Camel – From Sketch to Watercolor Step-by-step

We’ve talked about the evolution of camels before here, and usually on Fridays we talk about fossils and paleontology, but since July is coming to a close and I discovered too late that it was apparently World Watercolor Month (I’ll try to keep that in mind for next year), I am going to explain how I create a watercolor painting step by step, and it’s going to be a picture of a camel. This painting will be up for sale on my Redbubble and Threadless stores, so if you’re interested, please consider heading over there at the end.


The first step to any new idea is to figure out how to draw what it is you want to create. And I mean on the most basic level, don’t think about the composition or layout or pose of the final piece, just study the subject and learn what it looks like. Here are a few initial sketches of mine of camels because, although I’ve drawn them before, I needed to refresh my knowledge a bit and become re-familiarized with the shape of their bodies and heads. I just went onto Google images for some reference pictures, but be careful not to rely too much on these for later stages, as most pictures are not available for you to paint and sell as your own work. Besides, it does a lot of good to stretch your abilities to come up with your own ideas.

The second step is to sketch out your ideas for the piece. Play around with layout and poses. This is the stage where you figure out what you want the final piece to look like. Only move onto this step, though, when you feel confident that you’ve learned from step 1. Here are some of my ideas. The one I decided on a combination of a few of these ideas, as you’ll see in the next step.

The third step is to make a preliminary watercolor sketch. Some people don’t do this stage, I believe, but I find it useful to determining the values and colors before moving on to the final step. In this stage, the sketch is usually very small and I’m just thinking about the color values (how light or dark it is) and placement (where the yellows go, and the browns, etc.). This step allows me to fix any problems with contrast, too, because I’ll notice if it all seems to blend together.


The final step is the actual painting. This is where it all comes together. I sketch the outlines and reference shapes in a very light pencil, usually a pale peach color I have, and then erase lightly over it to make it even lighter. It will disappear under the paint, but since watercolors are transparent, a sketch that is too dark will show through and muddy the picture. I always refer back to the sketch I did in step three and take my time. Time is key to anything and, even though watercolors dry quickly and you only have a narrow window of time until you can’t move them around on the paper anymore, nothing good will come of rushing or failing to take the time to think your decisions through.


And there it is. This painting is for sale on my Redbubble and Threadless stores, on products like shirts, pillows, prints, or mugs.

If you liked this post, please let me know in the comments so I’ll know if you would like more like this. If you’re a painter, let me know if you work in a similar way to me or not. Thank you for taking the time to read and, until next time, goodbye!

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