How To Make Black In Watercolor The allure of watercolors lies in their transparent nature, enabling the creation of captivating textures and rich dark hues. Painting black fur demands a specific approach that involves layering delicate applications of color with intervals for drying. This method adds depth and texture to your work, making it particularly effective for portraying dark brown or black fur.
In my early days as a beginner, I, too, fell into the trap of impatience. Attempting to depict dark brown or black fur in a single stroke with thick applications left me perplexed by the lackluster and lifeless results. However, through continuous practice and experimentation, I eventually discovered the key: thin layers of color and a good dose of patience.
Here’s a concise lesson on how to paint black fur using watercolors. This lesson can serve as a warm-up exercise or help you hone your skills, and it’s based on the principles I teach in my Online School, particularly on rendering a black cat in watercolor.
Creating Tonal Blacks on the Palette
I typically craft blacks and greys by blending French Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna from my Winsor & Newton Professional Watercolor Paints. Refer to my complete List of Materials and Supplies for more information.
Begin by mixing a puddle of Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna on your palette, both having a thin cream-like consistency. Combine these to achieve a deep black. Additionally, dilute part of the mixture with water to create various shades of grey.
Establishing the Under Painting
To begin, establish an under painting – the lightest visible value in the fur. An under painting is especially useful for darker subjects, as it prevents the white of the paper from showing through the black fur. Apply a pale, watery grey across the entire shape.
Creating Initial Fur Markings
Fill the shape with initial, pale fur markings, creating a foundation for future layers. I recommend using the consistency of thin milk for these initial strokes. There are various methods for filling a shape with fur markings; you can start from the edge or gradually work your way across the shape.
Keep these considerations in mind:
- Observe the overall curvature of the fur strands within the shape.
- Maintain spacing between the fur markings to allow the underlying grey to show.
- Introduce variation in hair length and stagger the placement to avoid a uniform appearance.
Enhancing Contour through Value Manipulation
To imbue the impression of contour, deepen the value on the right side of the shape while transitioning to lighter tones towards the center. Maintain the consistency of thin milk for this step. Layer another set of fur markings, slightly darker on the right side. For even darker values, use a thicker color from your palette. Gradually transition to lighter values towards the center of the shape.
Applying a Subtle Color Glaze
Before proceeding further, consider applying a thin color glaze. This step, especially useful for dark brown or black animals, will impart a subtle smoothness to the fur, harmonize the values, and overall deepen the tone. Dilute the color on your palette to achieve a thin, pale tea-like consistency. Gently brush the glaze over the entire shape, ensuring a light touch to the paper. Allow the glaze to dry completely.
Deepening the Darkest Areas
Utilize a mix of black (Ultramarine Blue/Burnt Sienna) with a consistency similar to cream in coffee or tea. This mixture should be thicker than before but still relatively thin overall. Apply another layer of fur markings, focusing on the darkest portions on the right side and along the lower edge. Maintain a gentle touch to preserve the previous markings. The denser consistency on your palette will create a darker value on paper. Gradually transition to lighter values towards the center, enhancing the sense of contour and roundness.
Final Glazing – Two Options
You have two options for the final glazing:
- If you are satisfied with the overall value, apply a glaze of plain water to lightly smooth the fur markings.
- If you desire a darker overall tone, apply a thin, pale glaze of grey.
Achieving Realistic Black Fur
By layering successive strokes of hair, you’ve effectively recreated the look of realistic fur. Gradual shifts in value, darker on the right and lighter towards the center, convey the illusion of a curved surface.
If you’re eager to delve deeper into this technique or experience a real-time demonstration, I invite you to explore the step-by-step video tutorial on my Online School. The tutorial is part of a comprehensive course designed for artists of all levels. It covers key concepts such as mixing blacks and greys, loading your brush, varying paint consistencies for fur markings, creating depth through value manipulation, and using glazes to enhance cohesion and texture. This course is accessible through Monthly Subscriptions, Annual Memberships, or individual purchases.
Thank you for joining me in this journey, and feel free to leave any questions or suggestions in the comments. For a comprehensive education in painting realistic animals with watercolors, be sure to visit the Online School!