Kitten! – Pencil to Paint Tutorial


Artwork-Zebra Zensations Technical Pen and watercolor on a Hahnemühle Cold Pressed Watercolor Postcard. Brushes: Escoda Perla Round Size 8 and 12

I’ve got family stuff going on this week, and won’t be around too much, but I wanted to get at least one Pencil to Paint tutorial done.

Since most of my Pencil to Paints revolve around my Postcards for the Lunch Bag, there is a certain similarity to them and I had an idea that would shake things up a bit and save me some time.

I’m going to write this as a series of questions. Hah! Bet you weren’t expecting a quiz! Don’t worry. The questions for each section will be answered at the end of the section. You’re the only one who’ll see your answers or know if you just scooted to the end to look for them.

Don’t fret if you don’t automatically know the answers. Knowing or figuring out the answers isn’t really the point. These are questions that you’ll want to answer with your own work. Eventually, you know your own answers without even thinking, but you do need to ask them in the beginning.

This painting is what is known as a ‘line and wash’ because it is drawn in pen first and then painted with watercolor.

Before You Start

Reference photo courtesy of MauricioMagana on Pixabay

Okay. So it’s obvious I’ll want CUTE!

  • What about this photo screams cute?
    • (your ideas may be different from mine)
  • What techniques might I use to create the cute?
  • What edges might I want?
  • What colors might I use (keep in mind that I may change my mind as I go on. I’m thinking ahead at this point)?
  • What might the biggest challenges be?
Answers

See. I told you the answers would be right here!

What about this photo screams cute?

  • This is a puffball!
  • And how about that beard?
  • Those misty blue eyes
  • That frown
  • That tiny pink nose

What techniques might I use to create the cute?

What edges might I want?

What colors might I use?

  • Monte Amita, Aussie Red Gold for the kitten
  • Moonglow for the shadows and eyes
  • Undersea Green and the above colors for the background

What might the biggest challenges be?

  • There isn’t a lot of contrast. It will be easy to make the eyes stand out, but I don’t want them to seem like they’re floating in fluff!

Pencil

(This scan is darkened so you can see the pencil lines. You should pencil lines in lightly)

  • What did I establish with this drawing?
  • What technique did I use to draw this?
Answers

What did I establish with this drawing?

  • That the kitten fit on the page
  • Where the facial features and ears should be placed
  • That the eyes matched in size and shape
  • Where I’ll add texture to the fur

What technique did I use to draw this?

  • Blind Contour Drawing (but I peeked often)

Not sure if you’re up to drawing this? Art Tutor has a great grid program that will help by applying a grid to your uploaded photo. You can also crop and adjust color and value.

Pen

Whoa! This is quite a bit different from my usual pen drawing. As in, there isn’t much of it.

  • What did I establish with this drawing?
  • Why didn’t I draw the shapes, textures and directions of the fur?
  • What kind of techniques am I likely to use when I paint?
  • What kind of edges am I likely to use when I paint?
  • Why did I squirkle (scribble) in the background
Answers

What did I establish with this drawing?

  • The focus (the eyes)
  • Values. There isn’t a lot of contrast from dark to light, but the eyes and shadows at the bottom of the kitten are the darkest areas.

Why didn’t I draw the shapes, textures and directions of the fur?

  • Kitty is such a soft, fluffy, puffball. I want this softness most of all, so I’ll only lightly indicate shapes, textures and directions with the paint.

What kind of techniques am I likely to use when I paint?

  • Washes, wet-into-wet, glazing, color lifting, and negative painting.

What kind of edges am I likely to use when I paint?

  • Mostly soft, some lost and found, and a few hard edges.

Why did I squirkle (scribble) in the background

  • Again with the softness. I don’t want a lot of detail and the squirkling will add some interest and some contrast without needing detail.

Values= dark to light. When you establish your values, you are deciding where the darkest areas are, and some of the important mid-tones.

Paint

  • Was my paper wet or dry?
  • What paint to water ratio did I use for this step of the painting?
  • What techniques did I use?
  • What kind of edges did I create?
  • How did I depart from the reference photo?
  • What colors did I use?
    • Why did I decide to switch one color from my initial plan?
Answers

Was my paper wet or dry?

  • My paper was wet.

What paint to water ratio did I use for this step of the painting?

  • For these initial *washes I used the consistency of tea – essentially just a enough paint to color the water.

*A wash is a thin layer of paint spread over an area at the beginning of the painting. A wash that is applied over previously dried paint is called a glaze – they’re the same thing except one is directly on plain paper and one is over paint.

What kind of techniques did I use?

  • Wash and wet-into-wet**. A little negative painting*** to create the shape of the head and beard.

**Wet-into-wet means color is dropped or brushed into already wet paint so that the colors mingle, creating lost and found edges.

***Negative painting means you painted darker color around a shape.

What kind of edges did I create?

  • Soft edge. Negative painting is usually done with hard edges, but at this stage, I used soft edges.

How did I depart from the reference photo?

  • The kitten is more of a cream tabby. That color wasn’t one of the important things to me. I decided to go more ginger – red on yellow so I could create more contrast.

What colors did I use?

  • Monte Amiata and Sodalite Genuine for the washes. Aussie Red Gold was brushed in the Monte with the wet-into-wet technique.

Why did I decide to switch one color from my initial plan?

I decided that Sodalite Genuine better matched the color of the eyes. It’s more blue versus the Moonglow’s violet.

