a lot of you have been asking for tips + tricks to watercoloring, so i’ve decided to share some color knowledge with you!

color mixing has always been my favorite part of art. it’s so amazing how many colors you can make… with so few colors. i personally like to stick with mostly primary colors to create my palette. i think using too many ‘straight from the tube’ colors gives your work a flat look. plus, you can save lots of money by mixing your own colors from the basics.

p.s.let me know what you think of my tutorial… maybe this will become a regular post!


this is my number one trick. most people just buy a black tube, and yes that can create a deep true black, but I prefer to mix. you can create blacks with a hint of any color, which adds more depth. Just use the mix above and add a tiny amount of a color of your choice.


gray is another color i see people confused on how to create… and it’s one of the easiest. just mix a little orangey red and light blue, and there you have it! it takes some experimenting to figure out how much to use of each color, but do a few tests and you’ll get it in no time.


this is more of an overall rule to creating deeper shades of a color. once you have a color you want to use, but you need it in a darker shade, just add its contrast color. i used a simple example above to demonstrate. red is the opposite of green, so in order to create a deeper shade of that green, just add a tiny bit of red. if you want a deeper red, use more red and a tiny bit of green.


  mixing skin tones can be tricky with watercolor. i like to use these colors as a base to create a peachy tone, and then adjust it accordingly. you can experiment with using more of less of each color to create different shades. add more blue to get a deeper shade. i’ll do a later post focusing on skin tones alone- so you can see how i mix lots of different ones.

and my number one tip for watercolor… NEVER USE WHITE! there really isn’t a need for using white watercolor. to make colors lighter, just add water. the white should always be the paper shade, and you layer colors on top of the white. this can be tricky, because you have to think about what’s white before you start. but you’ll get the hang of it.

if you’re interested in learning more you can check out my two online classes available now:

how to create fashion illustrations

the basics of watercolor

want to know what paint i use? look here.

Posted in Fashion Illustration, Tutorials | 59 Comments | Share:

59 Responses to TUTORIAL 2//PAPERCOLOR

  1. Atiqa Zafar says:

    This is so amazing, katie! thank you! I am definitely looking forward to more tutorials in future. and a tutorial on skin tones alone? YES PLEASE. xx

  2. JenS says:

    Great succinct tutorial on color mixing. Love the suggestion for a rich black instead of a flat black. It truly does make a difference in your design. Alos appreciated the colors used to create a peach skin tone. In art school, my professor always said skin isn’t one color; it’s made of MANY colors. Would love to see this continue as a series on your blog!

  3. CarolCani says:

    Loved the tutorial! Hope it become a regular post!

  4. Mirry says:

    This is awesome. I used to do skin tone using a lot of white, red and ochre. Thank you!

  5. Amanda says:

    Oooh! I love when you post tips and tricks! Even as another watercolourist, it’s so fun to see how other people work. Love, love, love!

  6. Sarah says:

    Thanks for the tutorial, really helpful, I haven’t used watercolours in ages so it’s nice to have a refresha hopefully I’ll crack them out again soon. And yes please, to more tutorials especially skin tone.

  7. Brenda says:

    Lovely tutorial. I’ve been playing with watercolor pencils lately for sketching, and have been loving the results, but they don’t come anywhere near yours! Yes, please make this a regular series!

  8. Lydia says:

    I love this. I think it’s great to share tips and tricks, and I want to try out your ideas. Please do share again, and I’m always wanting to learn more.

  9. yaz.raja says:

    wow. this is amazing!!! i love it so helpful and inspiring. THANK YOU!

  10. Pip says:

    GREAT post….. I agree that mixing your own colour gives so much moee depth. I find when I use straight from the tube I end up having to mix in so many other pigments to get it right I should just not waste time in the first place! Absolutely love your work and your story, Pip x

  11. Kate says:

    A-mazing ! thank you for the tips – I’m pretty new to watercolors, so this is sooooo helpful! Thanks :-)


  12. rhomany says:

    This is a fantastic post. I’m colour blind so having it laid out like that is really useful for me.

  13. ac bird says:

    thank you. so clear. i can actually do this.
    pictures are good too.

  14. Angel Funk says:

    Thanks for the post, I learned a lot!

  15. Beverly Frensley says:

    This was a wonderful tutorial, and I would LOVE to see you do more! Being new to watercolor, this will be of great use to me. Thanks, and please do more colors.


  17. Ashley says:

    Thanks so much! I’ve been wanting to try watercolor (I’m an acrylic girl) for a long time, but have been intimidated by mixing color. I might give it a go now!

