Watercolor Painting – How to Paint Blacks

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 48,836
    Craft Expert Catherine Hillis discusses how to paint black shades with watercolors.

    Catherine Hillis: Hi! I am Catherine Hillis and I am a professional watercolor artist, and I am going to teach you how to paint in watercolors. Right now, I am going to teach you how to paint black and how to mix black in watercolors. Now it's really important to know how to paint in black, and how to mix black, because traditional watercolors does not use black paint.

    I think, if you learn how to mix your grays and blacks, you will find out that you have a wonderful new venue opened for you. You can have cool grays, and warm grays, and cool blacks, and warm blacks, and it just opens up a myriad of doors for you, and it makes your colors richer, it makes your painting better. So what I want to do is show you on the palette, how to mix.

    Now the theory goes that 50% of each compliment in watercolors will make black. One of the formulas I like to use is Ultramarine Blue plus Burnt Sienna. Burnt Sienna is considered a yellow range, and Ultramarine Blue is considered the blue range, so that they are exact compliments. So we are going to put Ultramarine Blue in the palette, right here, and we are going to dilute it to about the consistency of milk, then I am going to wash my brush.

    You can also use another brush, and then dip it into the Burnt Sienna and use about the same amount of Burnt Sienna and mix these two together, and we should get a beautiful gray. Now there we go, you'll notice that if I have a little more blue, I'll have a blue gray, and if I have a little more brown, I'll have a brown gray, and so this is one way that we can get black in watercolors. Another really popular formula would be Viridian Green plus Alizarin Crimson in equal amounts. Now, if you have paints by different manufactures, you may find that you have to use perhaps 54% of one color, and 46% of another color. You may not get that exact 50-50 combination. So, play around with compliments, grab a color wheel, and try to figure out to how to mix blacks, you can use violet and yellow, blue and orange, red and green.

    So have some fun and learn how to mix blacks. Right now we're going to take our beautiful black and we're going to mix some blacks and grays right here on the paper. I've already painted one chart for you. This is a value chart and I did use Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna in this chart. What you want to really remember here is to wet down each square, and I am going to start with this square, and I am going to wet it down very evenly.

    This is 300 pound Arches paper that I am using right here. So it does take the water just a little bit differently than 140 pound paper. So when I have that evenly wet, and then I am going to dilute the paint on the palette. I am going to load the brush, and I am going to paint very flat strokes, little bit of the black paint that I mixed up, and the more dilute it is, the lighter it will be. Remember, watercolors do dry a little bit lighter. So there is my first gray. Now I want to clean the brush again, check it on the paper towel. I am going to wet the next square evenly with overlapping strokes, and this time I want to get a little bit of a darker gray just to show you what we can do, now that looks a little bit of a warmer gray to me and this looks a little cooler. I am going to load the brush up with a little more paint than I had the last time and stroke, overlapping strokes right on top of that.

    I have a little bit of a drip, so I can pick that up with the end of my brush, that's called the Thirsty brush. So there we go, with just a little bit of a darker gray, I am actually going to run one more stroke of the gray color just to make it a little bit darker. So, this is a number 2 value, this is a number 3. Now we are going to go for the number 4. Again, I have to wash my brush really well, I am going to wet this down, evenly. This time I will load my brush up with a lot more paint than I did, in the previous two squares. Always remembering that because you are working Wet-on-wet, the black is already diluted, so you are adding more water to this. We'll overlap just a little bit, I got a little piece of blue in here, but we are going to just let that stay, that was no quite mixed in, but it just shows you again what a cool gray looks like. I am going to just continue going down here, mixing grays and floating grays on top of the paper. We are back now and I've painted all of the rectangles with varying shades of gray, going from the lightest to the darkest to black, and my final square is not quite black enough.

    So what I am going to do is re-wet this area, reload the brush with a lot of rich black that I made, and again, overlap the paint, so that the area will be really, really dark. Now I can do this as many times as I need to, to get the value that I need as long as I obey that cardinal rule of watercolors which is 'Stop and let it dry'. So here we are, we have a nice black area, I took three glazes to get it to that value, and that's how you paint blacks. Next, I would like to show you how to preserve white in watercolors.