I love painting in watercolour! Most of my books are illustrated in watercolour, although I have used other media – Sammy the Rainbow Snail is in acrylic, the Galloway Chilli is in gouache for example – but for the landscapes and animals of Galloway, there’s nothing like watercolour.

Inked, the coloured from Charlotte’s Woolly Yarn

No one taught me how to paint, although I was always good at drawing, so using watercolour was trial and error. For my first books I outlined much of the detail in a fine ink pen then “coloured in” with paint, and I still quite like doing that – I usually make the rule that man-made objects are inked whereas natural things are painted only. Now I’m much more confident just to paint without ink.

No outlines, just painted from Big Bill and the Larking Lambs

You can paint a watercolour quickly, only touching each part of the paper once, or you can paint it slowly, building up layers of colour and detail.

Quick, one layer watercolour from Charlotte’s Woolly Yarn

My top tip for painting in watercolour is BE PATIENT! There is nothing more annoying than not waiting quite long enough for an area to dry, then getting a colour bleed with your next colour which you have to get rid of by flooding with water, drying with kitchen roll, then having to wait even longer for it all to dry before you can paint over it again.

Layered and detailed watercolour (from an unpublished project)

My second tip is to use good quality watercolour paper, whether smooth or textured, I never use less than 300gm² (140lb) – there’s no need for stretching and you can load it with a lot of water without affecting the paper grain.

My third tip is don’t use white! In a watercolour painting the white is negative space – you have let the paper show through. I often ‘colour’ white areas in pencil then rub out afterwards – like the book titles in this picture. The ‘be patient’ rule is mega important here as you don’t want to smear paint all over your fine detail with a rubber. Bear in mind also that watercolour paint ‘fixes’ pencil. If you get paint on your pencil lines they won’t rub out – DISASTER!

White paper showing through paint (from an unpublished project)

Have fun with watercolour, don’t let it scare you and PRACTISE, PRACTISE, PRACTISE! Don’t be worried if it doesn’t work, just have another go. In a future blog I’ll share some of my mistakes with you, after all, nobody’s perfect are they?