Learn how to paint watercolor with the basic technique of preserving the white paper.
We will paint a lovely butterfly resting a Butterfly Bush flower. The white paper will be used for the white in the painting.
Why, you may ask? Because there is no white watercolor paint. Various watercolor techniques can be used to preserve the white paper.
As an affiliate, I earn from Amazon sales with no extra cost to you. Learn More
There are a number of ways a watercolor artist may use to preserve the white paper. Here are the most common methods.
We are going to be painting on my favorite watercolor support 'ad' Ampersand's Aquabord, an 8"x10".
When I was learning how to paint watercolor I used paper, but now I much prefer Aquabord.
For the composition I placed the butterfly to the right of center, facing into the painting.
The color scheme is a triad of colors equally spaced around the color wheel.
The frisket needs to be dry before painting. It takes about 30 minutes to dry.
You may speed the drying with a hair dryer. But don't get it too hot or it will not be removable later.
Mix a dark color with Viridian and Dioxazine Violet and paint around the white spots on the butterfly's wings.
Add orange to warm the mixture and make it brown for the areas closer to the body.
Use less water for darker colors. And obviously more water gives lighter colors.
When you near the butterfly's body start adding orange, blend it into the brown.
Please note just a bit of butterfly anatomy. Butterflies have four wings and six legs.
The wings and legs are attached to the thorax, the fat part of the body behind the head.
You can faintly see the division between the fore-wing and the hind-wing going at an angle up to the thorax.
Paint the dark border on the hind-wing.
Feather the colors together by running a clean damp brush along the juncture of the dark and orange.
If necessary, darken the areas around the white spots. Adjust the shape of the white spots where needed.
Now turn your attention to the butterfly's body.
Paint the left, shadow side dark. Lighten the value toward the light and leave a few highlight for interest.
The body is partially covered by the edges of the hind-wings. The tail end of the body peaks out behind the wings.
Add a few dark veins to the fore-wings with brown.
Lightly suggest veins in the hind wings.
We will do the butterfly head and antenna after the flower is painted.
When you are satisfied with the butterfly, move on to the flower.
Paint the flower with dark and light purples.
Loosely paint the flower with a stippling motion.
Use your red-purple on the light side of the flower.
Use Dioxazine Violet on the shadow side.
Notice the masking fluid preserves the white highlights on the flower.
Use a variety of grey-greens for the leaves.
Mix a green from Viridian and Dioxazine Purple.
Paint the leaves with light and darker greens.
Leave a center vein on some of the leaves.
We will paint the stem after the masking fluid is removed.
Dampen the area you will be painting, so the paint will flow on easier.
Loosely paint the background with a flat brush.
Loose backgrounds are one of the joys of learning how to paint watercolor.
Start the lower left corner with Dioxazine.
Change to warmer violet and a variety of greens farther up in the painting.
Use a smaller brush for the tighter areas.
Paint lighter, subdued greens or lavender in the background areas. Then using the smaller brush paint some darker greens or violet on top of the lighter areas.
Mingle the background colors together to make them out of focus.
Above the flower a spray of water mixes the colors to make them look out of focus.
In the tighter areas below the flower, use a damp brush to mingle the colors and soften the edges.
The wet colors flow together.
That's the beauty of painting with watercolor.
The painting is dry when it is not cool to the touch.
After the painting is dry remove the masking fluid (the frisket) with a rubber cement pick-up tool or your fingers.
When the frisket is removed the white paper is revealed!
The butterfly is obviously orange.
So use a pale orange wash on the edges of the leaves.
The twig in the lower left was painted with brown and orange highlights.
The flowers on the purple Butterfly Bush have orange centers.
Lightly indicated some orange in a few places on the flowers.
Now we can finish the butterfly's head.
Paint the butterfly's head and leave highlights for the eyes.
A script liner brush works for painting the antenna.
This is how to paint watercolor using the white of the paper.