  18. Diana says:

    Most artist hate sharing their secrets. Im glad you dont! Keep it going! Thnx :)

  19. Bridget Hagan says:

    love this, looking forward to more to come! weekly post/column maybe?

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  21. steve jobs says:

    Do u ever trace? I heard you are an avid tracer and cant really draw, is that true?

  22. chloe says:

    Hey I’m a biiiiiig fan of u. I always make it a habit to check on ur website everyday. I wanna ask after the drawing is finished, how do u post on ur blog? Take picture of it? Cause ur drawing u posted has super white backgrounds.

  23. malipi says:

    thank you, that was awesome! please so more of these, you are one of my favorite watercolors artist, so I would love to know your secrets :)

  24. Kailee says:

    LOVE this! Please post more tutorials :) You are easily my favorite illustrator.

  25. Jaclyn C. says:

    This post is amazing! I am learning to watercolor paint and I can use all the help I can get. I just found your blog and am loving it! Thank you. :)

  26. Wanda says:

    Thank you for the great post! Looking forward to more tutorials. I usually use oil paint but I’ve been trying to get into watercolors.

  27. Gina T says:

    This should definitely become a regular feature, it’s such a nice insight into how you work !

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  29. oni says:

    beautifully done post … would love to see this as a regular feature

  30. Kinsey says:

    I absolutely love the tutorial, definitely do more of these! If you had an instructional book on illustration published I would definitely buy it! :)

  31. Lucy says:

    Love this! Its soo useful to know the basics of colour mixing especially with watercolours!

  32. Brenda says:

    this is incredibly helpful thank you :) a watercolour pencil tutorial would be awesome as well

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  34. nidhi sandal says:

    i simply love your blog n tutorials… ur work is truly an inspiration… please give sm more tutorials on usage of water colors……… thanks a tonn!!! <3 love u n ur wrk :) !!!!

  35. janet says:

    I adore your blog. this is a lovely tutorial. I love it, gonna learn how to use it. will catch up reading your blog. :)

  36. Aisha says:

    i love these tutorials of yours. i’ve always disliked watercolors because I never seem to have control over them (i’m more of a marker and color pencil girl), however i definitely going to test out some of your tutorials. bet: great work, absolutely love.

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  40. Giulia says:

    This was super useful! looking forward for more tutorials!!

  41. Susan says:

    I am so glad you posted this. I usually give a go in mixing colors but some of these like the flesh I wouldn’t have thought of, thanks!

  42. Sabrina Larson says:

    Yes do please make it a regular tutorial. It was extremely helpful and so elegant and fresh to look at.

  43. Gillian Gamble says:

    This was amazing thank you for sharing I’m still learning all about colour and would love to see more of what colours to mix with what learned a lot from this.

  44. Maureen says:

    Any type of info re: painting would be much appreciated. I have just entered the mystics of watercolours,so intriguing….I forget about time…

  45. Thanks very much for these helpful tips.

  46. Thank you very much!

  47. Janice G says:

    Love this simple tutorial! More, please!

  48. Faye N says:

    I love this! Thank you.

  49. Appreciated your comments, especially the ones on the use of black and skin tones, since I particularly like doing human forms and faces. Although I paint as a hobby, the one thing I have always wondered is: what are the minimum amount of colors one must have to work with and what are they?

    • Jenny K says:

      June, this link is to a page on the Handprint watercolour site in which he looks at 2 to 6 colour palettes before moving on to his 12 paint “basic palette”. If you go down past the colour wheel and the “paint list” box, there are links to variations of these minimal palettes, both the theory and actual example palettes.

  50. Nadira says:

    Please keep me informed of any new ideas its very helpful thank you

  51. Albert C Francis says:

    I consider colors as coordinates on the color wheel (saturation vs hue). And the lines joining two points (or the region bounded by three or more points) tell all possible mixtures they make. So, I buy those colors that are maximum chroma which are also highly lightfast and well spaced in the color wheel (so that I can make the maximum number of possible colors by mixing). So, it needn’t be always better to have a minimum palette (for example, mixing blues and yellows makes dirty greens). Anyway, one good thing that you’ve mentioned is how to make a color darker by adding its complementary. In that, I think it would be also better to mix two complementaries that have more or less the same ‘value’ (doing otherwise would result in gray).

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  53. Beverley says:

    This is great! Keep posting tips!

  54. This is a wonderful tutorial~ what great advice, much appreciated. Your site is great. Will definitely follow,

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  56. Zahra says:

    Thank you very much

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