Page Two

This is the full image

This is the image I suggest we work from.....

but there will be some adjustments

Materials and Methods for Starting

First of all the paper should be a hot pressed watercolour paper.  

The images most people can print off a computer will be A4 size, so I suggest the paper should be large enough for that size of image with a good margin around it.  The image I will be working on is  10 inches side to side  and will be about 7 inches from top to bottom.  That is on a piece of Fabriano 5 ( the old Classico HP paper ) which is from an A3 pad -  virtually a quarter sheet Imperial.   I know one or two of you will be using Fabriano,  and Daler Rowney Langton HP paper for Botanical work is good.  Saunders Waterford HP will work -  around 300gm I suggest ( 140lb ) and it will best stretched as we will apply water to it, (though nothing like as much water as you might do painting with traditional watercolours)

Stretching will keep the paper flat and easier to work on.

For the tracing,

The system I use employs three stages.  First a trace from the original using a fine tip marker pen on to tracing paper.

I then turn the tracing paper over and on the back follow the lines with suitably coloured watercolour pencils.

I then place the newly lined out side facing the working paper surface and with a ‘bone’ or hard plastic tool, rub down to transfer the pencil lines across.

We don't want to press down on our working paper with a line that impresses the paper and leaves a groove in the work surface.  The method of transfer is as explained in the Topics site ( I use a flat ‘bone’ as used for scoring and folding card, but you could use the back of a spoon or fork handle ( no jokes please ))

Of course if you want to draw the image on to the work surface freehand, you are very welcome, but I prefer to do a trace to get down the essential placings and shapes and then carefully draw out the picture using the feint trace lines as a guide.

AS I HAVE ALREADY PRODUCED A TRACED IMAGE OF THIS PICTURE you can cut out one step in the process.

I have reversed the traced image in the PDF file attached, so you merely have to take a trace of the reversed image using a soft watercolour pencil on tracing paper and then do the transfer straight on to your work surface.

I have been asked why I use a tracing method rather than just draw my image out on the working paper.  I could, but I don’t.

1/ In many cases my image contains constructions in a landscape - buildings etc - and they need to be correctly sized and placed

Using a trace ensures they can be located accurately

2/ I may need to repeat the picture for students - or repeat if things go wrong in the painting process - and keeping the copy of the trace ensures that I can save a lot of time if a further copy is required

3/ Tracing saves a lot of time when working with students on courses and workshops where time can be limited.

I have sent out a large file version of the selected image to those in the working group, and a trace is available as a PDF file from a link on this page.

Let me emphasize, though, there is NO RUSH.


I suggested that we used this image (on the right), as the amount of foreground is reduced compared with the others of the same scene.  The white building on the right is better positioned and less imposing than in the other views, and I might suggest we tone down the bright sunlit look it has, so that the emphasis moves on to the bridge and the buildings by the ford.  I also suggested that we extend the centre middle ground by adding in a third upstairs window to the facing house and make the overall picture more rectangular  ( as David suggested way back ).  We could include some sky but that would make the picture more square and  also involve us in more heavy tree work on the background.  

Trees I like, but a whole forest - no.   

Extending the facing building also moves that bit of lavender( ? ) at the front of the bridge away from the centre point of the picture towards the right where it can provide a better focal pint of light against dark.  

The hanging sign outside the right hand building may also change colour to make it stand out less strongly..

I am leaving the left hand building in to provide balance, but it could always be cropped out later.

The basic photo image will merely provide a  basis on which we arrange our scene.


There was a lot of discussion in the group about the picture and whether a bit of deforestation should be carried out on the hillside in the background to allow for more sky. We are now agreed ( with some dissent ) that we leave the picture as it is.  Some group members have had problems stretching paper - that is probably why they avoided Watercolour in the past !  The suggestion is to use a gummed pad or a low cost paper stretcher ( as described on the Paper stretching topic ).

Some in the group have only limited watercolour pencils and rather than buy in a set when they might otherwise not need one, I have suggested that they resort to watercolour for the initial washes, though we will be using the watercolour pencils later and using a different technique, so W/C pencils will be useful.


I have made a start and this afternoon transferred the trace from the example shown in the PDF file on to the working surface.  I know that one or two of you have already done this, but for those who haven’t, can I make some suggestions  about the best way of proceeding ?

You will recall that the method is to re-draw the lines  on the reverse image of the trace using a watercolour pencil so that the transferred line can be removed dry or simply washed into the picture in the early stages.  Don’t use a graphite pencil, the transferred line will ‘shine’ through and will be difficult to get rid of.  I used a Paynes Grey for the task as this is dark enough to leave a visible line but is not too dark.

