- Lesson details
Instructor Chris Legaspi shares various ways to render your drawings and paintings, using a variety of different materials. Chris uses his approachable, thorough teaching style to make the often-intimidating rendering stage accessible to artists of all levels. In this lesson he tackles the often frustrating medium of watercolor. First he introduces the materials and basic concepts of “alla prima” painting, meaning “at first attempt” in Italian. He’ll show you how to harness the bleeding and soaking tendencies of the paint and water to adjust your composition and be cautious with your application. He does one demonstration of a figure model from photo reference, which you can find attached to this page.
- Winsor & Newton Watercolors – Burnt Umber, Ultramarine Blue, Yellow Ochre, Alizarin Crimson
- Arches Aquarelle Watercolor Paper
- Masking Tape
- Princeton Lauren Synthetic Golden Taklon Brushes – Flats and Rounds
- Spray Bottle
- Graphite Pencil
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and something a little bit scary.
That’s right, we’re going to do watercolor.
If you’ve never used it before, it can be quite unforgiving.
It does quite a bit of a learning curve.
I’ve got your back.
In the beginning of the lesson, I’m going to show you a couple quick and easy tips that
you can do to help you get started painting right away.
Then I’m going to show you a very simple palette that you can use.
We’re going to do one long demo so I can show you about the watercolor process and
how we can begin to do rendered and shaded drawing or painting, in this case, using watercolors.
So, if you’re ready to begin, let’s get started.
We’re going to start with our watercolor today.
Watercolor is a lot of fun.
It can be very scary and intimidating.
It can be quite merciless and brutal.
It does have a steep learning curve.
But, now is as good a time to start as any.
Let’s first talk about the colors we’re going to use.
These are Winsor & Newton brand watercolors.
I also like M Graham.
I want to go from dark to light, warm to cool.
I’m going to start with a burnt umber then an ultramarine blue and finally a yellow ochre.
This is alizarin crimson.
I’m going to do the bulk of the work with these two, burnt umber and ultramarine blue.
I’m going to keep it fairly gray.
What I’m going to do is use the yellow as accent in the lights and the red as accent
in the midtone and also accents on the figure because we’re going to be doing a figure
for the demonstration.
I’m only going to do one demonstration today.
Watercolor does take a bit of time because you have to wait for it to dry.
In fact, what I’m going to do now is I’m going to go ahead and put down a wash of color.
I’m going to make a nice frame, put down a wash of color.
Then I’ll talk about the process.
One thing I like to do is get some tape.
Tape creates a nice type of frame.
This paper is Arches Aquarelle.
It’s pretty good.
It’s very common, easy to find.
I’m just trying to eyeball a straight line.
If you’re following along at home, you’ll probably want to actually measure with a ruler.
You’ll obviously get better results.
The reason why this looks good—I learned this from my teacher—the reason why this
looks good is that it creates a border on a very abstract kind of world.
As we add watercolors, watercolors like to bleed and they like to go everywhere.
It’ll look super painterly and abstract, but the edge will be tight so it’s a nice
So, make a nice frame with your paper.
What we’ll do is just put down a nice wash.
I also use a spray bottle.
The brushes are just synthetic sable.
I also use white sable.
I’m just going to wet the paper.
Usually the spray bottle will come in handy for this, to moisten the paper.
What I’m going to do is put a nice wash of tone, and I’m going to do that with a
Just get a little bit of the yellow and move it around.
I like to add a little color variety in there too.
This is kind of like toning the canvas.
You know, in previous lessons we drew on toned paper.
Okay, so while that’s drying—let me see if I can speed it along a little bit.
I’m worried that it’ll take too long to dry.
Okay, so while that’s waiting to dry, we’ll talk about the basic concept.
Now, what I’m pretty much going to do, just like in watercolor, and you could totally
do this on plain white.
I like this method because it gives you a little bit of color.
The subject I’m doing does not really have any pure bright highlights, so we don’t
need to save the white of the paper.
What I do when I do watercolor—and I’ll do the exact same thing here—well, let me
do two ways.
We’ll do it two ways.
First, I’ll show you the technique on plain white paper and
then the technique on stained paper.
You’ll see a preview of the big demo.
Lifted off too much.
What I’ll do here, I’m going to mix a little bit of brown and a touch of the blue
to make it more gray and then add a little bit of water.
This will make a cool warm shadow, like a brownie shadow.
Then while it’s still moist you can add color accents and things inside.
Let the watercolor do is thing.
And now, while it’s still moist, I’m going to start to transition to light.
This is very much an alla prima sort of painting style.
