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How to Paint a Feather in Watercolour, Step by step Tutorial

Art Blog feather how to paint Watercolour painting

Learn how to paint a feather in this easy step by step tutorial with watercolour. You can learn the method then apply it to any feather and any colours of your choice.

I would strongly recommend finding a real feather to look at and paint for this exercise. You will see so much more of the details to paint if you have a real feather to copy from. I'm using a Duck feather for this demonstration.

 Materials: Watercolour paper, I used cold pressed 200 gsm Blockingford, Watercolour paint, Whatever colours suit your feather. I used Ultramarine Blue, Burnt sienna, yellow ochre, Pthalo Blue, purple lake. 

Brushes, no. 6 round. no. 1 round. no. 0 liner brush

Step 1:

Draw out your basic feather shape. Don't get to detailed with this as you don't want lots of pencil lines under your painting. If you feel you need to practice first go ahead and do that on some spare paper. Draw in any lines you want to remember such as where the white parts are or brakes in the feather.

Step 2:

For my duck feather I started with a brownish grey that I mixed using ultramarine and burnt sienna. I put a wash of this colour over one side of the feather and anywhere else I saw this colour on the feather using the number 6 round. This is a very light wash so lots of water in this first layer of paint. For the main part of this colour I wet the paper first before applying the colour but only on the feather where the colour was going not all over. We will build up the colours gradually. Make sure to leave any white areas white to paint later. 

I then did a wash on the coloured side of the feather using the purple and the blues where I saw those colours on the feather. I didn't wet the paper this time as I wanted more control about where the colour were going.

Step 3: 

As the last layer dries I put in a little yellow ochre on the quill, once the feather is all dry I use a darker version of the the colours I have already used. That is the same colours just with less water in them. Using a number 1 round I start to put in the darker areas of the feather. I am now doing strokes of colour detailing the feathery look and following the contours of the feather. Look closely at where the lights and dark's are and put in the dark's leaving the first wash as your lights.

Step 4:

Using a very pale grey mixed from your ultramarine and burnt sienna with lots of water do a few details in the white part of your feather. Let the whole thing dry.

Step 5:

Now for the final Details. Mix up even darker mixes of the colours already used and using the liner brush put in the darkest areas of the feather and the finest lines of the details as you see them on the real feather and as you feel your painting needs them.

I also put in a wash of raw sienna on some of the brown grey side of the feather as I wanted to warm up that feather colour.


Step 6:

This one is optional if you want to put in a shadow for your feather to show it is sitting on the ground. Mix up a purple grey colour using ultramarine, burnt sienna and a touch of your purple. 

Using some clean water, brush on in your shadow area but be sure to leave your white area dry. You don't want any colour to bleed into this. Then drop in your shadow colour close to the feather on the water. You can blot any areas with your paper towel if they are to dark or use more clean water to fade out any hard lines. You want your shadow to be strongest closest to to feather.

 And that's the method, try this with any feather of your choice and adjust the colours accordingly.

I will link in a YouTube video if you would like to watch how I did this. Then you can use this blog as an easy reference guide. 

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