As promised, here is a step by step of the gouache painting for the chapter 3 cover of Starcrossed. I was working on it last night and began to get a little tired so I stopped. I plan to finish the pic later today and will post the rest of the progress in a second post.
I posted the original in a previous post. The drawing is ink on 11” x 14” (27.9 x 36.5 cm) bristol paper. It’s a nice and heavy weight paper that, aside from a little curling, stands up to gouache nicely.
I suppose I should start with a little introduction to gouache (rhymes with “wash”). There’s a few reasons I wanted to use it, firstly as a little personal challenge. I don’t use it very often. When I use traditional media, it’s usually in the form of acrylic paint which is a different beast entirely.
Secondly, well, I just happen to have a lot of it lying around. It’s all left over from a color theory class I took a while back. It’s expensive and one of the higher quality brands, so I might as well use it.
Nowadays gouache can be a little hard to find. Typically you can only find one or two brands at your local craft and hobby store as opposed to what is usually a far more plentiful selection of acrylic and oil paints. My professor wanted us all to use a specific brand (Windsor and Newton) that so far I’ve only been able to find through Utrecht and as I said, they’re not cheap (about $6 to $15 a tube).
It was commonly used for cel paintings (backgrounds were usually watercolor) in animation and movie posters which have mostly been replaced by digital media. While not as commonly used, you can still see it used nowadays by artists such as Alex Ross. Seriously if you don’t know his work, Google him. He’s awesome.
Gouache can be a bit daunting when first trying it. It’s easy to go into it treating it like watercolor but it’s a lot more opaque and dries darker than it is while wet. I recommend giving it a chance. You have to be patient, but it’s worth while. For one it was easier to take photos for this tutorial because gouache doesn’t reflect light the way other paint does. The only thing I adjusted in the photos was brightness. If you’re having trouble scanning or taking photos of your paintings because the color’s a bit off, you may want to give gouache a try.
Moving on, here are the colors I will be using:
The reason there are two reds, two yellows, and two blues has to do with color mixing. We needed a warm and cool tone of each of the primary colors. Rose Tyrien (a more magenta color) makes a much more vivid violet when mixed with Ultramarine (violet-blue) than if you used Cadmium Red for example. Cadmium Red, however, is perfect for making orange when mixed with Brilliant Yellow. It gives you a broader scope of colors than just having one color for each of your primaries.
Here’s a close up of the white in case you were curious about the brand:
Here’s a photo of my work space:
Here’s a brief rundown of some key components: 1) Spray bottle. I occasionally like to give my paint a fine mist to keep it moist while it’s on the palette. A couple of drops of water from an eye dropper works well also but I can’t find mine :( 2) Cup of water. Make sure to change it frequently especially if using a lot of different colors. 3) Palette. I like this one because it holds water with the paint to keep it from drying out. 4) Paint. Arranged by color for ease of access and to appeal to the inner OCD in all of us. 5) Brushes. Paper towel is to soak up excess moisture. 6) Artwork. It’s the reason you’re here. 7) A friend crocheting granny circles looking on.
So now it’s time to get started on the artwork. Generally you want to start at the background and work your way forward. It’s easier to paint over something than to paint around it. Background is pretty simple here:
I used Ultramarine, Turquoise Blue, and white for the background. Normally with gouache, the water to paint ratio should make the end result something akin to melted ice cream. I wanted to give the background a bit more texture so I dry brushed it in spots. Also be mindful of your line art in this stage. Since Gouache is so opaque I started to lose my lines in places.
Next I started on Seren’s face. I didn’t want the colors I mixed to dry out so here’s her face with a break down of what I did:
1) Around the collar bone area you can see the base tone. Since I wanted a cooler skin tone to go with the pic I used my magenta and cool yellow mixed with white and a hint of blue. 2) Since skin is reflective it picks up colors in the environment around it so I let some of the blue from the background show through. There will be more blues added to her face later. 3) For realism and dimension I like to add a touch of blush to her face (using the magenta here). Skin color is made up of several components: Pigmentation, environment, and blood under the skin which adds a natural blush around the cheek and nose area. The same color here was also used in her lips. 4) Highlights (dried). I used the base skin tone + white and a touch of Cadmium lemon. You don’t want to add just white for highlights because the end result tends to look chalky. 5) Highlights (wet). Here’s an example of the difference between wet gouache and how much darker it dries. You typically end up using a lot more of your lighter colors than dark ones to compensate.
Here’s how the whole pic looks so far after I added a little bit of the blue in her face. Subtle, but ties the picture together more.
After the skin dried all the way, I went back and re-lined what the gouache covered up. It really makes her face pop. Also the only parts I’ve used black in the entire painting will be Seren’s hair and Quinn’s shirt. Black gouache is so strong it overpowers other colors very easily. If you find yourself needing to mute a color, I suggest adding its complement (opposite color on the color wheel). If you absolutely need black to darken it, just remember a little goes a very long way.
I don’t really have much of a step by step for Quinn since I was getting tired and wanted to get it done. Overall it’s the same concept as Seren. For her freckles, I just used the skin tone plus a touch of Magenta. The only big difference is that her hair is a lot more detailed, but I think I’ll save hair for another post. On a side note, I’m really proud of how her hair turned out! :D Also, the hands aren’t completely done, but note the blush on the palms. Details, people!
Detail shot of Seren. I still need to paint her top but overall she’s done.
And here’s what I have so far. I started to get a little sloppy with Quinn’s jacket so I decided to stop for the night. It should be noted, however, that for the white part of her jacket and the whites of their eyes aren’t a pure white, just different shades of blue. Also none of the shadows in this picture have black in them. The only times black was used are for Quinn’s shirt, Seren’s hair, and the lines. For one, as stated black can easily overpower your other colors but also black really flatten things out. Black is wonderful for bold, graphic elements but can be difficult to work with. Use with caution.
Anyhoo this is what I have so far. Be sure to look out for the next post with the conclusion of this tutorial. :D