Painting a Rainbow Zebra In Watercolour | Charlie Proulx | Skillshare

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Painting a Rainbow Zebra In Watercolour

teacher avatar Charlie Proulx, Watercolour and Textile Artist

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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.

      Your Project


    • 3.



    • 4.



    • 5.

      Base Layer Whites


    • 6.

      Face Stripes


    • 7.

      Body Stripes


    • 8.

      Face Second Layer


    • 9.

      Final Details


    • 10.

      Wrapping Up


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About This Class

Learn how to paint a rainbow zebra using watercolours. We'll use wet-on-wet, wet-on-dry, and layering to create a dynamic painting full of life and bright colours. See how this complex subject can easily be broken down into bite size steps for artists at any level!

You will learn:

  1. Deciding what colours to use for your rainbow portrait to maximize readability and impact.
  2. How to break this complex subject down into layers for easy painting.
  3. Creating depth using wet-on-dry and wet-on-wet techniques.

Meet Your Teacher

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Charlie Proulx

Watercolour and Textile Artist


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Hi there!

I'm Charlie, a watercolour and rug artists who specializes in colourful animal portraits. I also go by SquidTarts on social media and around the web. I absolutely love animals and color!

I'm a self-taught artist and have been a professional artist since 2019. I've sold prints of my paintings all over the world, and I currently sell custom rug portraits as well.

In a previous life, I was a dog trainer, and I absolutely loved teaching both dogs and their families how to communicate with each other clearly. I hope to bring that level of two-way communication to my classes here on Skillshare. Please feel free to reach out if you ever have any questions about my lessons or work.

