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The Importance of Depth in Watercolors

Painting with watercolors is not about getting the detail right as with a pencil drawing. It is more a case of achieving an impression of a scene. This is why shadows and darker colors are important in giving the impression you are looking into a scene. In this post we will take a look at some techniques to achieve this effect.

Sketch Before you Paint

Using a pencil you can get the essential lines of the major shapes onto the paper. Remember the vanishing point of the scene to achieve perspective - the pencil lines will achieve that aim of distance and depth appearing in the picture.

As well as perspective, remember proportions in the image as they will add to the vision of the scene. For example, a far-off building will be smaller than a near building.

Lighter Colors for the Distance

As a first step, paint the colors of the background. Many watercolor artists leave the sky white (unpainted) but lighter colors can achieve an atmospheric haze or similar effect.

Darker Colors for Shadow

Where is the sun? This is an important factor to consider in a watercolor painting as it adds depth and reality to the image.

In photographs you will always see the shadows, particularly with an evening scene when the low sun lengthens the shadows and accentuates the shape. Darker shades will achieve those shadow effects.

Remember Lighter and Darker Elements

A classic way of showing a rectangular building is to have one wall in shadow and one in light. By allowing them to interplay with the sun’s position, you can add to the sense of perspective that you have sketched onto the paper in the first place.


For example, a fir tree may be a rich green, which with perspective and on a lighter background will enable it to stand out.

When it Comes to Watercolors, Buy Color Swell

As you and your group explore the potential of watercolors in and of all their wonderful hints and perceptions of the world, do remember to stock up on bulk watercolors from Color Swell. 

Color Swell is a leading supplier of safe, quality bulk, washable watercolors and we pride ourselves in helping people enjoy this art form.