DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Watercolor Feather (For Beginners)

watercolor-feather-19b

Can you believe it’s almost spring? Here in Portland, the rain clouds have been taking more frequent breaks to let the sun shine and people are preparing their gardens for the new year. One rainy afternoon I felt the urge to get out my watercolors and play. I had fun experimenting with a favorite subject (one that fits our DIY Craft Challenge theme this month), FEATHERS and decided to share a few of my favorite ways to paint one.

This is a great project for those who are just learning how to use watercolors. Be sure to check out my other posts on Watercolor Basic Supplies & Techniques and 8 Watercolor Techniques For Beginners.

Materials Needed:

• Watercolor paper
• Watercolor paints
• Small + medium size brushes
• Black fine tip pen (I use 0.3 Copic Multi Liner)
• Pencil
• White gouache
• Sea salt
• Feathers (for inspiration)

Prep Your Paper & Sketch

Start by cutting your watercolor paper to three pieces of equal size (I cut mine to be 4″ x 6″). OR you can simply paint all three feathers onto the same page. Then lightly sketch a feather shape with pencil. To do this, first draw an elongated oval shape. Then sketch a straight line down the middle (this will be the stem).
DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Watercolor Feather

METHOD #1: Color Wash + Black Pen

Start by creating a color wash within the feather shape. To do this, first paint your feather shape with a thin layer of clear water only.
DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather
Then prep a few colors by wetting the pigment with water. While the feather shape is still wet, use your brush to drop color randomly onto the wetted surface (I like to use two or three colors for this). Allow the paint to flow together. You can even lift your paper slightly to help it run together.

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

OPTIONAL: Wait a minute or two, and while the paint is still wet, sprinkle some sea salt over the top. Let dry completely, then brush off any remaining salt from the paper.

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

Once dry you can decide whether or not you want to do a second color wash layer. I chose to add some more red/orange paint to the bottom of my feather to achieve a darker, more vibrant hue. Don’t forget to paint a stem!

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

Next get out a fine tipped black felt pen. I use a 0.3 Copic Multi Liner. First draw two lines down the center. You want the lines to come to a point near the top of the feather to create the stem. Next you can begin drawing lines from the stem starting and at the top of the feather and working your way down.

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

Experiment with leaving space between the lines at different intervals. You could also try different mark making techniques like dots, dashed lines, or even illustrated patterns.

TIP: If drawing with pen directly onto your watercolor feather is too nerve-wrecking, you can lightly sketch your lines with pencil first and then go over with pen.

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

METHOD #2: Color Wash + Watercolor Details

Start by sketching your feather shape. I chose to sketch my stem in an arc/curve shape this time. Then create a light color wash by first painting the feather shape with a thin layer of clear water and then dropping paint at random onto the wetted surface.

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

TIP: To paint a lighter shade color wash, all you have to do as add more water to your paint to dilute the pigment.

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

OPTIONAL: Because I like texture, I chose to sprinkle some sea salt over the color wash (just like in Method #1). Let dry completely, then brush off any remaining salt.

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

Next create a second layer with feathery details. First choose a darker color (I chose a dark green) to paint the stem.
DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

Using a small brush, begin to paint whispy lines starting at the stem going out to the edge of your color wash. Experiment by using a few different colors of the same hue.

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

Once you complete your second whispy layer, you can continue to add more color or detail (while the paint is still wet) until you achieve a look you like. Once finished, let dry completely.

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather
DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

METHOD #3: Color Wash + Gouache Details

Sketch your feather. This time I chose to create a slightly more detailed sketch. Start with the basic feather shape and then using your actual feather as inspiration, lightly draw ‘more wild’ feather shape.

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

Fill the feather shape with a color wash the same way we did in the last two methods. Paint the shape with clear water and then use your brush to drop in color at random.

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

Then while the paint is till wet, choose a darker color and add in some stripes. Do this by dropping in the dark color in intervals, leaving gaps in between each ‘stripe’. You can keep adding color until you get a look you like. Then let dry completely.

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

Then add some white gouache to your palette and using a fine tip brush, paint a line down the center of the feather and add in some white dots. Let dry and you’re done!

DIY: Three Ways To Paint A Feather

Three ways To Paint A Feather