Watercolors for Illustrators | Sandra Mejia | Skillshare

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

Watch this class and thousands more

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

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.



    • 3.

      Class Project


    • 4.



    • 5.

      Practice Exercises


    • 6.

      Sketches & Colors


    • 7.

      Painting Process 1


    • 8.

      Painting Process 2


    • 9.

      Painting Process 3


    • 10.



    • 11.

      Finishing Touches


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About This Class

Painting with watercolors is an amazing experience and you obtain results that you can´t get with any other medium.  In this class I'll show you how I paint my icons and illustrations with a mix of controlled and loose techniques. I'll also give you tips on how to improve your strokes and painting with mini practice exercises, and I'll show you how to achieve shading with the two techniques. You will also watch me paint every stage of my nesting doll and flowers, from the base, to the black details, to the white finishing touches that will make your illustrations come alive.

This class is suited for all levels.

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Meet Your Teacher

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Sandra Mejia

Illustrator + Pattern Designer

Top Teacher

Hello! I'm a Freelance Illustrator and Pattern Designer. I was born in Medellin, Colombia (puedes escribirme en Espanol!). I create detailed, stylized, playful illustrations, patterns and characters from my studio in Ottawa, Canada.

I have very big eyes and I love animals. Most of my inspiration comes from nature and animals.

My art has been licensed by companies around the world for use in: Fabrics, Stationery, Kids, Editorial, Greeting Cards, Fashion, Puzzles, Gift and Home Decor.

Sign up to my email newsletter to get news and freebies: -> https://www.artbysandramejia.com/freebies

