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The Significance of Background Color Layer in Watercolor Art

Before painting any details for your watercolor art, having a defined base color layer is very important. And I learned this from the experience of painting without and with the base color layer. Though both techniques work depending on the case, I find the base color coat layer method more reliable. The base color layer is a layer that defines your color area of art on the paper irrespective of defined or undefined edges and encourages you to plan the colors before you start the painting. This is a very important aspect, especially in painting with watercolors, of having the colors ready on the palette using the wet-on-wet technique.

I usually paint using this technique where you apply a layer of clean water before putting colors on paper and then dab the colors. Water helps in spreading and blending the watercolors on paper.

Recently I painted a beautiful parrot in watercolours and this method of painting helped me a lot. After sketching the necessary details, I applied a clear water layer on the entire parrot body except the beak and later started dabbing and spreading sap green. For reference, I chose a photo of a parrot that was not overexposed and had defining shadows for its feathers. This helped me decide where to put a light wash, concentrate the color, or introduce a new color so that it could blend with the dominant color of the painting.

Another important factor of the base layer is painting shadows. As we all know, watercolors are all about building layers upon layers, a complementary or contrasting base coat enhances the shadow as layers are built upon it.

So coming back to the watercolor parrot painting, I painted the base color coat with the intention that I would not want to paint another layer on light-exposed parts. To create depth, I played with the number of color variations, particularly for shadows.

Once the base color coat was completely dry, I started layering the painting to show the feathers resting upon each other and occasionally introducing another color too!

The interaction of the dried base coat and wet color it gave some amazing color variations.

To paint a realistic bird, here in the case of this parrot, the feathers were resting upon each other as it closed its wings. So the feather painting was of two parts, mutual shadows of the feathers upon each other and scattered look to reveal the feathers below. The negative painting technique gave the desired results.

Another important aspect of a base color coat is that it demands having colors ready to be used on the palette. That means one has to plan and mix the colors on the palette otherwise, the intention of blending and spreading the colors on paper will fail. Also, incorrect choice of color or hurriedly putting the color on the paper will ruin the painting.

Taking all these factors into consideration, I have started practicing this technique more and it has resulted in some beautiful paintings

The finished painting of the parrot in watercolors. You can watch how I painted this here


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