your own paintings. The first demonstration is of a llama that is using natural and neutral colors. The later example is an albino alligator that perhaps ironically has a lot more color in it. Neither demonstration is meant to be a complete step-by-step tutorial, but rather examples to strengthen the concepts that we've covered already in this class and show you how I implement them into my own painting practice. Based on the feedback from the last class, the footage and these demonstrations will still be edited, but all in real time rather than speed up. If you'd like to speed up the footage, you can ingest the place speed for yourself on the video on your computer. While I will be narrating the major steps during these demonstrations, since these are not a stroke by stroke tutorial, there will be stretches of time where I have intentionally left the audio off so that you can put on your own music or podcasts or whatever, instead of listening to whatever my preference is. I will of course, chime in during important transitions to explain what I'm doing, so make sure to keep the lessons audio on for those moments. After you've watched the full demonstration, I'd love for you to pick your own reference photo to work on. Remember, the goal of this class is to learn how to paint light animals in a watercolors, not how to draw animals, which is an entirely different skills. Please don't let that hold you back if you want to learn how to paint them. If you're drawing skills aren't super-strong, feel free to either trace your own photo or a copyright-free photo onto your watercolor paper so that you can dive right into painting. This will set you up for success. These detailed demonstrations will be best viewed on a desktop monitor or other large screen to get the most out of them. On the computer, you can find all of the recommended materials under the About tab under this video and all of the reference photos under the Projects tab. When you're all done with your painting, I'd love to see it in the class project gallery. Use the Create Project button on your browser to upload it. While I greatly appreciate feedback in the class reviews, I can't respond to reviews that have questions. If you have any questions during the class, please make sure to post them on the Discussions tab and I will get back to you as soon as possible. 9. Demonstration: Llama (Part 1): For this demonstration, I will be painting a sweet little llama with the goal of keeping my colors rather neutral for you. Using the color picking tool earlier in this class, we can see that there is a lot of underlying colors that lean towards green. However, in the interest of showing you a more neutral palette, I will be using my favorite gray mixture instead. Using my wildlife watercolor palette available from Da Vinci Paint Company. The colors I will be using today are Indian, red and cerulean blue in a gray mixture. Gold ocher, Denise's Green, Perylene green, and neutral tint. If you'd like to follow along and do not have this particular palette, you can substitute any yellow ocher for the gold ocher and any mossy sap green for Denise's green. Other supplies include a six by nine inch piece of Arches, cold pressed cotton, watercolor paper, silver black velvet brushes and whitewash. I'm using mission design color matte white, but the brand doesn't particularly matter. Out of the four approaches we discussed earlier in this class, my favorite technique for painting white animals is to use whitewash. I will not be using masking fluid or gel pen in this demonstration. If you are ever having difficulty discerning values in your reference picture, especially when using a neutral color palette. One easy approach is to convert your reference photo into a black and white image before beginning. This will more clearly guide you on where to leave your highlights and where to place your darker shadows. Using a coal erase pencil in the color light gray, I drew my initial sketch on a nine by six inch piece of watercolor paper. In full disclosure, I did make a light guidelines for myself before filming so that I could keep my paper centered on the camera for you all to see. My actual sketching process is not this tidy. However, I wanted to make sure that I showed you about how dark I would draw the initial sketch, as well as how I lift the sketch using a kneadable eraser. Typically I will tape the paper directly to a hard surface with a half inch allowance on each side so that the finished painting has a tidy border. However, there are some situations where you may not want to add a white border around your painting or you do not want to lose any of the surface area that you have on the size paper that you are using. In those cases, I use a different taping method that I learned from another, a watercolor artist and fellow Skillshare teacher, Alisha Yetsa. For this method, I'm going to start by taping the backside of the painting so that the sticky side is facing upward. I'm using a 1.5 inch masking tape and a little more than half is sticking to the paper itself. Press the paper firmly onto the tape. Repeat this on the opposite side of the paper first, followed by the two other sides adjacent. After all four strips of tape on the backside of the paper facing upwards. We're now going to tape that tape to our board rather than taping the paper itself. Carefully align a new strips of tape to the front of your paper so that they follow the edge. Firmly, press the tape together, then use the overhanging tape to attach the watercolor paper to the board you are using. I use the backside of an inexpensive canvas panel that is covered with packing tape. The packing tape makes it much easier to