Wintry Watercolor Woods Two Ways | Alison Kolesar | Skillshare

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Wintry Watercolor Woods Two Ways

teacher avatar Alison Kolesar, Artist and Illustrator

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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.

      First Technique: Adding Paint


    • 4.

      Know Your Paints


    • 5.

      Second Technique: Removing Paint


    • 6.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

In this class I demonstrate two different foundational techniques in watercolor - building layers and removing paint - and show how each one can be used to paint a lovely, atmospheric picture of winter woodlands.

I start with a brief introduction to materials and then demonstrate the first method, starting with an overall wash and then building up color on the trees. That method could be described as additive (though the technical term is glazing). The second method is subtractive. I start with a deeper colored background and then gradually remove paint on the trees until ghostly trunks emerge.

Meet Your Teacher

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Alison Kolesar

Artist and Illustrator


I've worked as an artist and illustrator for many years although my academic training was in history and art history. I've illustrated over a 100 books, mostly how-tos on crafts and gardening. I also love to paint in watercolor and create collages as well as making papier mache birds, painting rocks, and creating paper jewelry. You can see some of my work at my Etsy store, Alisonsart as well as my website

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Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hi, I'm Alison Cola star, and I'm an artist and illustrator. I use a lot of different media, but my first love is watercolor. There's so much to love about painting with watercolors. They're often the first kind of paint that people try. So chances are you already have some in your house, even if it's just a little set. Pan watercolors like this they're easy to take with you. When you travel a little bit goes a long way, so they're really not expensive, even when you buy the highest quality pains. And unlike oils, they don't smell or need special ventilation or take a long time to dry. But watercolor has a bit of a reputation for being difficult to use, and it's true. It really helps to know a bit about it. Before you start, I'm gonna show you two different foundational techniques for using watercolor that are in many ways the opposite of each other. With each technique, I'll demonstrate painting a picture of trees in a wood, even if you've never used watercolor before trying out. These two techniques will teach you an enormous amount about my favorite kind of paint 2. Materials: just a bit about materials. I actually think the paper you use is just about the most important thing. When painting with watercolors, good quality watercolor paper holds the paint in a way that makes it more vibrant and allows you to manipulate the paint of it before it dries. Ordinary sketchbook paper, on the other hand, will tear easily when wet and tends to suck the paint in so that it drives too fast. If you've had results you weren't happy with in watercolor in the past, your paper may have been the reason. My personal favorite is arches £190 cold press. But basically so long as you have something that calls itself watercolor paper, you're good to go. Now. This is up to you. But if you care about your paper lying flat at the end of the day, you might want to stretch it to do that. This is an example of paper stretched already. You wet the paper completely and stick it onto a board with gummed paper tape or staples. Here's some of gummed paper tape. When it dries, it will dry taught, and then when you're finished, your painting your paper will be flat and not buckled. Alternatively, you can buy a watercolor pad. Here's one where the sheets are glued together at the edges toe. Hold them flat or you can buy really thick watercolor paper. This is £300 Paper, which will see its promise to stick, is cardboard. My favorite paints our Windsor and Newton artist colors, but I also this is actually American Journey. Um, the artist quality paints have more pigment in them on the student Grade one, so you can get more vibrant colors. But there are lots of great brands, and less expensive paints will also work for both of these techniques. I don't tend to live very expensive brushes. There's little selection. The in general, the more expensive they are, the better they'll hold a large amount of paint and also retain their point. You'll need some kind of palate like this. There's my very messy one, or even just a small bowl to mix your paint in. You'll need some kind of container for water is what I use and either paper towels or a piece of cloth to wipe your brushes on. And you'll see in the second technique that we also have another use for the paper towels 3. First Technique: Adding Paint: the two techniques I'm going to use could briefly be summarized as additive and subtracted . I'm going to show you the additive one first. One of the most important things you need to know about watercolor is that it's translucent with water color. The light is provided by the white paper shining through. Also, you can build the paint up in layers, letting each layer dry before you at the next one. Each layer will darken the ones beneath it, while at the same time allowing some of the underneath layers to show through. The technical term for this kind of painting is glazing. I'm planning on having the light coming from the back, and I'm basically going to keep the trees that are closest to the back paler than the ones further forward. Let me show you what I mean. Over the years, I've collected images that I can use this reference and you'll see in these photos that the trees further away are lighter than those in the foreground. These days, if you want to build up a collection of images like this, you probably do it on Pinterest. I've sketched out my picture of woods here. I want my pencil lines to be dark enough to show through the first layer of paint, but not so thick and dark that they'll still be visible under a few layers. My first step will be to paint a wash of pale watercolor over the whole piece to encourage the pain to go on