Sunday, January 29, 2017

Watercolor Tutorial #2 Inspired by a Rooster

Travelling Tangles Project

I'm ready to send these to my tangle peeps who responded to my swap offer in my last post, though if any of you out there are ever up to swapping, but would rather not go through the Facebook group, leave me a comment and we can connect via email.

I just filled my first album. Crazy!

After a two month (unintentional, but the holidays totally threw me off my game) semi-hiatus from instigating any new Travelling Tangles swaps, I finally dug myself out of my backlog pile. I just signed up for the February group swap which will celebrate the year of the Rooster in honor of Chinese New Year (thank goodness no Valentines Day).
The parameters are to use either a pattern that is feather-like (Drawings was given as an example) or to use colors inspired by roosters.

He's pretty fab!

The tiles above are sort of a mash up of February's rooster theme and January's theme to use patterns you've never used before.
I needed to create a new set of tiles so I figured this would be a good opportunity to share my process now that I have a better cell phone camera;-)
I generally start with some type of color reference, but it's fun to just play around if you're using a  palette set of watercolors. Here's a link to my Color board for my collection of inspiring rust;-)

Here's what I use:

a Strathmore 11x14 watercolor pad
masking tape
a large masonite artist clipboard
a watercolor dry cake palette
a wide wash brush (about 1-2 inches)
a medium watercolor brush
saran wrap
a toothbrush (a soft brush with a flat bristle edge works best)
jar of water
a fine mister bottle of water
a blow dryer
cutting mat
Xacto knife
metal straight edge

Tape a sheet of paper down onto a hard, smooth surface.
Tape securely around the entire edge of the paper. It's kind of hard to see because my table is the same color as the masonite clip board, but I taped my paper to the back of the board.

Get your watercolors really wet by either spraying them with water or load up a large brush with water and release it into the palette. I used all of the colors along the left plus the teal.
Spray or brush clean water over the surface of the paper.
You don't have to cover the whole page. Leaving a few areas dry will give you more variation in saturation when you apply paint.

Starting with your lightest color, load the large brush and swipe color across the page. You can do blobs, blocks or arches of color too. I habitually lay in the color the same way all the time. It's my thang;-)

Do the same with the next lightest color.

and keep going until the page is covered,

Wrinkle up a sheet of saran wrap and lightly press it down onto the paint. Lift it up and move it to another area. If you want you can loosely ball the wrap up and blot it around, moving color from one area to another for more texture.

I apply the darkest colors like blues, purples, deep reds and browns with a toothbrush. Get your paint cake really wet, dip the bristles in the watery paint, then scape your thumb across the bristles aiming the spray onto the paper. You can go heavier in some areas lighter in others. This is my favorite part;-)
This step is the key to smoothing out the bulging paper:
As soon as you're done applying the paint, use a hot blow dryer to get rid of the buckling. Keep an eye on the taped edge and secure it down if its lifting away in spots.
Keep the dryer going until the paper is flat and dry. It won't flatten if you let it dry naturally.

Carefully remove the tape. The paper will still be a little wonky, but once you cut it down to tile size it won't really matter that much. I usually make several sheets at a time then keep them pressed back in the pad underneath a heavy pile of other pads until I'm ready to cut them.

I like to trim the corners into a curve.

I hope you find this helpful. If anyone tries this, please come back and leave comments or questions if there's anything confusing or missing.

Thanks so much for visiting!


  1. Thanks, Michele. There are great tips here.

  2. Beautiful travelling Tangles! Thanks for the tutorial! Always very helpful for me! :)

  3. Thank you! This is an awesomely helpful tutorial.

  4. I have used your previous tutorial several times, and still learned something new from this one! Thanks for your amazing generosity! I'd be lost without it!

    1. Thank you Jennifer! I'm so glad this was helpful to you and your generous feedback is most appreciated;-)

  5. Love the tiles. Thanks for sharing your technique. I need to work on this. You use tissue paper too, right? Do you ever mix the two?

    1. Thanks Pat! I haven't mixed them yet, but I'm gonna try it:-)

  6. Wow, Michele! I love your ideas! Never thought of using saran wrap. I've just started giving my 3.5 tiles a splotch of runny watercolor but this is a much better way to do it. Thanks for sharing your process and your beautiful designs.

    1. Thanks Denise! Let me know if you try this out. I'd love to see others attempts at this method.

  7. Thank you MIchele for this tutorial. The results look wonderful.

    1. Thanks Ria! It's always a fun afternoon doing these. Once I'm set up, each page goes so quickly and the results are always a bit of a surprise, that I can't wait to start another.

  8. How wonderful it is that you chose a rooster palette! For one thing, it is the year of the rooster...and my BF is a rooster AND a good ole fashioned leghorn rooster is my very favorite. I've got quite a chicken/rooster "collection" around the house including a painting my mom did for me, a cast iron trivet, a tiny little ring holder carved out of a Y twig, a glass cutting board (that I've never used, but it elevates a corner of the kitchen, leaning against the backsplash)... and a little hen on the nest bowl and lid from the depression. A book about chickens. A Chicken lap throw, and a Rooster sofa pillow. And how terrific to get a tile with rooster colors on it for our swap! And along with the tissue color transfer technique, I'm going to play with your watercolor/splatter method, too! Thanks for all the inspiration.

  9. Thank you so much for this great tutorial. I just tried it using watercolors from tubes since that's what I have. It was easy to follow your instructions and lots of fun, too! I do have a question. The surface feels kind of "dusty" to me. Sometimes colored surfacs have clogged my pens. Have you ever had Trouble with this technique and a Micron? Can't wait to try tangling on these.

    1. Thanks so much for the feedback Jennifer! I haven't noticed a problem with Microns clogging, but I mostly use Rapidograph technical pens and Gelli Roll pens. I wonder if it has anything to do with the brand of paint or certain pigments like in some blues can be a bit chalky. That's a good question.

    2. OK, great. Well, I am just going to go for it. If I have any problems I will let you know (for future reference if someone else asks). I have loved looking at your beautiful work. Great blog.

  10. I LOVE your Watercolor Tutorial #2, Michele! So many helpful suggestions - with pictures!! Where can I find Watercolor Tutorial #1???

    1. Thanks Jan. I can't link from cell phone but go into my blog archive to July 2015. It's the Diva Challenge #226 post from July 14. It's the same technique but less pictures.

  11. Great technique. I'll add your blog link to mine 🙂

  12. Thanks, Michele, for letting me share this with my group!

  13. Thank You!! I've done this many times but didn't realise that they needed to be blow dried to return to flat!! Awesome <3

  14. Thank you so much Michele for sharing your technique on your background. I am anxious to try it (yours are beautiful)!

  15. These are just gorgeous! Thank you for the tutorial.

  16. What a great Tuturial! So clear and easy to follow. Thanks so much.
    I too have found that the standard Micron clogs on Watercolour. However, Micron has a pen for other surfaces which works just fine. I can't remember what it's called now, but I can find out if anyone wants to know.
    Thanks again for the Tutorial. I loved it!