Make your watercolors pop with dark backgrounds! Learn about the best dark colors for watercolor painting in this window still life tutorial featuring two ways to mask watercolors.
Downloads for Watercolor Still Life
- Outline page 8 x 10
- Outline page card size
- Reference Photo – click here to download or access jpeg version
- Finished Painting
Extra reference photo for more practice
Suggested Paint Colors for Window Still Life in Watercolor
I used the colors below but feel free to use any of your own colors in place of these. I’d recommend buying pyrrole orange and maybe dioxazine purple or indanthrone blue for good darks.
- Orange PO71 – Transparent Pyrrole Orange – mix with dark blue or purple to make gorgeous browns to blacks
- Yellow – Azo Yellow PY97
- Blue – Indanthrone PB60 or Phthalo Blue PB15 for darks, Cobalt Blue for mixing wood colors
- Purple – Dioxazine purple PV23 can be used in place of blue to mix the background or brown colors.
- Greens – mix your blue plus yellow – add orange, brown or more blue to darken
Painting Steps for Watercolor Window Still Life tutorial
Step 1 – Draw or trace your outline onto your watercolor paper using graphite paper.
Step 2 – Mask the straight window edges with masking tape.
(For all the tips on masking click here.)
Tear or cut pieces of masking tape and place them on the sides of the windows and the cutting boards – where you don’t want the paint to flow. rub the edges for a good seal
Step 3 – Apply liquid masking to still life objects edges – optional
Use an old brush to apply liquid masking to the outside edges of the leaves, flowers and vases. Dry.
Step 4 – Paint the watercolor still life background a dark value
Are Dark Values in Watercolor Worth the Effort – YES!
Below is my painting of a rabbit with it’s initial light background and the finished version, with a dark background (Perylene Green and Phthalo Blue). With a LIGHT value subject, a dark background is the BEST choice for visual impact. Don’t be wimpy – use a dark background.
Mix a puddle of your dark background color. It is easier if you mix the color with paint fresh from the tube in a small container or well. Mix twice as much as you think you’ll need and test it on scrap paper until it’s as dark as you want. I used a mix of purple + orange with blue and orange to break it up.
Paint the main area. Start at one side and paint across, adding some blue at the top for variety. Use a small brush to add orange (or brown) near the bottom and window. If you didn’t apply liquid masking, paint around the edges carefully.
Paint the small areas. Use a small brush to paint the dark between the pots and on the left of the cutting boards.
Step 5 – Remove the watercolor liquid masking and masking tape.
Pull off the masking tape carefully.
Rub the liquid masking with your finger to remove – rubbing from the unpainted area out so that you don’t pull paint back into your white paper. You can use a masking pickup if you have trouble removing the masking.
Step 6 – Paint the vases and cutting boards.
Paint the small vase a mottled brown. Paint the large vase a medium blue. Paint the cutting boards a light and medium brown.
Step 7 – Paint the greens and flowers.
If you have leftover blue – mix a dark and medium green color by adding yellow and/or gold.
Small pot – I made this parsley but you could also paint more water here. For parsley, paint green and dot in clear water for blooms. When dry, add the darker stems under the curls.
Window – paint on a variety of greens (or add yellow and blue) for a soft, out-of-focus look.
Large Pot – Paint the leaves and stems light green. Paint the flowers yellow/orange or red.
Step 8 – Finishing Touches on Watercolor Still Life in Window
- Add lines in the window with dark.
- Add shading at the bottom of each bot and cutting board.
- Paint the sill under the pots with a light beige – water down your brown.
Step 9 – Paint the wood with watercolor layers.
Paint the wood with browns and blues (Cobalt works best). Work with layers and keep playing with it until you like the look. Start light and build up color. If you get too dark, rewet and lift some up.