Illustrating a Witch and Her Cat With Watercolors




Introduction: Illustrating a Witch and Her Cat With Watercolors

This Instructable is a guide to using watercolors and ink to illustrate a picture. The green wispy things are spirits attracted to the witch's light. Spirits like glowing lights. 

I like Halloween but I try to avoid the scary parts of it. I remember watching horror movies during the Halloween season and having nightmares so I couldn't sleep. As a result, I like the lighter, more fun parts of the season, like the whimsical excitement of dressing up. This painting is an attempt to capture some of those feelings. 

Step 1: Materials

1, Watercolors: You really don't need much to do watercolor illustration. Watercolors are around the same quality wherever you get them. The main difference is the different shades you get. Having more shades of color is great for watercolor, since mixing your own colors can result in muddy or inconsistent coloring. It's like trying to blend markers or colored pencils, the more you add to it the browner the shade.

2. Paper: The paper can get really expensive really quickly. There are all sorts of fine thick papers that you can buy. The thicker the paper, the better the paper soaks up the water. However, the higher the poundage of the paper press, the "harder" the paper will be. The paper will absorb water less. You can also get all sorts of textures. I prefer a smoother paper so I can get even washes when i want them.

3. Brushes: I ruin my brushes often, so I get the multipackets of cheap ones. This is up to you. The more attached you are to your brushes, the more you can spend.

4. Fine tip pen: For doing the final outlines.

5. Cup of water for your water source and to wash your brushes

6. Towel to dry your brushes 

Step 2: Initial Sketch

Just draw lightly with a light pencil for this step. Avoid soft pencils, since they will powder and smear everywhere (at least for me since I'm left handed). Don't hesitate to sketch more. The tighter your sketch, the more time you will save trying to block things in later. This is important in watercolor since you can really only make things darker and the first pass is the best in some cases. I drew my witch, her cat, and the spirits. 

Afterwards, add a light wash to separate object and background.

Step 3: Beginning to Paint

Painting is pretty simple. Just make sure to know what colors you want when you paint them, as this is important for watercolor. Making things muddy is inevitable the more washes you add to your first pass. In this case, I tried to get the red/purple color to work. Also attempt to maintain your whites and your highlights. In the final painting, having kept you highlights can really bring out certain areas. This is specific to watercolor compared to other paints such as acrylic or oil. 

Step 4: Keep Paintings

As you develop the colors, you will have to decide what you want to make dark and what you keep light. The main way to do that with watercolors is to just add more layers of the same color. Find a balance between painting slowly and deliberately and quickly enough that the layers don't completely dry. 

Step 5: Paint the Skin

With simple illustration, skin can be pretty easy. Just add a wash in skin tone and add values to it depending on what you prefer. I like keeping subjects clean, so I left the witch with a simple wash.

Step 6: Paint the Rest of the Clothes

The colors are much too bright. I just wanted to see what a lighter red color would look like. But this is Halloween! She's a witch, not a princess. Dark red/purple was much more fitting to the mood. 

Step 7: Add the Hair

The hair was also painted pretty simply. It's just a few washes of a dark color. I added more washes to make the hair strands more apparent. 

Step 8: Kitty, Broom Next

Of course a witch needs her familiar. Paint in her cat and her broomstick. This basically follows the same ideas as before. 

Step 9: Paint Your Spirits

Paint them in! Just add a light wash to determine where they will go and how the colors will look. 

Step 10: Start Painting in Your Background

In other painting styles, you paint the background first. However, I change this order around depending on what I'm painting. Since the  boundaries of the subject need to be maintained in this picture, I chose to not paint background first. Either way, just start in an area and grow it for the background. It's important to do this in a single wash, you need to keep everything wet to keep the colors consistent. Where areas are dark, you can add more pigment to make them darker while the paper is still wet. I prefer to keep the paper damp but not wet in this stage. Some people like to soak the paper with water to create some dispersion effects.

Step 11: Add More Washes As Necessary

You can add more washes to your background to make the colors richer. The more effort you put into this, the more vibrant your colors will appear. This is great for when you are doing illustrations, were photorealism are not necessary. I added three extra washes over the original wash.

Step 12: Ink in the Witch

Use your fine tip pen and add outlines to sharpen features on your main object. The point of this is to fully define boundaries so the illustration reads more clearly. In addition to outlines, you can add small internal edges to communicate texture or value. If you have a nice felt tip pen or fountain pen, you can make nice uneven thickness lines for different areas.

Be careful though! It's easy to paint on a wet spot and create an ink blot. You only really get one chance at this part. 

Step 13: Finish Up the Spirits

Paint in the values for your spirits and ink them in too! At this point, you can paint in other things or just call it done. With a painting, you can never be done, so declare it finished whenever you're ready. 

Step 14: Done!

You're now done with your illustration! Hang it up or illustrate more and make a storybook. Thanks and I hope you enjoyed this Instructable.

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    7 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Wow!! Looks amazing! I might give this a try soon!


    5 years ago on Introduction

    that's pretty witch, so I'll stick to my thanks for the input bufaloo


    6 years ago on Step 14

    Can you make an instructable just about drawing/painting spirits? I really love your dragon looking one (;


    7 years ago

    Beautiful painting! I think I'll try my hand at watercolor


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Congratulations ! . envious of anyone who can paint, I love you style


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Nice coloring! How thick is your paper? When you do the washes, you seem to say to do the whole background in 1 wash, but you also apply other washes later. Do you wait for one to dry before applying the next one?

    That is beautiful! The way you blend all the colors is wonderful! I've always had such a hard time using watercolors and you make it look so easy :)