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This is a step by step progression of a typical watercolor painting.


1. Start with a Good Drawing.

Before I actually begin a painting I do a value sketch.  Often this is a thumbnail sketch only a couple inches large.  This in an invaluable tool and helps with composition as well as light and dark value areas.  I then do a light pencil sketch directly onto the watercolor paper.

2. Apply First Washes.

First I do an under-painting. Thatís a light glaze of yellow, pink or orange in warm passages or blue and purple in the cool passages of the painting. I leave quite a lot of white paper so my painting will have a crisp sparkle necessary to a successful watercolor painting.

3. Apply Light Glazes.

Once the under-painting is dry, I begin with light glazes over large sections of the painting. At this stage I also paint some passages using the "charging" technique.  The area is dampened and moist colors are dropped in and allowed to run together.

4. Add More Glazes.

I may do more drawing at this stage. Occasionally I will use masking fluid to save some necessary white or lightly colored highlights. I donít mask large areas. I carefully paint around the large white sections.  At this stage my design takes shape.

5. More Detail.

I continue to evaluate the painting as I proceed. Often it will evolve into something quite different than Iíd planned.  Thatís when the intuitive part of the painting process takes over and I just feel what I need to be doing.  Watercolor is a medium where you need to go with the flow.

6. Finish Painting.

I add more color to deepen passages in the painting until I get the contrast I want.  I continue to evaluate it as I go, sometimes putting it away for a few days.  At this point it's easy to overwork a painting.  Think of your painting as a poem, not a novel.


1. Drawing - Provides a composition or design. 
2. Washes - The undercoating that will glow through.
3. Add Glazes - Thin layers of transparent paint.
4. More Glazes - Build up stronger values of color.
5. More Detail - Define stronger shapes in the design.
6. Finish Painting - Darker opaque passages for details.


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Copyright © 2009 Judy Bert Frisk - All rights reserved.
Last modified: June 13, 2009