remove the masking tape at the end of each painting process. I have been using the same panel for years. Repeat this on the opposite side first, pulling the paper is taut as possible, and then follow with the other two sides. This process does require twice as much tape as normal. If you have the paper allowance, you can of course, tape your paper normally to your board if you prefer to fully stretch your paper traditionally by all means you can do that instead as well. For the majority of this painting process, I will be using a gray mixture made from Cerulean blue and Indian red. I use this combination so much that I mix myself up an extra pan to keep on my palette so I don't have to constantly mix the two colors together. That is what you're going to see me using during this painting. You can, of course, use your own favorite gray mixture in its place, or just mix the two colors on your palette. I do want to note that not all Cerulean blue and Indian reds mix together this smoothly, some of the more heavily granulating mixtures will end up separating on your paper creating blue and gray areas that are more prominent, so do some testing before you jump in with this combination if you're using a different brand. Using a size 8 round brush, I am diluting this mixture down quite a bit so that it is on the lighter side of a mid-tone. As you've seen in my other classes, I am using two brushes to paint: one has pigment on it while the other has clean water, this is so that I don't waste pigment by constantly rinsing off my brush to be able to soften off the edges. Looking at the reference image, I will be mapping out all of my mid-tones section by section softening off each as I go. You can use a dry brush to soak up any unwanted puddles. Repeat these miniature washes throughout the entire white area of the painting, keeping your animal textures in mind. In this case, we want to make sure that we are respecting the fur textures where applicable. When you get to an area of longer fur, we need to use negative painting to paint around the fur rather than painting the white fur itself. This is most clearly seen in the ears. By painting the darker shape on the inside of the ear, we can carve out the white areas of fur nearby. While I try to save as much of the white paper as possible, we can and will add a white ink or gouache later on to add fine details along this edge as well. Once the broader areas are mapped in, we can spend a bit more time on the focal areas like the eyes, nose, and ears. The llama in this reference has their eyes closed, so we're going to turn our attention to painting around the eyelashes to give them some form. We will use the same negative painting technique that we used for the ears. We'll also add another layer around the nose to more clearly define the nostrils, and we'll go back and reinforce the shadows that we've already started on the ears. 10. Demonstration: Llama (Part 2): Using gold ocher, I'm going to start placing some warm highlights in the areas of the reference photo that show some color. I'll do this in the same way that I've been adding all the other paint, which is by adding a small wash and softening it off to the white of the paper. If you would prefer to use a green leaning color that is closer to the actual reference image, you may certainly do so. Regardless of the color used, introducing a second color will add some dimension and liveliness to the piece. I really like the gold ocher here because it adds some warmth to the otherwise cool gray. Using the fine tip of the paintbrush, we're going to begin painting the background while negatively painting around the llama's fur. My background alternates between Denise's green and Perylene green, though you can use whichever colors you'd like to. Work from one side of the painting to the other in order to avoid back runs. In this case, I am starting with the lower right and will arc up around until I end on the lower left. Feel free to turn the paper in whichever direction necessary to get the correct angle for painting around the fur texture. We can add those touches of white later with a white gouache or white ink but we do want to try and do as much of the work possible right now so we don't have to fix it later. Once the background is in, it anchors us and gives us a bit of context for the rest of our painting and the values that we need to be using. To add interest in the values in llama itself, we can continue to build up our darker areas with additional layers of paint. I lost a bit of footage at the first nostril, but here we are continuing to work on the mouth and freckles. Here I am adding a very small amount of water to the page so that the pigment will softly feather out into a wet and wet wash. After painting all of your darks, adjust the mid tones if needed, This will help bridge the gap between your light and dark values. Using your preferred opaque white medium, whether that's ink or gouache, we are going to start adding in our white details now. For this painting, it will mostly be in the form of stray hairs along the edge of our llama. If you are using gouache, you'll have to practice with the consistency of your paint, if you are using the paint straight from the tube, chances are it will not paint smoothly across your paper, especially on cold press texture. If it's too diluted, it will start to lose its opacity. Water down the gouache only as much as you need to, to paint smooth lines and you can test the mixture on a scrap piece of paper. My favorite brushes for painting fine hairs are silver black velvet rounds in size 2 or 4. These brushes hold enough paint to be useful and not skip constantly across the paper, but are still