Home » The Wet-In-Wet Watercolor Technique: Mastering The Basics To Paint Exotic Fish

The Wet-In-Wet Watercolor Technique: Mastering The Basics To Paint Exotic Fish

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Step 1: Thumbnails And Sketching Tricks


Prep your watercolor block or sheet of paper by taping the sides down to a tilted board with artist’s tape, creating a ½” margin for a good clean edge for future framing purposes. Then, plan your composition by doing a quick thumbnail sketch that’s scaled to your watercolor paper. A trick to do this is to imagine a diagonal line running through your watercolor paper, then lay your scrap paper on top. The borders of your thumbnail sketch should share the same diagonal line, even though the surface area is smaller. In this quick sketch, draw where each fish should go, and have fun with the background – you can include underwater plants or rays of light in your composition to make it more interesting. Try not to overdo it though as the main focus is still on the pair of fish. Another tip is not to place the fish dead center in the composition; instead, use the Rule of Thirds for a more lively design.

Once you’re done, transfer the sketch to the larger watercolor paper, making sure to keep your lines loose and light to minimize eraser usage as the eraser may change the paper’s surface. You also don’t need to add too many details, as some of them will be added later with your paintbrush. Make sure to keep the fish in proportion though, especially the eyes and fins, and try to keep the fins within the taped border so the focus won’t be drawn away and off the page. You can exaggerate some of the shapes and lines as needed for your composition, holding your pencil sideways when drawing broad strokes, and switching to a normal grip when penciling in smaller details. Try to get a good impression of two fish swimming in water, but don’t make it too messy or else it will be difficult to paint, and look sloppy to boot.

Below is a close-up of Bill’s sketch: