learn the fun technique of pouring watercolor and paint some colorful koi

  • Learning how to paint watercolor is lots of fun, especially pouring watercolor!

There are different ways to paint with watercolors. I want to share with you a watercolor technique that is thoroughly enjoyable - pouring the watercolor.

It is unpredictable and that is what makes it so much fun.

Follow this step-by-step tutorial and paint five colorful koi with an exciting background.

Learning how to paint watercolor koi fish with artist Carol MayLearning to pour watercolors

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The challenge of learning how to paint watercolor is controlling the water and paint.

I enjoy a challenge that is what makes painting with watercolors enjoyable.

  • Transfer your drawing to the painting surface with graphite paper.

The painting is on a 11x14 Aquabord 'ad'. The aquabord does not bend. That makes it easy to pick it up and tilt it to move the poured paints where you want them.

  • Mask the highlight areas on the water with masking fluid 'ad'. Let the masking fluid (also called frisket) dry completely before proceeding.

Use tube watercolor paints 'ad' for the pouring watercolor technique.

  • New Gamboge Yellow
  • Quinacridone Red / Winsor Red
  • Prussian Blue

painting watercolor koi

Start the painting with the focal point, the yellow Koi.Start painting the focal fish.
  • Start the painting with yellow koi who is the focal point of the painting.

We bring attention to a focal point by using warm verses cool colors.

We also use contrasting values.

He is painted with New Gamboge. Add a bit of blue to grey down his fins.

The eyes and mouth are a combination of red and blue that makes a black.

When painting the Koi I let the yellow and red flow together to make orange.The colors flow to make orange.
  • Next is the side-kick of the yellow koi fish.

This koi is a bit smaller so it would look deeper in the water. We'll see how it works when we get farther into the painting.

Paint yellow on what will be the orange parts.

While it was still wet, drop in some Quinacridone Red. They mingled together to create orange.

Lightly used some yellow to indicated warmth on the white areas of the fish.

Paint around the white spots on the KoiPaint the red and black / leave the white dry.
  • Next is the body guard for the yellow koi fish. He looks tough, don't you think?

Wet the colored areas of the fish with clear water and leave the white areas dry.

Paint the red areas with Winsor Red. Quinacridone Red didn't give a very bright red. Use whatever red you prefer. The cadmium reds or their replacement (Winsor Red) give the most saturated red colors.

While the red was still wet, add some black spots. The colors softly mingle together. (Mix the red and blue for the black.)

Oh, the beauty of painting watercolor!

Painting fish with watercolorExperiment with the top fish.
  • You may practice pouring watercolor with this koi fish. (How to pour is in the next section.)

Pour yellow on one side. Pour red on the opposite side of the fish. Let the two colors to mingle together.

They mingled, but they ran outside of the small area of the fish because the mix had too much water.

The dark background will cover the runs outside of the fish's body.

That's part of the challenge of pouring with watercolor.

pouring watercolor for the background

Painting Koi with watercolorReady to do the background
  • Pouring watercolor is a fun part of painting the koi.

The major painting is done on the koi. We will detail them after the background is finished.

When the background is done, we will be better able to see the colors and values. Then we can use them to our advantage.

prepare the paint  pouring water

Mix the watercolor paint with water to get ready for pouring paint.Mix the paints in cups with water.

Put about a quarter inch of each color into separate containers, red, yellow and blue.

Add about a tablespoon of water.

Stir them thoroughly to dissolve all the paint.

start pouring the watercolors

The background is dry.

  • Keep the painting support level. You will be better able to control the colors and keep them out of the koi on a level surface.

I started with the blue in the upper right. Then I put some red on the left. The top edges of the blue and red were spritzed to make them softly move out into the white.

Keep pouring the three colors around the koi. Use your artistic license and choose what looks good to your preferences.

Pouring paint on a Koi fish painting.Start pouring the watercolor paint

The unpredictable movement of the colors is a joy of pouring watercolors!

let the paint dry

  • When you are satisfied with the results, let it dry overnight.

The colors between the lower left koi look brown. Oh-oh, I realize what I did. I broke one of my own rules.

I mixed Winsor Red. It is not a transparent color. It doesn't mix well with other colors. So I got brown instead of a purple. But actually it makes a warm background for the warm fish.

The background around the yellow focal fish is cool. The contrast brings attention to the focal koi.

Pouring watercolor paints with koi fish.The pouring is finished. Let it dry.

detailing the watercolor koi

Painting watercolor KoiSoften the edges between the koi and the water.
Painting a golden Koi by Carol MayThe hard edges are left on the focal koi to make him stand out.
Painting Koi with watercolorApply a thin wash of blue around the edges of each koi to give them form and set them into the water.
Watercolor fishIf the pouring watercolor went over the fins, pull out the fins with a stiff damp brush.

When I was first learning how to paint with watercolors, I made the mistake of removing masking from damp paint.

What a mess! The masking picked up paint. I got paint on my fingers and touched it into areas where it didn't belong. A lesson well learned.

  • Make sure the painting is dry, then remove the masking.

final touches

  • Soften the water swirls with a damp brush. Shadow them to give them form.
  • Make any corrections that catch your eye.

The top left fish was competing with the focal fish. The swirl across its head was removed.

Adjustments were made to the background so he didn't draw so much attention.

The dark on the right of its body was removed by spritzing water on the color and blotting it up with a paper towel. Red was poured to replace the dark color.

pouring watercolor is fun - enjoy!

more watercolor pages

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