pointed enough to paint really fine details even though the brushes themselves are not tiny. I used to use diverse synthetic brushes that had more control but had trouble holding water. Switching to the silver black velvet has made my life so much easier. Holding your brush merely perpendicular to the paper, anchor your forearm by balancing that on the table. Practice a few times in the air before you put your brush to the paper, getting comfortable with the range of motion that your wrist has in this position. Be sure to turn your paper so that the hairs you are painting will naturally flow with the movement of your wrist. Don't try to force your wrist to go in directions it doesn't want to go in. Envision how long you want the line to be and barely touch your brush to the paper to begin painting. Pull up at the end of each stroke so that the line tapers to a fine point. If a gouache line ends up thicker than you want it to be, you'll often be able to soften it off with water just like you would soften off water color. However, spreading the white pigment too much will start to make your painting look chalky if you use this all the time. If you're using the silver black velvet, you should be able to do several, too many hairs before needing to refill your brush with paint. If you are using a stiffer synthetic brush, you might have to refill every stroke or two so keep This in mind. For this particular painting, be sure to vary your lines having a variety of lengths and directions based on what you see in the reference photo. Making uniform lines for animal texture in most cases will look too soft and rigid, especially with llama here that has different lengths of fur and it's very wiry around the edges. This painting involves mostly shorter hairs, but if you find yourself in a situation where you need longer hairs or whiskers, you can try the same technique but instead of moving your wrist, try moving from your elbow, still anchoring your arm to a hard, stable surface, lock your wrist in place and move with the elbow. One of the reasons that I love using a white gouache rather than painting around the edges or using masking fluid is that I actually love the way that it looks when it creates white hairs on top of other watercolors in most cases. I feel that it looks much more cohesive for the subjects that I tend to paint. However, keep in mind that if you paint in different subjects or different styles, that may not be the case, so pick whichever technique feels best to you. Once you're done with all the hairs on the outer edges, I also use This technique sparingly in the rest of the painting for areas that I want to bring more definition to. In this case, I'm talking about the eyelashes and inner ears. Using a heat tool or a hairdryer you can gently soften the edges of the tape so that the adhesive releases better if you're having any trouble. You can skip this step if you don't have a heat tool, but do make sure that you are very careful while removing the tapes, that you don't tear the paper. Once the tape is softened, the painting should very easily lift from the masking tape and congrats, you're all done. 11. Demonstration: Alligator (Part 1): For the second demonstration, I will be painting an albino alligator. But this time our goal is to create a colorful and lively portraits. We'll be using the colors in the reference as inspiration for our color palette, but we'll be turning up the saturation quite a bit. Using my earth friendly Vinci watercolor palette, the colors that I'll be using today are rose red deep, which is a quinacridone rose, gold ocher, civilian blue hue, Indian thrown blue, and Denise's green. Feel free to swap out any of these colors for similar tones that you already have on your palette at home. Other supplies include a 9 by 6 inch piece of arches, cold pressed cotton watercolor paper, silver black velvet brushes, and whitewash. I'm using Mission Design Color Matte White, but the brand doesn't particularly matter. If you are having difficulty discerning values in your reference photo, you can convert your reference picture into black and white. This will help you to more easily identify the values in your painting. After repairing your sketch and paper as we did in the last demonstration, our next step will be to begin layering in our main color, which in this case is a gold ocher. This painting required that I approach it differently than I normally do with my paintings. Instead of using a value map like I did in the last demonstration and in previous classes here on Skill-share, we need to consider what colors are going into this piece and how they might interact with each other in light washes. The main colors in the alligator skin that I noted were yellow, pink, and purple. Since yellow and purple are opposites on the color wheel, laying them over each other will create a brownish neutral hue. Therefore, as we begin to place our yellows, we want to make sure we avoid the areas where purples will be in later. A little bit overlap is okay, but keeping them separate for the most part will help to keep our painting crisp and colorful. I started with the yellow for two reasons. The first is that the skin is predominantly yellow, which is fairly straightforward, and the second reason is that the gold ocher that I'm using for my yellow is not a very assertive color and certainly isn't as assertive as quinacridone rose, which we'll be using for both our pink and to make our purple mixture later. If I had used the quinacridone rose first, it could have been a bit too strong and taken over more of the page than I wanted it to. By starting with that yellow first, we're just going from our weakest colors up to