Simple Watercolor Art Tutorial

I’ve had this project in my to do folder for a few months now and just couldn’t find the perfect situation to actually try it out. But, once we moved to our current apartment and had an extra bathroom for Reli, everything finally fell into place.

The idea comes from a Lily Pulitzer segment on the Martha Stewart show which shows the steps they go through to make a new fabric print. I have simplified the process a bit, but you can watch the clip here if my wording gets confusing.

This is a super easy way to spruce up an empty wall on the cheap. All you need is:
watercolor paper
a coloring book page
a light-box (or window)
a permanent marker (Sharpie)
watercolor paints

The paint should be 3-4 shades next to each other on the color wheel, and the marker should be the same color as one of the shades of paint. (ex. orange marker with yellow, yellow-orange, orange and pink paint colors or yellow, yellow-green, green and blue-green with a green marker)

First I started by searching the web for coloring pages of my desired subject. (fish, shells and sea critters) When I found the ones I liked I copied the images (copyright free) and pasted them into a blank word document. There you can play around with the sizes until you have them how you like. My seahorse, octopus, and turtle were my focal critters so they were large while the shells were small and the fish medium. Just make sure everything varies a bit.

When all your pictures are printed start laying them out randomly to figure how they will best fit on your sized paper. I like to use a piece of copy paper to sketch figures on just to get the angles right, but this is supposed to be pretty free form.

Left: My copy paper “test” page. (Note how the squiggles and dots look odd before painting.)
Right: My coloring pages trimmed down for arranging.

Next grab your light box and marker and start tracing! This doesn’t have to be perfect, and don’t worry about large gaps we’ll fill them in next. *tip: If you try to trace with pencil & then go over it, the pencil mark will show through on all but the very darkest marker colors. I know, I had to redo my orange 🙁 *

When you have your coloring pages traced, start filling in little squiggles and bubbles and dots. Go ahead and add a few dots to the original figure too. (like on my octopus) Holding the marker very lightly helps these look more idk. . . flowy? organic?

Now you can start painting. Using the lightest color start adding highlights here and there then start adding the other colors in layers light to dark. If things start to get too soggy, blot an area with a dry paper towel and then use a slightly wet brush to blend the colors again. Don’t be really strict about it, but make sure you leave a few white patches for contrast.

Port Hole Frame Tutorial Here

Once your picture is dry, the paper may have started to warp a bit. If this causes a problem with framing or hanging, the paper is thick enough to be ironed easily. Just make sure that you iron on the back side and NO STEAM! Once the paper is warmed, set a heavy book on top as it cools and in 10 min. it should be flat again.

Give it a try, and be sure to add a picture of your finished product to my new Flicker group Your tART!
Thanks for Visiting.
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5 thoughts on “Simple Watercolor Art Tutorial

  1. I can't thank you enough for sharing this at The Girl Creative! Love the whimsical Lilly patterns and bright cheery colors! What you have done here is truly amazing. Love your Turtle and Octopus – you have lots of talent and I am your newest fan just because I don't want to miss out on what you do next! 🙂

  2. Lovely! I am a watercolor artist and love how you explained this. Hopefully more people will try this. Everyone seems to love watercolors but are afraid of them!! You really simplified the process to open up the technique for more people! Kuddos to you! This is a technique that should be taught in elementary school! Middle school at least!

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