In following the drawn picture ( remember you are putting the line down on the reverse of the picture as it is seen, so that the line you are now doing is in contact with the working surface when it is rubbed down.


1/ The lines of the roof tiles are there for a reason, make sure they go down as exactly as you can so the positions and spacing are right.  The scribbles in the tree area are not so critical - they simply remind you of areas of shadow.

2/ Keep your pencil point as sharp as possible and keep rotating the point as you work on drawing the picture out so that the line stays as sharp as possible

3/ When you have completed the draw out of the picture, use four little blobs of blue or white tac to hold the paper steady on the work surface and when rubbing down, spread your fingers and thumb either side of the area you are rubbing down to keep the paper flat and secure to the work surface.

4/ Check how the line is transferring at intervals by carefully lifting an appropriate corner of the trace.

5/ Work alternately over the trace when rubbing down, working at right angles and I suggest that three work-overs should do the trick, but do make sure the trace lines are mainly there before you remove the trace completely. You might need more or less depending on the thickness of your trace paper

6/ It is not vital that every traced line is in position, the aim is to be able to go over the picture with a fine line pencil  and re-draw the picture from the original photo using your trace lines as a guide.  I will use an appropriate coloured pencil for this ( e.g. Green for the lines defining  roof lines against trees etc. )

7/ Where a grey line is incorrect, erase it and re- draw .  

This is your opportunity to do any editing

you would like to do in the composition

8/ Keep your trace carefully, You may need it.

This is my finished trace down. I have slightly

enhanced the picture contrast for the website,

but in reality the grey lines are quite subdued.

Those of you in the working group should now

try to get your image down so that I can discuss

any re-drawing points  before we look at the

first colour stage.

Any relevant comments from group discussion

will be posted below

SUNDAY November 22nd

The majority of the group have now traced the outline. One or two did it in graphite, and whilst that is not really advisable

(Coloured Pencil is better - I use a water soluble one), it shouldn’t create too many problems as the line should be quite feint.   

If you do use graphite pencil, try to make sure any strong black  lines are removed or reduced in strength before moving on, as otherwise there is a tendency for a graphite black line to show through later layers.

I hope to get the next stage shown over the next couple of days, which will involve the use of watercolour pencil to lay down a series of very thin washes to tint to paper.

If you have Watercolour pencils, we will only need a handful of colours.  If you don’t  have them, it is quite permissible, for the purpose of this exercise, to use traditional watercolours.  

I can’t emphasize enough, though, Do make sure that the  colour you mix - with whatever method- is very watery.

You will need to lay down a series of thin layers rather than one or two thick ones.  I will show you ...........

FIRST THOUGH,  Consider some points about PIGMENT

The colour strip in a watercolour pencil is virtually the same make up as the colour in a tube or pan of watercolour.

The difference is in the binding ingredients which hold the pigment in a strip hard enough to put in a wood case and sharpen.

In a box of coloured pencils, you will have dark colours and pale colours and you need to be aware that the pale colours are made pale by the addition of a certain amount of white or cream material to thin out the colour.  You will see this if you mix up a wash of a pale pencil colour and then rinse out the brush in a pot of clean water.  From this you will realise that if you want to make a wash of a pale colour, you don’t need to use a pale coloured pencil, as this will merely add opaque white to the mix. It is better to use a transparent darker coloured pencil and use less pigment for a thinner wash. The lightness then comes from the white of the paper shining through rather than an opaque pigment ( which will tend to produce ‘mud’ if mixed.

Look at this example of the body colour in a pale pencil wash :

So this points to the fact that for a tinting colour wash,

you may well only need four or five colours of pencil.  

You will not be concerned about the exact shade of


Merely to ensure that the white of the paper

is killed with an appropriate colour of wash.

I use a white plate for mixing colour,

but alternatively, if I need a lot of one colour

(blue for Sky  and blue for sea, for instance),  

I will use a small dish so that I mix enough colour in one go. For our exercise there is a good range of colours used in the picture and it is also a relatively small picture, so you will not need a great deal of one colour mixed at any one time  

You use very little colour from the pencils,

only a small scrape off the long sharpened

point with a sharp knife

Be careful to avoid scraping off any  wood !

These images show you how very little dry colour will mix into quite a useful lot of wash.  The brush is a No 6 watercolour brush.It will be big enough for the task ahead though you could also go for a No 8 which will hold more water but be slightly less accurate for edges

Apart from the pencils, a knife to take off the colour, a plate , a brush and some clean water, you will need a piece of paper similar to the one you are using for your picture to try out samples of the wash to make sure it is thin enough.

Test out the  wash on your sample paper to see how it responds. You may well need to thin it down still further - most people do when they are learning this process !