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Level: Beginner

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1. Welcome!: Do you want to learn how to paint when school animal portraits? Or maybe you want to learn how to use all the colors of the rainbow in a very harmonious way. If so, this class is for you. Hi there, I'm Charlie. I'm a watercolor and textile artists were Atlantic Canada and I specialize in rainbow colored animal portraits. In this class, we will be painting a rainbow colored zebra, and we're gonna be focusing on harmonizing colors. I've laid out this class that each layer is zone step, which is a very beginner friendly, but intermediate artists might also enjoy practicing a variety of watercolor techniques in this course. Thank you for joining me and I hope you enjoyed the class 2. Your Project: Your project for this class is painting a rainbow zebra in watercolor. We'll go over the most important part of remote painting, which is color selection, will break the zebra down into multiple layers and steps and make it very easy to complete the project. At the end of the project, you should have a good idea on how to paint whimsical animal portraits. I want to complete your project. Please make sure to share it. I'm really excited to see what you'll create 3. Materials: The materials you'll need for this project are a good cotton watercolor paper. You can use either hot press or cold press. But if you're a beginner, I recommend using a cold press, which is a textured paper. You also want a selection of colors. I use a split complementary palette. So a cool yellow and a warm yellow, a cool red and warm red, cool blue, and a warm blue. And then I also have an extra violet just because I don't really enjoy mixing purple, but you can use whatever colors you enjoy most. You also want a selection of brushes in different sizes. And how many brushes you use is completely up to you and your personal preference. For this zebra piece, I used a number eight round brush and a number zero liner brush. But you can use any brushes that you enjoy or have on hand. Few miscellaneous items that you'll need are, of course, water and a palette. A porcelain palette is ideal. Remember that any paints that you get on your palette, you can allow it to dry and just reuse them later by React. But even with a bit of water, you also need a reference photo, which I've included in the materials section. I've also included my sketch and my finished color comp. So you can use those if you don't want to draw the zebra yourself, or select your own colors for selecting my colors, I use a digital application called Procreate. But you can use any digital application that you like. Or you can print off the black and white photo and then apply your paints directly over top of it to see how they'll interact 4. Planning: To make a color composition, the first thing I'm gonna do is I'm gonna take my reference and converted to black and white and remove the background, is that it makes it nice and easy to kind of see where the image is going. I'm going to take the black and white layer now, and I'm going to decrease the opacity a little bit. So we're going to make it around 85%. You can make it a little bit lighter or darker depending on how dark your reference photo actually is. Just one itself. The blacks don't actually look completely black. Let me pick a new layer, put on top of our reference photo and change that layer to color. This is going to allow the color to show through anywhere on the reference layer where there's anything darker than white, all the whites are going to stay pure white. The grades are gonna be lighter colors and the blacks will be the darkest colors. I use this layer to test out how my reference photo is going to look with different colors. I have a pretty strong idea of how I want this to look. I definitely want pink and yellow around the face. And I want the yellow to be in the brightest area of the zebra. So that will make it look like it's glowing. Because our eyes will see the yellow and the darkest areas and think that that must be a very bright, highly lighted area. From there, I'm going to use colors that are near these colors on the color wheel. For pink, I'm going to go into purple or red or yellow. I might go into orange or green. And I'm just going to move those around the animal until I've filled out the entire composition. Because this is a color layer is going to keep the background pure white for right now. I find it really helps to test out a few different ideas. So even though I have this idea that I want the zebras muzzle to be pink and the face to be yellow. To try having the zebras face and a bluish color. It's kinda funny how often I'll start out with a strong idea of how I want the colors to look. But then when I'm doing the color composition and they just looked terrible and going the opposite direction and actually works out a lot better. I'm just going to repeat this process. I'm going to play a bunch different colors in much different ways until I find a color map that looks good to me. Whichever colors picked out, you can start painting 5. Base Layer Whites: Now that we've decided on the colors for our zebra, and we've transferred the sketch over to a good quality cotton watercolor paper. It's time to lay down the first layer. For the first layer, we're just going to focus on the shadows that you can see across the white. Prevent the entire zebra ignoring where the stripes are. Going to break this down into chunks to make it a little bit easier on myself. So I'm going to start with just the face and then we'll go on to the body next. I'm just adding an even layer of water across the entire face. And you want this area to be shiny with water, but you don't want any pools depending on how absorbent your paper is, you might need a couple of layers of the clean water to get the desired results. Just being careful to go around the eyes, because I want the eyes to be a different color than the body of the zebra. And where you cut off zebra's head is entirely up to you. I'm keeping the head pretty closely