Painting in the shadow

  • Any Tips & Tricks for under object shadows?   I have tried side loading to get a nice transition without great success.  I also battle with overworking the shadow that I disturb the paint underneath.   My watermelon is an example of my trouble.  Help!  🤣

    Bad shadow on my melon

    Hi. When I do shadows, I put a dark layer of paint (the brown of the table and some black) and then, when the watercolor is almost dry, I cover that dark with the same color of the table (and pattern) to make sure they look “similiar” – my english is not very good xD I hope you understand what I tried to tell you haha.
    I leave u an example so can see how it turns out 🙂

    It can be difficult to tell for sure when looking at the photo, but one of two things is probably happening.  You haven’t let the under layer dry thoroughly and are lifting color rather than adding more. Or you have scrubbed too much and damaged the paper to the point where it can no longer accept color (which I suspect is the case in the painting above).

    Wait for it! Let one layer dry COMPLETELY before adding more color.  Wet-into-wet is a wonderful technique but takes more practice, so it isn’t the best way to get shadows unless you know how to use it.

    Also, paint undergoes a color shift – watercolor becomes lighter as it dries.  If you wait, you know your actual color, and have a better idea of what you need to do next.

    You may be afraid of a anything approaching a hard edge.  Often you don’t need as soft an edge as you think. Many artists believe that shadows should have three shades.  Even if you aren’t totally satisfied with a dark-medium-light blend, it is a good way to start out.  It gives you a plan and a definite stopping point.  You can come back later and add more if you really don’t like it, but give yourself time to get over the need to fuss.

    Your colors count too.  It can get tricky, but if you have already painted the area, adding the complementary color can make a good neutral shadow.  I recommend consulting a good color mixing chart if you aren’t sure of your complementarys.  Also be aware that not all yellows, reds and blues are the same.  If you use a warm with a cool you can get muddy colors.  For instance, you shouldn’t use an orangeish-red with a bluish-green.  An orangeish-red with a yellowish-green would work better.  Ultramarine Blue and Burnt Sienna are a good mix for dark colors, so if you aren’t sure, you can usually use it.

    Last but not least, consider your tools.  Cheaper paper or a stiff brush will make it easier for you to damage the paper.

    Now I just need to learn how to follow my own advice, lol!





    Thanks Sandra.   When doing the watermelon shadow it was completely dry.   I think I worked to much trying to soften the edge and it worked my bottom paint loose.  A shadow that close is usually sharp so I should just leave it!   I’ve only been painting about a year and am totally self taught by google, youtube and taking online classes.  I need to be more confident in my stroke for the shadow and let it be!   Thanks again for your tips.

    Hi Thomas. The biggest thing I’ve learned about shadows is to not overwork them, lol. Much harder to do than say. Also, I never use black, I use carbazole violet, paynes grey blue shade (schmincke) and Neutral tint (schmincke) but I also start with the color of the object first, close to the object. If I remember, I’ll also use it’s opposite. Then I wet the area i want to be a shadow (a little) then add the darkest shade into the very close shadow area, just touch it to the somewhat wet paper and let it move. Help it along and remember to take off the paint from your paintbrush after adding that  dark paint, dab paint brush so it’s still damp but less wet than the juicy paint you just laid down, you don’t want backwash by having more “water” in one area than another. Try not to play too much. GO back and darken closest to the subject again after all is mostly dry or totally dry. Shadows are always darker than you think. Hope this helps!

    Thank you Jennifer.  I just put in my shadows on a piece I will post tomorrow.  I’m not totally happy with the outcome but it’s a better attempt!  Always learning is a good thing.

    The information in this link about shadows is helpful.

    I tend to approach it from underneath to begin with, using waterproof grey inks instead of grey watercolors  and building a tonal value.  I then move over the tops of the greys and that often is enough.  This doesn’t work if you tend to like opaque watercolors.  An example…

    Layering up from the one before...

    Nice… and they mention that water has shadows too!

    How beautiful! Helpful in showing how shadows fall even if someone doesn’t want to use inks.

    Great link … Thanks Mary.

    Thanks Kate

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 36 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.