Learn how to create a negative painting using watercolors!
Negative painting is a technique that looks beautiful in watercolors.
What is negative painting?
Negative painting is a simple technique that involves applying pigment around an subject to give it definition. You’ll add paint to surround the person, place or object, making it stand out because it appears lighter than the background.
This technique works great for watercolor — because the medium is focused on building up color, you save the light areas of the page by not applying as much paint. We’ll infuse some realism into the painting, but since we’ll focus a lot on shapes, there will be some abstract elements to this tutorial, too.
Create your own negative painting
For this tutorial, you’ll only need your favorite watercolor supplies, including paints and paper.
Select your subject and create a contour line drawing.
When working on the negative painting technique, be mindful of the subject you choose. Since you’ll be mostly avoiding it, find something to draw that has a great variety of space and size. Don’t focus on fine details, but just block out the general shapes. Lightly sketch them on a piece of watercolor paper so that once you start applying the paint, your lines won’t show through.
Apply a wash over the entire paper.
Once you have your drawing complete, pick a wash to apply over the entire sheet of paper. Ideally, it should be a hue (or hues) that corresponds well with your drawing. I’m painting a mixture of blues and greens since I’ve drawn a jade plant.
You can paint the wash however you like over the paper, but keep it light. I’m using awet-on-wet technique so that my pigment looks like it’s “bursting” on different parts of the paper.
Note: If you want to retain some bright white highlights, make sure you completely avoid these areas when you apply your wash — just paint completely around them.