The Biggest Mistake in Watercolor

I'll just remember without darkness there can be no light that's a good dark gross fellow minders welcome back to the mind of watercolor glad you could join me today today I'm doing something pretty special I am part of a seven youtube channel collaboration group of arts and crafts people and we decided to get together and collab and that subject is entitled you can follow the biggest art mistake hashtag if you want to it's down in the description hopefully a little popup on places like Instagram and Facebook also you can use that hashtag if you want to chime in and we all kind of come at it from our experience of what we see on a day to day basis over our years of experience in this case mistakes that keep happening again that whole beginners back or maybe not even beginners could be anybody but mistakes that we see repeated often so in this collaboration we thought we would share that knowledge and experience with you so here's a quick list that the other six channel is I hope you'll go check them out I will link to them below in the description go find out what through their experience has been one of the biggest mistakes that they see alright so what about watercolor oh you don't make any mistakes really I see the same mistakes crop up time again and there are lots of mistakes but this one I see all the time I mean it is the most prevalent and that is let's go right to the board and I will show you what I'm talking about alright so this is a handout I did recently for local class I'm teaching and every watercolor painting there is a range of values duh I know right but you need to think about what that range is and how to get those on your paper and a lot of times you can do that before you even paint so if you see these trees here and these this is the sort of value range you're looking at the lightest values and in some cases even lighter and the darkest values you need to be able to replicate those and use those one of the things I always recommend to beginning watercolor painters is to work on a value scale when you work on a value scale it is all about one thing and that is the ratio of water in your brush and pigment in that water now I've done a whole video on this so I'm not going to go into in detail how to do that this is the first step to getting a lot of contrast in your painting is making sure that you can accomplish the full range on demand you can make the lightest value when you want to and you can make the deepest value when you want to let's start with the lightest value and just work your way down any of you out there are musicians this is like playing and learning your scales now you don't have to do a full 10 step scale you can do 3 or 4 values usually there's a light value a middle a couple middle like a light middle dark middle value and your deepest values a lot of beginner values that I see or right here in this range I'm gonna but these two pieces up together so more typically this is the value range that I see rather than this water the pigment ratio just takes practice try producing a value scale I recommend if you're a beginner add a few more steps like four or five steps to that value scale and maybe even just and maybe even go down and just create a whisper of color you want to be able to create every value so I have mixing a color I'm painting in a color that's almost black somewhere someplace you're probably gonna use something that's very close to black or very very dark so that's the first tip just make sure you recreate those values but here's a couple of things to look for bleeding and this is a problem I see a lot they'll want to charge in the shadows so let's say we're doing a sin tree now when I'm doing a wet and wet charge for a tree the first wash I put down will usually be the lightest value okay so a lot of times what I'll see is charging in and then adding too much water and it starts out looking good like there's some contrast but as it spreads that value takes over the whole shape and before you know it and I'm gonna exaggerate the effect before you know it you just have one solid shape with no contrast and slightly darker value the way to charge in is to make sure that this shape has soaked into the paper a little bit you still want a good bit of Sheen and wetness on the paper but you don't want a lot now I'm gonna get a dark color that is mostly pigment and I'm gonna charge in now this is soaked in into the paper enough that it's not the washes are not moving as much as they did sometimes you can come back even as long as that's wet and still moving the pigment just tap in with some really really concentrated pigment you don't want a lot of water in your brush I think a lot of flat values in watercolor are really due to this problem not managing and controlling your water and your pigment ratio and that just takes time and practice now another thing I was actually talking to a watercolor painter the other day a beginner and this person mentioned that they were just under the impression that when you paint in watercolor you got to do it all on one layer so that's my next tip if you're having trouble with charging then just try layering don't forget your glazing glazing which is just putting one transparent layer over another after the first layer is dry glazing is a great way to continue to deepen your value so this is dry this wipe your layer one I'll go in with a let a wet sort of flat color layer on top of this so this is sort of my middle value you can do this in as many layers as you want you just want to make sure to leave your highlights so there's layer two so that's dry let's go in for a layer three deeper values taking up less area sort of at the base of those in case of a tree you can blend those some of those out if you want this is really not about blending technique or even how to paint a tree this is about building up your values and even here where I did this with the charge in notice the drying shift and this is another tip is a lot of beginners don't take into account the drying shift or they don't know about it sometimes you have to make your colors darker even on this where I charged in the deeper values I'm going to go back I'm gonna add a glaze with some of the darker ones and the transparent watercolor your additional glaze is just combined and make the values that were underneath and darker so it's a build up you don't have to make it dark as dark as it needs to be all in one way and look for ways to add contrast to your painting nice strategic areas where they'll really make the painting pop it could be a shape behind another shape it just looks like it would help bring some drama to the scene if you made it nice and deep now I know I'm talking mainly about landscape but in every kind of image you have opportunities usually to add some nice pops of contrasts and finally my last tip just make sure you're seeing values correctly get good reference and study the values in it rehearse to yourself where the darkest areas are try to match those up to your value scale and where the lightest values are try to match those up to your value scale try to recreate those separately before you start painting if you want to so you know ahead of time what amount of paint and water it takes to achieve those values hope those tips helped I hope you enjoyed the biggest mistake and I hope you'll go see the other channels find out what they have found in their experience to be the biggest mistake go out and paint something and get some value punch in those paintings thank you everybody appreciate you tuning in thank you so much patrons for sponsoring this video and we will see everybody in the next video you