our most bold. Once we have the gold ocher establishing the main tone of our painting, we can start to add in little moments of these more assertive colors, starting with a quinacridone rose. When it's applied to the paper on its own in a very light wash, it creates a lovely soft pink hue. When it's glazed over the yellow, it actually creates a really beautiful, gentle orange that works nicely as a transitional area between the two tones. For the eye, I am going to use a mixture of gold ocher with a little bit of that quinacridone rose to make further use of that lovely orange color. Underneath the eye and along the corner of the mouth, I begin to use the paint to plan out my shadows. This will eventually be joined with a darker purple. But since the quinacridone rose will be in that purple mixture, the pink on its own is a good place holder for now. At this time, we're also going to start the reflection in the water. We are going to repeat the same colors in the reflection as we painted above the water, but with lighter values. Now we are ready to shake things up by adding a bit of our third color, which is a soft purple mix, from quinacridone rose and the celerian blue hue. I'm going to be looking at my reference photo to identify shadows such as the side of the jaw, the creases of the mouth and around the eye, all while reflecting this in the mirrored image in the water as well. We're also going to add this purple to help establish the shadows on the teeth. Now that all of our main colors are in the painting and our forms have started emerging, it's time to add in some detail in the focal areas of our piece. Using pinks and purples, we're going to continue to add shadow and depth to the eye. Just like we did for the lama, we're going to pause working on the main forms of our subject to anchor the painting using our dark background color. This dark value will let us know how dark the shadows within the alligator need to be especially around the eyes, nose, and mouth. In this painting, I am using Indian throw blue mixed with a bit of Denise's green to create this really dark teal color. I'm using two brushes. One is loaded with pigment and the other hands clean water so that I can soften off the edges quickly and efficiently without wasting as much paint as if I were only using one brush. My main focus is making sure that my edges are exactly where I want them to be. Since adding this dark color is also negatively painting in the form of our alligators snout. My second concern is making sure that the other edge of my wash stays damp or wet. This wash will eventually go to the edge of the paper, but it's a loose gradient, meaning that we will get lighter as we move away from the alligator. This will help us to prevent back runs. As I move throughout the wash, you'll see me go back once in awhile to add more pigment to previous areas. Since watercolor whitens as it dries, I want to make sure that it dries as dark as I intended it to be. I could go over it a second time after it dries, but I actually prefer not to do that as it's nearly impossible to line up the hard edges like the one touching the alligator absolutely perfectly. Getting it right on the first pass means less work for me and a better end product since we won't be able to see two different borderlines there on the snout. As requested by the students in my previous class, I'm leaving in all of this footage in real time rather than speeding it up. It might be surprising to some of you how long this type of background ends up taking, so I hope that it's useful information to have as you work through your own class project. But there won't be much more for me to narrate for quite awhile. Navigating around the teeth was the most tedious and least fun part of this painting for me. But I expected that going in. Using the hard lines to outline the teeth would look very out of place with this style, so I'm taking as much care as my inattentive brain can master to soften off the edges that feed into the shadow along the jaw line. Later on we'll work on blending those shadows together a little bit better so it doesn't look so jarring. Also keep in mind, there are some funky angles and reflections going on in this picture. The device that I was using for my reference photo was a bit dark, so I didn't actually see as much of the detail as I should have if I were looking at a computer screen. Please feel free to improve upon my technique in your own painting and put the teeth where they should actually be. 12. Demonstration: Alligator (Part 2): Once the dark background is really dry, we now have a better point of reference for how dark the rest of our mid-tones should be. I'm going to spend a bit of time here reinforcing my first layer with additional glazes. Most of the colors are being placed in the same areas that they were on the first wash with some overlap. Once the mid-tones have been adjusted, I begin looking for areas that would benefit from more detail. In this stretch of the video, I will be adding some purple shadow tones to the horizontal lines between the nostril and eyes, as well as deepen the shadows in the eyes themselves. Next up on our to-do list is to enhance the detail and contrast of the scales to the right of the main eye. I'm using our orange mixture of quinacridone rose and gold ocher, as well as the gold ocher on its own. If you would like a hyper-realistic look, you can, of course, take more time to paint every individual scale, but I prefer a looser approach. The big scoots or scales on the alligator's back get the most attention in this area. They are more prominent than the smaller scales, they cast larger shadows and they make for a really unique silhouette