THE MAIN AIM here is to apply several thin coats of colour (I can’t say this often enough) and build up darker shades from a number of applications.  It keeps things under control and helps you to build slowly and thus avoid a crisis.

Just like using thin layers of dry pencil colour - which you will possibly be familiar with - you can adjust the actual overall tint of the colour you see by adding a further layer of an appropriate second colour.  

FOR EXAMPLE if your green turns out to be a viridian green (a hard blue green that looks quite artificial ) a second thin wash on top with a gold yellow will work wonders in making the green more natural.  Watch out for using an ochre colour though as these shades often contain quite a lot of body material and are quite opaque.

In this example (Right)  the top block of green was put down in one hit.

It is too strong.  In the lower example we took three layers to get to the same point, but the approach means that we can be very precise about the depth of tone we are laying down. I know it doesn’t look green, but I have adjusted the photo to give the best from the original.


The colour in the images above are a little bit ‘out’ as the photos were taken by artificial light, but they seem to be clear enough so I will press on with the next section.

Understanding that the wash that we are going to put down is just to tint the paper and not to get an accurate rendering of the colour we will finish with, we do need to remember at all time when doing the wash,, that the wash edges 1/ must be exact to the drawing - if the drawing is not exact to what you will aim at, re-draw or paint  the wash with a fine brush to the correct line.  And 2/ any areas of colour that are towards the edge of the picture need to overlap the drawn edges.  

There is a reason for this ( and I often forget).  In the later stages, you may decide that you want your picture to extend beyond the initial drawing  If you have underpainted it may well be too late to add a section to match .

Look at the image alongside of the view of Polperro harbour.  

I deliberately extended the area of sky wash ‘just in case’, but now I am working on the body of the picture, I wonder if I should add some more to the right hand side as this will improve the composition with the right hand boats, but the underpainted area  will be difficult to amalgamate with the area still currently white paper.  Not impossible, but a difficulty I should have thought of.  It is easier to underpaint more than you need and then crop later.  In fact I can work those buildings and some of the right hand quayside without an underpainting. The only area I may have trouble matching up will be the right foreground harbour mud.

At least I put the sky in over the larger area so I don’t have the virtually impossible job of matching that up.


I suggest that we look at starting our wash in the tree area  in the centre background, as that is a less critical area and will give you a chance to get a feel for what we are doing, without the worry of exact edges

For those of you who have an urge to reduce the tree/hillside height and incorporate some sky, you will need to decide where your sky is to come in the picture and do that first.  Bear in mind that as your colours are going to be pale, the bottom edge of the sky where it meets trees is not of concern. You will need to avoid the buildings but any pale blue sky which is painted where there will be trees, can be put down regardless. The wash of green for the trees will cover it up  and your green wash will merely have a blue tint - very acceptable for trees in the distance.

If you decide to put in sky you are advised to make up a thin wash of blue, test it on your sample paper, to make sure it is the right tint, then damp the sky area of your working paper with clean water so that your wash colour flows better on the paper.

You then apply your pale blue in horizontal strokes from your dish of blue paint working down the paper and avoiding those buildings.  Keep some clean kitchen roll handy to clean off any paint that gets where you don’t want it.  Look at the sky in Polperro above and see how the blue gets more watery as it comes down the page.  If you haven’t done this before, try it out first

With the green of the trees, don’t apply this colour until the sky is dry.

The danger area for the green is the edges of the buildings and for this stage I recommend that you turn the paper upside down so that the buildings are at the top of the paper and you can work with the point of your brush right up to those straight edges.  

If you are omitting sky and putting green in all of the upper area. Then you will need to extend the green beyond the right and left hand edges of your drawing and also the top.  Sketch a light line in first to mark your limits. This will give you some flexibility later ( as in Polperro above )

If you want sky and want more advice, contact me.

I am going to work with no sky.

I have first made up a dish of green from a Staedtler 125-5 (‘Green’) aquarelle

You will see that the dish has a good sprinkling of shavings and this makes a large dishful of paint - see above .  

It is amazing how much paint you get from a small amount of dry colour

On the dry test paper I have put down a series of layers of colour following the general shape of the trees in the picture, and the areas of light and shadow.  You will see how successive layers of wash build up areas which are darker and which will be areas of shadow and areas which represent the sunlight on the tops of the trees.  You DON’T have to be precise about these layers of colour, they are all going to be covered by dry pencil later, and any bits where you might have gone astray will be covered up.  Once you have completed the washes over the whole picture, though, you will be able to erase any pencil marks left over from the trace


I think we may now be ready to venture on to our working surface.


Allerford 1

This image will take a little time to download





Next Page

Original Photo file - Allerford  pdf

Desaturated image Allerford pdf

Trace of drawing - Allerford  pdf