While it’s still moist and then I can just use straight water.
In this case, I’m going to preserve the highlight.
I can even get a dab of the yellow.
Put it around the highlight while it’s still moist.
This will bleed to create a nice, soft edge around the highlight.
When it’s dry I’ll cut back in with dark accents.
This one I’m going to draw, so it’s still a little moist.
I’m going to wait a little bit.
What I’m going to do here is I’ll show you how you can use temperature.
If you’re new to painting, I understand that can be intimidating.
I get scared too; don’t worry.
I’ll show you a couple of ways we can quickly use temperature to help us out.
So one, here we just saw, here is the process.
Basically, a warm shadow and a warm yellow light.
What we could do to get even more dramatic effect, let’s say this example is when we
go to paint the shadow add a little bit more blue so it becomes a cool shadow.
In this case, a cool gray.
Now we have like a warm gray.
Do you see that?
That’s fairly dark, which is fine.
I’m going to add a little bit more blue, actually, just to further separate it from
While it’s still wet, I can even add a touch of blue in there.
I see the color but this blue is so dark.
Okay, so now we have a cool blue shadow.
Now I’m going to go warmer as I go into the light to give me that warm light.
You’ll see the big difference.
I often treat this, a lot of times it feels like a wet oil painting.
That’s pretty much the way I work.
Then I can even hit the core shadow with this bit of alizarin, bringing a little more color
as we go into the light.
Add a yellow.
I’m going to finally add just plain water to soften that edge.
I can even make an orange.
Right now, the transition is a little too harsh.
It’s not enough color.
There it is.
So, I just mix a little bit of orange so now we have a warm light and a cool shadow.
Here I’m going to do the exact opposite.
I’m going to paint a warm shadow.
As we go brighter, we’re going to add blue into our mix.
Now I’ll add a touch of the blue, and the blue is going to make it super dark.
We’re going to have to be careful here.
See how dark it gets?
What that means if we have to use more water.
It’s a little bit tricky, a little bit scary.
This is where watercolor can get very brutal.
If the moisture is not perfect, the perfect moisture for whatever you’re trying to do,
it’ll start to fall apart, meaning you’ll lose your edges and things.
Here is warm—excuse me, a cool light with the cool light with a warm shadow.
You can see the amount of pop we’re able to get.
The beautiful complementary contrast.
Finally, this last one, what we’re going to do here is I’m going to take the—sort
of like the example in the first one.
We’re going to do a thinner wash so it’s not as dark.
It’s nice and thin and it picks up some of the gold underneath, warm orange.
As we go brighter, you know, while it’s still moist, I can just brush some warm there.
I can even add some water here and allow the watercolor to do its thing.
The opportunity to do what watercolor is meant to do, which is to bleed all over the place.
So, you add the red for accents so you have a nice contrast, beautiful contrast.
Because we have a little bit of tone, that’s what we’re doing here, it’s going to look
Let me see if this even—well, it’s starting to dry up.
It’s a little bit dry now.
That’s the method.
This way is really great.
I do both of these when I do life drawings.
This is exactly how I would draw the figure from life.
I would first do the drawing and then block in my shadow first.
Then, while the paint is still moist, gradually work into the light, work into the light,
and in some areas, you can even do more traditional approach.
This is a nontraditional watercolor approach.
My teacher also taught me to use white gouache even to paint opaquely back on top.
Obviously, with watercolor the point is to maintain the brightness of the paper.
So, that’s really the concept.
Now, I’m only going to focus on the torso here.
Well, I’ll take that back.
I’ll try to do the whole figure.
What I’m going to do is try to simulate a life-drawing session,
or at least in my own mind.
Make sure that the figure can fit on this page.
This is a very thin gray pencil.
At home I typically do colored pencil, actually, when I do this, especially if I go to life
drawing because it adds a little bit of color.
The wax will resist the water better than most other mediums.
Nice rhythms happening in this pose.
Because this is small, I won’t be able to get into any details.
Getting eraser juice, eraser bits all over.
The drawing was a little stiff.
The portions were off.
I’m going to approach the drawing just like before.
Get the nice block in.
Separate light and shadow.
I’m actually going to draw the shadow shape with the pencil and then go over it with the paint.
As you can see, the painting is nothing more than good draftsmanship plus color.
This part will be light.
Top of this thigh here.
We need to clean up those construction lines so the light will go there.
Of course, you don’t draw individual fingers especially in a life drawing situation
like we’re trying to simulate here.
You don’t draw individual fingers.
We group them.
Okay, that feels pretty good.
