Patterns are a fun addition to any design, but they can be very time consuming to create, especially for large projects. Before committing to an idea, it is nice to be able to visualize how a color or a pattern will look so you can more confidently apply it to your work.
Here are four techniques for trying out patterns and colors to see if they work.
1. Use Tracing Paper
I find tracing paper very convenient for trying out designs. You can make a few quick copies of your drawings and then use colored pencils, felt-tip markers, or ink to try out different ideas.
The test drawings often end up being an interesting work of art by themselves.
If you like some of the designs you’ve drawn on tracing paper, you can also mount them on thicker paper with acrylic medium, as I did with this self-portrait.
The tracing paper might wrinkle a bit when you mount it on paper, but you can make the texture part of the design by painting over it with washes.
2. Use Transparent Plastic Sheets on a Painting
Transparent sheets are perfect for trying an idea on a painting or a drawing without having to touch the artwork. This works especially well with paint, but won’t work with dry pastels, colored pencils, or any medium that needs some tooth to adhere to the surface.
Among the different kinds of transparent sheets you can use are Mylar® and Dura-Lar®. Simply place the paper on top of your painting and brush paint on top. Use a paintbrush to apply acrylic paint to the surface of the Mylar and Dura-Lar.
You can also use the plastic to try on patterns using a marker or a dip pen.
3. Make Pattern Samples on Paper
Paper samples are fun to make, and you can always reuse them in a collage project. Placing them on your design will help you see if a color or a pattern will work or not.
Small paper samples are also a quick way to audition patterns on a large piece before committing to draw them.
4. Use Dry Pastels
Dry pastels are awesome for testing colors on any acrylic painting or waterproof surface.
Trace contours or color an area with pastels, see how it looks, and take off the pastel with a wet cloth so you can apply paint instead.
To cover a large surface, smudge pastels with your fingers. As long as the layer underneath the pastel is waterproof, you will be able to wash it off once you decide on a color.
On the painting below left, I tried a shade of blue for the vase with pastels but didn’t like how it looked. I washed it off and finally decided to use a lighter green, below right. (Paintings are from Painting Imaginary Flowers: Beautiful Blooms and Abstract Patterns in Mixed Media.)
Do you have any techniques you’d like to share for trying on ideas for your artwork? Let us know in the comments.
Sandrine Pelissier is originally from France and has been living in North Vancouver, Canada for the past 20 years. Her work has been collected and exhibited extensively in Canada and internationally. Many of her paintings have been published in art books and magazines, including The Artist’s Magazine, Watercolor Artist Magazine, Acrylic Magazine, and International Artist Magazine. Sandrine is the author of Fearless Watercolor for Beginners: Adventurous Painting Techniques to Get You Started, and Painting Imaginary Flowers: Beautiful Blooms and Abstract Patterns in Mixed Media, both from North Light Books. See more of Sandrine’s work on her website.
Get more great techniques from Sandrine about adding visual texture to your artwork with dip pens in this guest blog post!