Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Watercolor Wednesday: Stylized Feather How-To

Since birds seem to be the common thread running through this week's posts, I thought that I'd use this Watercolor Wednesday to post a small tutorial on painting stylized feathers.

Step One:  I used a quarter-inch wide flat brush to paint the feather shaft in Payne's gray, twisting the brush as I moved from the base/quill of the feather to the tip which creates a line that changes from thick to thin.  Let this dry...

Step Two:  Using a round brush, paint two halves of a pointy oval to form the actual feather (called vanes.)  You can use the same color for both halves or two different colors as I did.  Notice the bloom on the purple half?  That's because I didn't wait until the shaft was completely dry.  I actually like (and encourage) the unpredictability of watercolor so the bloom doesn't bother me.  To exert more control over watercolor, be patient and let each step dry before moving on.  Just be prepared for harder lines as the watercolor is unable to move freely across the paper without wetness.

Step Three:  While the feather painting was still wet, I dropped in two more colors at the base of the vanes to add some depth of color.  Let this dry completely before moving on...

Step Four:  Using a very small round brush or liner brush, paint diagonal lines to represent the barbs of the feather.  You can make this tone-on-tone (ie. dark purple over a lighter purple) or you can use white acrylic ink or a contrasting watercolor.  In addition, use the liner brush and pale Payne's gray to paint the downy bits found at the base of the feather.

This basic feather painting formula is easily modified and customized to create a wide variety of different looks.  Play around!  This exercise is an excellent way to practice brush handling skills as well as color blending.


  1. Your feathers are so beautiful, I doubt mine will be anything like that but I want to give this a try! :-) Thanks for the tutorial!

  2. These are truly magnificent. Thanks for sharing the process with us.


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