Page Three

Place the cut out scale against the area of your picture you are using as a reference and then compare with the tone of the area you are working on.  You will be surprised how light your own work is and how much more depth of colour you need.  A hole in a small piece of white or black card is another useful tonal guide and enables you to compare a small area of your picture with the corresponding small area of your reference.  Once again, you will be surprised how light your own work is.  You could use a hole punch to take out a small hole in each of the shade samples on the tonal scales.

If you de-saturate a colour photo, that is take it back from full colour to shades of grey - or alternatively simply print off a colour photo with ‘black ink only’ on your printer settings, you can see the relative levels of tone in the various parts of your picture.

This is a great help in seeing how far you need to go in getting in those areas of dark colour.

I will post up a PDF file of the working picture in shades of grey to help you.

When we put down our underpainting, we will be doing two things.  1/ we will be tinting the paper to get rid of white  and at the same time we have the option 2/ of building up some areas of shadow - underpainting darker shades into the areas of maximum shadow.  These can be of additional layers of wash or can be put in with dry watercolour pencil and moistened to bed the pigment in.

             PDF File of Allerford Ford in Shades of grey

The first step was to identify a selection of colours that could well prove useful from my box of watercolour pencils.  

LET ME EMPHASISE HERE that exact colour matching is not  vital.  Merely the selection of some colours that provide a basis for working. Your Dry Point pencils will provide all the correction you need and get you to the exact shade later on.  

For the moment, we need only basic colours.

I have chosen an Earth Green ( dark green ) 55 from Staedtler,  A simple mid green ( 5 )  A light olive green (56) - but you could use an ochre.  A light reddish brown called Fawn on the box (49) but it is a long way from Fawn !  and  a light grey  ( 80 ) and a reddish grey (08)

I may well not need all of these, but they look like a useful set of colours.

Two more images above

show the addition of the colour to the buildings.

As you will see, Not all the surfaces have had colour wash - particularly the left hand cream building.  I have not yet decided whether to give this an underpaint or to rely on the dry colour later.  There has been some mixing of colours to get the shades right - I could have done with a light yellow/ochre on the plate but exact colour is not important for the underpainting washes.

Note that the wash tones are substantially lighter than the tones we will look for in the finished picture.  Using your tonal strips, you should be able to check that you keep at least 20% away from the depth of colour you will aim for at the end.  This ensures that you have some room for adjustment.

Critical needs are to keep really light ( or white ) areas free of colour.  I failed to do this in the white areas either side of the dormer windows in the facing building roof and beside the main chimney but this will not be too great a problem.

If you are not used to watercolour, this may be a stressful stage to complete, and you may need more than one stab at it. Hence the usefulness of that trace being kept.  

If you can’t get on with the underpainting process, don’t worry, we will look at alternatives after Christmas, when I will examine  the process of laying down dry watercolour pencil shading and damping it.

This produces stronger colour for the underpainting and is not so flexible, but it is probably easier.   

I go for the flexible approach I have just shown you as it is less liable to produce problems in picture harmony.

You will see that in using only a small selection of colours for the underpainting, the picture already looks quite easy on the eye.  We need to work with this and keep the colour range restricted

The plate after the colours have been mixed and taken off for the buildings stage.

Note that I might have been better off including a light ochre and a stronger red brown in place of the fawn I included.

But correct colours are not vital at this stage

These two images show you the use of the tonal scales

Above is the comparison between the reference and the underpainting which is easy to see, but the scale actually shows up the relative weakness in the wash colour at around 20 - 30%.

The colour depth in the reference is between 70 - 80%.

This means that as we develop colour we still have room to adjust the tones, but we have already lost the white of the paper, and if we were to chose to do so, we could now go in and add more layers of wash to bring the colour depth nearer 50%.

I hope that this answers most questions about underpainting, but feel free to write and ask if you have queries.

 The PDF file of the Tonal scales now includes examples of Blue and of Orange, making 7 scales to print out and use.  The blue one may help you assess the depth of colour in a sky.  There is no Yellow scale as yellow is a low strength colour and low percentages of yellow do not show up well.  I may change over one of the green scales at a later date for a more useful colour.


Allerford 2

Saturday DECEMBER 5th 2009

All the best laid plans etc etc........

At least I am fully back in action again with the computer here now running smoothly on the new Windows 7 Operating system.

If the light holds today, I am hopeful of getting the next step posted later this evening or tomorrow.

In the meantime, you may wish to download the PDF file of a set of tonal scales.  The main one is the black to white scale which takes you through 10 stages from black to white in 10% steps.  This can be printed out on to thick paper or card and then cut up into it’s various sections.  The colour scales may prove useful and were simple to do whilst I was setting up the other one.   

(See later for a scale in use)

I have used an inexpensive small ( No 5 ) pointed watercolour brush with a good point,  as I need to get into corners accurately, but holding a lot of liquid colour is not important

You can see from the white plate that I scraped the shavings on to a damp surface.   That saves you from coughing and blowing all the fine shavings everywhere !This gives me my ‘paint box’  and where the colours meet they mix themselve

s into a range of other tints.  You can see how it is possible to pick up some suitable colour and then water it down in a separate dish which I have beside me to hold a thin wash of the selected shade.

I have mixed some green and show the mix and the effect of the thin wash on my sample paper.

With the working surface upside down, and the reference upside down as well,  I can work the top tree area with an exact edge along the tops of the buildings.  I was careful to cut around the chimney pots but missed that area of light ground in the corner of the main chimney, the roof and the trees and painted it green.  Those trees have now spread a little but it doesn’t matter.

You will see that I have painted beyond the edges of the drawing.  This gives me some flexibility for the future if I need it

Successive images show how the colour builds and how I introduce a lighter green by mixing in the olive green as we get nearer the front of the picture.  I have added a little of the dark grey into the wash for the final areas of tree shadow and that is as far as I have got for now.

The next stage tomorrow, will be to look at the other colours.  All the mixed colour on the plate will dry overnight but be fully usable tomorrow

I have enhanced the images so that you can more easily see what I have done.  The actual wash levels are much paler than seen below





Next Page

PDF File

Of Tonal


click to download

tonal charts sheet  resave dec 2016.pdf