cropped to the face and muzzle. I'm not going too much into the neck and I am going to include the ears. And good quality watercolor paper is going to suck up a lot of water. So you might need to go over this a couple times to make sure that the surface stays nice and damp. And I'm just testing to see a dark my color is It's a little bit too dark. Now, a bit more water. And that's just going to start at one end of the muzzle. So anywhere that is not pure white will get nice coating of color in this base layer. But again, we're not worried about the stripes right now. We're just worried about where there'll be shadow if the animal was completely white. I'm actually going to err on the side of caution with this. And I want to keep it a little bit. On the lighter side. I want the stripes to really stand out, especially in the yellow area. So I want to keep them whites. Quite pale. Nancy, on the reference photo that the entire right side of the zebras face is in shadow, while the left side, towards the body is in sunlight. You want to keep the left side is lighter than the right side. I have a bit of a hard edge here where the pink meets the main. I'm just going to use some clean water and just soften that a little bit with the first layer on the face complete, I'm going to go on and let that dry. And then what the body and can you move their face dry? I'm going to continue on to the body. So just like what the face, we're going to pre wet this area with some clean water. And this is a good time to consider what sort of edges you want for your piece. So harsh edges tend to draw the eye. And those are best around areas like the face where you want to be a focal point. And softer edges, what's known as lost edges, tend to be less eye-catching. I actually want it to fade out the zebra shoulder down here. So I'm going to paint water outside this shoulder area. Then when I add paint over top of it, the paint will disperse into that water is something that you should plan in your planning stage. But you can also choose to be a little bit more relaxed about it. This is a pretty simple portrait, so it'd be pretty relaxed about my edges, right? So again, we're just focusing on what would this animal look like if it were completely white? Where would these shadows be? This area on the zebra is quite light. I want to make sure that my colors aren't coming down too low in this area here. Tap some of that back, just getting a little bit too into that lighter area. And I'm just using a damp brush to blend into the white, nice and lightly. Going to bring some of that Open to the main a little bit. There really isn't much of a shadow on the main at all. So I'm going to keep that fairly light. Now feel you've gone too dark with the color, then you can easily use your damp brush to pick it back up. So I'm just making this shadow a little bit less intense. So I really want to emphasize that highlight there. I'm just dabbing my brush, wiped off mostly water and just pulling it back long that area. I'll go ahead and draw this. I'm gonna do one more layer on the light areas and then we'll be able to move on to the stripes. Well, the first layer complete, you can see where all the colors are gonna be. So I really want to look at my reference photo very closely and see where the shadows are strongest across the white areas of the zebra. So I can see that there's a very dark area on the forehead and down along the right side of the muzzle. So the animals right side or the left side of the picture plane. So I'm gonna go in here. And again, I'm going to free wet this area just right across zebras face. Using our existing colormap, I'm going to apply colors a little bit darker than before, where I see those strong shadows. So this is quite a strong shadow here along the muzzle. And because this area is mostly black, we're going to come back and darken that. Came back in with some of this cooler red. This is quinacridone rose. And want this area to be a little bit darker but not super, super dark, with a little bit of yellow. Just over the eye here. And here around the jaw. You can see it's not moving very much. So I'm just going to take my brush is clean with a bit of water and help that move around a little bit. I'm going to add a little bit of purple. I should be careful with colors like purple because a little bit looks extremely dark. So definitely make sure you're testing your colors before you put them on the paper. This entire ear is in shadow. So I'm just going to fill it in with some purple. And likewise, other ear is in shadow. I'm going to come in and fill that in as well. Now, keep in mind that there is this strong highlight in here. And again, it's completely elective if you choose to include that in your final piece. But if you want, make sure you're saving it. So be careful to paint around it. Once the highlight is gone, it's very, very difficult to get it back again, just like in the previous step, I'm going to come up here with my damp brush. There's a lot of the top of the head bleed in to the main, might have gone a little bit too far in the forehead here with this dark shadow. So I'm just going to lift that back with a clean, damp brush. Just looking at my reference photo and trying to make sure that I can serve all the highlights that I can see. It moving on to the final layer on the white of the body. Again, I'm just going to pre wet body. And this just ensures that the colors blend together nicely and then we don't get any harsh edges. I'm seeing that the strongest shadow is down here on the shoulder. So definitely want to get that a bit darker. I don't actually want this area to be extremely dark, not as dark as it is on the reference photo, because I want this area to really stand out as much as the face. Our eyes are naturally drawn to areas of high contrast. So we want to keep most of the contrast around the face. If you want to keep that lost edge that we created, you have to make sure that you soften off the shoulder. Just going to add little bit more here. That kind of fade off back here. I think that's pretty good. So I'm going to stop there