SketchingNow Watercolour!

October 11, 2017 | 32 Comments


I’m super excited to announce a new SketchingNow course….drum roll please….


I have had many requests for this, so here are some detail about the course…

When you sketch with watercolour, do you struggle with water control, murky or flat colours and overworked washes?

Having a solid understanding of how pigment suspended in water behaves and a few specific strategies for using watercolour in a quick and spontaneous way will enable you to paint with more confidence out on location.

The more you understand the unique properties of watercolour the more you can work with it rather that fighting against it! This will liberate your sketching and you’ll find that watercolour will start performing magic on your page.

Watercolour sketching (and particularly out on location) involves a different approach than traditional watercolour studio painting and this is what we will explore in the course.

The topics will include:

  • how to increase your control of water – whether working with a tight control or working looser and taking risks
  • how to decide when to layer/glaze and when to work wet-in-wet
  • how to create vibrant colours with a limted palette
  • how to be more confident with your use of colour
  • how to apply all these techniques to sketching on location
  • how to develop your own style for watercolour sketching

The course will be aimed at beginners and self-taught urban sketchers who want to fill in the gaps of their understanding of watercolour.

Ten years ago I discovered watercolour in a field kit and instantly fell in love – it was a small box containing endless possibilities for adding colour to my ink sketches. I had no idea how to paint in watercolour and spent years trying to work ot how to get the results I wanted. SketchingNow Watercolour will contain all the concepts and techniques I wish I’d known when I started.

The goal of this course is to develop foundational watercolour skills which will make it much easier to use watercolour with freedom out on location.



Find out more about SketchingNow Watercolour


I’d love to hear all about your struggles with watercolour:


  1. What you are struggling with at the moment when sketching in watercolour?
  2. What would you like to be able to do with your watercolour sketches?
    (for example: do you want to create nice consistent washes, or do you want to be loose and splashy?)
  3. Is there anything else about watercolour that you would like to learn?



  • Sharon Stover says:

    Hi Liz. I struggle to leave white space when I’m trying a wash. Love to know more about how not cover the sketch with paint but still keep it loose.

  • Betsy Kimbrough says:

    I’m excited you will offer this course! I need more info on loose washes and leaving white space. Splashy energetic skie like you paint are lost on me. Adding a touch or two of color to enhance the loose sketch would be helpful.

  • Averill Murr says:

    I second the comment above, and would add that I’d love to see something about brushwork and making strokes with intention and expressiveness

  • Sabrina says:

    Hi Liz,
    so far I use watercolour to color my sketches. Like in a coloring book, and it turns out a little bit boring. I want to learn how to use it in a more dynamic, intuitive way.
    And like Sharon I have trouble leaving white space!
    I joined the waiting list, can’t wait to start!

  • Susan Andrinopoulos says:

    Hi Liz and thanks for coming up with this offering! Can you please discuss color palette. I find having so many wonderful colors available to be overwhelming at times with regards to how to choose what to focus on and use well. There must be a way to develop a good color strategy. Thank you!

  • Diane Hines says:

    Hi. I’m so glad that you are going to do this course! In addition to everything that has already been mentioned above, I struggle with tonal values in color. When I’m working in black and white (pencil or ink), the tones are obvious to me, but translating the tones into color value is really hard. Also, brush work – I overwork watercolor a lot and lose the spontaneity and sparkle which is what I love about watercolor.

  • Carmel Campbell says:

    Loose washes with strong pigment. I think I dip my brush in the water too much. Would love to know the secret of stronger Color in my loose washes. Perhaps some information on brushes …should your brush size depend more less on the size of the sketchbook. What is a good all round brush. So glad you are doing this course. Keep whites.

  • Mary Le Duc says:

    How to us the brushes with paint and pencils and all the above. Mixing colors. The amount of paint yes loose paint with strong pigment or a light variation with clear intention. Thank you for offering this.

  • Christine Rae says:

    Hi Liz, knowing when to stop painting and leave white space which adds to the impact of the sketch is also something I’m keen to come to grips with.

  • Liz Steel says:

    Thanks everyone! these comments are so helpful. keep them coming!

  • Ms Meredith M Davies says:

    Hi Liz
    I’m thrilled that you’re offering this course. I don’t know when to stop colouring to leave white space. I’m also unsure about just picking out the highlights in colour. Thanks

  • Anney R says:

    lighting with watercolors and what to leave out would be good to go over. I see most of your sketches has very specific color and very specific where it is not. I have yet to figure this out. Thanks.

  • Maria Dana says:

    working out how much of a shade to mix for a particular area – by the time I get the shade I want, there’s never enough of it….

  • Caroline Rees says:

    I’d like to learn about mixing the colours on the page so it looks more interesting and loose. I’d also like to learn more about shading. When to use the grey mix and when to use a darker vision of the colour of the building etc.

  • Denise Robinson says:

    Excited to hear this! For me it’s about control or lack of it! I’d like to be loose, use plenty of water but what I’ve just painted just spreads and disappears 🙁

  • hi Liz, I’d love to learn how to effectively curve a straight object. I seem to do well with fruit and veg but when it comes to curving a pencil or the spine of a book, that’s another story. When the thing on the page is more than 6 inches long I seem to have trouble keeping a cohesive line that curves with shadow and light over so the object looks rounded. Also, like everyone above, remembering to keep whites and to make them look more natural, so we have smooth edges, darkening as it gets farther away. And loose painting, more expressive.