46 Replies to “The Biggest Mistake in Watercolor”

  1. Great info in this vid. Value is SO important and gets overlooked a lot. I realized my paintings/drawings had weak contrast and began to do value studies so I could see subtle value shifts in my references. Made a HUGE difference!

  2. Almost all the names of the participants were in alphabetical order, lol. I really liked that you shared this mistake. I have so much to learn about watercolor. Being an abstract /collage artist, I usually am not too worried about being “technical”.
    Congrats on knocking on 200k!

  3. Hello Steve! Great video as always and we all make mistakes in art my biggest mistake is being impatient and not taking enough time to let the painting become whole! being too quick to finish the art! …I need to relax and remember I am painting to enjoy art not to be self critical all the time! I was wondering what is Reese's biggest mistake in art ?LOL 😀 And please say hi to Rita for me! 🙂

  4. Oh dear! Maybe the biggest mistake is to think I can improve! You are a real good teacher, always starting with humor and then speaking slowly while doing a demo…if I do not understand something I push the subtitle and I’m able to read, hear and look at the same time, that’s because you are calm and really want we do understand…
    But as a stubborn donkey I keep on and on and on always the same mistakes! It’s incredible! For instance: SAVE THE WHITE FOR THE LIGHT! Oh yes yes sure, the light come from here so…we can start here with this beautiful blue, and just a drop of this…and maybe here some violet and then…Olè!… But, where is the white??? Oh I don’t know, it was here!!!
    Thank you for everything Steve

  5. Thanks, Steve! You really packed a lot of quality info into the 8:53. My biggest mistakes as a younger artist included not investing in fewer, but pro-quality items, thinking those were "only for pros" etc. My uncle was a fine watercolor artist of some notoriety, and I remember him telling me about a single brush costing $70 or more. As a youth I was so intimidated by that. To the best of my memory, I never had 100% cotton watercolor paper growing up, only Strathmore pads and the like. I certainly never had pro-quality watercolor paint, though my dad could have rerouted discretionary funds he spent on me to provide it, and from age 13 on I could have bought it myself. You can imagine my results, and consequently my time spent on watercolor. To sum up, not having the proper mindset and being confident and willing to invest in myself.

    Though not watercolor, once as a child I got a $25 commission from an adult to paint a set of about six D&D miniatures for her son. However, the best brush I had was literally about 1 step up from the brush you get with $3 crayola watercolors. I told my mom that I couldn't paint the small details with what I had, but even though it was for her friend we still didn't go get a nicer brush from the local art supply shop. The lady seemed happy, but boy, the result could have been so much better and less frustrating to achieve with a good brush or two!

