Spool of thread is an easy lesson for beginners with fun watercolor textures – saran wrap and wood grain with a fan brush. The colorful background will make your spool of thread pop for an interesting twist on watercolor realism.
Downloads for Spool of Thread
Suggested Colors for Fun Watercolor Techniques
- Red – Quinacridone based red will give best mixes
- Yellow – any good yellow (I used Winsor Yellow)
- Blue – Cobalt or any pretty blue
- Brown – any tube brown or mix your red, yellow + a little blue to make a brown
- Black or dark – use a tube black or your own black mix (dark blue + brown works)
- White – any opaque white that covers well (I use Bleed Proof White by Dr. Martin)
Step by Step Directions for Spool of Thread Watercolor Tutorial
Step 1 – Draw or trace your spool outline onto your paper with graphite paper.
Step 2 – Paint the fun watercolor background.
(Note the student painting below – the student opted for a black background with more spools.)
Wet the background behind the spool with clean water. You can go over the needle.
Mix puddles of red, yellow and blue (or black, if desired).
Paint – Drop or brush in three areas of each color (or apply your black).
Blend by tilting the paper – let gravity do the work. If your paint doesn’t move, use a misting bottle to add a tiny bit more liquid until the paint does move a bit.
Every background will be unique – some stay with the red, yellow and blue, and others blend into greens, purples and oranges.
Tweak your colors – You can add more color if needed.
Step 3 – Press plastic wrap into the still wet background wash.
Tear off a piece of plastic wrap much larger than your paper. Wrinkle it up, then spread it back out, leaving some wrinkles.
Press the wrinkled plastic wrap onto the wet paper with the palms of your hands. (Don’t poke with your fingers or you’ll leave spots!)
Leave the wrap on for at least 15 – 30 minutes for the paint to set in this fun random pattern, then pull off.
Step 4 – Easy technique to paint wood grain with watercolor.
Optional – Masking – place a piece of masking tape outside of the top wood edge to help maintain a straight line.
Paint the wood grain lines. Use black paint and a fan brush to suggest wood grain on your paper. Twist the brush as your paint, because wood grain doesn’t go in straight lines. Add a knothole on the left with more paint.
Paint the brown. Mix a puddle of rich brown paint. Gently paint the brown over the wood grain lines, trying not to disturb them.
Paint the top of the wood with the same color but lighter, with more water and less paint. You can add a little yellow if you want it warmer.
Add shading – When the top dries, use the darker brown to paint a line of shadow around the bottom of the spool and to over side.
Step 5 – For a realistic spool of thread paint color, shadow and highlight.
Paint the spool – paint the spool of thread any color you like. (I did red.)
Lift the highlight – if the spool is still wet, use a just damp brush to lift up a line of paint on the left side for a highlight. If the spool is dry, rewet the area you want lighter with clean water and then lift. Wipe the lifted paint on a paper towel.
Add the shadow side – mix a darker red by adding black or dark green to your red then paint on a darker area on the right side for the shading.
Paint the top and bottom wooden part of the spool with beige – brown + yellow. Leave the very top lighter or white.
More realism – add a darker line under the top wooden part for a shadow. Add a thin white line along the top edge of the bottom wood part for your highlight.
Step 6 – Add the needle and thread, plus finishing touches to your Spool of Thread watercolor.
Needle – Use opaque white paint to paint or clean up the needle. Use paint or an ink pen to draw a thin dark line on the right side of the needle for a shadow.
Thread Highlight – use opaque white to make a whiter area in the middle of your highlight.
Loose Thread – paint the thread dangling from the needle with white or red.