Coloring a Drawing


So… Ready to do a full illustration? Yes? O.k, so let’s do it. Now, this particular pic was suggested by a friend of mine. She asked me for a pic of Mu for her baby. Of course I panicked at first cause that wasn’t a regular fan art at all!. Since It was for her kid, that only meant I had to plan the illustration *very* carefully. Of course coming up with the idea wansn’t easy either.  Then I remembered that Ivy liked Art Noveau style, specially Alphonse Mucha pics and that’s when it hit me! I knew I was going on the right path!

Why am I telling you all this: well, because PLANNING is the MOST important part of painting a full illustration. If you make a detail painting plan, you will definitively succeed and get the drawing out of your head in the way you imagined it!

I started this illustration by  researching a little about the style and stuff. I asked my boyfriend’s mother for some of her Art Noveau books. I needed to see how things were done, in that style. The backgrounds, the poses, the colors etc. Doing research on what you want to do, gives you great ideas and tips and allows you to come up with tons of sketches, poses, color shcemes and so forth. All  for your final drawing.

Here are some examples of Art Noveau paintings. All done by Mucha.

Click thumbnails to enlarge

With these images on my mind I decided to sketch a little. Below are the preliminary sketches I did and while I was sketching I began to understand a bit more the purpose of the whole drawing. I’ve always liked the idea of Mu being this parent figure for Kiki and this sort of pleased me because I couldn’t get rid of the “orphan” idea that all this kids had going on in the series. So what a better way to draw a pic, than to make a portrait of parenthood -so to speak-?

To the left you can see the sketch I came up with.

sketch_mudibujo_rawI drew this with a common pencil on a regular piece of paper. once I was satisfied with the composition and stuff, I retraced it on the Arches paper (as it’s shown in the drawing on the right). To do the final art line I used a Brown lumocolor lead and a light tracer. the Arches paper chosen for this, was a cold press, as usual. It looks a bit yellowish because this was not scanned. Yours should look white with the lines in brown.


Now Let’s paint! We will need:

  • 1.-Clean Table
  • 2.-PH Martin’s Watercolors and Hal pan Watercolors.
  • 3.-“Round” Brushes (01, 03)
  • 4.- Two eyedroppers or syringes (one glass made and a plastic one)
  • 4.-Regular containers ( two for water and 1 to mix the color) and several porcelaine containers for the concentrated watercolors.
  • 5.- A sheet of watercolor paper (cold press, most likely)
  • 6.- A cloth, and napkins (I recommend you those that are used for cooking, the thick ones)
  • 7.- Masking fluid or Masking tape (I recommend the first one)

Working Area


See how my working area is neatly distributed? I always place the watercolors above my palettes and notice how the water is held by one of the palette’s container so that it won’t slip off and make a mess of my drawing. the little plate that has the flowers is, the porcelain container. The colors should always be away from the drawing. In case you are clumsy, this could save you from botching your drawing. To the left side you can see the light tracer, the napkins and part of  the drawing.

Color Test

The beauty of the Art noveau pics is the color scheme. So to be sure about the final outcome of the pic, I decided to do a color test. To do this I just photocopied my sketch and painted over it with regular colors. If you are not satisfied with the first test, you can do as many tests as you want, until you get the color scheme of your dreams. If you want you can guide yourself with reference pictures. This time I used Mucha’s work as an example. Below you can see my color test, and this should be our guide to mix the colors. As always planning things will help you to get what you want.


This is not as heavily colored as other color tests I’ve done. Nevertheless I could  forsee how the colors will match next to one another and if it in fact looks good as a whole. I choose orange for the background , while the circles above their heads will be painted green (it was actually painted in this drawing , brown, but I think green fits better) the stars will be painted yellow and the shawls beneath them will be painted green and purple and the embroidery will be golden. Their robes will be left white so that I can separate the foreground from the background. I was most worried about this fact, since Art Noveau paintings have so many details is just hard to tell each element apart from one another. So leaving the garments alone will help a bit. As you can see I also marked the outline in black. As I’ve said the key to a succesful illustration is ‘planning‘. It’s better to be sure about what you are going to do, than being halfway without knowing what to do next. Believe me. It has happened to me and the only way to avoid botching things is to plan carefully in advance.

So anyway, now we have our ilustration traced on the arches and we know wich colors we are going to use… so now what? Well, let’s prepare our illustrations for the first layers or watercolor.


Uhm, well… It depends on the illustration, but usually I work first  from the backgrund to the foreground. This reason is twofold:

  • A)since this is a traditional drawing the skin tones can easily be smudged or simply get dirty.  It’s always best to work inwardly on an illustration .
  • B)  because the drawing has so many details in the background that it is best if we color those first before applying any color to the characters/foreground.  Remember that even with the color test, colors can and will vary. Since we want to achive a contrast between the characters and the background -and keep them smudge free- it’s just better to work from the back to the front.

In this case, I think the best way to approach this watercolor, is appliying the layers from the center of the canvas towards the outsides and work from the background to the foreground.  And yes, order is also very important on illustrating because that way  we won’t end up smudging parts of it by mistake. Now, why am I being such an ass about smudging? Well, we are going to use concentrated watercolors, and if by mistake you end up smudging a drop of color, you’ll have to kiss your watercolor bye bye, because concentrated watercolor, does not washes out with water. By the way, you might want to use an apron. If your clothes get stained be warned that PH martin’s WC  does not washes off putting the clothes on a laundry machine. You’ll have to throw your garment out!

