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Second Attempts at Background Washes in Coloring Books

A few weeks ago I shared some very old attempts of trying background washes in adult coloring books. Since that point I’ve been watching more Dede videos and reevaluating my supplies and my goals with these coloring pages. To that end, I went through some of my coloring books and chose new pages to try, this time with deliberate intent. Instead of using the washes to help me muster the urge to work on a particular page, now I was choosing pages I wanted to work on, and colors that would help me be happier with the eventual results.

Oh – and I learned from my mistakes – I was for sure going to be using acrylic paint this time.

The best paint to use for this is cheap acrylic paint. It’s matte, opaque but also thins well.

Acrylic paint is a plastic, which means it dries solid and won’t re-wet. This means you can use the same palette over and over, by either pulling off the dried paint or simply working right on top of your (thoroughly) dried paint.

I’ve been using old yogurt and margarine lids but recently started keeping takeout lids for the same purpose. If you have a paint caddy like mine, you can also use the lid as a palette.

I started with my Colours of Comfort coloring book, from my local Dollarama. My kids bought it for me as my Christmas present/stocking stuffer by sneaking it into my cart then making me turn around so they could hand it to the cashier. They then held the bag in the car and carried it into the house so they could get it into my stocking without seeing what they’d picked. (They paid me back later lol)

First up was this mandala-esque page. I picture it completed with golds and jewel tones, so gave the whole page a deep yellow wash.

Next I chose this tea party scene. I was taken with the idea of trying to make the cups look like porcelain, and gave the cups a gray wash so I could layer white pencil on top.

I forgot to take a before pic of this next one. I’m not usually one for landscape drawings, but this one caught my eye.

I like the idea of using my textures tutorial book and practicing some natural textures like the stones.

I’ve had this next coloring book for years, and barely touched it. The Mason-Dixon Knitting’s A Coloring Book for Knitters came out back in 2016 and is filled with fun, crafty images to color. While it’s a cute idea, it suffers from the same paper quality issue as most novelty coloring books, so as my media of preference changed, it limited what I was able to use.

It’s not bad…but it’s not strong enough for alcohol markers and not enough tooth for a good job with colored pencils.

I was really drawn to this winder & swift page. I painted the background with silver paint, hoping to get a vintage “mirrored” wallpaper look in the end, and plan to copy my own swift and winder’s color schemes.

From there I grabbed two of my favorite books to flip through.

This Like, Totally 80’s coloring book gave me a chance to break out my neon paints.

I picked two pages that I thought would be fun to complete.

From there it I moved to Color the 90’s. It’s a really fun blast from the past by the same author as “Sit the F*ck Down and Color”.

This Easy Bake Oven page caught my eye!

I found a good reference image for the oven and think it’ll be a really cute page to color.

Finally, I turned to this Garden Fairy Alphabet coloring book that I’ve had for a really long time.

Just like landscapes, flowers and plants are not usually my go-to either. Using paint makes me eager to work on these images now, though, and I chose the letters that represent the children in our family.

J and H are for my boys, and L, J and C are for my siblings’ children. Inspired by them all I chose colors that represent the respective children’s hair colors. C has dirty blonde hair and loves blue, so I added the sky (which I later regretted, and did not add in any of the others).

I couldn’t NOT go for a Link-looking character for Henri’s H, since my son is obsessed with The Legend of Zelda.

Jakob’s Jonquil Fairy will be blond just like him…

…and just like my niece L’s blonde curls.

None of these are complete, and none have yet gone past the painting stage, but even at this point I’m so much happier with them than I was with the last batch.

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First Attempts at Background Washes in Coloring Books (FAIL)

I follow a number of incredible artists on YouTube and their work has inspired me often over the years. One such time was when I discovered the wonderful art done by Dede Wellingham. I’ve binged many of her livestreams and she’s as sweet and funny as she is talented (which is a lot).

The first video of hers that really got me revved up was “Color Washes in Imagimorphia AdultColor book by Kerby Rosanes Pt 1 of 3“. Adult coloring books were starting to become a big thing in the creative world (back in 2016) and something I’d come to late since I usually focused on fiber- or food-based arts. It hadn’t occurred to me to mix media in the ways Dede demonstrated and I could NOT WAIT to try it out. And I… well to say I missed the mark would be an understatement.

It started out so promising! I collected an assortment of my coloring books, some acrylic paint, my Neocolor II watercolor crayons and my Inktense water-soluble pencils (neither shown in pic).

Problem # 1 – using the wrong materials

Dede uses a number of media in her books, including pan pastels, paint, pencils, markers…but in particular the video that inspired me was based on using acrylic paint to drop in washes of color onto your pages. This has a two-fold effect: 1) it gets color down on the page and fills in the tiny detailed areas, making it easier and less intimidating (and faster) to color in with other media later, and 2) it creates an incredible base for colored pencil as adult coloring books are usually printed on paper that’s relatively smooth but pencils benefit enormously from a paper with more tooth. The acrylic paint gives the paper the missing tooth.

Neither the Neocolor IIs nor the Inktense are acrylic paint. Both of these can be used to add tooth to a page, but I’d diluted them so much that all I’d really managed to do was warp my paper and leave it remaining smooth once dried.

Neocolor II dry in imagimorphia
Neocolor II wet
Neocolor II dry in imagimorphia
Neocolor II wet
Inktense dry in imagimorphia
Inktense wet
Inktense dry in Doodle Fusion
Inktense wet
Neocolor II wet in Doodle Fusion

Looking back, even though I like some of the colors I’d chosen, I’m not happy with the results. I don’t like how all my random scribbles show because I hadn’t put the color down evenly, and I’m disappointed that I completely messed up on the entire “adding tooth” benefit.

Problem # 2 – using the right materials the wrong way

The remaining pages that I’d painted were all done with acrylic paint. That means they must be good, right? No, actually. Not at all. Some of them (the underwater ones in particular) look better in person than in the images below, but none of them are “good”, because I missed the mark again. I was so focused on getting a spread of color onto the page that I didn’t think I had to try and do it nicely. I’m embarrassed to admit it really didn’t occur to me that that it was more than a matter of simply splashing water into paint and wiping it across the page a few times. In most cases below I did a horrible application, and in the one or two that aren’t too bad, I used too much water and so the resulting color doesn’t have the tooth either. (And in the final case, I’d used much too much water and caused the marker on the reverse to completely bleed through).

Acrylic paint in imagimorphia
Acrylic paint in imagimorphia
Acrylic paint in imagimorphia
Acrylic paint in imagimorphia
Acrylic paint in Doodle Fusion
Acrylic paint in The Time Garden
Acrylic paint in The Time Garden
Acrylic paint in The Time Garden
(the next page that bled through to the one above)

Problem # 3 – choosing the wrong pages

I think this was the worst mistake I made out of all of them – I chose the wrong pages. With one exception, I’ve never really wanted to color ANY of the images above. Rather than pick pages that I looked forward to, instead I thought I could “cheat” my way into getting pages “done”, and done “faster” by slapping color down to make the final coloring quicker and easier. Instead I now have pages I still don’t want to do, just now they have some color on them.

So why am I bringing this up now? Well Dede’s videos have come back into my recommendeds and I’ve begun binging again, and once again am completely hooked. On THIS TIME I’ve learned from my mistakes!

This post may contain affiliate links. This means I might make a small commission on purchases made through the links, at no cost to you.