  • Jessica Raun says:

    Hi Liz, I am just beginning to sketch and paint. I need the basic information about watercolor, and I would love to learn a technique for blending color. I use watercolor pencil now because it seems to give me control. I really want to learn to use watercolor in a loose technique also.

  • Beth Pickett says:

    So exciting, Liz! I would like to learn five things: 1) painting in a loose, expressive way, no cartoony stuff; 2) using color as much according to value as hue–okay, you splash teal into the wall of a building that’s actually brown, but why teal, or why whatever color? (I’ve been studying Charles Reid for this, trying to understand); 3) getting the most from paint in pans (vs. paint fresh from the tube, which is great but not as portable); 4) making good decisions about edges, hard or soft–that’s one time when I overwork; 5) using the right amount of paint and water to begin with and then leaving it alone–the other time I overwork. Oh, there are six– also, doing shadows across buildings, lawns, etc. I never get them right!

  • Lisa Holt says:

    I struggle with: 1) when to stop sketching and start adding watercolor, 2) how to mix the color I want and also not have it too thick or too thin, 3) how to keep colors from mixing on the page or how to make colors mix on the page, 4) brush control i.e. putting the color where I want it, and 5) a good set up to be able to do watercolor when sketching i.e. a space to mix colors, a container for clean and dirty water, how to keep everything from falling and making a mess.

  • Joanne McCabe says:

    An early assignment working with only one or two colors (such as ultramarine + burnt sienna), for tonal and temperature variations — since multiple colors seems overwhelming at first.

    Creating lovely neutrals — such as “tea color” or the color of cookies and rolls.

    Also, paper cockling! Yuck, but stretching with tape seems so limiting, and sometimes things seem to cockle anyway, even when stretched.

    Some “watercolor papers,” too (even the heavy-weight ones), seem to disintegrate when water hits them — kind of like they’re toilet paper, dissolving. So some discussion and exploration of hot, not and rough papers (in general), as well as specific papers that are well behaved.

    • Joanne McCabe says:

      A wide variety of lesson activities (inside ones, outside ones, etc.). This inspires confidence that one can do the lessons, regardless of the weather or one’s current health. On good weeks, students may even try to do all the lesson activities!

      People have a wide variety of sketching interests: urban, landscape, portrait/people, still life, abstract, etc. Maybe a way so that people can apply lesson content to those interests?

  • Cathy Inzer says:

    I would like to see how to create form (people, apples, etc) , shadows that have “life”, and how to get sparkle in my lights. Thanks!

  • Laura Geringer says:

    Looking forward to your new class!! I would love to learn how to sketch in watercolor only. I’m almost always happier with my pen and wash sketches than watercolor alone but I love the look of watercolor-only that I’ve seen in other’s work. Learning how to use one medium should help me better use it in combination with others. Thanks for taking the time to read our comments!

  • Nancy Schwartz says:

    If you cover all of the topics in these comments it will be a very helpful course!!! Please put me on your waiting list!

  • Isabel Patchett says:

    Hello Liz, I was a little hesitant about joining this class thinking it might be beyond me as I am very new to watercolours yet for a very long time I have wanted to be able to use them with confidence. I really love the way they move on the paper, some staining colours, granulating, some opaque, some transparent, so much to learn and then there are the different papers and their affect on the paint. Then I read the topics for the course and everything is what I need to learn. I would like to learn how to work loosely and be confident with my choice of colours , correct value, how to achieve dimension , hard and soft edges and the right colours used to achieve shadows. I have a lot to learn but would like to join your class.

  • Ilse says:

    I would like to know if there might be reasons to better start with ink
    Iines first (and add watercolour afterwards) in certain situations or better start with watercolour shapes first (and add ink or pencil lines afterwards). Is it only a matter of taste and preference at a certain moments, or do both techniques ‘belong’ more to certain circumstances?

  • Ilse says:

    And I would love to learn more about your use of dagger brushes. What can you do with it what you cannot do with round brushes, what opportunities does it offer?

  • Anne-Sophie says:

    Hi Liz !! I new at urbansketching and I’m struggling with shadows and shades : Should shades be painted in layers or directly apllied on the first pass ? My shades are always quite dull and doesn’t agree well with the surfaces they are on. I’ve tested a lot of combinations of colors, tried to use the ´´color+complementary+hint of blue” technique, but with no satisfactory result… That is definitely the area where I need help !! Many thanks for asking !

  • Flory says:

    Hi Liz, I can’t wait for this course! Thank you so much for developing it for us.
    I would like to understand more about the working characteristics of various brushes, especially both “real” and waterbrushes. Keys to getting maximum color impact with a waterbrush, and tips on taking real brushes in the field. Another topic is papers: why some are best for ink, some for pure watercolor, and some work well for both. Which can take a heavy wash with less buckling, in sketchbooks of course! Thank you again!
    Cheers and xoxo, Flory

  • Lina Barattin says:

    Count me in, Liz, Can’t wait unless is is between 20 Feb and 15 March, because I am going to Africa!

  • christine kopet says:

    A palette which give vibrant mixtures, beautiful granulation, and transparency. Enough colors to get variety, but also a small enough number to work for travel and outdoor sketches.
    How to work quicker, bolder, but with knowledge.

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