Watercolor painting demo of warm red sky and reflections

I have just finished posting my latest watercolor painting demonstration. This one is of Lake Bonney in South Australia. You can view the complete demo at this link: Lake Bonney watecolor painting demonstration.

You can see the finished watercolor painting below.

Lake Bonney sunset completed watercolor painting demonstration by Joe Cartwright
Lake Bonney sunset watercolor painting by Joe Cartwright


Painting the sky and clouds with watercolor

Painting the sky and clouds

After doing the drawing our first watercolor painting step is painting the sky and clouds. Create a very weak mixture of French Ultramarine and Burnt Sienna, about the strength of a weak cup of tea.

Then using the side of a round brush loaded with only clean water, wet the area of the sky which will be cloud free i.e. only wet the area which would normally be blue sky. Leave some large areas untouched – this is where the clouds will appear.

By using the side of the brush and only lightly touching the paper you will create wet areas with rough edges. In Figure 2, I have added a tiny amount of watercolor paint in my wash so you can see where the clear water would normally be applied.

First step for painting the sky and clouds with watercolor is to apply clean water with the side of the round brush where the sky will be.
Figure 2: First step for painting the sky and clouds with watercolor is to apply clean water with the side of the round brush where the sky will be.

Now while the sky area is still quite wet go back in with the sky mixture already produced. Hold the brush as you did when you initially wet the sky. As you see interesting cloud edges formed – leave them!  That is what you are after. Importantly don’t fiddle, just put the sky in and leave it. Don’t mix the sky colors after you wet the sky as it will dry and this watercolor painting technique requires the initial wetted area to be quite wet. It is basically a wet on wet technique. This step is seen in figure 3.

Figure 3: Lay in the sky watercolor wash over the pre wet sky area.
Figure 3: Lay in the sky watercolor wash over the pre wet sky area.

Once the sky is in place, and still wet, you should have some areas where the sky color has pooled, go back into the cloud areas now with just clean water, see figure 4. Again hold the brush so that only the body of it (and not the point) just touches the paper. Where the sky color has pooled it will react with the clean water of your brush as you touch it and create some nice edge variety. It is important in this step to leave some areas of the cloud shapes untouched so they form some nice dry brush edges.

Simple Beach Scene painting the sky and clouds with watercolors
Figure 4: Go over the white clouds with the side of the brush loaded with clean water, let some sky color bleed into the cloud shapes. Leave some cloud edges untouched.

Notice too that I painted into the hills, rather than just painting up to their edge. This will allow the hills to look like they are part of the scene rather than just stuck on which can happen if you try to leave the hill shapes white.

Let this stage dry thoroughly.

Continue to: How to paint sand and hills with watercolor

Modified Dry Brush or Broken Edge Technique

Modified dry brush

Instead of horizontal or vertical dry brush strokes you can use a more curved stroke using the body of the brush head, which just lightly touches the watercolor paper.

The trick to this technique is to have your brush almost parallel to your watercolor paper, and not to let the point of the brush touch the paper either.

I use this technique when creating the impression of tree foliage for gum trees and other similar trees as in figure 8. I also use this brush stroke when doing skies with fluffy clouds.

Modified Dry Brush Technique to create tree foliage
Figure 8: Modified Dry Brush Technique to create tree foliage
Watercolor Painting Modified Dry Brush Technique for doing fluffy clouds
Figure 9: Modified Dry Brush Technique used to create fluffy clouds

The trick of making this work is not to dab at your paintings but to lightly move the brush over its textured surface.  It works best with rough paper, but can also be applied to cold pressed paper; the smoother the paper the less paint you want in your brush to create the broken edge effect.

Watercolor Brushes Used

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, these edges in these examples are produced with a round brush.  They can however be produced with other brushes, some easier and others more difficult depending on the brush used.

As you master these edges you will find painting water color art will become much easier and they will give you the tools to make some wonderful watercolor paintings.

I hope these watercolor painting tips have been of use to you.