and then we will come back with the stripes 6. Face Stripes: Now we have the whites and the base layer I'll paint in. I'm going to come back in with the stripes. And the first thing I wanna do is paint in this muzzle of the model actually quite dark. So I'm going to use a pretty thick consistency of my red here. Just paint that all in its own. Pay attention to the shadow shapes. So red comes up around this nostril and then down here along the face. And I'm painting this on dry paper. And I'm just going to soften off this edge here with my clean, damp brush gives me that area. It looks quite soft on the reference photo, you can achieve a similar effect by painting water on your piece. First bit of a shadow area here that fades in to a mid-tone red paint, a little bit of red in here and soften that out. And again, I'm just using the colormap that already created for this. So I'm just following our guide of where these colors should be. Right now I'm using a mid tone in the paint, so I'm not going as dark as it can go just yet. Just blending those colors together by feathering the pink over top of the red. Using my clean damp brush to feather this red into this highlight area, and feather this pink down into this highlight area. This shadow blend upward a little bit. I'm just adding a bit of paint on my dry paper and feathering it up with a clean, damp brush. And then let's move on to the stripes. It doesn't really matter where you start, but I'm going to start just on the edge. And you do not have to have these stripes look exactly the same as they do on your reference photo effect, that's extremely difficult to do. So I recommend not doing that. I'm just pre wedding where I see the stripes are where I want my stripes to me. Then dabbing in a little bit of paint, just letting it flow it will follow the basic design of the stripes so they feel realistic. You don't need the exact stripes that are on the animal. I've painted in. The stripe with some water and I'm just dabbing in some paint and I'm letting it all mingled together in the stripe. And I'm gonna do that for each stripe that I won't paint it on SAML, we seem to be several stripes that converge here, right? Vendor zebras, I am going to paint those in with water, grab some paint and dab that in. I'm trying to do pre wet too many, too quickly. Or you'll end up with your stripes drawing before you can dive in the water. Now, if you don't want your stripes color to mix as much, then you can just paint these directly on dry paper that it's going to give you the most interesting results if you paint them on wet paper and then allows several colors to mingle altogether. Gonna go above this, I add a few stripes up this way. It looks like they go from the eye towards the forehead. So I'm just going to get that general feel. You might add a little blue in here just to shake things up a little bit. My paper is drying before I can get to it. So I'm just going to gently reach with that. Then we can add a little bit more color and come here with some pink, pinky purple slit that all mingled together. It looks like this one comes down across the eyelid as well. So I'm just gonna go ahead and add that in there. Few smaller stripes here. Just going to paint those with a dry brush just to make that as easy as possible. It's very difficult to wet and incredibly small area. So it's usually best to draw burst those ones. And you can mingle the colors manually by just dabbing more color over top of it. Let's move on to the stripes that go down the face. This is quite a long stripe and in a delicate little area. So I'm going to go almost to the end of this one. What am I to? Several color changes in this one. I want it to be predominantly pink Emil, have it end in a little bit of red here, right next to the muzzle. Maybe come up into a little bit of purple here at the top. Just a bit of a pinky purple. There we go. And likewise paint the one next to it. And this is most of the process is just painting the stripes methodically and always just try to pay attention to your reference photo and how the stripes should look. So they seem to get wider at the top and narrower as they come down towards the muzzle. It's good to mix up your colors a little bit. I'm moving pink into red here, and then back into pink down here. And the real trick to detail piece is just to break it down and take it step-by-step. Again, pink down here. Maybe I'll move into a little bit of blue here as we start to approach that ear that's in blue, it's going to make a nice purple. It's a little bit different from the other purples. This one's a nice pink command and bring it into some yellow here. Let's just because we're approaching this yellow area, I want to start introducing the color before we hit it, just to help maximize the amount of color that we're seeing. A bit of warm red to this before bringing it down into the pink, because red is the color between pink and yellow makes it nice little orange color if you're working in a yellow area and you need it to be darker than you can use a warmer or cooler yellow to make it look a little bit darker. So I want this stripe to appear a little bit darker on the edge. So I'm just going to add a little bit of a orangeish yellow, but I can also add a little bit of a green yellow instead. Anything that brings it away from the center is going to make that yellow look a little bit darker. Shops give the zebras face a little bit of a rounding appearance there. On areas where the stripes are very light, might actually just not even complete the stripe. So I added some water there and then I just dabbed my yellow paint in and let it dispersed unevenly. And that'll help give the stripe a lighter, broken appearance, like you can't see it because the light is reflecting is just too bright. In these areas of higher highlight, especially if you're using a darker color, you can really help to make sure the color is a little bit paler on your brush. So if it's purple, I'm using a pretty faint purple just for this wider area is compared to this dark purple over here and this shadow area. We're gonna go back