I've been asked many times how I color images, so I thought I would put together a little visual guide, along with some thoughts I have on coloring stamped images. The techniques I use most often are watercoloring, and Prismacolor pencil with Gamsol (sometimes referred to as "magic pencil"). This post is specific to watercoloring, but I'll do another post all about Prismacolors soon!
Watercoloring is my favorite way to color stamped images. I prefer to watercolor on really good watercolor paper and not ordinary cardstock. I think the end result is rich looking, and I think it's easier to control the water and colors when good watercolor paper is used. I buy watercolor paper tablets at artist supply stores or online at dickblick.com, and cut the pages down to the sizes I want to use on my projects. I also use a good water brush (aka Aquapainter). Stampin' Up sells a great quality brush set (2 per package), but you can also find other brands just as easily which are typically sold individually in various sizes. I prefer the medium size for most card-sized projects. I bought one of my water brushes at an artist supply store in Oregon, and I purchased my other water brushes from dickblick.com.
I stamp my images on the watercolor paper with Black Stazon ink. Stazon is an acid free, archival, fast drying solvent-based waterproof ink and can be ordered through Stampin' Up, found in local craft stores, and lots of online stores. Once the image is stamped, I put a dot of Stampin' Up re-inker color in the lid of my Stampin' UP stamp pad. While I use the lids of my ink pads, you could just as easily use a small plastic watercolor palette, an old CD, or even a plastic lid. But a little ink goes a LONG way, so I use the lids of my ink pads. The drop of ink will remain useable for months and months in the closed ink pad lid. With just a damp water brush (it should not be dripping wet, or dry) I pick color from the lid and begin filling in the stamped image, starting at the place color would be the darkest - usually the edge. Allowing colors to dry completely before adding colors next to one another helps keep the colors from flowing together. But, if you'd like a blended look, add additional colors while the base colors are still damp. I use both techniques, depending on the look I'd like the finished art to have.
It's important when coloring to determine a light source direction and paint your entire image using that light source as the direction light touches your subject. It doesn't matter which direction you choose for your light, as long as you're consistent in your coloring throughout the entire project. In this image, I wanted the light to look as though it were coming through a window to the left of the vase, and fade into the color of the wall as it got closer to the vase. I almost always paint the focus image first, before painting in the background. This helps me determine what colors to use, and where to place saturated color areas on the background once the main image is dry (while always keeping my light source in mind).
My last step is to add darker shades of color to places I want to emphasize shadow (or lack of light - in this example, less light from the window), which also gives a more three dimensional look to the colored piece.
For this colored image I used the following Stampin' Up re-inker colors: Old Olive (stems and leaves); Cool Caribbean, Not Quite Navy, Buckaroo Blue (vase); More Mustard, Really Rust, Close to Cocoa (flowers); So Saffron, More Mustard, Really Rust, Close to Cocoa, Chocolate Chip (background). Flower stamp by Whipper Snapper Designs, designed by me!
The best advice I can give to someone looking to improve watercolor skills is practice. Find examples you like, and figure out what it is about them that makes the image interesting to you. I think you'll find that it's usually light and color and how they're used that makes an image really stand out. And my last bit of advice is don't be afraid to use color! How you use color gives images life.
I hope you find these tips helpful! I'd love to know if this has helped you, and would love even more to see some of your work while you try out some of these ideas.
Prismacolor pencil and Gamsol tips coming soon!