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 2: Breaking Down Wet-In-Wet Watercolor Basics


About 5-10mins before painting, spray the paints on your palette with clean water to soften them. You can think ahead of how to paint your fish and which colors to use, because while the reference photos are there, they should act more as a guide to your painting and less of a strict rule. You’re not aiming to reproduce an exact copy of the picture; you want a lively painting that shows off some of your artistic style! For good compositional tips, Bill recommends working from big to small shapes, light to dark colors, and to have a good contrast of warm (i.e. reds, oranges, yellows) and cool colors (i.e. greens, blues, purples) at a ratio of 3:7.

Once your paints are soft, you’re ready to use the wet-in-wet watercolor technique! For this, use the Escoda Perla no. 20 round brush. Make sure the paintbrush is clean, then with your brush, wet the first larger fish with water, being careful around the edges of your fish. It’s okay to go over all the details such as the eyes, fins, and any other lines. If you accidentally put too much water, you can lift the excess water out with a clean dry brush. Let this layer of water soak into the paper for a minute or two before you start painting.

Starting with the lightest colors, mix Cadmium Yellow Deep with Brilliant Orange on your palette, then drop in this mixture to the top fin and the face of the upper fish. The paint will spread due to the wet surface, but this is fine for the wet-in-wet watercolor technique. If it starts pooling in one area, you can lift out the excess with a dry brush or a paper towel or rag. Keep working in this way, changing to Cobalt Violet Light and dropping it next to the light orange areas for contrast in the fish’s main body, then add a touch of Cadmium Yellow Lemon near the top area and along the mouth. Switch to Peacock Blue and patch it in to some of the white areas in the main body and tail, and the paint will naturally fill in the wet areas on paper. Use more of the Cobalt Violet Light to bring out some details in the tail, and add some shadows to the underside of the body. You can intensify the shadows by mixing in Prussian Blue with the purple mixture, and use the same paint for the bottom fins. Flick your brush outwards starting from the fish’s body to create tapered lines for the fins, and add in some Cobalt Green for more splashes of color.