Watercolor can be a difficult medium to master because of its unpredictable nature. Mistakes are hard to correct because you can't just paint over them as you do with acrylics or oil paint. Despite this, it's a very fun and rewarding medium to work with for as long as you're up for the challenge!
Practice is a must if you want to gain proficiency in this medium. To help you get some practice time in, we have Jola Sopek of IG: @jolapictures on the blog today to show us how to paint a fish using watercolors! Read on for her step-by-step tutorial and learn a few watercolor tips and tricks along the way! Take it away, Jola!
Hello there! My name is Jola and you can find me at @jolapictures on Instagram where I post daily timelapse videos of my watercolour illustrations along with bits of calligraphy and some how-to's!
I have been painting with watercolour for about a year and a half now. When I first discovered it, it was a complete mystery to me. However, I quickly became hooked and decided to sit down and practice every day. Fast forward to September 2018 and I still cannot stop thinking about painting!
I thought I would share with you a timelapse video of painting a Norwegian Salmon along with some step-by-step tips for creating a similar piece. Perhaps you could try to paint your favourite fish! Most importantly, have fun with and don’t worry if it doesn’t come out “perfect”. It’s all about the process and incremental progress!
CHECK OUT THE VIDEO BELOW:
- White Nights full-pan watercolours
- Winsor & Newton Cotman and Professional series
- Daniel Smith watercolours
- Winsor & Newton Cotman round size 8
- Princeton Round 4050 Series size 2 and 5
- Seawhite of Brighton 350gsm cold-press watercolour paper
- A3 cutting mat by Jackson's Art Supplies.
- Sakura Gelly Roll 08
HOW TO PAINT A NORWEGIAN SALMON:
For this piece I used 350gsm cold press (textured) watercolour paper by Seawhite of Brighton. I prefer to use cold pressed paper for all my illustrations because the texture helps to create more interesting blending effects. It is important to use good quality paper because it is the most important element of watercolour painting – the surface you are working on needs to be able to withstand large amounts of water.
I paint on top of an A3 cutting mat to protect my desk surface from any damage.
Choose your reference image/object and draw a sketch outline of the subject. Make sure your outline is delicate and the pencil lines are soft – watercolour is a very transparent medium so you will be able to see the pencil marks if they are too defined.
Consider preparing the colours you are intending to use in a piece before you go ahead. A lot of the time you will need to mix paint to achieve a desired colour so it is generally useful to have those colours already mixed when you are in the midst of painting!
I like to make mini colour charts that I put next to my painting paper for immediate reference.
You can use whatever watercolours you have on hand – I personally don’t know that much about watercolour pencils and mostly use watercolour pans and tubes. My favourite brands are White Nights, Winsor & Newton (both Cotman and professional range are superb) and Daniel Smith (if I can afford it!). My brushes of choice are the Princeton Heritage 4050 round brushes in size 2 and 5.
Lay down the first wash of light, watered-down colour onto paper. Try to put the appropriate colours in the desired areas, but definitely keep the amount of paint to a minimum at this point.
Add more detail as you go along, and try to apply slightly thicker, more saturated washes on top of the first layer.
Add the details! Now that you have defined the base colours, go ahead and add the textures of the fish’ scales, mouth and eyes. I tend to use darker shades for that so that the details ‘pop’. In the eye area of this particular fish I also used a white gel pen to accentuate the highlights of the eye ball.
CHECK OUT THE FINISHED PIECE BELOW:
I really hope you enjoyed this mini tutorial! I hope you feel inspired to paint your favourite fish now.
Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram for more similar content!
Have a question about this process? Comment below and we'll do our best to answer you!
To see more of Jola's work, visit or contact her here: