Watercolor Illustration / Painting Step-By-Step: Bugs!

Hi internet!
Since I’m all done with Lesser Beasts for awhile, I’ve decided to make a quick step-by-step post of how I created a recent watercolor painting titled “bugs”!
I’ll show a few images of the different steps and give you some quick watercolor tips, as well.

I always start by penciling the scene that I will paint.

Step 1: Pencils

I start out by penciling the scene that I’d like to paint. I just use either a mechanical pencil or a 3B pencil at this stage, and I try to be fairly general about my pencil drawing. I’ll be fixing up a lot of the mistakes during the inking phase, so I worry more about the overall composition and the expressions of the characters.

For this particular painting, I measured a small margin around the outside using a ruler, and planned to leave this area white. This could be done more easily with masking tape, but I like to manually leave a white margin.. it keeps me on my toes in more complicated paintings, like this one.


Using waterproof ink pens, I ink my painting, and then use a thin pencil to define where my shadows and patterns will need to be painted.

step 2: inking & adding shadow guides with pencil.

Once I’m happy with my initial pencil drawing, I use a couple of ink pens to define the outlines. For this painting, I used a brown 01 micron pen, and a brown 05 micron pen for some of the ‘filled’ areas. I wanted to keep my lines very subtle and thin, so I decided to not use black pens or any larger pen sizes.

After I completed my inking, I erased all of my initial pencil lines. Then, I took my mechanical pencil and drew in guides for where I wanted all of the shadows to be in the finished painting. I also did this with areas like the dragonfly’s wings where I wanted there to be a pattern in the finished painting. Most of these lines will be pretty subtle once I actually paint the image, since they sit on the edge where a light and dark wash will meet each other.

You don’t HAVE to pencil your shadow guides (in fact, most of the time I don’t do this either), but it can help you accomplish a more clean, cel-shaded look in your painting, if that’s what you’re going for. 


I started off with the main character.


Next I moved onto a few of the bugs.


And then the moth!


After, I painted the spider and some of the more hidden bugs.

Step 3: Painting the characters + foreground

I won’t go too far into painting technique here (if you’d like to learn more about how I paint, check out this step by step tutorial). But, I used a set of 12 pelikan opaque watercolor paints for this painting. This was a very time-consuming painting because I had to be very careful about keeping the colors separate and fairly solid. I slowly worked my way through the foreground characters, filling each area of color up individually.

Again, during this time I was using my pencil lines as guides for where to put the shadows, so unfortunately there isn’t a lot of technique to describe in this piece. Just super time-consuming. 


Close to the end I painted the sky and moon. I wanted to keep them fairly light and subtle, even though the painting is at night.

Step 4: Filling the background + final touches

The last things that I completed on this painting were the background, and some touch-ups on the rest of the painting. I tried to keep the background a bit lighter than the foreground for the sake of contrast, but this was difficult since the painting is set at night. Luckily, since the painting itself was fairly tedious for this piece, I didn’t have a lot of corrections to make one I was finished.


Here is the final watercolor painting after being cleaned up and scanned. I hope you enjoyed seeing my process images. Check out this tutorial if you’d like more information on how to actually watercolor paint. 
Thanks again for reading, and have a bug-tacular day!
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