Cindy Briggs


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How to Plan Out a Watercolor Painting

how to plan out a watercolor painting

How to Plan Out a Watercolor Painting

I’m taking you today to Mona, Utah to the site of the Lavender Fields about 40 minutes from my home in Utah. In this lesson, I’m sharing how I plan out my watercolor painting—what happens at the beginning of the process. Sometimes you want to jump into a painting, but if you take even 15 minutes to plan, you’ll have a better idea of where you are going. You can fine-tune your design and select colors that make a statement. As always, you will have a better experience if you start with the right tools; see my supply list for my suggestions.

Decide on your subject

how to plan a watercolor painting how to plan a watercolor painting how to plan a watercolor painting When on location or going through my photos, I like to take a good look around. Inspiration will tell me what to paint.

Thumbnail designs

Thumbnail Sketch Try some quick Thumbnail Designs to decide on your composition on some scratch paper. Usually only about 1-2” square, a small thumbnail drawing can help you plan your design.

Value study

BW Value Study Once you’ve decided on your composition try a Value Study (approx. 2” x 3”). Note, I’ve moved a few mountains. You can just use a pencil if you’d like. Sometimes, I’ll use a Stabilo Aquarellable pencil and add water or even my iPhone and use an app called Notanizer.

Color study

Color Study

Color Study

Color Wheel

Color Wheel

A Color Study (approx. 2” x 3”) with just a suggestion of color can be helpful in deciding on your colors. I often refer to the color wheel to help me decide on my color combinations.

Color swatch

Color Swatch

Color Swatch

A Color Swatch is helpful in deciding on your colors too. I am using Daniel Smith Watercolors in Cobalt Blue & Quinacridone Rose to mix my purples. Quinacridone Gold, Green Apatite Genuine. Try mixing Green Apatite Genuine and Quinacridone Gold for a Rich Green Gold.

Quick sketch watercolor

Cindy Lavender Fields Mona Utah A Quick Sketch Watercolor is my favorite to do on location. I can always decide if I want to go larger on a more finished studio painting. Sometimes, the Quick Sketch captures my feeling and I’m happy with it as it is. Someday, I may go larger and I have this study to remind me to keep it simple and loose. For this 5” x 7” painting I taped around the edges on my Fabriano Studio Watercolor Paper 140# Coldpress paper. I then used a Faber-Castell Artists Pit Pen in Sanguine Fine point for my drawing. Then I worked around the painting starting with the wet-in-wet golden sky. Then timed my painting process so I only painted where the paper was dry. Next the Foreground. Then the Mountains. Then to finish and fitness I layered up my colors with brushwork to create texture.

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