Easy Watercolour Galaxy

To celebrate the release of my first Skillshare class I’ve made written instructions to go along with it. Keep reading if you want to find out how to paint your very own magical night sky.

Watercolour Galaxy

If you’ve been following my Instagram, then you’ll know that I’ve developed a bit an obsession with painting galaxies recently.

As they’re such a fun thing to paint, I thought I may as well make a written tutorial to go with the video I made for my first Skillshare class.

This piece is super easy to paint as it only uses one technique throughout. This is the wet-on-wet technique using watercolours.

Wet-on-Wet Technique

The wet-on-wet technique simply means apply wet paint onto wet paper.

All you have to do is saturate your paper with water and give it a moment to let the water sink in. Then apply your paint and watch as it bleeds outwards. The thicker the paper you’re using, the more water you’ll need to use to soak it.

If you’re unfamiliar with this technique, then I recommend that you experiment with it for a time before jumping into the main tutorial.

Watercolour Galaxy: Step-by-step Tutorial

You will need:

  • Watercolour paints
  • Watercolour paper
  • A pointed brush

There are times when you can get away with using watercolours on normal paper. This isn’t one of those times because the wet-on-wet technique will kill the paper and you’ll be left with a sad galaxy pulp. 

The Colours

I used 5 colours to make this piece:

  1. White
  2. Turquoise (Transition 1)
  3. Middle Blue
  4. Deep Blue (Transition 2)
  5. Dark Blue/Black

Step 1

Before you begin painting make sure you have saturated the paper with water to prepare it for the wet-on-wet technique.

I used the white of the paper for the brightest parts of the painting. So, the first colour I went in with was a light turquoise. At this stage, I’m just using the turquoise to map out the shape of the white areas. I used small side to side motions with my brush to avoid creating and harsh lines.

If you make a mistake or want to lighten any areas, then you can dab away the paint with a tissue.

Once I’d got the basic shape defined, I went over my work with a second layer of turquoise to build up the colour a little more.

Step 2

The next step is to add the middle blue.

I placed this over the other edges of the turquoise so that the wet-on-wet technique would blend them together. Then I dragged the colours all the way to the edges of the painting.

This creates a foundation layer of blue that is going to tint all the other colours painted over the top and make those colours appear rich and vibrant.

Step 3

Now I’m going in with my transition 2 colour. I applied it to the edges of the painting and then used my brush to  drag the colour inwards to allow the wet-on-wet technique to do the work and blend the colours into each other.

As you can see, concentrating on the edges of the painting and allowing it to bleed towards the centre to creates a smooth gradient.

In the middle, I made the gradient using the opposite technique. By applying the paint tight at the centre and allowing it to spread outwards so that it’s darkest in the middle and gets lighter as it approaches the light source.

(I’m calling the white area a light source. My space knowledge isn’t that great so I’m not sure what the technical term actually is. But I figured “light source” was better than “white thingy”.)

Step 4

The next step is to use the navy blue to build up the darkest parts of the painting. The best way to do this is to use the same method as in Step 3.

You may want to use several layers of navy blue because it can be difficult to get build up dark colours using watercolour paints.

Once you’re satisfied with the look, leave the painting to dry before starting on Step 5.

Step 5

I used white acrylic paint to create the stars. You could also use gouache or draw them on with white pen. I don’t think pencil would be opaque enough for this but you could always give it a go.

If you’re using paint, then there are two main methods to create stars.

First you want to water down the acrylic paint and then make sure your brush is fully covered. Then tap your finger against the stem of the brush which will flick the paint onto the painting. This will make big stars.

To make smaller stars you should flick the bristles of the brush with your finger.

To add depth to the galaxy it’s best to have a mixture of big and small stars so that some look further away than others.

If at the end you want to brighten any of the stars then you can just go over them again with the point of your brush.

Here is the finished piece:

The video tutorial for this piece is available on skillshare at: https://skl.sh/38memT0

If you have any questions or requests for more tutorials, then do leave a comment. You can see more of my week-by-week art process on Instagram @e.r.curtis

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To celebrate the release of my first Skillshare class I’ve made written instructions to go along with it. Keep reading if you want to find out how to paint your very own magical night sky. […]

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