These are the main Sections of the Site

These are the other Topics within this section


-A4-   ( AQUARELLES )  Basic techniques - 1

One of the major difficulties for new pencil artists is the obtaining of a nice smooth background to their pictures using a medium ( pencil) designed to produce a clear line on the paper surface.

There are a number of techniques for applying dry colour  to obtain a smooth background, using a pad and picking up pigment from a palette of laid down dry pencil media.  The quickest and - I believe - easiest, is to use watercolour ( aquarelle) pencils and use them in their various ways.

This section has been split into two separate topics to enable the traditional brushed in aquarelle method ( 1)  to be shown in detail against alternative systems for producing a good graded background with an airbrush ( 2) .

The topic is explained in a detailed step by step which was prepared for the sole purpose of showing the way to work a background - even though the picture is also fully completed here using watercolour pencils.

The picture does not have a reference. The composition is entirely invented and was developed as is discussed below.  The method of  putting such a picture together may also be of interest to readers.


A step by step demonstration of working a background in watercolour pencils

Traditionally, a step by step demonstration starts off with a picture reference.

This one started with a clean piece of stretched Fabriano Classico 5  Hot pressed paper in a Keba Artmate frame, a palette of a row of small bowls containing clean water, a small sheet of rough paper to make up a source of pigment, a  nylon No 6 brush and a watercolour wash brush.  Of course a set of aquarelle pencils was also required and for this exercise I used Caran d’Ache Supracolour as they contain the colour choices I need for a Scottish landscape.

The first step is to moisten the individual areas of pigment on the paper and transfer a small amount of colour to each of the bowls making a VERY thin colour wash.  Make much more than you think you will need…. You will use very little pencil pigment and it is better to make up enough, than try and duplicate a colour later

I started this exercise as a short demonstration at the Knuston Hall Coloured Pencil course in March 2014.

We had been discussing backgrounds and  I had some stretched paper available, so I set out to show how the colours were obtained and developed. Because this was started in the course environment, I don’t have pictures of the clean paper I started with, but I do have a photo of the results of the short demo, and I will explain how that was produced. And go on to show how the picture was taken onwards.

The very thin layers of colour wash are laid down on to dampened stretched paper so that colour flows smoothly over the paper surface.  The actual colour is very thin and it can take several layers of colour to start to make an impression.   Remember that watercolour goes on to the paper darker than it is when dry.

Without any real plan of campaign, I have painted in some hills and the line of what could be a road or stream has been left as the clean paper. The sky has two layers of very pale blue from an ultramarine source ( i.e. a darker purplish blue ).

I have now taken the colour washes on a stage and decided to make those left hand hills into more definite mountains.

There is also a darker line of nearer hills on the right

This is a case of decision making ‘as we go’.  I have added some shadow along the road/stream edge.  Still not sure what the overall subject will be.  What might have been just general hillsides will now, I think, take on a Scottish air and have more golden colours in the foreground.

It may help you to see another scaled up portion of the washes which has been colour adjusted from the original photo so that you can see what is going on….. See below.

 As you can see, the layers of colour may be thin, but each layer adds to the previous ones and the effect is graded colour under total control

A couple of further washes of ochre shades have now been added to the green and I have put away the wash brush and the bowls of thin colour and looked afresh at the picture to decide where to go next.

You will see that I have drawn in some Highland Cattle on the right and also added some trees in the middle distance.  Some darker shading has been applied to the left hand side high ground in the distance which will give a focal point of dark against the light of the sky.  I have now decided that the road in the foreground will have more ‘life’ if it is a stream.

It may well become narrower as the picture progresses, but we will see.

All the later colour additions after the ochre washes are still dry watercolour pencil shading

A damp brush has been applied to those areas of dry pencil with the result that colours have ‘bounced’ up in strength.

I have added further layers of green shading to the areas where the cattle are grazing and in the distant lower ground, but I think that is a mistake.  I will correct this as soon as I decide on the next action

Latest revision October 2014

I did spend some time thinking about where to take this exercise, and decided to add some trees on either side.  

Not a good idea !

The additions obscured the delicate hills on the right and changed the whole balance of the picture.  Some effort was then taken to correct this and finally the picture was abandoned.  It serves the original purpose, though, in showing the use of underpainting.

The ‘disaster’ in composition was of my own making !

THE NEXT PAGE  looks at alternative ways of developing backgrounds

……….using an airbrush with Derwent Inktense pencils  

and also using a frisket to protect an area for the main subject


( Some basic approaches)