  • Was the first layer of paint wet or dry?
  • What paint to water ratio did I use for this step of the painting?
  • What techniques did I use?
  • What kind of edges did I create?
  • What colors did I use?
    • Why did I decide to switch one color from my initial plan?
Answers

Was first layer of paint wet or dry?

  • The first layer of paint was completely dry.

What paint to water ratio did I use for this step of the painting?

  • For this step, I used the consistency of sweetened tea. Still watery but a heavier concentration of paint.

What kind of techniques did I use?

  • Glazing and Negative painting.

What kind of edges did I create?

  • Hard and soft edges. Hard to create the stripes and some of the negative painting shaping. Soft edges on the body.

What colors did I use?

  • Aussie Red Gold for the stripes. Quinacridone Rose for the interior of the ears, and around the mouth and nose. Wisteria and Moonglow in the background.

Why did I decide to switch one color from my initial plan?

Originally I had thought I’d use Undersea Green and go for a red/green complimentary contrast. However, there is such a soft atmosphere about the reference photo, and I decided I wanted a softer contrast. (In other words, I changed my mind midstream).

I decided to go for the yellow/purple contrast and went with wisteria and moonglow. I did leave some of the Sodalite Genuine showing so it would echo the color in the eyes. This also meant I let the yellower Monte Amiata dominate over the Aussie Red Gold.

  • Were the previous layers of paint wet or dry?
  • What paint to water ratio did I use for this step of the painting?
  • What techniques did I use?
  • What kind of edges did I create?
  • What colors did I use?
Answers

Were the previous layers of paint wet or dry?

  • The previous layers of paint were completely dry.

What paint to water ratio did I use for this step of the painting?

  • I used two consistencies. I added shadows with a water and the barest tint of color. I used the sweetened tea consistency to darken up the background.

What kind of techniques did I use?

  • Glazing for the shadows and the background, and Negative painting where the background meets the kitten.

What kind of edges did I create?

  • Soft and Lost & Found for the shadows. Hard for the negative painting.

What colors did I use?

  • Moonglow for the shadows. I deepened by glazing more Moonglow and Wisteria in the background.

Almost done!

  • Were the previous layers of paint wet or dry?
  • What paint to water ratio did I use for this step of the painting?
  • What techniques did I use?
  • What kind of edges did I create?
  • Pencil lines show in the finished work. Is that okay?
  • What did I use for the last step?
Answers

Were the previous layers of paint wet or dry?

  • The paint was just barely damp, and dry in some areas.

What paint to water ratio did I use for this step of the painting?

  • I didn’t add any paint in this step.

What techniques did I use?

  • Color lifting along the outline of the kitten and on parts of the body.

Paint flows toward wet. When you lift color, the paint needs to be wetter than the brush you are using to lift. You don’t want to scrub, just run the brush across the area where you want to lift color. You can also dab with brush or kleenex.

Some of the color shows through from beneath and you can get a woolly texture which is what I wanted for the puffball effect.

What kind of edges did I create?

  • Soft and Lost & Found edges.

I had thought I’d keep more of the hard negative painting edges at various points but went all soft.

What did I use for the last step?

  • I used a white gel pen to add the eyes, the whiskers and to lighten the beard just a tad.

Pencil lines show in the finished work. Is that okay?

  • Yes. Since watercolor is so transparent, it an accepted thing for the initial sketch to show through. Some artists seek to keep it showing.

Afterthoughts

How might I have done this differently?

Answers

How might I have done this differently?

  • Wet-into-wet is the hardest technique for me, but it would have been a good way to approach this painting. I could have left the pen drawing out altogether, used wet-into-wet then glazed the details of the face.
  • I ran out of time, or I would have brightened the shadows with a very light tint of Rose of Ultramarine.

So what you do guys think of this method? As it turned out, it didn’t save me a whole lot of time, but it would if I did it often enough.

Tools

And where you can buy them

Daniel Smith Watercolor:

Zebra Zensations Technical pens (review)

Joseph Zbukvic Watercolor Set No.1 Set of 3 Fine Artist Paint Brushes

Published by Life Imitates Doodles Art, Reviews & Tutorials

Artist Ambassador for Zebra Pens. I'm a self-taught artist who dances about with all sorts of artistic mediums. My main loves are Watercolor, Zentangle and Ballpoint pen. The subjects of my work are many and varied and change at whim. I'm a little bit crazy, but doesn't that come with being an artist? At my Life Imitates Doodles Blog, I post a list of resource links for Tangles, Tutorials and Giveaways two times a week. I also write reviews, hold giveaways and share my art work.

7 thoughts on “Kitten! – Pencil to Paint Tutorial

  1. Thank you for the detailed instructions. Your last line made me laugh – practice is the first step. I don’t use black ink in my watercolor paintings, just a personal choice. But since all my grands and many other friends like cats and kittens, (also bunnies) I find myself trying to perfect the wet into wet technique – very delicately. One of these days, I might paint something I like. You did a great job of capturing this kitty’s expression.

  2. This was so informative! Thank you for doing it. I just might try it on my kitty. (Not painting on her…..lol) I want to bring a picture of her next time we meet, so you can give me some pointers. Her coloring is difficult to capture, kind of a blurred patterned. You captured the kitty’s expression so well! Safe travels.

  3. Your step by step instructions make me believe I might be able to do this too ! I love looking at the kitty, it makes me feel good :))

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