See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Trailer: Hello, my name is Sandra Bowers. I'm a freelance illustrator and surface pattern designer. I'm from Medellin, Colombia, but I'm based in BC, Canada. Join me in my new Watercolors for Illustrators' Skillshare class, where I will show you how I paint my icons and illustrations with a mix of controlled and lose techniques. Get tips on how to improve your strokes and painting with many practice exercises. Learn how to achieve shading with the two techniques, and watch me paint every set of minusing the olam flowers from the base to the black details, to the white finishing touches that will make your illustrations come to life. 2. Introduction: Hello, my name is Sandra Bowers. I'm a freelance Illustrator and Surface Pattern Designer. I am from Medellin, Colombia but I'm based in DC, Canada. After watching my previous lesson how to transform watercolors into intricate repeating patterns, people have been asking me how I paint my icons. Here it goes. I will show you the two techniques I use. Wet-on-dry that creates a control effect, and occasionally wet-on-wet that creates unpredictable color blends and shadows. I will give you tips of mini practice exercises you can use to improve your painting skills and brush control. I will show you the process of painting one of my nesting dolls and an additional flower icon. I am super excited to be teaching this class because I always found it hard to find demonstrations, classes or tutorials where they use watercolors in a very controlled way. So I developed this process that works for me. I know loose flashy color-changing watercolors are gorgeous, but they are not suited for every type of project or icons. This is the way I paint and I want to share it with you. 3. Class Project: For the project you will create, the finished painting of a nesting doll using the wet-on-wet and wet-on-dry techniques and adding dark and white details. Choose a theme you love and go for it. It doesn't have to be animals and flowers. You can also create an accompanying icon and share your process, initial sketches and color palettes. 4. Supplies: For this class, you will need watercolor paper. I'm using cold press paper, but you can use the one you like best. The difference between cold and hot press is that hot press is smooth and cold press is textured. Watercolor brushes. I don't use any particular brand. Just have a large one, a small one, and a miniature one. I use number 10, number 6, and number 4 brushes, and a tiny brush that is used to paint nails. Watercolor paints. You can use still, fan, or liquid watercolors. I prefer liquid ones because they're more vibrant and I like being able to mix the same colors over and over again by using a color chart. You will also need pencil and eraser, black archival ink pen or nib, white ink, acrylic or gouache, paper towels and water cup, additional scraps of paper, and a light box or window, if you want to trace your sketches. 5. Practice Exercises: I'm going to show you the two techniques I use to paint on my watercolors, wet and dry and wet and wet. First, wet and dry. I'll show you how to create lights and shadows. This technique uses very little water and requires the previous layer to dry almost completely before the next layer is applied. Start by adding a very light pink layer and leave them painted the space where there is more light. Dry the brush to go over the edges so they blend more easily. While that dries I'm going to show you how to do it on a rectangle. This applies for whatever shape you want. Lighter areas are slightly painted or left unpainted and darker areas are painted with several layers that keep getting darker and darker. The edges are smoothed out with a dry clean brush so they don't look like harsh lines. You can use a little piece of paper towel to tap the edges to soften them. You can see I keep drying my brush so I can blend the edges. I keep adding more and more building up my layers and every time I add a darker shade of pink so I can create the shadow. Now I'm going to show you the wet in wet technique. This one requires applying more water first to create a surface for the paint to spread into. It creates unpredictable results. You can manage it and apply the darker paint on this side you want. But it'll flow around at it wishes. You can also add other colors, but I'm going to show you with just one color. I'll apply the dark paint on an edge and let it run. See how wet my paper is. While we let that dry, I'll show you some precision exercises you should do over and over again to improve your strokes and brush control. Remember that they don't have to be perfect, so don't feel bad if at first they don't look so good. First let's create a corner and then a rounded the corner. Now vertical lines and horizontal lines and diagonal lines and then to the other side. Now we're going to make a circle. These are very simple shapes, but they will teach you how the brush works and how it behaves when it makes all these different moves. Now make a triangle and little leaf shapes. Now curve the lines. See how your brush makes thicker lines if you press more on it. Now try to make them thinner. The letter b shape is great because the brush has to move to all sides. See here my brush created a jagged line. Practice that movement again and again until it's smooth. Make little dots too. Now use a smaller brush and make lines. Then make a long line going slowly. Make a little circle, and make a leaf with veins. The last thing you can do is trace over one of your field shapes. Now you can see these, they're almost dry and you can see the difference in shading. I prefer the wet and dry because it gives me more control. But sometimes I'll use the wet and wet to create different effects in certain shapes. 6. Sketches & Colors: I create my sketches on regular paper and when I'm happy with then, I transfer them to the watercolor paper with a light box. If you don't have one, you can use a window to see through your paper. You could also sketch directly on your watercolor paper, but do it very lightly so it doesn't create marks on the paper. Then you have to decide on your color palette. I like to prepare my own colors and write down what I mix to achieve them so I can replicate them over and over again. You'd also have to visualize how my color interacts before I apply them on my painting. These are the colors I chose for my painting. 7. Painting Process 1: Now we're going to start painting our icon. I will have my palette here so you can see what I'm doing. Always write your brush on the paper towel on test it on your scrap of paper before painting on your painting. Basically fill in the shape with a very light wash of brown. If you're using liquid watercolors, you must know that they dry darker than when you apply them so go carefully. Then I start applying a darker paint. The shadows will be in the middle, so I'll apply my shadows on the border. Remember to smooth out the shadows with your brush as I showed you in the wet and dry technique, and you can use just water too if it's too harsh. You can use a piece of paper towel to correct things, but just press it against the paper because if you scrape it, you will ruin your paper. Just continue to add shadows patiently. You'll see I keep coming back and making things darker during the whole process. If the area gets very wet, move onto a different area so you don't ruin it. The darker I go, the less water I use so I can build it up gradually and control it more. I prefer working on smaller pieces, but it's just a preference. That is why this nesting doll exercise is so good because you can experiment with three different sizes and see what works best for you. See that when I'm painting the horns, I don't do the whole outline first, and then fill it in. I just start filling in the shape because if you do the outline first, it will show. Now, I'm going to use wet and wet on this flower, so I'll create a light layer. Now I'll add more and more water color on the base so that this is the darkest area. I can also guide it a bit, and if it gets too wet, I'll absorb it with paper towel. Just make sure the outlines are sharp and nice. I moved my brush in quite little strokes, most watercolors will tell you that the brush must slide on the paper moving the water around. But I can't seem to do it that way. Just make sure your strokes are very gentle and that you're not scraping the paper or you'll create holes on it. I don't stretch my paper because I use thick paper and I don't use a lot of water, so it will never warp. Plus it's easier to be turning it around if it's not typed in anything. Just keep filling in the shapes and use your thin brush when you need to. To make the cheeks make sure it's a very light pink because it's better to have to add more than to end up with super bright ugly the cheeks. Keep adding shadows and filling shapes. 8. Painting Process 2: For the block details, you can use several things: a pen nib,a very thin brush or a waterproof ink pen. I'm using a c-rolled pen to make the eyes and the nose. I will now make the mouth with the little thin brush, and the eyelashes too. Here you can see where my cat stepped on my painting, but we will cover it with a darker color soon so it doesn't matter. Now, I'm going to start erasing the pencil sketches. Do it with light little strokes instead of just rubbing it hard against the paper so you don't lift your paint off. I've noticed that liquid watercolor slightly erase the pencil under them, but the pen one's don't and they lift off more easily. Now, we're going to paint the body. This is the trickiest area. But since the first layer is very light, you don't have to be so perfect. Make sure this is very dry and erase the rest of the pens. Now, I'm going to make it darker in the edges, so start making it darker and darker and be very careful when going around the details. Try not to stop while painting these and keep the edges wet all the time so you don't have streaks that are very obvious and you can really blend your shadows in. Now, I'm going to start painting my icon while that dries. Here, I'll use a bit of white and red paint so that the petals mix into each other. 9. Painting Process 3: Now, we're going to start painting into details, so paint these areas. Since they're going to be red, make them dark so you can see them against the background. To give me more precision, I will hold the brush very close to the tip to make these details. It's good to work on several items at the same time, so you can work on one while the others dry and you are just not sitting there waiting. When you're making fine lines, make sure the brush is not too wet. Erase the rest of the lines but be very careful in the areas that have many layers because those can lit very easily. 10. Details: Finally, we're going to make the final black details. This is a number 2 Micron pen. It's much easier to use the pen than the brush. Don't outline everything because you will lose the softness of the watercolors, just use the black to create some contrasts and detail some shapes. Now, I'll make some with the tiny little brush, like some red lines on this flower. 11. Finishing Touches: Finally, we're going to add white. I'm going to use white ink. These details are what it makes it really pop, so add white in areas that you want highlighted. Make sure there's not too much ink on your brush. For this, you can also use white [inaudible]. Make these little dots highlight on the horns, the forehead, on the eyes, on the tail. For the dots, we're going to use on old pen that has no ink because it will make perfect dots. Get a drop of white ink on your scrap paper, get your pen wet, and just press on the paper. We're done. This is how my final piece looks like. I hope you enjoyed the class, and that you'll apply these tips and techniques for your own paintings. Remember that everyone is different, and that's the magic in art. So change and adapt things according to your taste and style. If you want to make patterns with these water color icons you just made, I invite you to visit my other class; Transforming Watercolors Into Intricate Patterns. See you soon. Bye.