Well, the first thing we need to do is Mask. In this case we are going to use Masking fluid. We could mask with Masking tape, but given that we are going to cover a small area it’s best if we use the masking liquid to get what we want faster. In this case what I used was Windsor and Newton Masking fluid. It costs like uhm… 8 dls apiece and of course if you take good care of it, it could last you for years.


Now, you will need a regular brush for masking . Do not use a expensive brush to mask, because the masking fluid has very strong chemicals  (actually it’s like glue) and from the very first layer it will ruin your brush. So with this on mind, choose one that it’s not expensive and put it aside for later use as your “making fluid brush”. You will need to use tons of soap to get rid of the goo that’s going to stick on the hair of the brush. You can try with common soap or an artist’s soap. Shake well before every use.


The first thing we will mask are the stars and the outline of the characters (see the image shown above). It’s important that you stay inside the lines. Also, take your time to cover the area that you want to preserve white. Otherwise if you do it quickly you might risk loosing the shape of your drawing and end up with an uneven shape (and when you apply the color and uneven layer of color). You can help yourself a bit, by buying a masking fluid with color. There’s colorless masking fluid, but if you are as blind as I am, it’s best if you buy the same that I have. Notice that is yellow and well, it sets apart the areas that you’ve already had masked and the ones that you hadn’t.


So this is how the image looks with the masking. :) (notice how I did Mu and Kiki’s outline as well, to prevent any bleed in of colors. Please it’s important that you let the masking fluid dry completely, otherwise the fluid will mix with your paint and well, it will completely botch the drawing.



O.k then. So first thing’s first: We will start shading the background, to get a sort of gradient on in our sky. We will use violet to do this pre-shading (mix blue with a little bit of purple). In this case I used hal pan watercolors. Do not use the DR. Ph Martin’s watercolor in this stage. I’l explain why later, just trust me on this one. Also do not prepare a lot of mix, because we are not going to shade everything, only this part of the drawing. Now, remember: before applying the color follow this basic three steps (shown in the photographs above). Dip the brush in water, just to moisten it a bit, then dip it in the mix and then get rid of the excess of water by passing your brush over the napking.


I started applying the color from the bottom to the top, to build the gradient. Notice how the color starts fading gradually. To achieve this, the only thing you have to do is to apply water and spread the mix. Since the rest is masked you don’t have to worry about the color spreading to where you don’t want to.


As you can see, the gradiant is done! Now let’s move on! It’s time to use the concentrated watercolors.

Concentrated Watercolors VS Haf Pan Watercolors.

Many people have asked me what’s the difference between this two types of watercolor. well, the main difference is that Concentrated watercolor has very vivid shades of color that won’t change once applied on the paper. Remember all WC painting changes its intensity once it’s been applied, leaning towards a muted tones once the painting is dry. This is most true with half pan watercolors. However, with concentrated WC the shade stays true -because of the pigments-. A purple will stay purple with the same intensity once it’s been applied and dry.


The image shows a drop (single drop) of Concentrated WC -Iris Blue-
Notice how the color doesn’t change once it’s applied.

You might be wondering what happens when we add water to our concentrated watercolor as most WC pigments change it’s intensity once we add water to the mix. Well, If we add water to a concentrated WC , it will only dimish the amount of pigment, but the color will remain the same. Also as if this wasn’t enough, you don’t need to add a lot of painting to prepare a mix, which helps you to save money :D One single drop will do .


Left spot: Concentrated WC / water
Right Spot: Concentrated color without water.

In any case, I reccommend you to do a small test, before actually using them on a drawing, because believe me, concentrated WC are… well harder to manipulate. For exapmple: It’s easier to apply washes with half pans as you can spread the color easily and correct mistakes with simple water. With concentrated WC is harder to spread the color… not impossible, but harder, given that the amount of pigment is bigger compared to the half pan’s. In any case, you’ll see it’s worth the try. Conenctrated WC are the love <3

Applying concentrated WC


With the same Iris Blue (one single drop + 4 drops of water) we start applying the color from the shaded part towards the outside. Try no to pass the brush over an area where you’ve already colored (and by this I mean, the layer of concentrated water color. Not the half pan’s previous applied layer) . That will only cause the color to clog. Our aim is to cover all the area with one layer of painting. Just dip the brush in the mix, apply the color on the canvas and then spread the color. If you feel that the hair is getting dry, dip the tip in water and then use it to spread the color evenly. You must do this quickly as this type of WC dries fast. Please notice how you don’t need to add several layers to get that blue. With concentrated WC you just need to apply one wash and that’s it.


Notice how the color intensifies in the bottom part, where it was previously shaded. When you are satisfied you just need to let it dry (really let it dry). Now it’s time to remove the masking fluid :D

Removing masking fluid.

There are two ways of removing masking fluid: A) with a eraser and B) with your finger. I preffer the second one because rubbing an eraser over a sheet of cotton can smudge the surface, damaging the area that you want to work on, later on (and just so you know damaged cotton can’t retain watercolor). BUT if you want to get rid of it with your bare hands, you will need to wash your hands first!

 Click thumbnails to enlarge

See how the characters and the stars were preserved white? You could also paint the sky without masking, but unless you are a very experienced painter I would totally recommend the use of the masking fluid. It’s just quicker and it’ll make things easier for you. As simple as that. Now let’s move on to the next step.

Click here to go to the next part.