View Full Version : Trying to understand watercolor workflow...

Mick CrocKode
02-21-2013, 11:53 AM
ok! Watercolor is a mystery for me. I read again and again all the great tutorials from "Steve B" about watercolor. But it seems that the colors don't obey to me. Something is wrong in my experiment.
I don't know what, but something does not work well, as I would like it.
First, I have the feeling that the colors, when they are applied to wet canvas, or when they are applied to a dry one... do what they want, and not what I want.
The result? Is much more an improvisation than a well planed work.
ok... I had a lot of fun doing that paint: and that is essential.
Here is my first watercolor job. Be kind with my explanations, I am French so sorry for my bad writing.

And now... Ladies and Gentlemen... Here is the great moment where the "Frog" jumps in the water... In the watercolor!


Thank's for your advises and critics.

02-22-2013, 08:27 AM
I very much like your Orchids. You might try experimenting with some presets with less thinner or no thinner at all. They seem to behave better that way. Water, unfortunately, sometimes acts like it is opaque white on some settings in our ArtRage watercolors. Be sure to use a textured canvas for watercolors. Don't be afraid to use other presets like felt pens, airbrush and pencil in your watercolor technique. You will eventually find some good presets for your watercolors. I will send you a script to look at.

P.S. I made two scripts for you today which will give you some of the presets I use for watercolor as well as the entire files to examine at your leisure.

two scripts are inside a folder called watercolor... one is my watercolor method and the other one is called orchids part two you can download them here:


hope you enjoy them and I hope they help with some ideas for simulating watercolor in ArtRage.

Mick CrocKode
02-23-2013, 02:59 AM
screenpainter for your tutorial and the time you spend on it. You were right saying not to use to much thiner. That was the fact. And I also used to much
the "Low Blending" from the watercolor presets. I want back to my work at an earlier step, and I used the knife and the "Triangular Chaos" and
here is the result =>


With your method, the colors seems to better respond to what I want them to look.
I think I will start again all the job from the beginning just after the steps where I created the selection masks to be able to keep the colors in there
It was also a revelation to see in your "artpacks" that it's possible to mix the pencil, the pen, the gloop pen without loosing the watercolor touch.
I need to work on that.

02-23-2013, 01:54 PM
very nice work... I already see the difference in the new watercolor.

It has taken time to get over being fussy about being an ArtRage "purist" like they have in the art world.;). ie: not mixing watercolor with any thing else. They do not like mixing mediums and frown on that in the traditional world. In digital, it is whatever works to get the desired effect. I think when Artrage 3.5 came out and we were introduced to sticker brushes, that sort of changed everything. They interact with all the other mediums... which is amazing when you think about it. It still blows my mind how oil and chalk can mix with watercolor. So the lesson learned is... anything it takes to get what you want in digital painting.

I am glad you watched and enjoyed the scripts. You are very welcome. It is something I had been meaning to do for a long time to show folks the way various tools are used together. And I hope you got some good presets that I use often. I love the soft pastel in the felt pen category. It comes in very handy time and time again. Also the large glazer preset for the ink pen tool, I use it to glaze colors over the top of watercolors and give them more depth. You should be able to grab that preset also. I have shared some of these in the art supplies section of the forum. Also now you should have a preset called a paint splatter sticker brush preset which adds a water color effect often seen in watercolors of splashing drips of watercolor on the paper with a toothbrush or coarse bristle brush.

I also would like to do a package of my watercolor brushes and watercolor papers. Hopefully I will get around to that soon. ;)

nice to meet you. glad you enjoyed them.


Mick CrocKode
02-26-2013, 05:57 AM
Yes I enjoyed your script and if you plan to create a new one to show the ways various tools are used, that could be a helpful teaching for
every one here; and absolutely for me. I am waiting for it :rolleyes:

But there is one point that is not easy to see in a script, that is when you change the tool or the presets of a tool. Best would be to use
the "tool cursor" and not the "precise" or "outline" one (from the preference menu... cursors). Nice also that you let the "settings pod"
open like you did it: that gave me the possibility to use your params.

I also noticed that the grain used for the paper has a big impact on the result of a tool in watercolor; specially with the crayon.

