3 Tips to Achieve Smooth and Cute Colors Using Gradients and Water! - Behold the Power of Water-Based Markers!
Our teacher for the day will be Kawana. She's a creator who's also very popular on Instagram and who will demonstrate how to draw illustrations using markers, colored pencils, and other familiar-but-difficult-to-master painting tools. She also has many overseas fans and her easy-to-follow explanations (from things like magazine features and lectures at real-life events) are very well received.
In this article, we'll be using Tombow's ABT graphic markers to introduce some techniques that tend to trip up beginners, such as how to create gradients and shades, tips on how to avoid colors bleeding, and how to draw highlights to enhance texture, focusing on skin, hair, and clothing.
Redoing mistakes?! Kawana explains her analog coloring style with water-based markers
── What are the main challenges for beginners when coloring with markers and pens?
── I know what you mean. When it comes to drawing with pens or markers, the fear that you won't be able to redo a certain action over and over again, unlike with pencils or digital art, can make it hard to move with confidence.
── What is the most fun about coloring by hand rather than digitally?
Tips for coloring pretty skin: cover every inch of it & use single-color gradients!
Apply the base color to every inch of the skin!
Make the skin look softer with single-color gradients!
Create the perfect complexion by using red as a shading color.
"It all comes down to personal preference, but some artists may even choose purple shadows according to the mood of the illustration. If you want to get a crisp shadow resembling anime-style coloring, make sure you let your colors dry enough so they don't bleed. The key to coloring skin is to use both watered-down gradients and crisp shadows." (Kawana)
How to master 2 types of gradients
Gradient no.1: wet and layer colors with a water brush
Gradient no.2: overlay colors of similar brightness with the tip of the brush
In ABT markers, the last digit of the color number represents the color tone, where 0 is a light color and 9 is a dark color.
Comparing gradients: water brush VS markers
"Colors tend to get diluted when you blend them with a water brush, so when you're using two colors that are almost equally bright (like in the case of the ribbon), I recommend that you blend the colors directly with the tip of the marker. On the other hand, if the colors belong to the same family but differ in brightness, like purple and blue, you can create a natural-looking gradient by blending the darker color with a water brush." (Kawana)
Let the colors dry before you apply another layer!
"Sometimes I deliberately blend smaller accessories with the surroundings to give them an extra flair. But unless you want to create a gradient, you should wait until the first layer has dried before you apply a second coat! Keeping this in mind will help you prevent colors from unintentionally bleeding." (Kawana)
Apply shadows starting from the larger parts and refine the shapes little by little
Let the markers dry completely before drawing the smaller details!
Shade the largest areas, let it dry, and then add the darker, finer shadows. Rinse and repeat.
"Colors will not bleed once the painting has dried completely, so you can safely layer not only detailed shadows, but also the ribbon pattern, stitching, and other fine details." (Kawana)
This is how you get shiny hair! 3 rules to create natural-looking hair tufts
After the base color, add a common undertone to the entirety of the hair
Add darker shadows following the shape of each hair section
Using a darker hair color to create natural-looking hair tufts
The finishing touches are the eye highlights and stitching
When it comes to coloring and highlighting the eyes, the trick is not to be afraid of white-out!
"Since it's a small area, I make sure it dries well before I start coloring it, so the markers won't bleed. For my hair and skin, I paint from the lightest areas to the darkest, but for my eyes, I tend to start from the darkest parts first." (Kawana)
A water brush and the N00 colorless blender are the secret to bold, expressive artwork!
── You draw lovely, translucent-looking illustrations with markers. What made you start to color by hand?
── Why did you choose markers over other coloring tools?
── This time, we asked you to use Tombow's ABT series. What did you think of them?
── Do you have any advice for people who want to try their hand at drawing with markers?
Also, I think it's a good idea to stick to light colors at the beginning, not dark colors. Darker colors surely catch the eye, but when coloring a character, you can create beautiful gradients by just applying multiple layers of the same, lighter colors. So I think it's good to start with lighter colors to get used to drawing on your favorite type of paper, see what kind of colors you can recreate, and then increase your color variation.
As a reference, I would use 12 colors for an illustration about the size of the mini-paper we used today, and in general, I use no more than 24 colors.
"It's totally okay to buy your favorite colors at first, but I recommend getting a range of light-colored markers that you can also use to create darker shades by painting multiple coats on top of each other. The ABT markers come in beautiful light colors as well, and you're unlikely to get an uneven result even by applying multiple coats. The ABT are beautiful even in light colors, so I promise you'll achieve that translucent-looking finish! Be fearless in your approach. I'm sure there are works that only someone like you can create!" (Kawana)
The list of colors we used:
ABT water-based graphic markers product information
These twin-tipped markers feature both a brush tip, which is flexible and allows you to draw freely while balancing thick and thin lines, and a fine tip, to master even the smallest details. There are currently 108 types of water-based colors available, designed for well-balanced color composition, and they include a full range of grays that are indispensable for any artist. The water-based dye ink comes in vivid colors and lends itself to a wide variety of expressive techniques, and the ability to easily blend colors is another quality of the ABT line. By mixing and matching colors, the range of colors you can create is infinite.
Recovering from a mistake! Goodbye, coloring outside the lines.