learn how to watercolor with a step-by-Step tutorial

Learn the basics of how to watercolor while painting a Rufous Hummingbird step by step.

Watercolor is clean, easy and a good way to start painting. You can confidently paint with watercolors!

How do we use watercolor?

  • Wet the brush with clean water and dip it into a desired color. Mix the water and paint together.
  • Then take the brush full of paint to the painting. Or take it to the palette, if we want to mix the color with more water or other colors.
  • Rinse the brush before dipping it into a different color to keep the colors clean.
  • Watercolor is painted from light to dark. We do this because the light watercolors are not dense enough to cover up dark colors.

What supplies do we need for painting watercolor?

  • Paint and a palette or plate for mixing colors
  • Six colors, a warm and cool version of red, yellow and blue
  • A surface to paint on
  • Two or three watercolor brushes
  • A container and a spritz bottle of water
Learning how to watercolor step-by-step.Hummingbird on a Sticky Perch

We will be painting the Rufous Hummingbird from a lovely photograph by Diana Roberts.

how to watercolor paint

Choose a painting surface, either watercolor paper, canvas or a watercolor panel. For years I have been doing all my watercolors on Aquabord.

But most people learning how to watercolor would probably be using paper. So, this painting on watercolor paper.

The hummingbird was painted with #4 and #6 round brushes. And the sky was done with a #10 round brush.

drawing

The first step in painting watercolor is to get the drawing onto the painting surface.

Begin the watercolor painting with a drawing.Do an outline drawing.

We have several choices. Draw the image directly on the painting surface.

Or we may do the drawing on a separate paper and then transfer it to the painting surface.

Normally I transfer my drawings with graphite paper, but this time I tried something new for me, a light pad.

We put a drawing on the light pad with watercolor paper on top of the drawing.

Turn on the pad and turn out the room lights. Amazingly the drawing shows thru the thick watercolor paper.

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Then we just pencil, trace the drawing onto the watercolor paper. It works great!

The light pad is light weight, about 12"x16" and little over an inch thick with an 8"x12" working surface.

The HUION L4S LED Light Box A4 is USB powered.

It was a joy to use and I highly recommend it for any serious artist.

the colors we will be using

How-to-watercolor-color-scheme-2Choose your color scheme.

We will be using one of my most used color schemes, the compliment, plus one half right.

Most paintings work the best with a pair of complimentary colors.

The compliments in this case are blue and orange with an additional color, yellow.

Ultramarine Blue

Burnt Sienna and a mid-range orange

I used Coral Orange and Winsor Orange in addition to Burnt Sienna.

Winsor Yellow or Cadmium Yellow Light

how to watercolor the hummingbird

Start the painting with the #6 round brush. We will start painting with the hummingbird's gorget.

Start painting the hummingbird's gorget.Start the throat with yellow.

Prewet the area to be painted with clean water from your brush.

Paint yellow on each side of the gorget, but not all the way into the center.

Paint orange in the center of the gorget.Add orange while it's still wet.

While the yellow paint is still wet, paint orange in the center.

Let the orange flow out into the yellow. If necessary, gently dab it into the yellow.

top of the head

Mix a green with the Ultramarine Blue and yellow.

We use a similar technique on the top of the head. Prewet the area. Paint yellow on the right side of the head.

Paint darker green on the left side. The colors get darker on the side away from the light. Let the green and yellow flow together.

Begin painting the rest of the hummingbird.Paint the first layer on the head and body.

the body

Mix a neutral color with Ultramarine Blue and orange. Prewet the body area, except the top of the shoulder. The top of the shoulder is a highlight without any shadows.

Start painting on the left and add more water to thin the color towards the right side.

Refer to the photo to see the shadow areas.

Note; we normally paint watercolor light to dark. However, Burnt Sienna picks up and moves when we try to paint other colors over it. It is the main color on the bird, so we are painting the darks first.

when paint gets in the wrong place?

We can fix it.

Correcting a mistake in watercolorCorrecting a mistake

Some of the dark body color got out into what will be the sky color. I didn't want it there.

So I dipped a flat brush into water and blotted the extra water on a rag. We don't want the brush too wet or it will make the paint flow farther out into the unwanted area.

Stroke the damp brush on the paint to remove it. One stroke, rinse and blot the brush. Then stroke again to take more paint off. Repeat as necessary.

This works pretty good when the paint is fresh. If the paint has completely dried, it may not come off completely.

paint the beak and eye

Mix a black with Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna.

Switch to the #4 round brush. Paint a black strip down the center of the beak. Leave a highlight area on the top of the beak. Leave an unpainted area on the underside of the beak.

