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  • Lucy Fleming

Digital Watercolour


If you've ever painted with watercolours you'll know that they can be challenging and sometimes unpredictable, but can also result in beautiful artwork; I'm always in awe of artists who can command the medium. Watercolour texture is almost impossible to digitally imitate at this time.


So, why bother? Creating artwork digitally offers a huge range of edit ability, the 'undo' function for a start! Working digitally can be attractive to those learning, as it can take up less space, is potentially easily portable, and can allow you to freely make mistakes and be experimental without lots of art supplies on hand. (Acknowledging that digital art, particularly on iPad has a high upfront cost, it might also be a device that's useful outside of art as well but it is not necessary to learn art). Working digitally can also be appealing for those working in a professional setting who may need to alter work easily for clients. This blog post is for inspiration purposes.


For the below: I've been enjoying experimenting with digital watercolours from my Paintbox set for Procreate, especially combined with paper textures. All the examples in this post are made using with my paper canvas method for Procreate. Learn more about how I set up the free paper textures in Procreate here.


Disclaimer: This post is for inspiration. I always encourage you to work in a way that makes you happy & use any brushes/art supplies however you'd like - creativity has no rules! Some of these tips may work with other watercolour style digital brushes, you do not have to buy these specific ones nor use this specific app, but I will be referring to the ones from my Paintbox for Procreate set for reference. This is not designed to tell you how to paint.


Digital Watercolouring:

Where to start:


If you have the chance to try watercolours, if you have some at home or on hand, I'd recommend trying them out in a playful way, different amounts of water, different brushes etc. Similarly with pencils, I find that if you can get a feel for what they act like and how you personally handle them it can give you an indication of what to look out for when creating textures digitally. If you don't have access to them though then that is OK of course (don't rush out and buy them!) I'm hopeful my tips will be helpful nevertheless.


One way to begin learning how to render watercolours digitally is to paint something in real life and copy it digitally as best you can. Like the below video.




As you can see it's not a perfect copy and digital brushes can only do so much. But by varying the pressure and mixing different colours / tones you can create some nice effects.


The brushes I used were mainly from Paintbox Wish Washy, Wish Washy Mini, Yummy Detail, Watercolour Detail - For the finer details such as the face and hair strokes I used Watercolour Bleed, Yummy Detail and importantly, Ink Watery which is a brush that works well over the top of others. I also added some extra pencil details like in the original by using Colour Crayon and Pencil Shader from my Sketchbook Brush Set which is an optional addition, but I wanted to mainly focus on watercolours today.


I have my iPad pencil on it's default pressure settings within the Procreate app, and all of the brushes are designed with pressure sensitivity in mind. The brushes that create a watery appearance when pressure is lightened are Wish Washy, Wish Washy mini and Yummy Detail (these will blend in with other colours). It can take some practice to get used to.


(The canvas was around 20x20 cm as I know some of you find the dimensions useful)


Some tips I discovered whilst doing this study were:


- Leaving white space and do not be too neat with your brushes, allow mess to happen and let the white page show through in places.


- Experiment with using underlay layers to enhance colours.


- Experiment with Multiply mode and other layer blending modes when seeking to deepen colours.


- Paint around details and vary your pen pressure to blend and bleed colours.


- Grey tones seem to occur naturally when blacks, dark blues and greens are watered down, so desaturate your brush colour when working on washed out areas.


Of course these are just some tips I'm currently learning and not the only way of working.


As with traditional mediums, there are many ways to approach using them, and each artist will find they naturally have their own fingerprint!


Watercolour Backgrounds:


My tips for creating watercolour style backgrounds are as follows.


- Create a base wash with Big Brush Streaky

- Add additional colour with Watercolour Background

- Create a new layer and set to Multiply. Use Big Brush Streaky with light pressure in circular motions to deepen and create more texture.

- Use Wish Washy with varying pressure and blending to create extra blobs and bleeds.

- Paint your background in white using the Watercolour Bleed brush for small areas or the Big Brush Streaky brush for large spaces. Then use any water colour brushes over the top to colour the image, leaving some white spaces. I used Yummy Detail.



I have yet to perfect my digital water colour game - and it could be because I've never spent a lot of time studying or practicing with watercolours in real life either, or because it's not necessarily a style that fits into my main work approach at the moment. I'm sure there are those of you who are proficient in watercolours and will have a better approach or tips to share, so if you do please leave them in the comments.


As always, it's fun to experiment & learn. You never know what small nuggets you'll take forward into your future work.


I hope this gives you some inspiration (or at least some bedtime reading to help you fall asleep!)


Many thanks for stopping by,

Lucy x




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