“Ornament Expressions” Blending and Shading Technique
Clean and fire greenware. Try not to use sponge on detail side of
greenware. It makes it a little harder to blend colors where you have
Our new ornament’s detail is made up of crisp, sharp raised edges. To get the fine black line detail, I just lightly rub a permanent marker (like MARKS-A-LOT) over the raised edges of all of the detail. (The only detail I don’t do black are the snowflakes) You may also want other areas to have a softer look like the snowflakes so just omit the black lines from these areas also and do the edges with color instead. Areas where the detail is very fine and the lines are very close together, I lightly tap the marker on the top edges of the detail. Where the lines are very close together like the Wiseman’s text, I fill in the text with the marker. Other areas like “Snow Much Fun” you can add color inside the letters.
The next step is to use Watercolor Pencils to color in the different areas. With the raised edges and the black line surrounding your color it’s easy to use the Water Pens to blend your pencil colors.
I work in Photoshop on the computer a lot and when I went to paint these ornaments I thought what type of styles I use on photos and artwork and how can I emulate that in watercolors on ceramics. Below I will highlight the different techniques I used: Shading, Inner & Outer Glows, Shadows, Highlights and Solid Coverage.
Using the watercolor pencils really involves just a lot of scribbling. Achieving different shades on Glows, Shadows and Highlights is just a matter of lightening the color and the amount of scribbling, as you want it to fade.
I like to have a scrap ornament and a plain sheet of copy paper to practice on. The plain sheet of copy paper is perfect for pulling color out of the brush. Either down to the shade you want or cleaning for the next color.
Keeping your pencils sharp – I use an electric sharpener but I don’t sharpen them super sharp because the points tend to break. Instead I sharpen them pretty sharp then I scribble on paper at a angle for a super sharp bevel that fits in all the nooks and crannies.
Keep in mind on most of these techniques the lighter colors are easiest to apply and blend. Sometimes the darker colors are a little more difficult so don’t use dark colors for large areas like backgrounds.
I use shading on all of the ornaments. 2 types of shading: shading from 1 color to the next (I use this most) and shading with black (more difficult).
Shading from 1 color to the next - For most of the shading you try to lay down the colors with your pencils the way you want them to look, leaving a little area between colors to blend. Take the Baby Jesus for Example. For the blue cloth, first pencil in all of the light blue leaving the darker blue area bisque. Always leave a little more for blending. Wet out this with your Water Pen still leaving the white areas. Next pencil in your next shade of darker blue and wet out and bleed this into your lighter blue. As you get better (as I did working on these 14 ornaments) you can lay down both colors at one time, wet out the lighter color then the darker. All of the rest of the colors are done the same way always penciling the lighter colors first.
Shading with Black – Black is an intense color so, be sure to have your sheet of copy paper there for practicing and for lightening your black to the right shade before you apply it. On the Stockings ornament I used a lot of black shading. Black shading is applied over top of the color. First color in the stockings using the different colors pictured. Wet them out with your Water Pens so they are finished except for the black shading. Pencil some black onto the copy paper. With your Water Pen, wet out the black on the paper. Then try brushing on the paper with what’s in the brush. Experiment some trying to get it as light as you can. Now try and do the same on your stockings. Start with the openings of the stockings. With your Water Pen with just a little black in it do the openings. Get more black on your brush lay it on darker under the nails and blend it down. Next do the shading around the edges of the stockings starting very lightly. Do the white stocking last (it’s the hardest.
Inner and Outer Glows:
Inner and outer glows are relatively easy. They get a little more difficult the more they glow. Small glows like around the snowflakes on the mailbox ornament and the reindeer JOY ornament are easy. You just color with your pencil around each snowflake fading away. For more glow like around the Wiseman text, you extend the color farther fading as you go. With the Water Pen, (using the small or medium pen) wet out your pencil marks. Using less water will tend to keep the color right where it’s at. Using more water and flooding will have a tendency to extend the glow like on the Wiseman text.
Shadows like the gray shadow under the baby Jesus text are just like Glows except you only apply color off to one side. I usually color about a 45 degree angle down and right from the object I am applying the shadow to. (Think in your mind if there was a light behind the object where it would be throwing the shadow.) Then just wet out that area with your Water Pen. You can apply Shadows to any object that you want to look more 3 dimensional. Applying a shadow to the Wiseman would make him look like he standing off a little separate from the ornament.
Highlights are made just the opposite of glows and shadows. You just leave white the area where you want the highlight. The “Snow Much Fun” Snowman’s hat has a nice big highlight. (Imagine a bright light shining down right on the front of his hat.) black is an intense color so practice some on paper or a scrap ornament. For this highlight, color with your black pencil fading to the white but leave more white area than you want to end with. Black really flows so with your Water Pen slowly bleed you black into the white until you get the results you want. Do the same with the red band. The highlights on the Sleigh/Package bow are in the mold. These are easy highlights. You just paint color up to the highlight.
Solid Coverage is easy. Just pencil it in and wet it out.
The “Snow Much Fun” snowflakes are done with a medium blue pencil just on the top edges of the snowflake. Wet these out with your Water Pen trying not to bleed the color down into the flake.
The outside rings are solid but I did them differently. When sharpening you inevitably break a tip or two. Save these tips. I make a soup out of the tip for brushing the ring. I use paper plates because they are disposable. A paint pallet works great also. Place your tip on the plate and squeeze your brush while wiping over the tip this makes sort of a little soup mixture. Then brush with this mixture on your ring.