Use the same color to paint the eye. Leave at least one spot unpainted for the eye highlight. Leave the top part of the eye unpainted. Later we will paint it blue for the sky reflection.

Leave the white spot behind the eye unpainted. Most all hummingbirds have a white spot behind their eyes.

Continue painting the watercolor hummingbird.Paint the beak and eye while the body is drying.

continue painting the body

Change back to the larger #6 brush. We always use the largest brush possible. It keeps us from getting fussy and picky with our paintings.

Paint the back of the head with a medium orange.

After the body is dry, paint over it again. This time use the medium orange on the right side toward the light. Paint Burnt Sienna on the left side away from the light.

See how the sienna over the bluish underpainting mixes to make brown tones.

let's work on the gorget some more

When we look at the hummer's photo, we can see the edges of some of the feathers on his throat.

Begin-watercolor-6aIndicate some feather separations.

So depending on how realistic we want to paint, we may indicate a few individual feathers.

Mix a brown-orange with plenty of water. Rinse and blot the excess water out of the brush. Pick up a little color and paint the curved edges of some feathers.

complete the hummingbird's head

Add more vibrancy to the painting by intensifying the colors on the hummer's head.

  • Use the same colors as before, just mix with less water.
  • Do not prewet the area to be painted.
  • Brush the colors on with a light touch, so the underneath colors are not picked up and moved around.

The feather edges will be softened when we paint across them.

If we want definite feather edges showing, do it the other way around. Intensify the colors, let them dry and then paint the feather edges. That's how to watercolor.

Finish painting the hummingbird's head.Finish the hummer's head.

Finish painting the beak by putting a softened orange on the underside. The orange color from the bird is reflecting up onto the bottom of the beak.

Finish painting the eye with a muted blue on the top part of the eyeball. Be sure and leave the white spot behind the eye.

intensify the body colors

Paint another layer of color on the body. Gently paint additional colors on the body.

Work on the hummingbird's body.Beef up the colors on the body.

Remember the light is coming from the right. So the colors will be lighter on the right and darker on the left. But there is some reflected light on the left edge of the belly.

The dark shadow under the tail is a mixture of Burnt Sienna and Ultramarine Blue.

paint the sky

Mix the Ultramarine Blue with a bit of orange to dull the blue.

Paint the sky around the hummingbird.Paint the sky around the bird and branches.

Prewet the sky area, leaving the branches dry.

Normally the sky is darker at the top and it gets lighter toward the horizon.

I don't know why this photo looks the other way around? But once I paint past it, I can't go back for another photo.

So paint the sky slightly darker at the top of the painting. That's how to watercolor a sky, correctly.

start painting the branches

The bird is almost done, so let's do the branches.

Begin painting the branches.Have fun painting the branches.

After concentrating on painting the hummingbird, it's time to have some fun. Let's just relax and let the paint do its own thing on the branches. That's how to watercolor.

It's good to repeat colors in a painting to create unity. There is green on the hummer's head, so put some green in a few places on the branches.

  • Prepare several colors; yellow, orange, sienna, blue and mix a green.
  • Lightly prewet a branch area.
  • Don't look at the photo.
  • Use fairly thick colors for a one time application. Lighter colors on the top and shadow colors on the underside.
  • Change colors thru-out the length of a branch.
  • Vary the colors from branch to branch.
  • Let your artistic license flow and have fun!

time for the sticky thorns

Paint the thorns after the branch color has set just a bit, but is not dry.

Complete painting the branches.Paint the thorns and a shadow under the bird.

Vary the colors on the thorns. Put a highlight side on some thorns. A few will be peaking from the back side of a branch.

Shadow the branch under the hummingbird.

Notice the horizontal branch is a bit muted and has soft edges. Those two things move it back behind the other branches.

Pull a damp brush along the length of each branch to soften most of their edges. We can leave an occasional hard edge, but too many hard edges would take the attention away from the hummingbird.

time to finish up

The painting is almost complete. Just a few small details to go.

Learning-to-watercolorFinishing the details
  • Pull out the little white feathers on the right side of the bird's chest. After the painting is totally dry, scratch them out with the point of a small knife. Where they emerge from the body, soften them with a damp brush. Only their tip ends have hard edges.

  • Do the same with the white feathers on the bird's bottom. Shadow most of them. Leave just a few with white highlights.

  • If you wish, scratch out some of the white feathers that lap over the top of his orange chest.

  • The long tail feather is in front of the branch. Don't miss a second tail feather that laps in front of the branch.

Enjoy painting your hummingbird.

learning how to watercolor is fun!


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