Step-by-step black labrador in watercolour

Well, golly gosh, it’s been a year since I’ve posted on this blog. Pathetic or what? It’s been busy, that’s my only excuse – lots of writing, lots of painting, lots of being a mum….. So, anyway I thought I would kick things off again with a step-by-step of a black labroador.

Now black is a challenge in watercolour. Being a transparent medium you need the white of the paper to shine through to give it a bit of a sparkle. What you don’t want is for the painting to look like a black blob. The other challenge is that if you are working from a photograph, getting a decent picture of a black animal is hard – more black blobs…. I was lucky with Roscoe, as his owner had taken some really well lit photos and being an older dog, he had grey patches. If my dark went a bit grey, then it would not look out of place, whereas a grey lab puppy would be wrong. So, the approach I take is to create a dark from two pigments and use those colours in the highlights.



I started by sketching him on Bockingford 200lb not paper. Not too much detail, but enough to make sure the proportions were right. I mixed up nice deep wells of colour – alizarin, teal blue, quin sienna, quin magenta, transparent turquoise.


I painted the iris first and let it dry, then went in dark. Usually you go light to dark in watercolour, but I think on such a dark subject you need to map in the darkest first.

I kept my nerve, as Roscoe looked a bit spooky without pupils. I was relieved once he lost his devil eyes!Image

The background was mostly from letting the colours bleed out into clean water, except at the top where I wanted a stronger colour, so I painted it upside down to let gravity do the work for me. A little salt helped add texture and interest. The teal blue reacts really well with salt and is my current favourite paint.


I let everything dry and then darked some parts and used a touch of gouache to add a few details and then cropped his down, before taking a pic and sending it off to his owners, in the hope they like the painting. Am waiting to hear – always a little nerve wracking!




About lizintheshed

Watercolour artist and copywriter, living and working in the Thames Valley.
This entry was posted in animal portraits, Art, how to, step by step, Techniques, Uncategorized, Watercolour and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Step-by-step black labrador in watercolour

  1. I love the way you do watercolor!

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