Coloring 101: Learn to Colour Water Drops with Colour Pencils

By Alex Whisman

I watched Chie Douglas’ Bubble Effect tutorial on Youtube in November 2016.  I really loved the effect it gave her finished picture with the multi-coloured drops.  I knew it was something I wanted to use for a picture, but wasn’t sure which picture.

This January I came across Colouring with Claire’s blog article listing some challenges you can use to break out of a coloring rut & to challenge yourself.  I liked the idea of “sectional colouring” where you use designs or geometric patterns to break your picture up into sections.

When I saw Sue Chastain’s “Rolling In Clover” picture I knew this would be the perfect picture to combine Chie’s bubble tutorial and Claire’s idea on sectioning a picture.  What better than waterdrops on clover, and the drops would work as a way to break the picture up into sections.

Items needed for this tutorial:

  • Regular drawing or writing pencil and eraser
  • Jars, bottles, compass or stencils for making shapes
  • Picture to colour
  • Colour pencils
  • White gel pen

Decisions, Decisions

 Pick your picture.  The first thing to think about is what shape you want your drops to be? We usually see more round shapes in nature, but you can experiment with colouring.  I thought about whether I wanted water drops that looked like Chie’s bubbles or water splashes that had irregular shapes.  I decided on the water drops.  The symmetry of the clovers seemed to suit round drops better.

Take a look at your picture and consider what size you want your drops to be, and look for a jar or bottle that is the same size.  If you have a stencil you can use that as well. I would not suggest using a compass with a point on it, this will put a hole in your paper.  You can put the point of a compass into a small eraser or cover the point with a thick piece of masking, electrical or duct tape.  I looked at my picture and decided to make 3 slightly different drop sizes. I pulled out 3 containers of slightly different sizes.
Look at the elements of your picture and decide where you will put your drops.  Will you do a random scattering of drops around your picture? Do you want to highlight a specific piece of the picture by surrounding it with drops? Do you want to do a symmetrical design of drops, like a bunch of small drops in an infinity symbol? Each picture will inspire different drop placement.

Once you have the shape, size and placement figured out then grab a pencil, jars, bottles or stencils and your picture.  Put your jar/bottle/stencil onto your picture and lightly trace your shapes.

The next decision is what colours you want to use.  Usually colour is my first decision when I pick up a picture, and then I choose whether I will colour with my pencils or pens. With this picture I debated doing rainbow clovers or rainbow drops.  I went traditional with my decision, choosing shades of green for the clover and blue for the waters.  Green and blue are next to each other on the color wheel, and I like how they look together.

I used 4 colours to make the drops, as this helps give a better result with blending and a nice transition through the drop.  You could do the same with 3 or 5 colours as well.  It depends on your colour choices and preferences.  I chose a darker colour for the outer edge, a medium for the next section, a slightly lighter one and a lightest for the inner piece of the drop.

I colour with Faber Castell Aquarelle and Albrecht Durer water colour pencils.  For my drops I used the following Aquerelle colours:

444 – Cobalt Blue-Greenish

443 – Cobalt Blue

445 – Light Phthalo Blue

447 – Indanthrene blue

Putting it all together

Once you have drawn your drop shapes on your picture, start colouring everything except your drops and your background.

Colour the parts of your picture that would be under the drops lighter than you do the outside-drop pieces.  This will give a better effect of looking through water or coloured liquid in those sections.  For example, the clovers under my drops are lighter than the same part of the clover that is not under the drop.  I found it easier to colour all the under-drop pieces first, so I didn’t make a mistake and colour it too dark.

Once you have finished colouring everything except the drops and background, you can start colouring your drops.  Use your darkest drop colour along the inside edges of drops and lighten it as you move slightly into the middle.  Move through your shades and blend to your lightest colour in the middle of your drop.  Colour over the parts of your picture that you previously coloured as well (for example, I coloured over the clovers I already coloured).


When I did my blending for drops, I started by colouring a light application of my darkest blue all along the edges and a little further into the drop.  I then went over the edges with a heavier hand to darken them and help the edges stand out.  I used regular blending techniques by colouring with the medium colour into and overlapping the darker colour, then the same with the next lighter colour into and overlapping the medium colour and so on.  As you colour your drop colours over your other previously-coloured pieces you will see how it transforms them and they look like something under water.

You want the middle of the drops to be as light as possible so leave a little white or very lightest blue.  Colour the background last so the middle of your drop is light blue. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, and if you plan a really dark background you may prefer to do this before colouring the drops, but colour the background areas inside the drops very lightly if you do to mimic how something looks lighter under a water drop.


Finishing Touches

Once you have finished colouring your picture you will need to add the shine marks to the drops with your white gel pen.  I have a hard time using gel pen over my water colour pencils.  The gel ink turns the pencil into a water colour like water would, so I will use it on a little section, then draw with the pen on scrap paper to clean the colour and start the ink flowing and use it some more.  Once the first coat dries I go over it again to make it stand out more.

Bubbles and water drops usually have shine marks that curve around their surface.  Some shine marks are short, others are longer.  Use variety in your shine marks, make some thicker, shorter, longer.  Gel pens take longer to dry than regular pens, use care in where you place your hand so you don’t smear your marks.

Lastly, outline your drops with the white gel pen to help them stand out. Check your picture over and touch up any areas that need more colour or gel pen marks that need more white.  Sign your picture & proudly post your creation!



Link to Chie’s Bubble tutorial:

Colouring With Claire’s article List of Colouring Challenges:


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