and add a little bit more darkness to the stripes in the shadow area. After we finish filling in at most one stripes. Starting to pull a little bit of blue into this yellow because we're moving towards blue for this ear here. And these areas are quite light. So I'm not going to have too much detail in them, just gonna try to make the colors cohesive. So I want this area to be a bit more blue and green, and this area would be but more purple. So I'm going to gradually add more blue to the purple as we come over. Then this area here and the zebras main is all quite dark, right down into these stripes. I'm gonna go ahead and wet around the main and add in my colors there. So I went with a pink mane. But I also want to be mindful of the colors that I've used in the stripes leading up to this point, just using a flicking motion with the end of my round brush to create that main texture. Adding a bit of purple in there because I want the main come down into a purple area. This area here, the inter-domain is quite dark. Again, just making that flicking motion wound bit of flicks here where it's coming into the striped area on the forehead. Can even add a few flicks, bringing it into the stripes themselves, you getting any harsh marks, you can solve them off with tip of your brush. But you don't have to be too concerned about it because any stray marks are going to look like more for detail 7. Body Stripes: Let's face all done. We're going to move on to the stripes on the body, especially number to a larger brush for this. And again, I'm going to wet this entire area. And this is because I want the stripes in the body to be out-of-focus. If you want stripes to be in-focus, then skip this pre-writing stage. In strand, you'll just pretty wet the stripe area, just like you did on the face. I'm being careful to bring the water outside of where I wanted the main attend to make sure that the main also fades it. I'm going to start on the far side of the zebra. So the area that I want to be in the least focus because this area is the wettest, it will allow the stripes to flow and be softest as the paper dries. Because I moved more towards the face, the stripes will become sharper and more in focus because the paper is drying. Just like on the face. I'm adding multiple colors to these stripes. Stripes are blooming up quite a bit. If you want them to be a little bit tighter, then you can just wait for your paper to dry a little bit. Again, I don't want the stripes to be super dark because I want the body to be of lower contrast and the face. Funding that this area on zeros just a little bit too wet stills, so I'm just mopping some of that color back. Well, I'm just gonna wait for it to dry a little bit. Again, when you're adding stripes, you really want to pay attention to the natural markings of the animal. You don't have to follow your reference photo exactly, but you do want to follow the general pattern. So for example, you can see the white comes up into the main. I want to make sure that you're capturing that some of these stripes zigzag, you want to capture that as well. And that is the first layer on the stretch of body 8. Face Second Layer: The body has dried. I want to come back to the face and do a final pass to darken some areas. You want to look at your reference photo and see anywhere that's especially dark, and make sure that that corresponds in your picture. It can help to take a photo and convert it into black and white. You can see which areas of the peaks are a little bit too light. So firstly, I'm seeing is that this nostril needs to be filled in. I'm using a fairly small size eight round brush, but you can use a larger or smaller brush depending on whatever you're most comfortable with. And I'm just making sure that I'm getting the correct shape of the nostril in there. I'm using the color that we laid out in our first wash. So using a bit of red there looks like there's a bit of a lighter shadow here. Seeing there's a bit of a stronger shadow above the mouth here, I'm using a bit of an orangey yellow instead of the pure yellow that I was using before. And that's just because orange, yellow is going to look a little bit darker than a pure yellow. And I feel like that nostril needs to be a little bit darker. So to come back in here with a little bit of pink. And because a pink or a cool red has a bit of blue in it, it's going to look a little bit darker than a neutral red or a warm red. Likewise, there's a nostril on this other side that needs to be drawn in. And I'm just going straight in with my cool red for this one because this area is already in a pretty dark shadow. And then you don't need to get too wrapped up in the details. You just wanted to include whatever it looks important to you. Bottom jaw needs to have a nice strong shadow. Really emphasize that petty zebra lip. I'm just going to soften that shadow a little bit with my clean damp brush. This shadow across the red can be a bit darker. So I'm coming in here with a little bit of my cool red. So that's my pinky color just to darken that shadow a little bit. And switching up the color also adds a bit more depth to the piece. Makes the colors look a little bit more lively and vibrant when you mix them. Bringing that right up into the stripes here. And it looks like that shadow ends about there. So again, just always referring back to my reference photo to see where I need colors to begin an end. This part to be a little bit darker, just down the stripe a little bit as well. No stroke actually be a little bit darker just around here, making sure we're getting that shape incorrectly and have finished. You want your piece to look is entirely up to you. He may decide before this step that you like where your pieces and all you have to do is add the I, I find this last finishing step is very satisfying. I like to include it. Alright, so the stripes on this side or in shadow. So I'm gonna go ahead and give them another layer just to help darken up a little bit. But again, this is completely elective. It's trying to keep the same general color scheme. So these ones are and purple. I