How to Make a Watercolor Color Chart

| On
Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Today, I'm going to show you how to create your own watercolor color chart.

Even though I find painting in watercolor not one of the easiest mediums to work with, I still like to dabble. Perhaps it's the free movements and relaxed fluid washes of color I can't master. Firstly, I don't think it's possible for me to be that laid back and secondly, my heart truly lies in capturing fine detail with colored pencil. Anyway, like I said, I like to occasionally give it a go.

Whereas colored pencil blends with other colors more subtly on the paper, paint does have the huge advantage of being mixed and blended into a huge array of bold, strong hues to whispery pastels. That, I like a lot!

I have a set of Reeves watercolor tubes and some Koi watercolor pans. They're not top of the range, I know, but for experimenting with small projects, they do fine for a modest set.

Back to colors... Whenever I buy a new set of supplies, I like to create a reference color chart. I do this because often the shade of the actual pencil shaft or the paint tube are way off compared to what's actually inside. It also gives me a feel for how that color behaves.
  • Is it translucent?
  • Is it dull?
  • Is it too bright and unnatural?
  • Is it going to be one of my popular go to's?
I feel like getting to grips with each color also makes me familiar with my entire palette, ready for when I get to work. It's like making friends! Ha! ☺️

For watercolor though, I decided to record a little more detail to show the results of each color when it was mixed with another. Here I came up with my pretty color chart.

Ooooh! I just love the colors!

I can't tell you how helpful it has been in trying to get a more, natural, more accurate color match.

Here's how you can make your own...
1. Sort out all of your watercolors - I organized mine in the roygbiv rainbow style and when satisfied, listed each name in a horizontal row and a vertical row. Like this...

2. Using watercolor paper you always work on (to endure consistent results), draw a column down the left side of the page (about 1.5" wide) and one the same width, going horizontally across the page at the top. Allow enough length in your 'columns' to allow you to write the name of each color paint.
3. Next, from there, draw out a grid with horizontal and vertical lines. Each square of mine is about 1/2x1/2". If you run out of paper (mine was from a 9x12 pad, cut another piece and tape it on the back so the lines match up.
4. Then take each color (watered down) and paint inside each center square going downwards, from top left corner of the paper to the bottom right, like so...

5. Now comes the color mixing part. My first shade on the vertical column here in the example below is Magenta. Going across and up is Crimson, therefore you need to mix the tiniest amount (a 50:50 blend) of the two. Paint it above the square of pure crimson and also underneath the square of pure magenta.

6. Then, in the vertical column, going downwards, focus on the next color (here it's Rose Madder) and line that up with the next one horizontally (Magenta). Repeat the process for all squares - remembering to always aim for a 50:50 paint and water mix.

A Few Notes:
  • Now, this project is very time consuming but I did mine a little at a time over several days. Just play your favorite show on Netflix. Before long you'll been done, having completed all squares and ending up with a gorgeous looking color chart.
  • I was amazed at the beautiful shades of teal and turquoise (some of my favorites) that I could achieve. As I love to draw and paint botanicals, I was also impress with the range of natural looking leafy greens - the reddish green of ... and ... Is perfect for Rose stems and leaves.
  • To keep the paper clean, it's a good idea to have your chart laminated at your nearby copy shop - I plan to do this but haven't got around to it just yet. 
So there you go. I know, it's a long process but the results are so nice and incredibly helpful for referring to when color mixing in the future.

Has this helped you create your own watercolor chart?
What mixes did you come up with that surprised you?
Let me know in the comments below.

Blending Colored Pencils with Odorless Mineral Spirits

| On
Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Blending colored pencils, I find, is key in creating the best, most vibrant artwork that has softness, yet still richness and depth.

I like to blend my colored pencils by using a couple of different methods depending on the particular look I like to achieve. One of my favorites and one I've been using today is with Odorless Mineral Sprits (for abbreviation purposes, we'll refer to it as OMS).