Do you think it's important to use the same paper grain every time one uses the watercolor tool? So one can learn and memorize
the effect witch came out of the stylus ?
I think that learning and integrating the behavior of the tool is crucial, no? Specialy withe watercolors.
I am not sure that it makes sense what I am trying to explain.

02-27-2013, 09:10 PM
The nice thing about ArtRage 4 is that we can now keep track of the presets we use for watercolor tool. I am not sure how important it would be to use the same paper... because there are several papers I use for watercolor. Two of the canvas preset packages that are invaluable are Juz's traditional media papers and another package by Yotex called Yotex papers. I am not sure if they are built in yet, but you can download them from art supplies. Definitely worth having. Also there is one by Someonesane that is great for watercolor.

Juz papers are here. (http://www2.ambientdesign.com/forums/showthread.php?39303-arpack-Traditional-Media-Surfaces)

Yotex papers are here. (http://www2.ambientdesign.com/forums/showthread.php?39053-Scanned-papers-1) (see post #25 where I combined Yotex papers into an arpack for download.)

also this thread has someonesane's paper and also some by chuckart.


I am really sorry that I kept the reference so big and obscured the video. That was a huge oversight on my part. I don't think you can record the tool cursors in artrage scripts but I think it will work if I record it in Camstudio program to show the tools. You can usually see which tool is selected by the green highlight in the tool panel.

Steve B
03-04-2013, 08:52 AM
Hi Mick,
I was wondering- on this watercolor, how many layers are you using? This has the look of being done on only 1 or 2 layers. I have found this doesn't work well, as the colors become muddy and lose their texture. I have a video on using Layers to simulate drying your watercolors one layer at a time. Have you had the opportunity to watch it? If not, that would be my suggestion. Use a layer for one color or two, make a new layer, set it to Multiply for your Blend Mode, do next color or two on that new layer, etc. and let your colors "build" one dry layer at a time. Then you can either drop that new layer down to keep your file size small, or keep your layers for flexibility.

IMO, Artrage is good at "dry" watercolors, but is not as convincing with "wet" watercolors. For wet watercolors, you'll need, IMO, to lay your colors down, "dry" your layers, and then use your blending tools to soften the edges or drag your paints around. The Blenders are definitely your friend in AR.

AR essentially takes what is one process in real life (apply color to canvas and let water do its thing) and divides it into two digital processes (apply color with Watercolor brush, or Felt Tip Pen, etc, and then blend out with Blenders). This makes things not quite as spontaneous as in natural media, but it allows for greater control and less computational needs when laying down color. Other programs, such as Corel Painter, combine these two aspects into one "Brush". This is pretty neat, but also a) very computationally heavy and slow and b) limits each "brush" to doing really only a few small things.

That's the gist of the situation though, as it seems to me. I hope that's helpful! Come back and show us your progress. :)

Mick CrocKode
03-06-2013, 10:38 AM
Yes Steve, I had more than a simple look at your videos. But I could not integer all the new things that you speak off in a single reading. But there was one that impressed me more than the others: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTNT2WowxGc
with the title "How to Paint with watercolors in Artrage #6- Layer Masks and Glazing" .
Maybe because he spook to me about techniques I am used to in other softwares. So I hoped to start the discovering of watercolor by beginning the walk in a known terrain: I am speaking of "masks".

That's also the reason why I titled this thread "WorkFlow"... There are certainly a lot of different ways to end the same target, and I didn't know witch one is the best. So? I just tried !!!
And this way (who is sure not the best) helped me to reach a satisfying result, step by step, with the advantage to clearly see at witch step something went wrong.

And I think that I will keep the first steps of the process that I could name "Isolating the masks in a picture" for my future attempts.
In the stage "mixing the colors", there is clearly something not good. The real experimenting with watercolors took place in these step.

And I have also to say that I discovered with this processing (explained in your videos, Steve) that I am able to produce a visual result who pleased me much more than if I had tempted to doodle around without a target to reach.
ok: It's far away to be a masterpiece, but it is my own work, my personal attempt, and if I stay to be the only viewer... well... I am glad. And proud :cool:.
So: I provide here the resources I used in that process for the one of you guys how want to follow.

Here is the genuine picture that I used as model:

Mick CrocKode
03-06-2013, 10:47 AM
I applied then a "posterise filter" (in an other software) to reduce the number of colors:


And from there, I turned it in Black and Wight and applied also contrast:


You can see that I wanted to have clear defined areas of shades of greys, that can become
masks able to isolate the different colors that I wanted to experiment with.

