Watercolor Sketch In Gray

Showing Light and Form With Shades Of Gray

This lesson shows you how to work effectively using only shades of gray. The subject is a common item that you have probably not ever thought of painting. It’ll be a quick sketch that we’ll try to finish in 5 to 10 minutes. This kind of exercise helps you build skill with your brush and with your eye.

We also use hot press paper. Hot press paper has a smooth surface and is a challenge to work. The lesson will show you how to handle it.

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Painting In Gray

You may have worked with shades of gray before.  We have other lessons on value (that is, shades of gray) on Watercolor Methods.  One of the simplest can be found here.

There is one great advantage to painting only in gray. That is, there is no need to deal with other aspects of color to develop a dynamic painting.   If you’ve not heard it already, value is more effective than color creating the illusion of light, form and space.  More specifically, changes of and contrasts between different values are better at helping your viewer see the shape of and the light falling on your subject. 

It’s not often that you run across an actual subject that can be painted with only grays. You’ll find that subjects that are completely white and sitting on completely white backgrounds are those that fit the bill.  We are lucky to have one such subject in this lesson!

In this lesson, we’ll be doing a quick sketch a compact flouresent light bulb. It is not an exciting subject, nor one that you might actually want to paint! But it will work really well for our focused “paint in gray” exercise. 

Hot Pressed Watercolor Paper

We’ll be painting on hot pressed paper in this lesson.  If you have ever tried hot pressed watercolor paper, you probably learned very quickly that it is very different than cold press paper.  It’s name tells you about what happens when it is being processed.  The paper is pressed with hot rollers and the paper fibers become highly compressed. The result is a very smooth surface that is really not very absorbent. These qualities will produce very distinct effects in your painting.

The smooth surface makes it possible to get good wash effects with much less water than on cold press paper. Transparency is greatly enhanced since the color is really sitting on the surface of the paper.  And, it is much easier to remove color from hot-pressed paper than any other surface.  It also takes direct and precise lines very well, making it a great choice for illustration.

The biggest drawback, is that it is prone to blooming. The smooth surface makes it difficult to create rough edges and textures. It also tends to stay “wetter” longer, since the paper does not help by absorbing some of the excess water.

It is a tricky  surface to work with, but experience always helps.

 

What you’ll need

Related Lessons

More Watercolor Sketching Lessons

Lessons About Light And Form