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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Clownfish-Step by Step

Recently I posted a Chinese Brush Painting I had done on Paint My Photo and got a number of responses wondering how this type of watercolor is done.  Over the next several days, I will post step by step how one of these vibrant paintings comes together, but first I wanted to give some information about the materials and the process.  Different paper, brushes and paints are used in this type of watercolor from the usual watercolor, beginning with a delicate rice paper called Shuan  which is treated with alum.  Another difference with this process is a permanent black ink is used. The paints are generally more opaque than watercolor and the brushes are very soft and pliable.  Since the paper is sheer, your focal point can be traced onto the rice paper by laying your design under the rice paper and using a very thin, watered down ink to do the tracing.  Once you've chosen your design, compose your painting and trace the focal point onto the rice paper using the ink. 

In the detail you can see that some of the ink is darker while some is barely visible.  The black on the fins and tails are part of the black actually on the fish, the lighter ink is a guide for painting the fish and putting on the background coral. 

This is the first coat of paint on the fish.  There will be details added later as the painting is closer to being finished, but for now, the painted fish are a guide for laying in the background coral.

The background is what will make the fish really stand out later and make the painting a showpiece.  The first layer must be put on very light because many other layers will follow.  There were 3 colors used here for the background:  Phthalo Blue, Gamboge and a bit of vermillion in strategic spots.  The entire area with the exception of the fish are misted with clear water and the paint is laid in with a very soft wolf hair brush.  More water can be misted on as the paint starts to dry.  The upper left hand and lower right hand corners are blown color as these areas will not be detailed very much.

After the background wash is dry, detailing is begun on the coral, first using more Phthalo Blue, then Indigo, which is darker and stronger.  This process will take quite awhile and is done using a negative painting technique.  I allow the painting to "speak" to me as I go along telling me where the coral should be shadowed and detailed.  I usually do this part of the painting with many pauses in between so I can study what I need to add next. 

These two details from the painting show a close-up of the coral at this stage of the painting.  There is MUCH more to do yet.  So far, no ink has been applied to the coral.  This will be one of the last steps in the painting to add the darks it needs to "pop."
One other statement:  The "white spots" on the following detail photo is the sparkles on the Shuan Rice paper reflecting my flash unit on my camera.  Those will not show up when the actual painting is done.

At this point, I need to stop and study the painting to see what else it needs. 
Watch for more posts later as I finish this painting!


  1. Enjoyed this tutorial Judy. Amazing work. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Gorgeous step by step Judy. Thanks for showing us.

  3. Know this is late in coming, but thank you all for your comments.