Painting Light in Watercolour
Creating the effects of strong light in watercolour relies on the ability to mix light and dark colours and apply them with confidence. This is particularly relevant when mixing strong darks to create contrast. You can make your colour mixing process easier by following the formula outlined below.
To mix pale tones place an amount of water in your palette first and gradually add amounts of colour until the appropriate strength has been reached. Pale tones are hard to judge because they sometimes dry a little stronger on the paper than they actually look in the palette. Create a dark tone in your painting as soon as you can and this will help you to judge the paler tones better.
To mix strong tones place an amount of colour in your palette first and add small amounts of water until the required strength has been reached. Strong tones must flow on the paper as easily as pale watery ones and in this respect you must prepare the required volume of paint in your palette. Yes, this does mean using lots more of that precious paint!
First think how light relates to colour. Colour is seen either in direct light or in shade so features in direct light can be painted in pure high chroma colours from your paint set. Colour in shade takes on a slightly neutral hue and depending on the amount of light, will become greyer the more that light is absent. To create shadow colours, use the relevant colour as seen in the light and add amounts of its complementary colour, making the mix denser by using more colour and less water.
An alternative way to create shades is to progress the colour through the spectrum towards violet, for example if you we're working with orange you could shade it by adding, red, red-violet then violet.