don't wanna go too dark, so I don't want to lose that luminosity. Adding just a little bit of extra color really help give that zebra a nice wrapping feel. Make its face feel nice and soft. It looks like there is a bit of a stripe for this lower eyelid that I missed painting earlier. So go ahead and paint that in now. Nice and dark to help the I pop. Adding a bit of a shadow here just over the eyelid. And likewise, Can we go over to this eyelid? And a bit of a shadow, again is all details are not absolutely necessary, but they can help the piece feel a little bit more realistic. If that's what you're going for. It looks like there's a little bit of a stripe here. Let me keep that one fairly sharp. Then the next step is I'm going to paint some nice blue eyes. So making sure to paint around the eyelashes. I'm using blue because purple is a compliment to yellow and blue is a compliment to orange. So it's going to stand out quite nicely against the yellow, orange color that we have on this side of the face. I really want this eye to be the focal point. I'm going to drop a little bit of red in there to add some contrasts. Little bit of interests 9. Final Details: Let's say another dried and go in with another layer and just on dry paper. And I'm a shadow around the edge and underneath the eyelashes. And that'll just help the I feel a little bit more round and verbally that I'm gonna go in with either a dark blue or purple because those are my darkest colors. And I'm going to draw in the pupil, zebras have a pupil that's like a horizontal line. So a bit like a equal sign. Just one. So make sure you're getting the shape correct. If you want your zebra to look realistic, It's been a sideways peanut shape. Here we go. Little pupils are drawing and go back and make sure I haven't missed any shadows. So I can see that I need a bit more of a shadow right here around the horses mane and across the forehead. And that's easy to just paint on nice and lightly. And I can also darken up some of these stripes in the main here. And I'm just using a dry brush for this. So damp brush, wet paint on dry paper. And these extra little flicks will help create more depth in zebras for now because there's areas and highlight, I actually want to darken the body a little bit just around the head. I'm gonna come in here with my brush and wet just around the neck area. They're gonna come in here and with a bit of a shadow color, I have some purple here. I'm putting down to darken this area, bring that down here into a bit of blue. So we're still following our colormap. Don't want that to come out too far, but I do want to make sure It bleeds out enough. And that helps the zebras face pop forward a little bit. And that was just an on-the-spot executive decision. If you liked it better before, then absolutely can leave it that way. If you try putting down the color or decide you don't like it, well, the paper is still wet. You can add water and lift up that color that you just put down. Those eyes are dry. I'm going to come back in and add the eyelashes. So I'm using a small liner brush for this. And one more thing we can do to help bring this zebra to life is to add a little bit of a background color. I like to add a little bit of a splash behind the animal. So I'm just coming in here with some clean water and wedding behind the zebra. Now, I often plan out the splash color on my reference photo when I'm planning my other colors. But I find that sometimes changes based on how the image changes while I'm painting it. So sometimes colors will shift in the final piece compared to your color composition. And you may need to change your colors a little bit to accommodate that. I feel like nice green, blue splash in the background will help the purple from the zebra stand out. I'm just taking a little bit of greeny blue and I feel like that is a nice continuation between the green-blue we have down here on the zebras body. So a nice little swoop and bring the viewer's eye around. And I'm just going to add a few dabs of water in here for a little bit of texture, going to wait for that to dry. And then the final step is to add a little bit of white highlights. If you preserve your highlights start from the start, then you won't have to worry about this step. So I'm adding a little bit of white highlights to the eyes. Then you want to make sure that you're following the curve of the eyes. Adding a little bit of white down here to this lid, strongly episodes or isn't eyelid down there, It's pretty light area. Can add a few flicks of white in the eyelashes. And same over here on this side. The lower lashes as well. It's a nice little chin hairs, will see these ones as much just because of the white paper. You can definitely add them in there. And some extra texture here. Round bottom of the face up here in the main. And how far you want to take this is entirely up to you. Some people love their white highlights and some people do not personally for me, it depends on the piece. Don't add too many highlights to the body. Want to keep that area to be pretty soft. I just want to bring out this jaw a little bit. Got a little bit lost in translation. There are a few little spots on the muzzle you can add in. I think that's pretty good. Just getting out a few splashes of white on the bottom here. So I'm gonna take my sketch paper and cover zeros face that don't want that to get splattered. And then just add a few taps of white down here to really simulate some dust particles that this piece is complete 10. Wrapping Up: In this class, we created a rainbow portrait of a zebra using watercolor, we discussed how to select appropriate colors. Use of contrast both in value and in color hue, and how to harmonize colors. If you have any questions about this class or your project, please leave them in the comments section and I'll get back to you as soon as possible. Once you've completed your painting, please be sure to share it in the project section. I'm really excited to see what you create and I'm sure your other classmates are as well. Thank you for joining me and I hope you enjoyed the class