How to do a colourful watercolour background

Over the years I have been loading speed videos onto youtube but I have been asked a few times recently about how to do a colourful watercolour background. Below you will find a guide on how to go about doing this technique as well as a video.

For this piece I am using Winson & Newton Cotman watercolour paint for the yellow, red and blue (Gamboge Hue, Red Hue & Intense Blue), some Schminchke Ruby red as I just cant live without this colour and for the black I use Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolour (Mars Black).

Step by Step Guide

1- For this painting I have chosen a simple subject matter (Mickey) that has a clean outline to make it easy to see how this is done. The most important thing with this type of background is to have an idea of how you want it to look and to have the colours out and ready to go. It can help to position them on the palette in the order that you intend to use them.

2- To start off, make sure your brush is completely wet, a dry brush can slow down the process and make it difficult for you to blend the colours smoothly. I normally start with a light colour (yellow in this case) because it will have dried slightly by the time you get around to it on the other side and a lighter colour is easier to re-blend seamlessly. I start at the top and work my way around in clockwise direction but that's totally a personal preference.

3- Always use colours next to each other that look good when blended. You don't want to end up with brown muddy patches in amongst your beautiful bright colours.

4- After you have gone around once, the initial paint work you did will be mostly dry but I feel it is important to always do at least two rounds to insure you have some depth to the background. Try to make your brush strokes slightly different on this layer, don't follow the first layer exactly, this will give you a nice texture on the outer area of the paint.

5- After doing at least 2 rounds, let the background dry COMPLETELY and then start on the inner section. Even though the background is dry you will still need to be careful when working on the inner borders to avoid the background bleeding into the foreground. Try to keep you colours bold and more solid in the foreground, you can even use a higher pigment paint if you have one.

6- Once you have painted all of the subject matter wait for it to dry again. After this start on the ink work, I use a range sizes in the Faber-Castell PITT range but I have a little write up on some other pens you can try or you could even use acrylic paint to do the outline and avoid any bleeding later on. Golden Fluid Acrylics are great for this as they glide on easily with no lumps. I ended up using some of this on the ears to get them looking nice and black.

7-Once you have finished the ink work, I normally go for one last background session. I find that this adds that little bit of extra depth and helps to fill in any little spots that have been missed between the foreground and background. If you have used ink just be careful not to lay to much water over it as it could bleed a little.

8- And your done! I sometimes add some little black splashes to the background as I find they contrast nicely against the colour but that's totally up to you!

I would love to see your attempt!

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