Let’s see what we can do here.
Typically, when I paint I like to use a half-inch brush, and I like to make the marks, use a
brush that’s a little bit bigger than is comfortable on the side.
Let’s start with a—this one is going to be fairly wet so I want to use a lot of water.
Use a lot of water because I want it to be transparent this first pass.
What I’m going to do is, like this one, drop in the cool shadow first and see how
The more transparent it is, the better at this stage because if it’s transparent I
can add more colors on top.
Yeah, this is perfect.
It’s perfect, I think.
I’m not going to be too careful with the drawing now.
It’s sort of like the charcoal.
You know how we kind of had to lose our drawing, had to find our drawing.
Really, watercolors are meant to be transparent washes.
What I’m showing you today is sort of this hybrid alla prima style.
Alla prima means wet-on-wet direct style, basically treating it like oil paint.
It’s a little nutty, I know.
It looks cool if you can pull it off.
Right now this paper is super absorbent.
I can feel it sucking the water.
I guess that’s why it’s watercolor paper, I guess, right?
Finally, let’s get this arm.
It’s a beautiful gesture there.
I’m going to try not to lose it but I probably will.
Then the head.
While this is wet, I’m going to do a sort of wet-on-wet technique where it’s still moist.
I’m going to add areas of red glow, like this ear like that.
Then I’ll let the paint do its thing, let the watercolor do its thing, which is bleed
all over the place.
Add some more warmth in some areas like the hand.
Slightly darkening that part of the shadow.
That way the shadow is not super flat.
I’d like it to be a gray like this.
Not too interesting.
It needs a little bit of love, little bit of love.
I’ll do that here in certain areas.
Like on the knees is a good place, also the foot.
Not so much the foot.
Actually, the hand.
That hand can use a lot of red.
Also, this elbow.
That’s really about it.
Just a few touches while it’s still moist.
That way it can bleed.
It’ll look cool once it’s fully, fully dry, and the effect is, the result is almost
That’s the beauty of watercolor.
You get these crazy accidents, but it’s cursed.
It’s hard to control.
Let’s see if we can do a core shadow.
Now I’m going to go warmer as I go into the core shadow.
What I’m going to do is mix some burnt umber, little bit of red.
Sort of making a quick brown.
As you can see, it starts to turn the form because it’s a temperature shift, and it’s
a slightly lighter value.
Blue is so, so dark, so it creates the core shadow, which is really cool.
That’s why I like this method so much.
It gives you a beautiful core shadow almost right away.
And that's it. Let's keep going.
You can see how this can quickly become an interesting rendering.
I’m going to do this here.
I’m going to put a little bit of water in this area so that it bleeds.
I want it to bleed.
I forgot the core shadow there.
The downside to this method is you have to be very fast.
You have to be very sure of your marks.
I’m going to put a little bit of water here so that way the water color will bleed as it should.
I’m mostly going to do it here, this area where the white legs are.
I’m going to add a little bit more yellow to the mix.
I feel it wasn’t yellow enough.
It was a little too orange.
It should be moist.
Yeah, see that?
It’s starting to bleed.
It softens the edge, and then it bleeds.
What I do when I’m drawing at home is I’ll actually pick it up and move it around, move
my paper around so that it can kind of control the bleed a little bit.
You really don’t want to.
You want to let it do its thing.
But, if I pick it up I can let gravity do a lot of the work.
I’m going to put a nice little red accent of the knee while it’s still wet like that.
One more at the elbow here.
This area here is pretty much done.
Let me get a nice, straight red accent.
That’s the last thing I do is put a little bit of color accents everywhere in key areas.
There is one right there.
I’m probably going to put one in the foot, so check this out.
This is kind of fun.
Or in the shadow.
I’m going to wet this, and then I’m going to add straight blue right here.
And now I would turn the paper.
Often at home I use two blues, ultramarine blue and—what do you call that—phthalo
blue because phthalo blue is much more transparent.
19:48 Let me see if I can drag some of this color.
Give me a nice gradation.
That’s about it.
The last thing is we can put in a couple of accents.
Let’s see if this is dry.
It’s not too dry.
I want to put an accent inside here, maybe hit that core shadow a little bit, or the
cast shadow, excuse me.
It was right here.
You can really make it glow.
Yeah, look at that.
How beautiful that is.
Look at that!
Oh, I love it.
Let’s not do it—let’s do it here.
What I’m doing is I’m hitting these cast shadow edges with the fine detail brush.
Of course, to soften the edge, just bring it back.
Add a little bit of blue or your gray mixture while it’s still moist.
