Painter How-To: Wet-into-Wet Watercolor
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Overview of technique: Make a "pencil sketch"; loosely paint smooth washes with Watercolor brushes to build up varied color; add subtle wet-into-wet bristle marks; add details to the image and create a speckled texture using Salt.
"Pink Orchid," a loose digital watercolor study, was painted from life in Painter 7 with a Wacom Intuos pressure-sensitive tablet and stylus. Watercolor wet-into-wet techniques were used, then details and texture were added. Wet-into-wet is a traditional technique that can be simulated using Painter 7's new Watercolor technology. Wet-into-wet is the most fluid way to apply color, as it involves keeping the paper wet while new color is applied, so new colors blend with existing moist paint. Painter 7 offers the flexibility of new Watercolor media layers, making the medium much more versatile than in previous versions of the program.
1. Setting up and opening a new file. For the best performance, Macintosh users may need to increase the RAM that is allotted to Painter when working with Watercolor.
Begin by creating a new file with a white background (File, New). In the New dialog box, click the Image button. For a square format, set the Width and Height at 675 x 675 pixels. Click OK. (The brush sizes that you'll use will depend on the pixel size of the document.)
Figure 1: Starting a new file for the Orchid painting.
2. Making a pencil sketch. Choose a natural-looking grain (such as Cold Press Watercolor) from the Papers section of the Art Materials palette. Choose a neutral gray color in the Colors section of the Art Materials palette and select the 2B Pencils variant of Pencils (in the Brushes palette) to draw your line sketch. We set up our blooming orchid plant next to the computer and sketched from life.
Figure 2: The pencil sketch drawn in Painter using the 2B Pencil variant of Pencils.
Tip: Setting Brush Tracking
It's a good idea to set up Brush Tracking before you begin a Watercolor session because it will increase expressiveness in Painter's brushes and make smoother strokes. With Brush Tracking you can customize how Painter interprets the input of your stylus, including parameters such as pressure and how quickly you make a brush stroke. You'll notice the more sensitive control of the Watercolor brushes, especially with brushes such as the Diffuse Camel and Fine Camel variants. Choose Edit, Preferences, Brush Tracking, make a representative brush stroke in the window, then click OK.
Making a brush stroke in the Brush Tracking window.
3. Painting the first washes. The brushwork in the "Pink Orchid" study is loose and spontaneous. As you prepare to begin adding color, make a few loose, practice brushstrokes. (You can always undo the brushstrokes by pressing Ctrl/Command-Z, or you can delete your practice Watercolor layer by selecting it in the Layers section of the Objects palette and clicking the Delete button on the palette).
Figure 3a: Painting smooth washes using the Wash Camel variant.
Figure 3b: An active Watercolor layer shown in the Layers section of the Objects palette.
Plan to work from light-to-dark as you add color washes to your painting. Choose a light color in the Colors section of the Art Materials palette (we chose a light lavender-pink). In the Brushes palette, choose the Wash Camel variant of Watercolor. (When you select a Watercolor brush and make a brush stroke on your image, Painter will automatically create a new Watercolor layer in the image.) When you apply a light, even pressure on your stylus, the Wash Camel will allow you to lay in the wash areas smoothly. The slight bit of diffusion built into the brush will help the brush strokes to blend subtly as you paint. When you make a new stroke, place it next to the previous stroke so that it barely overlaps. Try not to scrub with the brush or paint over areas too many times, unless you want to darken the area. Painter's Watercolor operates like traditional transparent Watercolor.
Paint with strokes that follow the direction of the forms in your subject. Complete the lightest wash areas, leaving some of the "white of the paper" showing through for the highlights.
Figure 3c: The smooth, light-colored washes.
Tip: Strategic Areas of White
Don't feel like you have to cover every inch of your image with color. Leaving strategic areas of white will add to the beauty and give your painting a feeling of dappled light.
4. Building up the midtones on the flower. Using medium-value colors, begin to develop your midtones, painting lighter colors first, then adding darker tones to continue to develop the form. Keep your light source in mind and let your strokes follow the direction of the forms. To resize the brush, or change its Opacity as you work, use the slider on the Controls:Brush palette (Window, Show Controls, or press Ctrl/1-5). We added deeper colors of lavender-pink, while keeping the brushwork loose.
Figure 4a: Using the Wash Camel variant to add deeper colors.
Figure 4b: Continuing to develop the mid tones with the Wash Camel variant.
We continued to gradually build up deeper color. As we completed the midtones stage, we switched to the Dry Camel variant of Watercolor, which allowed us to add a little more brush stroke texture over some of the wash areas and at the ends of the strokes, while still allowing the new strokes to blend as wet-into-wet.
