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Old 10-13-2007, 02:17 PM
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Arrow **The TOP TWENTY WATERCOLOR FAQs**

The Top Twenty Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

From members' feedback in the survey we did earlier, all the questions that are asked when painters first come here were rendered down to twenty of the most asked questions. Once that was done, the Watercolor Forum guides and moderators started the research and the results of the group effort follow below. Each question is given a short generic answer. It is recognized that these questions have multiple “right answers” depending on the artist, so specific links to expand your search for answers are provided.

Below you will see the questions grouped into categories and the post number in this thread where the answers can be found. We hope you will find this a valuable tool in your exploration of watercolors.

(Note: A separate thread, "Comments for The Top Twenty FAQs," has been provided for comments about this thread. Thank You.)

COLOR: (#1—3)

COLORS – What are the essential ones to begin with?
VALUE – What is it and does it relate to intensity?
MIXING BLACK AND GREENS – How do I avoid mud?

PAINT: (#4—7)

STUDENT OR ARTIST GRADE – What is the difference?
PAINT BRAND – Which should I use?
PAINT CHARACTERISTICS: TRANSPARENT, OPAQUE, GOUACHE – What does it all mean?
PIGMENTS IN PAINT –Single vs. multiple and what is the difference?

PAPER: (#8—11)

STRETCHING PAPER – Avoiding curls and buckles: what, how, and why?
PAPER WEIGHTS – What are they and does it matter?
PAPER SURFACES – What are they and why?
PAPER – Does it matter and what should I buy?

SKILLS: (#12—17)

GLAZES AND WASHES – What are they and how are they done?
WATER – How do I use and control it?
SHADOWS AND LIGHT SOURCES — How do I use them?
TREES AND BUSHES – How are they painted?
HOW DO I GET A GOOD CRITIQUE FOR MY PAINTINGS?
MOUNTING AND FRAMING – How is it done?

TOOLS: (#16—20)

BRUSHES - What are the types and what should I buy?
PALETTES – Which should I buy?
MASKING FLUID – What is it and how is it used?
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Last edited by painterbear : 08-29-2009 at 10:15 AM.
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Old 10-13-2007, 04:27 PM
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Re: The Top Twenty FAQs

1. COLORS - WHAT ARE THE ESSENTIAL ONES TO BEGIN WITH?

This is a question asked by every watercolour painter as they start out on the journey and even as they continue as they modify the contents as they progress on the trip. The trouble is there is no one correct answer. Often it depends on what you wish to paint, earth colours Burnt Sienna, Raw Sienna, the Umbers and so on are a must for some Landscape painters but would not make the palette of a floral painter.

Look in every book on watercolour and you will see the artist recommends different colours, brands etc. The best advise to start with is if you are working from your very first book by an artist you like and admire then purchase the paints that they recommend ……….. you know it makes sense.
Now if you are doing some research on what colours for your palette then there are as many answers as there are questions on this matter. Ask this question in the open Forums here on WetCanvas and you will soon see that each artist has a different palette set-up. Ask for 8 top colours for the best palette and you will get 50 paints to choose from.

What has been agreed is that mixing your own shades, hues and types of colours is the best way to get most out of the watercolour medium, there are hundreds of ‘convenience’ colours out there to buy, but what you really need is two of each of the Primary Colours, (Red – Blue –Yellow). A Primary colour is one that cannot be mixed from any other colours.

Why two of each? Well there is no colour that can be described as Pure Red, or Pure Yellow or Pure Blue they each contain a little of another colour making it either a warm or a cool variety of that colour.

An example of this type of Palette would be:
Cool Blue – Cerulean Blue
Warm Blue – Ultramarine Blue
Cool Yellow – Lemon Yellow
Warm Yellow – Cadmium Yellow
Cool Red – Permanent Rose
Warm Red – Cadmium Red

Please note: This is only an example and not the recommended palette. :wink:
The one colour that most people would agree on to put in with all of these various palettes is Burnt Sienna, some call this the magic colour, it is one of the best mixing colours on the palette and will ensure that when mixed with Ultramarine you will get the darkest ‘Black’ you will ever need as a watercolourist. It will also knock back the intensity of any colour that you can buy, like tube Greens, and make them much more acceptable. i.e. Viridian is a strident green colour which seems to be in all the kits you can buy, mix it with Burnt Sienna for a lovely Olive Green.