    Being keen on detailed drafting, I was also put off by the "lack of control" that is inherent to watercolor, and made the mistake of not letting go of my control tendencies to see what I could achieve. In the pre-YouTube years, education and good teachers were hard to come by. This was sadly true even in my 4 years of art class at a nice private high school. I should have been willing to experiment more, and with the few pro art supplies I did have, been willing to "burn through them"/use them up and not hold them in such high regard, to accelerate my learning.

    A final mistake I'll share in my school years is in being too competitive with contemporaries; we should all have gotten together and collaborated and learned from each other more.

    BTW, you definitely have THE best channel on watercolor!! Keep up the excellent work! 🙂

  6. This should be one of the first classes. 👏👏👏I'm not a beginner, but I'm still struggling with putting on the first wet glaze a color that is too watery…so everything fades away. Because I want to put some contrasts in the first wash, but I want soft edges. Contrasts are the secret for 3D, this thing I've just learnt by myself with practice, above all with botanical painting. There are paintings more perfect than mine for the precision of the technique, but they are FLAT, and…childish. You are a great teacher Steve!

  7. Hi Steve, I've been watching you for years and you've been my most resourceful online teacher. You picked a great subject for your contribution to the theme….. Very helpful tips.

  8. I'd like to add: if you paint from a picture, make sure to use a good picture. If you try to match the exact values of the picture, but the picture's values aren't good, your painting's values won't be good either. And you might end up thinking you did a lousy job, where in fact, you did a good job, but started from a bad example.

  9. Painting with watercolor is so hard I find. But I think you just covered a few of my problems. Thanks so much for the video.

  10. This is awesome! I recently discovered your channel and I am enjoying it! It's great to discuss the fundamentals of composition which is essential for a good composition in all mediums . I just found out about an app called the "Notanizer" which reduces any image to dark and light (similar to the Photoshop Posterizing filter). It helps me to create stronger compositions and even though I have been painting for many years, I forget to define dark and light values which is my #biggestartmistake too! I also love the idea of collaborating with other artists, how cool!

  11. Excellent info. I forget some of the nuances of watercolor techniques since I rotate media. The tops on charging were a great reminder. Thanks for the video Steve.

  12. Great idea of you artist getting together on this subject! Really enjoyed the video. Keeping up on the basics is essential and the more you practice values the more comfortable and better you get at them. I’ve been water coloring for a long time and I still do value studies.Doing a monochrome painting first of the subject might help in determining the values of your subject.

  13. My husband passed away two weeks ago and I really questioned continuing any art. I love that I came across this this morning and your shirt is perfect – he was a huge Star Wars collector. Seems silly, but it was perfect like him saying don’t give up your art ❤️

  14. This was incredibly valuable! You gave me insight into why my charging in always turns out I Nemic looking. And the idea of looking for the darks behind to define late. It is something I have completely overlooked. Thank you!

  15. I really need to practice more one letting my original wash soak in before charging in. Love your videos!!

  16. I'm enjoying the collaboration. Thanks for the great ideas. I work mostly with watercolor pencils, but this still applies.

  17. Another great and useful video. Watercolours are so hard to master. I love the idea of collaborations too. I have to check out the other artists in this collaboration and discover new channels. Already thinking of a video I could do under the biggest mistake heading. I mostly work with polymer clay and sculpt and there is always a lot that can go wrong. So thanks for this video idea.

  18. Thanks for teaching this. I watched all the other colab-ers and yours was the best. MD’s was the runner up. Thanks for the real teaching when it comes to watercolor painting!

  19. Excellent lesson and advice. You are a born teacher. Wonderful explanation and visuals. So much to take in from this video..Thanks heaps Steve.

  20. Another value-able (pun intended) and useful video. 😋 Thank you for breaking it down so simply and bringing us out from the “dark side”. Ha ha!

  21. Definitely an area I'm struggling with. I find brushes that hold lots of water like squirrels tend to dilute the colour more even when we have already mixed it to the value we intend to.

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