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  • Yufen Zha

Tutorial: Hello There - Feel Good Watercolor on Paper

Updated: May 10, 2021

"Hello There", watercolor on paper, 7.5" x 11"

Hello, my creative friends! We had so much fun painting all sorts of spring splendor in our last LIVE paint along and tutorial that I thought I'd extend that enjoyment to this tutorial. Everything wakes up in the spring magic and one of my favorites is frogs. As small as most frogs are, they have an amazing variety of personalities all packed into their cute facial expressions and body gestures.

Below is the supply list for this painting. I’ve included a few affiliate links so you can find the products I love.


Supply List

The outline image for this frog painting can be found here.

The accompanying video tutorial to this blog post can be found here.

I recently discovered two new green paints from Daniel Smith: Cascade Green and Green Apatite Genuine and they have been a game changer for me. If you are not familiar with these two pigments, please read this post where I discuss both in details.

If you follow me on social media, you may remember this background where I used mainly Cascade Green and Green Apatite Genuine with a touch of Cadmium Yellow and Aussie Red Gold.

I tend to create these backgrounds in batches while doing my color studies since I find it boring to just make color swatches. What I tend to do is create a number of different backgrounds using the same colors during a color study. When I'm ready to paint a subject, I go back to my background collection and see if any of them fit the project at hand.

1. I lightly transferred the frog outline onto the watercolor paper with the background. If you don't know how to transfer your line drawing onto watercolor paper, please read my post here.

2. Generally speaking, the eyes in an animal painting are the star of the show and that's usually where I start the painting. The rational is simple: if I don't like the eyes I paint, I can save myself some time by not painting the rest of the animal and simply start a new painting. If you paint everything else first and then mess up the eyes, well, you'd have to re-do the whole painting.

I started the frog by painting its eyes. Black watercolor paint is something I almost never use (with the exception of Sumi-e projects); they are just a little too flat for me. Instead, I prefer to mix the paints I already use on the rest of the painting to come up with a custom black (or dark) for each specific painting. However, since the colors I chose to use for this project do not give me enough range to come up with a dark enough mix, I had to resort to using Neutral Tint. It didn't end up being an issue as a large part of the eyes were covered in veins (done in step 7).

When painting eyes, try to avoid painting a solid dark circle as it lacks the 3D feel. One way to avoid this is to use a clean damp brush and lift off some pigment after you paint the circle, as I've done here. For these eyes, I also left the catchlight areas unpainted. Even though I knew I'd be going back with white gouache, it's much easier if you could save the white from the get-go.

3. Next up is the forehead which is painted wet on wet. There are many patterns and colors (Cascade Green, Green Apatite Genuine, Aussie Red Gold, and Neutral Tint) here. The trick is to apply the pigment while the area is damp so that the different colors applied look integrated with one another and don't appear pasted on. Once you drop in your colors, you can encourage the blending by going over it with more water. Please watch the accompanying video tutorial here to help you with this process.

4. Repeat the same process for the body which should fade into the background somewhat. To achieve this look, water is your friend. Apply more water to the area after you drop in the paints (Cascade Green, Green Apatite Genuine, and Aussie Red Gold) and blur out the back edges as well as the patterns.

5. Continue the process for the rest of the face area. I used the same paints as the forehead (Cascade Green, Green Apatite Genuine, Aussie Red Gold, and Neutral Tint) though the paint application should be lighter than the forehead as the rest of the face is more lit. I also added Cadmium Yellow to create more light.

6. Onto the last body parts which are the two front legs. The left leg is tucked behind the frog's head and needs to be less focused. The front leg is front and center in viewers' eyes so I took my time and applied more pigment and clearer edges.

7. We are essentially done with the frog! The only thing left is the detail in the frog's eyes. For this I opted to use Crystal Gold from my Fine Tec opaque pearlescent paint set. I bought this set a while ago after reading many reviews and looking at many sample images. Their gold paint has the best coverage that I've ever seen! The veins in the eyes do not have a set pattern so make sure you vary your brush pressure to get lines and dots of different thickness.

Here is a close-up of the eyes. I also enhanced the catchlights with white gouache and smoothed out the transition so the eyes look rounded rather than flat.

All right, there you have it folks, a frog that just woke up saying hello! Here is the completed painting again.

Please don't forget to watch the accompanying video tutorial here. I find written instructions along with video tutorials are the best learning tools for me in my artistic adventure. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below; I'd love to hear from you!

I hope you find this post useful and are inspired to give this project a try. If you do, I would love to see your work. Please follow my Facebook studio page "Yufen Zha Studio" and request to join our private group "Friends of Yufen Zha Studio" to share your work from these tutorials and to inspire and be inspired by fellow artists.

Please remember to subscribe to this site so you won't miss any future posts and tutorials.

Until next time, happy creating..


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