Friday, August 31, 2012

Fashion Friday - Norah

So I most likely won't be posting on Monday. The watercolor doll will need to wait a week. My husband is on vacation & we have some family fun planned. I'll resume normal posting the following Monday.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Introduction to Watercolor

This lesson is an intro to watercolors.  We'll work with the doll next time.  Today we'll look at the basics of using watercolors.  Please keep in mind (again) that these are my methods for using watercolors.  I am certainly not an expert! If you would like to look at a more in-depth introduction to watercolors, please visit this fantastic site:  Just to be clear, I am in no way affiliated with this site -- I just thought it was a thorough intro.

Materials List:

Watercolor Pans (Winsor-Newton)
Watercolor Tubes (Winsor-Newton)
Watercolor Semi-soft pans (Yarka)
Assorted brushes
Canson cold-press watercolor paper (not pictured)
Arches cold-press watercolor paper (not pictured)

I can't say this enough -- MATERIALS MATTER!  Always buy the best materials you can.  It can make all the difference.

We're going to look at three types of paints on two types of paper.  First, a brief explanation of our materials.

There are two types of brushes I use: flats and rounds.  They come in a variety of sizes & quality.  I prefer the Winsor-Newton/Cotman brushes.  Find a brush that feels comfortable and works well with the paper and paints you use.

There are three types of paints I use: pans and tubes by Winsor-Newton and semi-soft pans by Yarka.  The pans are a solid pigment and require pre-wetting before use.  The tubes have a smooth gel-like consistency and need to be thinned with water to be used properly.  The semi-soft pans are just that: not quite solid and not quite liquid.  They require very little water to work.

Paper also matters.  We'll look at Canson watercolor paper and Arches watercolor paper.  Canson is a budget paper while Arches is a bit more of a splurge.  Both are very easily attained.

We'll look at a wash, and dry or wet brushes on dry or wet paper.  First the definitions and then the samples:

At the top of the sample is a wash, which is a large, flat layer of color.  This wash is a bit thin but you can do deep, dark washes as well.  I wet the paper with clear, clean water and then applied the color with a large brush 

Dry on Dry:
Underneath the wash is a dry brush on dry paper.  A dry brush is brush that hasn't been fully loaded with paint and leaves a textured line on the page. 

Wet on Dry:
A fully loaded, wet brush on dry paper.  This is the method I use for a lot of my watercolor paintings.

Wet on Wet:
This is another technique I use a lot.  First, wet your paper.  Then, using a fully loaded brush, apply color onto the wet paint.

Dry on Wet:
Like the dry on dry technique, this is a thicker, not quite fully loaded brush on wet paper.

On the left, the pan colors on Canson paper.  on the right, pan colors on Arches.  The Canson paper ripples under washes and has a smoother texture than the Arches.  Pan paints have a tendency to be a little grainy.
Here are the tube colors on the Canson paper (left) and Arches paper (right).  Again, the Canson doesn't hold up as well under a wash as the Arches.  Something I didn't do here is use the color straight out of the tube.  It has a thick, gel-like consistency that can be challenging but useful. 

This shows the Yarka semi-soft pans on Canson and Arches paper, again on the left and right respectively.  These paints have a nice, almost opaque color and the color range is a bit different than the Winsor-Newton line.
This is a picture of the pan paints & the semi-soft paints as washes on the Canson paper.  I made them somewhat heavy washes to really see how the paper would hold up.

Here are the pans & semi-soft paints in heavy washes on the Arches paper.  The Arches paper holds up much better under lots of water than the Canson does.
This is an example of one of my watercolor dolls.  Just about the only edit has been removing the background & it could use a little bit more editing...  I used every technique described above on this doll.

Next week we'll look at our doll in watercolors.  I'll try to be a detailed as possible.  Watercolors require patience & time, so the next lesson may be broken into parts.  Til then, enjoy these last beautiful days of summer!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Another New Doll!

I wasn't sure if I would ever finish this doll & I certainly didn't expect to get it ready to publish, but I surprised myself I guess!  This doll started as a sketch I was working on while waiting in the hospital for my first niece to be born.  I've been puttering away on it for a while.  I took the sketches, outlined them in pen, and scanned them.  I then converted the outlines to vectors in Illustrator, and colored them in Photoshop.  The flat color just didn't look right, so I layered a watercolor texture over it.  And if all of that sounds confusing, it's part of the upcoming lessons so it will make more sense...

This is just a preview of the doll.  There are 15 outfits total and, like the Goddess and Fairy dolls, it's available on  Not sure if I'm going to put it up on Amazon yet...   

