How to Paint White in Watercolor

Friday, July 15, 2016

A common issue people have with watercolor is how to paint white subjects. In this tutorial I show you how I create the illusion of white using watercolors.

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Happy Friday everyone! I thought I would create this post on how to paint white in watercolor because I think it's definitely something that a lot of people struggle with. You might have heard that you should leave any area that you want to be white blank, leaving the paper as your "white." But what about an object that is primarily white? Then what do you do? 

My secret for giving the illusion of white in watercolor is to use Payne's Gray (I use *Reeves Watercolors by the way). I am going to show you below how I painted this primarily white flower using this color.

A common issue people have with watercolor is how to paint white subjects. In this tutorial I show you how I create the illusion of white using watercolors.The first step is the most important in my opinion. Normally I paint wet on dry (wet, pigment filled brush on dry paper) as opposed to wet on wet (wet, pigment filled brush on wet paper), which is just my preference. However, for this particular instance it's important to start by wetting the area you are going to paint white. So just wet your brush and paint the area without using any pigment.

A common issue people have with watercolor is how to paint white subjects. In this tutorial I show you how I create the illusion of white using watercolors.Next, just barely dip your brush into the gray paint. Even if you feel like there's not enough pigment, chances are that you will actually have too much. Then dilute by dipping into water. I also would recommend testing on a scrap paper first before going in on your actual painting. One reason is to see how dark it will be, but another good thing is that if it is too dark, you get rid of some of the pigment before putting it on your painting. 

A common issue people have with watercolor is how to paint white subjects. In this tutorial I show you how I create the illusion of white using watercolors.Once you've done that, dab the brush into the wet area. As you can see, it's a pretty dark spot. But since I plan on spreading the paint out, it's actually the perfect amount. 
  
A common issue people have with watercolor is how to paint white subjects. In this tutorial I show you how I create the illusion of white using watercolors.
To even out the paint, rinse out the brush from any remaining paint and push the still wet pigment towards the area you want. I just dragged the color upwards around the left edge of the petal.

A common issue people have with watercolor is how to paint white subjects. In this tutorial I show you how I create the illusion of white using watercolors.
If you paint too dark or the paint spreads to an area that you want lighter, clean and dry off your brush and then just drag on the area to pull up and absorb some of the color.

A common issue people have with watercolor is how to paint white subjects. In this tutorial I show you how I create the illusion of white using watercolors.
Really, that's all it takes to paint the illusion of white in watercolor! It's all about balance; make sure not to have too much paint, but add enough to give shadow and definition in the desired areas. 

A common issue people have with watercolor is how to paint white subjects. In this tutorial I show you how I create the illusion of white using watercolors.
You can see how the finished flower looks above. And for another example, you can check out my free July desktop wallpapers - I used this same method to make the white flowers on that too.

I hope you found this helpful in some way! Also, I would love to know if you use a different method or color to give the illusion of white. Let me know in a comment below how you like to approach it :)

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7 comments

  1. Found your blog on Pinterest. Great tips! Thanks!

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    1. Thanks for taking time to comment! Glad I could be helpful :)

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  2. Thank you for sharing this interesting and informative article, painting with airless spray gun will be faster and more interesting!


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  3. It's a nice article and very useful. Thank you.

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