along the upper edge. We need to make sure that they are balanced in the lighter tones as well. When we get to the smaller scales, I'm going to loosely suggest the texture in that area through a light somewhat circular strokes. Once a small patch of these circles are on the paper, then I can soften off some of the edges with a damp brush to make them a little bit less uniform. We talk about this more, of course, in the animal textures class. One of my favorite things about this specific painting is that I was able to create this really lovely, little pastel gradient of scales ranging from a warm yellow, to orange, to pink on the alligator. Then we even get some of the purple as we continue down into the reflection below. Despite it not being highly detailed, it's still one of my favorite things and I just really love that little detail. Eventually, I need to get brave enough to tackle that chunky mouth crease, so in goes the purple. I'll also use a more diluted version of this color to add some textural detail to the bottom jaw and continue working on the eye. Now that those details are in, it's time to work on another very important area of the painting, but for a very different reason. We need to darken the shadow along the upper jaw by quite a bit. However, rather than [inaudible] attention to detail, we want this area to settle and sink into the page without drawing a lot of attention. I'm using a mixed purple that has a lot more of the cerulean blue hue in it, making it a cooler color than what was being used before in other areas of purple in the painting. This is when I'm realizing that I messed up my original drawing that I mentioned in the previous segment. In the reference photo, the lower jaw towards the end of the snout is sitting out of the water just barely, due to the screen that I mentioned being darker than it should have been I misread the situation, and that's just something that happens sometimes. We're going to try and fix it mid painting. The water line was already painted in and the angle isn't quite right. I'm going to start by putting a little bit of quinacridone rose to bring in a little bit of a warmth into the inside of the mouth to reflect the warm tones in the alligator's skin. Then I reinforce the water line going across the entire painting. In doing so, I did lose part of the lower jaw, that little bit that peaks up in the middle of the snout, I pointed out to you now so that hopefully you can account for my mistake and avoid it in your own piece and learn that we can always adapt and adjust if things don't go exactly according to plan. Despite that error, I really love how the waterline in particular turned out in this area. There's a really beautiful softness to it that is just really pleasant to look at to me. Now to make this look like it is a reflection and not a second upside-down alligator. We need to knock back the brightness and we're going to do that with some more of the purple. In this area of the painting in particular wet on wet technique is our friend. Let the water create the water. In my efforts to soften off the reflection, I also ran my brush along the hard edge to reactivate the darker paint and let the lines blur out of it. Now, it's time to work on those teeth. I'm more carefully going to be placing shadows and softening up the edges to give each one a more conical appearance. I mentioned at the start of this class that I use silver black velvet brushes for almost everything, and that you could do everything in this class with a size 8 and a size 2 that is true you can, but if you look closely in this segment of the video, you can tell that I'm struggling with this tiny detail work around the teeth. I stuck it out with you to let you know that you absolutely can do it, but in this very specific task, it would have been easier to achieve what I wanted to with a stiffer synthetic brush. I wanted to mention that to you so you can of course, pick the tools that are right for your practice. Some more purple to deepen up the shadow on the lower jaw and more dark teal into the water to negatively paint around the teeth. At this point my board is upside down to make pleasing some of the details and shadows a bit easier on myself. The goal here was just to balance out all of my values properly. We are finally nearing the end and I did eventually cave and get out a small synthetic brush. This is an a scotta perla size 1. Unlike hairs or whiskers, I don't need this brush to be able to hold a lot of paint and water for long flowing lines. I just needed to paint short, blunt areas like the highlights in the eyes, the small glands on the teeth and a few broader strokes on the scales sparingly. I am applying wash in the areas that I want to draw attention to. Here we are with our finished piece. While I wish that I had caught the issue with the draw much earlier and I wish that I hadn't overworked the teeth. I absolutely love everything from the eye to the right side of the paper. I hope that this helped you to pick up a few colorful tips for working color into your white animal portraits. 13. Final Thoughts: That is going to do it. Thank you so much for joining me in this class today and I hope that you enjoyed learning how to paint white animals in watercolors. I hope that the tools that you learned here in this class help to build its valuable assets in your watercolor toolkits so that you can paint your favorite subjects regardless of what they are. I cannot wait to see your paintings in the class project gallery, so make sure that you upload them when you're finished. Be sure to follow me here on Skillshare if you'd like to be notified of my next class, and as always, happy painting.