smoothly. I'll dampen the paper first, just for this first layer, and I want to have my wash lightest in the sky area, So I'm gonna wet my paper first. It's not soaking wet, but it's damp. I love the paint to spread, and I've made up a puddle of a mixture of French, ultra marine, blue and indigo paint. I don't want this first layer to be too dark, so I've added a fair amount of water. - No , by the way, you can see that I've used artists tape around the outside edge is just to give myself a clean line at the end once everything dries. So I think I'm gonna let this dry now and then I'll probably speed up the video and go back and start clouding the extra layers. When I do my second layer, I won't cover the whole piece I'll leave the lightest area where the skies shining through , untouched and layer three. I'll leave some of the leaves untouched while giving another layer of paint to the ones of their further forward on. Therefore, I leave more of the trees untouched and so on for each layer, adding more depth to the foreground trees. Each time, I'm gonna use essentially the same color for all the layers, so that you can understand the process better. But you could decide to paint the background layers more blue and the foreground ones more breath. I'm gonna speed up the video now. Don't be surprised if you see my hair dryer helping to dry layers thoroughly before adding more paint. So here's our finished painting. Obviously, you could go in and add more detail perhaps, um, bark texture in the foreground trees or Cem um, variation in the grass underneath the trees. But I'm gonna leave it like this because it shows you the process. You see how the background trees AARP a list and then the middle ground ones are a bit darker, and the four grand ones are docker again. And this is an example of what watercolor does so well, which is to create a very atmospheric scene. I should just add that I the one puddle of paint that I created at the very beginning for that first wash was what I used throughout. I didn't add any more pigment to it, Tom. So what you see in the difference in coloration is simply what happens when you put layers on top of each other. 4. Know Your Paints: so we're ready to start with our wintry watercolor woods technique. Number two. You'll sometimes hear people complaining that watercolor is difficult because you can't change it. It's true that you can't just paint over mistakes in the way that you can with acrylic or oils. But there are ways to lift paint, and that's what how we're going to make our second technique of painting woods before getting started With this method, it's worth knowing a bit about your paints. Some colors and pigments are more staining than others. So what I've got here is little experiment with various different colors. I painted into little squares, and I've written myself a notice to what they are. And I have already done these ones on the top row. Each little triangle took three passes, and you could see already that I got a lot further back towards the white paper in, for example, the Paynes Grey than I did with the end ago. I'll show you how I do it. - That's the friend Shelter. Marine also got pretty much back to white paper. - Cobalt blue almost is good, not completely as white. So what I'm doing each time is I'm just painting this little triangle with plain water and using the paper towel to lift off. Whatever paint is ready to lift off after I've done that wasn't very much for this paler blue. - Okay , so it's fairly clear that if I'm not going to get to frustrated with trying to lift off colors, I better stick to certain ones. Cerulean Blue would work well. French ultra Marine Payne's gray and pretty good also our cobalt blue and this turquoise. But I should probably avoid my end ago, and I should probably avoid the fellow blue. 5. Second Technique: Removing Paint: So instead of drawing directly on my watercolor paper, I've made a separate sketch because it's not gonna be so easy to see the pencil line through the paint. This time I don't have to stick to this slavishly, but it will remind me roughly of where I want to have my tree trunks. With the first method I started with an overall wash of pale color. But for this one, I'm actually gonna mask off one little section to keep the paper completely white. In that spot, I could use masking fluid, which is a sort of liquid rubber, but I'm actually going to use a little circle of masking tape to keep my paper white where I want the moon to be shining through the trees. I'm then going to paint a dark wash of blue over the whole thing, fading it out with more water towards the bottom. Because these are gonna be snowy woods. It may take a couple of washes to make it dark enough, and then I'll progressively lift color from the trees to make them lighter than the background. So I'm gonna want my wash to be darker, so I will let this dry and then do a 2nd 1 Okay, so I'm ready to start my second wash. I should have mentioned that I'm using a combination of cobalt blue, French, ultra Marine and a little bit of Payne's gray to dial it down a bit. And I'm liking the granule ation that starting to happen because of that mixture of pains. Okay, so again, I'm gonna let that dry. So the second wash is dry. Some amount of variation is nice. Um, I wouldn't mind this being a little bit smoother overall. So I'm gonna do one final wash over the whole thing with a big brush and possibly tilting it a little bit so that the color doesn't pull too much. Okay, so then we're gonna let this dry. 6. Final Thoughts: So I went on working on this one a bit longer and started removing some of the paint on the ground, leaving the places where I was wanted the shadows to bay from the moonlight coming through . You may have seen also in the speeded up video that I did a little bit of softening of the edges off the moon here. So when you first take off the masking tape, it could be a bit hard, and just taking a wet brush and gently going around the edges will soften them. So there you have it. Two different techniques for painting a picture of woods that both produced lovely atmospheric results. Of course, both of these methods could be used to paint many other things, too. Now, I'd love to see what you do. Please pick one or both of these techniques and paint your own picture of woods and then share your painting with the rest of us.