If there's any interest, I could also make these available on Lulu as a pdf download.  Anyway, go take a look at the newest title!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Colored Pencil on Watercolor Paper

Today we'll look at colored pencil on a rough paper.  I'm using Canson watercolor paper.  It's a relatively inexpensive paper that's easily found in craft stores. 

Materials List:

Prismacolor Pencils
Verithin pencils
Pencil sharpener
Pencil & eraser
Tortillion blender
Colorless blending pencil
Colorless blending marker
Masking Tape
Archival Pens

For this project, I used all of the listed materials except the blending marker.

As usual, copy your doll onto your final paper.  I use my old standby: my lightbox.  For this doll, I stuck to just two outfits & the doll.  Be careful tracing the image.  It's easy to press to forcefully and "etch" into the watercolor paper and that could be noticeable under the colored pencil later.

Once your images are copied onto your final paper, erase your pencil lines until they are relatively faint.  This image is my outlines before erasing - the image after erasing was too faint to use this time. 

After erasing the lines, I take the Verithin (hard) colored pencils and outline the doll and outfits in the colors I intended on coloring them.  I often try to outline parts of the doll in coordinating colors.  Some artist prefer a black outline on everything, or no outline at all.  Just a preference….

I now have a rough idea of what colors I want to use, so at this point I start blocking in colors with the Prismacolor soft core pencils.  I like to work one color at a time.  The image looks really rough right now but blending and layering will help smooth everything out.

From this point on, I'll be focusing on the paper doll image.  I'll complete the outfits as well, but for the sake of demonstration, I'll just color the doll.

Here, I've taken the colorless blending pencil and colored over the initial color block in one direction.  Then, I put the same color over the blended color, and used the colorless blending pencil in the opposite direction.  It creates a cross-hatching effect at this point.  There's more layering and blending to come.

To smooth out the hatching in the previous step I've taken the blending pencil and colored in vertical strokes.  It doesn't totally eliminate the texture, it just evens it out a bit.  I am leaving the details, such as the face, till the end.

Now that the initial colors have been laid down and blending sufficiently, I start shading.  I like to take darker shades of the same color and use that as my shadow color.  I use a light brown for the skintones and dark purples for the suit and base.  To create black shoes, I used the 90% Grey pencil instead of black and then used black as the shadow on the shoes.

It's time to blend the shadows and instead of using the blending pencil, I'm using the original color.  For example, on the skintone, I use the original peach color to blend the light brown.  It gives a subtle blend to the colors that the colorless blender did not.

I decided to darken the shadows, so at this point I colored the shadows with the dark colors again and reblended with the lighter color.

The majority of the color has been laid down, layered, and blended, so now I go back to the face and hair and color those.  For the white reflection of the eye, I leave that uncolored.  Use a very sharp pencil for the details.  I again chose to blend with similar colors for the face instead of using the colorless blending pencil.

The initial outlines I made with the Verithin pencils have been obscured by layers of pencil, so I take the soft core pencils and outline my image.  Use a very sharp pencil and draw slowly & carefully.

Here I've added some details to the suit, hair, and face.  I thought a little ribbon & lace might be nice, so I drew those in with blue.  At this stage, I refine the shadows and outlines to finalize the image.  It's easy to overwork an image and this seemed like a good stopping point.

The final image shows the doll and two outfits.  Colored pencils can leave a sheen on the paper and that's what happened with the middle outfit: the light I used to photograph the final image bounced off that center part for some reason.  Still, you can see the overall method for using colored pencil.

I do not claim to be an expert with colored pencil.  If there's an expert out there, I would have to point you to Liana's lovely paper doll site.  She's been a bit busy lately with a new baby (I can totally relate!) so she hasn't updated in a while.  Still, check out her previous work.  I could only hope to achieve her level of skill!

Next up for us, watercolors.  This is what I normally use to color my paper dolls and it's one of my favorite methods.  We'll have a basic overview of materials next week, with the first watercolor lesson after that.  For now, happy creating!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Colored Pencil on Smooth Paper

After the colored pencil comparison in the previous lesson, I settled on smooth paper for this lesson.  It's just one of several techniques that could be used for colored pencil.

Materials List:

Prismacolor Pencils
Verithin pencils
Pencil sharpener
Pencil & eraser
Tortillion blender
Colorless blending pencil
Colorless blending marker
Masking Tape
Archival Pens

I didn't end up using all of the materials pictured.  For this example, I used the Prismacolor pencils and tortillion blender primarily.