Figure 4c: Painting bristle marks with the Dry Camel variant. The reddish color was added with the Wash Camel variant.
5. Painting wet-into-wet runny washes. Painter 7 offers dynamic brushes that allow you to emulate various traditional Watercolor "run" effects. For a smooth runny wash that will not displace the underlying color, use one of the Runny Wash variants. Choose a slightly different color in the Colors section and dab the new color on to areas with existing color. Using the Runny Wash Camel and Runny Wash Bristle, we applied brighter pink and magenta colors (using short dabbing strokes) on the deeper color areas of the flower petals. Then we added deeper pink and reddish colors to the interior of the orchid. The Runny Wash variants allowed the new color to mix with existing color without moving the existing color.
Figure 5: The drippy washes on the lower petals were painted with the Runny Wash variants of Watercolor.
Tip: Runny vs. Wet Washes
The Runny variants of Watercolor (the Runny Wash Bristle and the Runny Wash Camel, for instance), are useful for painting wash runs, where colors run together and blend, but don't displace the underlying color. This is similar to a glazing effect. The "Runny Wet" variants, however, will run and displace existing color on the image as the new pigment travels. Often the Runny Wet brushes will leave a lighter area because the Wet variants cause leaching of the existing pigment. The Runny Wet brushes are useful if you want to add darker wet-looking edges to foliage or when painting a sky with rain clouds.
The default Runny Wet Bristle variant of Watercolor paints strokes that run vertically down the image and move existing color. The Dry Rate is set at 10%, allowing lots of time for the pant to run, the Wind Direction is set to 270,° and the Force setting (71%), makes the washes drip a long way. The high Pickup rate allows the brush strokes to move existing color.
Tip: On Watercolor Time
Keep in mind that Painter 7's Watercolor is based on traditional Watercolor painting. With traditional watercolor, an artist plans on time for the paint to spread, run and dry, and this time is often used to analyze and improve the composition of the painting. Painter's new Watercolor technology uses a lot of computing power. It takes time for the digital pigment to diffuse and settle on the image, not unlike traditional watercolor.
6. Editing a Watercolor layer or the sketch. It's not possible to use a variant of the Erasers brush on a Watercolor layer, and you can't use a Watercolor Eraser or Bleach variant on the Canvas, or on an image layer. To softly remove color on a Watercolor layer, choose the Eraser Dry variant of Watercolor and choose white in the Colors section. In the Layers section, click on the name of the Watercolor layer you wish to edit and brush over the area you'd like to lighten. We used the Eraser Dry variant to brighten the highlights on the flower petals and the stamen.
Figure 6: Lightening an area in the center of the flower with the Eraser Dry variant of Watercolor.
If you'd like to edit your pencil sketch, target the Canvas in the Layers section and switch to the Eraser variant of the Erasers and brush over the area that you'd like to erase.
7. Painting details. If you want very crisp details, it's a good idea to paint detail work on a separate layer, but in this case we stayed on the same Watercolor layer because we wanted to preserve the softer wet-into-wet look. Add crisper edges to areas that need definition using a small Fine Camel variant (6-8 pixels). To reduce the Size of the Fine Camel variant, use the Size slider in the Controls:Brush palette. If the Fine Camel seems too saturated for your taste, lower the Opacity to about 20%, using the slider in the Controls:Brush palette. If you'd like softer edges, experiment with the Wash Camel and the Diffuse Camel variants, using a small size (about 6-8 pixels). Make expressive strokes, varying the pressure on the stylus. To paint expressive details, we used the Fine Camel variant to add curved brush strokes and to paint small areas of color on the interior of the orchid. To deepen color and break up a few of the edges, we dabbed a little more color on using the Runny Wash Camel variant. We also painted highlights and shadows on the stem using the Fine Camel variant.
Figure 7: Adding soft detail to flower stamen and highlights and shadows to the stem with the Fine Camel variant of Watercolor.
8. Adding color modulation and texture. To add a little more activity in the color, we loosely added a few more bristle marks using the Dry Bristle variant. Finally, we added a light speckled texture using the Eraser Salt variant of Watercolor. To add bleached speckles on your image, choose the Eraser Salt variant and scrub the brush over the area you want to add speckles to. For smaller salt particles, reduce the brush Size using the Size slider in the Controls:Brush palette. To keep a spontaneous hand-done look, we retained the original sketch drawn with the 2B Pencil in the image.
Figure 8: Sprinkling "salt" on the upper area of the orchid using the Eraser Salt variant of Watercolor.