Using Watercolor: Two Quick Tips for Highlights and Shadows

“Watercolor is a force for good in the universe, bringing color and fun wherever it swirls,” says artist and author Jane Davenport. “But it sometimes has a mind of its own, and that is exactly what makes it so enticing to wrangle.” That’s also part of the reason that Jane’s newest Art Lesson rings true (I just love her quote—I think I know some people who are forces of good for the universe!). Jane’s lesson teaches you how to maximize your use of watercolors in a step-by-step demonstration of the whimsical art you see here.

Artwork by Jane Davenport

In Art Lesson 9: Peerless Watercolors, Jane offers these two tips for creating highlights and shadows:

• To decide where to place highlights and shadows, I think of which parts of the face protrude and which are sunken. The nose, cheekbones, eyebrow ridges, and chin all protrude, so I leave them lighter. To get the eye sockets, nostrils, and side of the face to sink back into the paper, I make them darker.

• To make a wet paint stroke lighter, just add water to disperse the pigment. To make an area darker, brush a wash of the darker color over the top. ~J.D.

This is such a great way to think about the contours of the face. Watercolor is a user-friendly medium; I love the subtle way that it can add color to a background or take the spotlight, as in Jane’s featured art above. How do you incorporate watercolor into your artwork?

Until next time,


Blog, Mixed-Media Painting Techniques