Paint Yellow Irises In Watercolor

Use A Controlled, Layered Approach For Realism and Detail

Discover what it means to paint “tight” – it’s not what you think!

This is a long lesson! About 1 hour and 40 minutes. Most of what you need to know is shown by 1:10. 

Painting “Tight”

Nearly all of the lessons on Watercolor Methods are painted in a “loose” style. Essentially a style that allows free flowing mixtures and minglings – allowing the unknown and un-controlled to happen!

This lesson is done ‘tight’. For many, that may seem to mean taking control from the medium – the water – and restricting mixing and mingling.  In fact it is not that.

Instead, it really involves being ‘tight’ along the outer edges of the shapes while still allowing washes to flow freely within the edges and building up color, value and detail using fluid layers of paint.

Drawing Layout

For a ‘tight’ painting, an accurate, detailed drawing layout is required.  One is included in the download, below. Although it is always a good idea to draw freehand, developing your drawing skill in the process, it is recommended that you trace this one.  It will insure accuracy and the best result

What you’ll need

  • Brushes – Large, Medium and Small Rounds; especially those with the sharpest points
  • Palette Colors – Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue, Aureolin Yellow, Cadmium Yellow, Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, Quinacridone Burnt Scarlet
  • Paper – A sheet of watercolor paper, about 11″ x 7″ – As always, Arches 140lb Cold Press is recommended


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Although we’re painting tight, the main techniques are still wet-in-wet and dry-in-wet. Negative painting is used to separate elements and bring focus.

While this is a tight, detailed painting, it is focused on one subject. There is a lot of emphasis placed on minimizing extraneous detail and harmonizing by limiting color. These are valuable ideas that can help avoid dis-jointed, dis-connected paintings.

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