Core Skills: Gouache

Join artist Laura Bi­fano as she shows how – with a bit of plan­ning – it’s easy to cre­ate a har­mo­nious colour scheme

ImagineFX - - Editor’s Letter -

Laura Bi­fano gives more great in­sight in our con­tin­u­ing series on get­ting to know tra­di­tional art medi­ums.

W hile gouache is more for­giv­ing than wa­ter­colour, de­ci­sions you make early on can af­fect the rest of the paint­ing. If you lay down a vi­brant vi­o­let sky in your ini­tial wash, chances are that’s what you’re go­ing to end up with.

De­pend­ing on the amount of mois­ture in your brush, gouache can also lift and mix with each layer ap­plied on top, so there’s a lim­ited num­ber of times you can re­work an area be­fore it be­comes a muddy mess.

This is why it helps to plan out your colour choices in ad­vance, so all the heavy lift­ing is done be­fore you even touch brush to pa­per. Although it may be tempt­ing to dive in to paint­ing right away, this usu­ally re­sults in a lot of mis­takes and te­dious back­track­ing. And the best part about us­ing a colour comp? You can mix a har­mo­nious colour pal­ette be­fore you even start paint­ing.

I like to mix my pal­ette from a lim­ited pool of colours be­cause it re­sults in a more uni­fied colour scheme. Se­condary colours are all mixed from pri­maries or vari­a­tions there­upon, and tinted us­ing ti­ta­nium white and a sub­trac­tive black.

Laura is an il­lus­tra­tor and pro­duc­tion artist from Van­cou­ver, BC. She’s worked in film, TV and on chil­dren’s books. See more at www.lau­ra­b­i­fano.com.

I use a large enamel tray for my pal­ette, which is or­gan­ised ac­cord­ing to warm and cool val­ues. I use Ivory black (A), Prus­sian blue (B), Pri­mary blue (C), Ma­genta (D), Cad­mium red (E), Cad­mium yel­low (F) and Yel­low light (G), and Ti­ta­nium white (H).

Ma­te­ri­als and get­ting started

While it’s worth in­vest­ing in artist-grade paints and pa­per, your setup it­self doesn’t need to be com­pli­cated or ex­pen­sive. I use a lot of what­ever’s on hand, in­clud­ing left­over yo­gurt con­tain­ers! I use this printed colour comp to match my paint mixes. While plan­ning it out in Pho­to­shop, I find work­ing in LAB color space makes it eas­ier to cre­ate a more har­mo­nious colour scheme. I also use the Black and White ad­just­ment layer to check that my val­ues are work­ing. I mix my colours with the con­sis­tency of mud in mind, know­ing that I can wa­ter them down later. I’m go­ing to need a lot of some colours and so I’ll mix them in sep­a­rate air­tight con­tain­ers that I can add them to the mix as needed. Be­cause gouache dries very quickly, I know I can use th­ese to fix mis­takes later on down the line. In this in­stance I’ll be work­ing with trans­par­ent washes, so I’m go­ing to use an old garbage brush for mix­ing my colours. A pal­ette knife wouldn’t be able to lift paint off the sur­face.

Plan­ning this thing out

In this step, I’ll an­a­lyse my comp to see which – and how much of – I’ll need to mix of each colour. Although this looks like a colour­ful im­age, at this stage I’m pretty sure I can achieve this look us­ing three base mix­tures…

The three base hues

…and so here are my base hues laid out on the pal­ette. I’ll mix th­ese with each other and with the other colours on my pal­ette, to achieve ev­ery­thing that I need for my comp. My black is a mix­ture of Prus­sian blue, Ma­genta, Cad­mium red and Cad­mium yel­low. I want to make this as neu­tral as pos­si­ble, so I test it by mix­ing it with Ti­ta­nium white. If the re­sult is a neu­tral grey (sit­ting be­tween the warm and cool spec­trums), I know I’ve found my mix. The sky blue mix­ture is just a straight­for­ward mix of Pri­mary blue. I’ll tint this pure mix us­ing Ma­genta and Prus­sian blue, which I use as a gra­di­ent when do­ing my ini­tial sky wash. The base hue of the moun­tain is com­posed of Cad­mium red, Ma­genta, Yel­low and Pri­mary blue, but keep­ing things on the warmer/ma­genta side.

How it all re­lates But let’s break it down even more!

Here’s what my pal­ette looks like when I’ve mixed ev­ery­thing. I keep the pure colour mixes to­wards the top and mix off of them. I’ll use my black mix­ture to shade, or cool things down with the sky blue mix­ture, or tint with white as needed. I won’t get into ev­ery step here, since most of it is pretty self-ex­plana­tory, but each area of the pal­ette matches the swatch sam­ple page shown be­low, so we can see how it cor­re­sponds with the comp.

So here’s a swatch card I made from the var­i­ous ar­eas on the pal­ette, and you can see how it cor­re­sponds to each swatch on the comp. It’s not per­fect, and it’ll change a lit­tle bit dur­ing the paint­ing process, but al­ready I’m miles ahead of where I’d be then if I went in blind. (A) is the base tint of the moun­tain at about 15 per cent opac­ity. (B-F) are all at about 30 per cent. (G) is my sub­trac­tive black mix­ture, (J) is a neu­tral grey cloud colour I mixed us­ing (I), (L) and (B). (L) is a bright green mixed from pure Cad­mium yel­low and (H). (K) and (M) are both cooler satel­lite mix­tures of (L).

I use M. Gra­ham and Win­sor & New­ton brand gouache. Both are high-qual­ity, colour­fast brands. To avoid paint dry­ing in the tubes, I store mine away from light and heat.

This is the pure hue I’ll use when do­ing my ini­tial wash for the base colour of moun­tain. I need an am­ple mix of this to use through­out the paint­ing. I’ll use vari­a­tions on this base colour when paint­ing in the facets, tint­ing them ei­ther warmer or cooler us­ing my sky colour, us­ing my black mix­ture to darken it, or tint­ing with ti­ta­nium white to lighten. I’ll need a pretty bright green mix­ture for the tops of th­ese trees. Cad­mium Yel­low light is of­ten my go-to when it comes to paint­ing bright fo­liage. The sky is a slight gra­di­ent so I’ll keep this in mind when mix­ing this colour. I’ll need a pure hue as well as a darker shade to mix in later on. I’ll need a warm grey mix­ture for the un­der­side of the clouds. Although th­ese are all dif­fer­ent hues and val­ues , I know I can achieve them by shad­ing them us­ing my black mix­ture, which I’ll need to mix a lot of!

My sky blue mix with the ad­di­tion of Ma­genta and Prus­sian blue. Green was mixed us­ing Cad­mium yel­low and Sky blue, with Ti­ta­nium white added for opac­ity. The neu­tral grey of the clouds was mixed from Green and the moun­tain base colour. Adding Black, Blue and Ti­ta­nium white works for the facet shades on the right side of the moun­tain.

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