To get started, trace your doll and outfit templates onto your final paper.  I used a lightbox but the transfer method doesn't really matter.  Try to draw lightly -- too dark a line will leave a line etched into the paper.  My picture of the pencil lines makes the lines look a little more faint than they actually are.

I tried using just colored pencils without outlining my images in pen.  It was pretty awful… So I recommend outlining your images with an archival pen before coloring them in.  Also wait for the pen to completely dry before trying to erase the pencil lines.  It's important to erase as much of the pencil lines  as possible.  If you color over them with the colored pencils, the pencil lead may bleed into your color.

As a general rule, I try to put one color down at a time.  This is especially important when blending colors together to make a unique color.  It's more crucial with paints -- and we'll discuss it again there -- but I wanted to mention it here are well.

With this paper, I found that coloring a layer of pencil and then blending it with a tortillion blender left a subtle, almost textureless color.  In the picture above, the unblended pencil is on the left with the blended color on the right.  I tried to use one tortillion per color, which was fine here since I had a limited amount of colors to work with.  Also, tortillions are super cheap at art stores, or can be easily made at home.

The smooth paper & tortillion blending combination worked fairly well.  It seems to work best with color straight from the pencil.  This method makes it almost impossible to build layers and results in a fairly flat color.  Some of the colors in my scan ended up a little washed out but still fairly true to the light tones in the final image.

Next up, we'll talk about using colored pencil on a rougher paper and discuss other methods of blending color.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Working with Colored Pencils

Today we're going to look at colored pencils and using them to color our doll.   This lesson will focus on a comparison of the materials.  The actual step-by-step coloring of the doll will be next week. First, I want to talk about materials and then we'll look at some examples of how materials matter in the final product. 

Materials Overview

Materials matter! The type of pencils or the texture of the paper will be a deciding factor in what your final product looks like.  For each paper type, I have placed several samples: straight unblended color from a Prismacolor (soft) pencil and a Verithin (hard) pencil as well as unblended color, color blended with a colorless blending marker, color blended with a colorless blending pencil, and color blended with a tortillon (or stump).  Prismacolor pencils are professional grade colored pencils and terrific to work with.  I'm used other pencils and prefer the Prismacolor.  Paper is also key. When choosing paper, also make sure it suits your transfer method.  I like to use a lightbox, so my paper needs to be thin enough for the light to pass through. 

Sketchbook Paper

I use Strathmore 60lb sketching paper.  The weight listed on the paper is the paper density (  The Wikipedia article covers the details, but for our purposes all you need to know is lighter paper is thinner and more flimsy than heavier paper.  The sketching paper is very lightweight with a subtle texture (often called the "tooth" of the paper).

The sketchbook paper is too flimsy in my opinion.  The pencils also don't look their best on it: I don't like the texture or the blending.  I would keep sketchbook paper for sketching.

Canson Watercolor Paper
I'm new to Canson's 140lb watercolor paper.  I typically use Arches cold press watercolor paper for my watercolor paintings, but the texture was a little more rough than I wanted for pencils.  And what does cold pressed mean?  It refers to how the paper is manufactured.  Cold press paper is a little rough in texture, and hot press is very smooth.  I couldn't get my hands on hot press this time, so we'll just look at the cold press.

The Canson watercolor paper is better than the sketchbook paper.  The texture & blending are both better.  The paper would be great for a mixed media doll or watercolor colored pencils.

Smooth paper and Lightly textured paper
Unlike the other papers, I don't know much about these two types (aside from the fact that they are both 100lb papers) because I came across them randomly…. A few years ago, I was looking for flat files to store my art.  They are very big & very expensive, so I looked at an office furniture warehouse.  (W.B. Mason in Southie, for anyone in the Boston area.  Totally worth the trip!)  When I got them home, I discovered a treasure trove of publisher's paper from the previous owners! The smooth and textured paper I'm using are from this batch.  Both of them are similar in texture to scrapbooking paper available at most craft stores so don't feel like these are unavailable.

This paper, like the watercolor paper, has a nice texture & blending.  The texture is more pronounced than the watercolor paper and is thinner.

I was really surprised at how much I loved this paper.  I feel like I hardly touched the paper with the pencil before beautiful, bright color showed up on the paper.  The pencil blended so smoothly that the samples look like watercolor is some ways. 

If you plan on using wet media along with the colored pencils -- whether it's watercolors or watercolor pencils -- I would recommend watercolor paper.  For my experiment, I plan on using the smooth paper. After that, I'll try out the watercolor paper with colored pencil.  Next lesson will be a step-by-step of coloring in the doll with colored pencils.