How to paint a watercolor sky on an embroidery design?
When you stitch architectural embroidery designs, the sky can sometimes feel like a big empty space. But instead of feeling intimidated by the “emptiness”, look at it as the perfect area for creative exploration. In this guide you will learn all the techniques of how you can add a watercolor sky to an embroidery design.
Why the sky?
As an example we use the Charles bridge embroidery pattern. Charles bridge is a perfect example of a design that lends itself great to “sky experimentation”. Or as in this case, perfect to add a watercolor sky.
What materials do I need?
Before going into the process, I will just quickly list the materials used for this particular mixed media project. (Includes affiliate links)
- Charles bridge embroidery pattern
- Cotton canvas (duck canvas works fantastic as well)
- Embroidery floss from DMC
- Watercolor paint
- Watercolor brush
- Needle size 1-5
- Embroidery hoop 6″
- Carbon paper for transferring of the design (full tutorial here)
Now let’s get started!
“Wet on wet” or “wet on dry”?
The first thing to consider is whether your fabric is wet or dry. The notion “wet on wet” refers to wet paint on wet fabric. And “wet on dry” refers to wet paint on dry fabric. The paint is essentially always wet, because you need water in order to dissolve and use the pigment.
When you paint a sky I’d recommend to use the technique of “wet on wet”. The reason is that a wet fabric holds more water (quite evidently), which means that the pigment will be able to bleed more freely.
With more water you enhance the natural blend and bleed. Essentially, the water is what makes watercolor paint live its own life.
As a result, by wetting the fabric first, the sky will get a more natural look as the paint bleeds.
Where to place the paint?
Considering the high level of bleeding, you don’t have to place the paint too close to each other. Instead, try to stroke some paint somewhat randomly across the sky.
The color will always be the most distinct and contrasted in the location where you put down the brush. From that point the paint dilutes outwards in a relatively circular manner.
When you do this technique, you will create a vivid cloudy sky. Because the more diluted areas will be “less blue” and thus give the impression of being a cloud.
“I want a clear blue watercolor sky – how do I do that?”
You might read this and think “Oh, but I don’t like cloudy days”.
That is a very valid point indeed! To be honest, I think we all prefer clear blue skies in our everyday lives. However, when it comes to artistic representations and techniques to create a more visually interesting image, things slightly change.
A cloudy sky conveys much more depth in the image than a clear blue sky would. The same applies to a fully stitched sky with floss. A graded embroidery sky or one in the Van Gogh inspired style, will look much more artistically interesting than a plane clear blue one would.
Of course, nothing in the arts is completely this black and white. My aim is to give you the reasons behind certain artistic decisions in order for you to be better equipped in confident in your own creative decisions.
In the watercolor sky example that I show you in the youtube tutorial, the sky is perhaps VERY cloudy.
A middle-way option would be to add slightly more paint in relation to the “cloudy” white areas and you will immediately tell another story with your artwork.
And if you want to try a completely clear blue sky – then you simply have to add paint all over the indicated area. Just bare in mind that the more paint you add, the more water you add as well.
As a result, the bleeding may stretch significantly further from your intended zone than you want it to. In this case, try to work your way towards the borders, rather than starting to apply the paint close to the border.
This article tutorial gave you a concrete example of what you can do with watercolor paint and embroidery together.
To get a better understanding of both the watercolor medium as well as how you can create mixed media art, I recommend that you have a look at our FREE Introduction to watercolor embroidery workshop.
You may also find my last article very useful:
Thank you for reading! Can’t wait to see your experimentation with mixed media.
To show us what you’re working on, please use the #charlesandelin on your Instagram posts, or if you’re in our Facebook community we encourage you to share your progress there.