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Figures in watercolor and pen

Sketching in pen and ink is a fast and convenient way to give a bit more life to your drawings. It is the perfect mix of precise sharp lines, contrasting with loose watery washes of color.

It is also a fast and convenient way to paint, watercolor and ink are drying very fast and you can carry them outside if you want to try these techniques for urban or landscape sketching.


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Painting over life drawings with India Ink

Painting over Life drawings with Acrylic and Watercolor Pencils

An alternative to Yupo paper: Gel medium on regular paper.


Start by making an outline of your drawing. Here I am using the drawings I made in life drawing class. Because I am working on large imperial size paper in class, I just printed a picture of my original drawing (left) and drew it on watercolor paper (on the right).

You can start by drawing free hand, I recommend you do that instead of tracing your drawing to keep the immediacy and fresh look of the original. It is fine if the drawing is not an exact reproduction or if the proportions are not totally exact.

You can use a dipping pen for the drawing.

Mix a bit of India ink with water, so you get a medium gray that is a bit softer than black for your drawing with the dipping pen.

Then you can mix a few watercolor washes, the colors you will use don’t have to be realistic. Actually the colors themselves don’t matter as much as their tonal values.

There are a few methods you can try: You can start by painting the light color washes and then paint darker colors. or you can paint from the top of the figure to the bottom and let the colors mix wet into wet, which is what I did in this case, starting with a dark purple wash for the hair.

You can also use 2 colors for the hair and let them mix wet into wet.

Keep on painting washes of watercolor wet into wet, letting the colors bleed into each other, and keeping some areas of highlights just unpainted.

You can soften some edges by painting over them with a brush loaded with plain water.

This will avoid all the edges to look sharp and will add a nice variety of edges to your sketch.

Keep on painting the whole figure.

Another technique you can try is to paint light washes first and wait for them to dry. Then paint another layer in a few darker areas.

Painting a first light layer.

And then painting a second layer in a few darker areas.


Here are some exemples of watercolor and pen figure sketches.


{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Chie Potente May 17, 2017, 10:45 pm

    How generous of you of your skill/talent. This is a great help for people like me who like to paint but dont know how to start exactly. The step-by-step demo is almost tantamount to being in an art class.
    Thank you!

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