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Tutorial: Watercolor Brush (Part 2)

Ann Brown — August 23, 2016

In part two of the watercolor brush, I want to give you some ways that you can use the watercolor brush that may not be obvious. I have used this amazing brush to make clouds, feathers, highlights, and unique patterns on sections of pictures. Today I’m going to go over the following:

1. Clouds
2. Feathers
3. Highlights
4. Backgrounds
5. Unique patterns


Start off by choosing a blue for your sky. One tip when you are planning to do a plain blue sky is to use the fill tool. This will immediately add color and save you time. Sometimes when using fill, there will be areas that are between lines of the picture that will not fill. You will need to look carefully for this.
Next, locate the black & white color palette from the color selector to the bottom left section of your page. Tap on the white color. I’ve done the clouds two different ways. The cloud on the right of the picture was done using an Apple Pencil with the opacity and size to 100%. I used a combination of tapping and a dragging stroke to create them. For the cloud on the left side, I used my finger in a circular motion to make these clouds. I find that using your finger or possibly a rubber tip stylus touches more of the screen and gives a fluffier appearance. Your finger also gives more control over the movement of the cloud. Again, every person colors a little differently so you will have to try different styluses or your finger and decide which works best for you.



When coloring birds, I find that coloring them with one color with some shading while creating a good picture, leaves the bird looking a little flat. However, you can update your bird by adding some feather details. First select what color you want your bird to be. Use the fill tool to cover the bird. Next, we are going to add some shadows on the breast, the belly, and under the eye of the bird. Set the opacity to 100% and the brush size to 35%. Move the color slider to the darkest area of your color. Color along the breast, belly, and under the eye using a curving stroke.


Now, we will begin the feather details. Select the white color then adjust the opacity to 50% and brush size to 5%. Begin under the bill of the bird and make small “V” shapes. As you work, don’t worry if they are not straight, the idea is to cover the area. As you work you way down, adjust the opacity. The idea is for the feathers to fade gradually towards the bottom of the belly. Then go back and define some of these feathers with the darkest color of the bird under the white using a “V” shape following the shape of the white. It is not necessary to do all of them just look and decide when it looks good to you.


We are trying to give an illusion of feathers, which is what good art is intended to do. It’s all an illusion!


To add highlights to birds, you look for areas that have a curved shape such as the top of the head, the wings, and the back. Another thing to do when coloring any picture is to enlarge and rotate it. Depending on if you are right handed or left handed, coloring is easier from certain directions. So, I rotate the picture to find the spot that is most comfortable to me. For this picture, I want to add white highlights to the bird. Set the opacity to 50% and the brush size to 20%. I highlighted the bill of the bird by placing my stylus at the top of the bill and scribbling down to the bottom. Next, I highlighted the top of the head and the wing. On the head, I began just in front of his eyes and curved my stroke towards the back. On the wing, I began where the line drawing began and curved the stroke down in a “C” stroke. You can continue using these instructions with the back of the bird.




The background is usually dictated by the picture, but there are no hard and fast rules to hold you to that. Colorings are more exciting when there is an unexpected background versus a traditional one. Traditionally, when you do a bird in a tree, the background would be a sky. However, for this one a chose to do a soft marbled effect which adds drama to the picture. First, I chose a red and moved the slider to the darker end of the color spectrum, adjusted the opacity to 100% and the brush size to 60%. I began coloring from the bottom of the picture and moving upward. Don’t cover the area with a solid color. It will get there! As you move up, use less pressure so that the color gives a beautiful faded effect.


We will now layer two other colors over the first one. I chose a light green and the lightest color of the bird. Use the same technique you used for the first, except with these two colors you lightly go over the picture concentrating on the bare spots. End with the lightest color from the of your bird and color around the breast and head of the bird.


Unique Patterns

One of the unique features of the watercolor brush is that it blends colors just as a paint brush does. On this picture, I focused on one design element in the picture to make a mosaic effect. I chose a picture that had many repeating patterns. I isolated one section of the picture and used the fill tool to add a dark color. Choose your color according to the colors in your picture.


We are going to layer two colors over the main color, a medium hued turquoise and a white. First, randomly apply the turquoise making some of your strokes darker than the others. Then, go back and do the same thing with the white.


Watch as you apply the white the beautiful pinks and blue colors you get.



I want to encourage everyone to try these tips as well as experiment with this brush to see what else you can accomplish. Color on and don’t be afraid to try different things!


ann-brown-300Ann Brown
Digi Coloring and Design

Ann Brown is a self taught artist who has been painting for about 35 years. After she mastered that skill, her drive to challenge herself led to teaching children’s art classes, as well as designing and making jewelry. She is currently writing a suspense novel. Just recently, she has also gotten involved with digital and traditional coloring. She serves as one of the administrators on the Digital and Design coloring group on Facebook.