This is a good choice for backgrounds and large areas is to break down the waxy consistency of colored pencils (if you're using a wax based pencil like Prismacolor). It also distributes the pigment so it can flow nicely into the adjacent colors and create a soft, smooth look, similar to an oil, acrylic or even airbrushed painting.

Here is a self portrait I'm currently working on. I have a while to go so this is still very much a work in progress.

I wanted the background to have a bokeh, blurry style. To do this, I mapped out my shapes at the beginning, including where I was going to position my main subject and made light circle outlines with a colored pencil. I used a circle template (as you blend they'll become less uniform) however, you can also draw freehand. This background looks more natural if you overlap some circles and make varying sizes.

I also think its a nice idea to incorporate some of the colors used in your main subject, into the background too. As well as greens and brown, I've also used pink and cream.

Here is how some of the circles looked before and after blending...

You can see that the color is much more saturated and quite a bit darker in the second picture. There's also a nice soft 'hazy' look, which is what I'm going for here.

Here are my few tips on putting the Odorless Mineral Spirits to use.


1) Build up the majority of layers of color first.

Then, you'll have something to work with. A paper with 'tooth' should indicate clearly whether you have created many layers yet because there will be tiny 'gaps' in color. You can also often see a sheen too which indicates you're on the way to having a wax build up. Sometimes, this will also mean you're unable to layer anymore. Blending with OMS is great for that purpose because the odorless mineral spirits will not only create a more matte look, it will also take the wax away, allowing for more layers of color to be placed on top afterwards.

Related to this... If you have a heavily textured paper, you may find it a lot of work to build up those layers in the first place. To help this, make sure you try to have a sharp point on the pencil (although its actually less crucial for filling in the background), point the pencil down and into the paper vertically to fill in the 'holes', like this...

Round circular swirls create a bokeh style background

3) When using OMS, apply just a little to your brush and apply it very lightly.

Then when you have it moving the pigment around, begin to apply more pressure to 'scrub' - always making sure the paper doesn't tear.

4) The paper that you use matters quite a bit.

A lightweight paper wont be able to stand being wet - you may even make a hole in it. Here I'm working on Canson Mi-Teintes Board in Sand. which is sturdy paper with lots of texture that accepts lots of layers of color, plus its and pre mounted, making it even stronger. Using OMS will also ensure that your paper is less likely to be damaged when blending, compared to having to press hard and burnish with a white pencil or colorless blender instead.

5) The type of Odorless Mineral Spirits I like to use are 'Klean Strip Green'.

This is a creamy formula which is helpful in avoiding spillage. Other brands are available and similar types of products too. I've heard of using baby oil, paint thinner such as Bestine and alcohol to name a few. I personally haven't liked the results with other methods but you should try them out to find out your own personal preference. The Klean Strip has no odor at all, is cheap, lasts a very long time and very easy to work with.

6) I use an old, synthetic round paint brush to blend my mineral spirits.

 I find that this achieved the softest look possible compared with blending stumps or cotton buds.

Using a brush to blend odorless mineral spirits with colored pencil - I told you my paint brush was old! :)

7) Color Residue.

Speaking of which, the paintbrush will also hold onto some of the color as I've shown in the above, and in the picture below. This is residue from the colored pencils on the paper. Its important to not contaminate the colors with another lighter shade you may work on next so always wipe your brush periodically to keep it clean.

Color residue picked up from the paper

8) A little of the OMS will go a long way.

You can store what you need in a jar with a lid and then decant more when necessary (beware again of contaminating the colors though). I use a small plastic dish with just the tiniest amount I'm going to use. I can then wash out the dish when I'm done and wipe excess on the sides with the brush while I'm working.


9) Use in conjunction with other blenders.

You can use this product on both oil and wax based pencils and also in conjunction with a colorless blender pencils like this one from Prismacolor.

So, those are my tips! How do you blend colored pencils? I'd love to see photos of your work, including before and after pictures if you happen to use mineral spirits as your method too.

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