You’ll be able to bring it back or soften one side of it anyway.
In here I’m going to put a dark accent.
Right here where the arm meets the armpit there.
Let’s soften that and bring that back or help it to blend with the rest of the blue shadow.
One last touch right here in this area because there is a nice opportunity for contrast here.
I often do that.
I’ll add two colors like that together to help them to complement each other.
See, that area has a lot of pop now.
Now, this highlight is gone.
We can’t bring it back.
You can either use white gouache or colored pencil in that case.
That is a nice highlight.
I would like to have brought that back.
It’s in this area right here, but that’s okay.
The value is much more important.
Let’s see if I can bring it back.
Then I could probably do one more pass.
Let’s try that.
Let’s try that.
Now it’s really about what do you want to show off?
Do you want to show off the lights or do you want to show off the shadow, meaning in terms
of color, only one can have a lot of color.
First I’m going to put a light gouache.
Actually, it’s probably better if I let it dry first.
Let me put some water here.
I want this area to bleed.
A lot of water there.
This water has a little bit of great dust so I like that.
Has a little bit of temperature.
Now the watercolor can do its thing.
Let’s put a nice brush there.
Probably the next thing I would do is continue to glaze so you get all the colors you need.
I think it could use some yellows here, some more pinks here, and then probably the next
thing would be to soften the edge.
Now, you can’t really do that with this method because notice that edge is a little
What I would do is take colored pencil, actually,
and start to soften that edge with colored pencils.
That’s sort of a mixed media technique.
One more touch on the elbow to see if I can make that elbow better.
What do you think?
Is it better or is it worse?
I don’t know yet.
You don’t want it to be too warm in the shadow because then it’ll kill the illusion
of a cool shadow.
Bring some of that blue back.
Now there is a lot of nice things happening there.
Again, not too warm.
Let me refine the drawing a little bit here.
We should be pretty much done with the study.
It does need a little bit more of a dark, like a dark, dark area.
That’s kind of what I’m trying to do here.
Alright, that is pretty cool.
I’m alright with that.
Get a warm pass here.
His hip needs to transition from shadow to light.
Alright, so I think that’s pretty good.
One more touch here.
I want to separate these two limbs.
Yes, I got it.
Wait, one more.
I lied, one more.
This blue looks a little outline-y, so that’s not acceptable.
You have to kill that outlining look because it’s starting to get cool—there it is.
Okay, now we’re done.
So yeah, that’s pretty much it.
Like I said, just keep softening edges.
Probably here I would take a colored pencil and add washes of tone.
Typically the best way is to let it dry, but as for the shadow, I would leave the shadow
Leave it gray and abstract like that.
That way when you focus on the lights it’ll look really, really nice.
Alright, so that’s the end of this watercolor demonstration.
Thank you for watching.
Okay, so I hope you enjoyed the watercolor demonstration.
As you can see, it’s really fun to splash and move watercolors around.
I know this can be advanced.
A lot of these techniques can be a little advanced, but that’s okay.
If you’re brand new to color, if you’re brand-new to painting, just stick with the
Stick with the burnt umber and do just earth tone washes or maybe just start with blue.
Do cool blue washes until you get comfortable.
Then when you get a little more comfortable with the medium then combine the two.
Add a warm shadow with a cool light or vice versa, like you saw in the demo.
We did a cool shadow with a warm light.
It looks great because the colors contrast.
Then, of course, as you get more experience you can start to add more and more colors.
For homework, obviously, you don’t have to do a figure.
It’s a lot of fun to do a figure.
I personally do this from life in my little sketchbook.
I bring a watercolor pad and do quick 20-minute sketches like this from life.
Of course, you can do much simpler subjects.
I would recommend a fruit because fruit is colorful.
It’s easy to find.
It’s really simple to light.
You can just put a piece of fruit down and play with different backdrops and play with
different light and shadow shapes.
As long as you have a nice, strong spotlight on your fruit, it’ll look great.
You can start with any fruit.
Apples, oranges, whatever you enjoy.
The main thing is to really practice the technique because that is tough.
I’ll be honest.
Practice getting your moisture right.
Practice using the wet areas for the bleeds, and practice getting the transition.
That was the tough part, getting the form to roll, getting the edge to work because
we’re doing it in a little bit more of an aggressive, nontraditional alla prima style
Definitely, you can also do more traditional techniques as well, which is basically just
wet washes built up on top of each other.
That is, of course, a lot of fun, too.
That brings us to the end of this lesson.
I want to thank you for watching.
I hope to see you in the next video.
Until then, take care.