Mick CrocKode
03-06-2013, 10:56 AM
I could then bring every needed image in Artrage 4 to obtain that:


With the tracing pod, I build up the "contour" that you see in the top layer. You can also see in the shown layers that I created a layer for
every single separate objet that was present in the picture and that I wanted to treat in an differentiated way, like "Mask_Flower_1" and
so on.

Mick CrocKode
03-06-2013, 11:10 AM
With the contours traced, I can Hide the "Tracing Image pod" and fill every single part with a different grey (see color pod)
that I painted with the ink pen.
I grouped those objects in a folder named "Masques_1".


From now on, I am able to isolate a single objet (like "Mask_Flower_1) by selecting that layer and calling => "Edit - Select Layer Contents".
Make that layer (mask) invisible, create a new layer to put your colors in, and paint within the borders.
From now on, I will never paint an unwanted color from "Flower_1" on "Flower_2"... And I can use a large (and very very large to...) brush
to build up my flower colors.

Does it make sens?

Mick CrocKode
03-06-2013, 11:22 AM
What I explain from the starting first step is not different from Steve B's tutorial.
But using the "selection tool", I discovered that it is possible to add a selection to an other. ok... Why not use this possibility to make
a selection of a shade of grey (like you can see them in post #9 in the second picture) witch is in the border of saying... "Flower_1"?

So I struggled around with the "selection picker" for every one of the 4 shades of grey and, when complete, filled the selection with a
unique color (a grey !!!) and copied it in a layer.

That was a detailed work; All the 4 selections ended in a group named "Masque_2" (in french in the text).


Mick CrocKode
03-06-2013, 11:40 AM
I have now the ground material to continue my exploring of the watercolor technique, knowing that what ever I will do, it will stay in the
right place.
I could choice to paint the first flower in blue (why not?) and paste textures of a brick wall over it.... Crazy yes, but possible and easy.
So I started to use and experiment with wet brushes. No good. Then dry brushes. Then starting again and inverting the order.
And also using the knife, or the "triangle chaos", mentioned by Steve.

I had a lot of fun but finally... I was lost in my image.
Hopefully you showed me other ways to follow, other possibilitys that I have to try... When I will find the time :o


I am sure that if I find the time... I can improve my watercolor painting, just starting again from the step: "mixing colors".

Hope that my little "tutorial" :rolleyes: helps.

Mick CrocKode
03-06-2013, 11:44 AM
A last word about the background...

It was simply done by usin a watercolor brush over the "posterised" picture in the tracing pod. Picking the color in a random place
and making long strokes following loosely the same color.
Ending with the blending (frost) knife.

The result looks to much blurred but had the advantage to be fast done.

03-06-2013, 12:48 PM
Mick, this is fascinating. Thank you for taking the time and trouble to explain and illustrate your work flow.

Steve B
03-06-2013, 08:38 PM
This process you went through is fascinating, and I think it could be really helpful to others! :)

When I brought up Layers, and how you were using them, I was focusing more on how you're applying color rather than tone. By looking at the last image you showed, I can better see how you've set up your layers. Currently, you have only a single layer for your colors, and many layers for your tones. However, if you divide up your "color layers" a bit (perhaps into 2-4 layers), particularly when they overlap one on top of another, then I think they'll become less muddy. I also agree with the earlier advice to use only a low % of Thinners, which I find can do odd things to the color washes. Finally, the current look makes me wonder if you'd have greater success using the Blenders more. These are absolutely essential, IMO, and the streaking or "banding" of colors you're getting is often a sign that blending hasn't occurred.

Anyways, this is all only meant to be taken in the most useful and helpful way. I think the work you're doing is good, and I think the kind of critical mind and approach your bringing to it will only help you gain a better command of the medium faster! Good luck. And report back! :)

03-06-2013, 09:50 PM
I am working on one at the moment using mostly roller and blender, and thought you might like to add it to your mix. I do have some layers, multiply and not. I try hard to observe each area as I go to stay true to the look of watercolour.

Lots more to do, but I am over the hump now. Great fun!!


01-23-2015, 07:17 PM
gorgeous Robyn. did you ever do a demo? because that is a fantastic watercolor.