Techniques and Tips

Soon Y. Warren: Step-By-Step Watercolor With Mask

Soon Y. Warren: Step-By-Step Watercolor With Mask

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In this step-by-step painting demonstration, Soon Y. Warren explains how she painted Dahlia and Crystal (below) with the help of a watercolor mask.

The following step-by-step watercolor demonstration can be painted on 140- or 300-lb., cold-pressed, 15×22 watercolor paper or on hardboard.

1. Draw an outline of the large shapes. Including details and drawing accurate shapes of the elements will eliminate the need to look for shapes or details later. Keep your lines light, especially when drawing the flower because the yellow watercolor that you’ll use to paint the flower won’t cover the pencil lines easily. Use an HB lead pencil, which won’t smear on the paper as much as B pencil.

2. Apply masking fluid on the highlights of the flower, most of the sharp lines of the cut crystal, and the design on the red silk fabric. Use the tip of a slanted brush handle or any other thin-edged object to help you apply thin and sharp masking-fluid lines.

3. Wash aureolin (yellow) on the entire surface of the paper. To do this, first prepare thinned yellow on your palette. Then, using a 2- or 3-inch hake brush, wet the entire surface of your watercolor paper with clean water. You can then use the hake brush to apply your prepared yellow pigment on the paper. Using the hake brush not only speeds up the process, but also reduces stress on the paper by reducing contact of the paper with the brush.

4. Begin your underpainting by applying diluted permanent rose on the crystal bowl with a No. 10 round brush. Also, apply diluted Hooker’s green on the leaf.

5. Using Prussian blue and Nos. 8 and 10 brushes, develop the shadowed areas of the fabric. Start with a light glaze of diluted Prussian blue, feathering out to the softer areas. To achieve darker blues in the more shadowed areas, apply multiple layers of the glaze rather than trying to achieve the darker value in one application. Also apply cadmium yellow on the flower, using thicker pigment in the lower, central area and very diluted yellow on the light parts. Also glaze yellow on the crystal.

6. Glaze permanent rose on the crystal to strengthen its color. After the red glaze dries, apply thinned Prussian blue on the darker area with a No. 8 or 10 brush. The red color of crystal will start to calm down with application of blue.

7. Using Nos. 6 and 10 round brushes, develop the darker areas of the crystal with a mixture of stronger color: Prussian blue, permanent rose, permanent alizarin crimson. Note that some of the area is painted negatively to save the lighter red areas of the crystal.

8. Apply a mixture of scarlet lake and permanent rose on the fabric areas with a number 10 round brush. Using a No. 8 round brush, glaze the center part of the flower with cadmium yellow to make it darker.

9. Prepare a mixture of indigo, sepia, and permanent alizarin crimson on your palette and then apply the mixture on the background. Use a No. 8 round brush for the tight areas around the flower, bowl and fabric; for faster application in the broader areas, use a No. 12 round brush.

10. Glaze the shadowed parts of the fabric with background color. Let the painting dry completely and then remove the masking fluid.

11. 10 round brush and very light pigments of the yellow, red, and blue that were left over from the previous steps, stain the white areas of the crystal where the mask had been. Make sure you leave some specks of white paper here and there for sparkling highlights. Also, using Nos. 8 and 10 round brushes, glaze and feather scarlet lake in the center of the dahlia and over all the petals of the flower. Paint the design on the red fabric in cadmium yellow.

12. From this point you’ll use the brushes and colors you’d used in the previous steps to paint details and touch-ups that will finish the painting:

  • On the flower, glaze permanent alizarin crimson on the darkest area of the center; use cadmium yellow or scarlet lake to define the lower, midvalue petals. Don’t hesitate to scrub any visible pencil lines in the lighter petal areas.
  • Using all the colors you’d previously used for the crystal, develop and tweak the details of the bowl until you’re satisfied. Also introduce the background color into the darkest parts of the crystal.
  • Finish the leaf with the mixture of the Hooker’s green reddish color on your palette.
  • To create the illusion of embroidery stitches, use a no. 4 round brush and scarlet lake to draw short lines through the designs.
  • Complete the piece by painting the background with one more coat of the mixture previously used in the background area.

Soon Y. Warren is a full-time artist and teacher. She has an associate degree in commercial art from Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton, Virginia, and is a signature member of the National Watercolor Society (NWS), American Watercolor Society (AWS), Southern Watercolor Society (SW), Texas Watercolor Society (TWS), and Society of Watercolor Artists (SWA). Her work has earned numerous awards, including Best of Show and People’s Choice Award (SWA); Purchase Award (NWS); and Best of Show, Merit Award, and Patron Purchase Award (Kansas Watercolor Society). She’s represented by several galleries in her home state of Texas: Your Private Collection Art Gallery (Granbury); Southwest Gallery (Dallas); and Weiler House Fine Art Gallery (Fort Worth). Visit her website at


  • Top Vibrant Watercolor Techniques With Soon Y. Warren (video download/DBD, the the free preview)
  • Painting Vibrant Watercolors: Discover the Magic of Light, Color and Contrast (book)
  • Vibrant Watercolors: Painting Water (DVD)


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Watch the video: DVD - Improve Your Water Painting Techniques in Wc with Gordon Mackenzie (July 2022).


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