For an overview of all things ‘Paint’ then look here in the WetCanvas! Watercolour Handbook
If you are serious about checking out colours and how they mix then follow this link to handprint. This is an excellent website, but it is very in depth and can be very confusing if all you want is a simple answer.
Examples of Discussion Threads on WC!
http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=431076
http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=275697
http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/show...&threadid=1940
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Old 10-13-2007, 04:28 PM
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Re: The Top Twenty FAQs

2. VALUE - WHAT IS IT AND DOES IT RELATE TO INTENSITY?

To understand value and intensity, keep in mind that color has three key characteristics: hue, chroma and value. Chroma is often referred to as intensity or saturation.

Hue is the term for the actual color, e.g. blue, brown.

Chroma is a measure of how pure or intense a hue is. A highly saturated hue has a vivid, intense color, while a less saturated hue appears more muted and grey. Paint right out of the tube has high intensity. Adding white (or diluting with water, in the case of watercolor) or adding the complimentary color “desaturates” or lowers the intensity.



Value refers to how a color fits on the “greyscale” from white to black. The closer to white, the higher the value; the closer to black, the lower the value. A successful rule of thumb is for most of a painting to be in mid-values, with some darks and some lights for depth, highlight and focus. Handbook Section on Value



Few people use "out of a tube" black for their darkest values, prefering to mix their own. White is usually obtained by leaving the paper unpainted. Most use white paint only for touch ups and highlights, as its opacity contrasts with more transparent paints.

Chroma, or intensity, comes into play when planning where to place your values in a painting. Each hue not only has its place in the overal value scale, but also has a scale of its own. Notice in the illustration how a high saturation yellow matches in a value to a lower saturation blue or red. Convert a painting to greyscale to see how value and intensity interact.

Pros & cons of using purchased black vs. mixing black / darks yourself.
Opinions & combinations for rich, low value darks.
Pros & cons of using white paint, and ways to get high values / whites.
Restoring white (lifting off paint).
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Old 10-13-2007, 04:29 PM
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Re: The Top Twenty FAQs

3. MIXING BLACK AND GREENS - HOW DO I AVOID MUD?

Although there are different types of black paint out there that can be purchased ready made – many artists prefer to mix their own as they feel that ready made blacks are apt to ‘deaden’ a painting.

When it comes to greens again many artists prefer to mix their own as it gives them a larger variation on the types of greens used in their paintings.
With both black and green – many artists will have their own ‘recipes’ for mixing both – these of course also depend on how dark – cool or warm you want your resultant colour to be.

Of course there is nothing better than experimenting yourself on mixing colours together to see what results you achieve. More information can be found in the following links.

Colour Mixing
Mixing Blacks
Really Fun Greens
Convenience Greens
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Old 10-13-2007, 04:30 PM
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Re: The Top Twenty FAQs

PAINT:

4. STUDENT OR ARTIST GRADE - WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?

Most artists have their favorite brand(s) of paint and primarily stick to them. Many also use a few different brands because they find they like certain colors that different manufacturers offer. Most artists use artist grade paints, although you may still find an ocassional artist who swears by their student grade paints Student paints are mostly used by a beginning painter in a classroom, because they are cheaper. As an artist progresses though they should make the step up to artist quality paints as the difference is quite noticeable and preserving your work is of utmost importance.

Student paint pigments are not as finely ground and may use fillers, therefore will fade over a shorter period of time. Artist grade paints use very finely ground pigments with a binder added, they are rated according to their lightfastness and usually have their contents listed on the label. They range in price from reasonable to expensive and are formulated to certain specifications.

Through trial and error an artist will find their perfect palette and their favorite brand of watercolor but whatever they choose they should read labels and compare brands and prices by manufacturers for mixing, reliability, and lightfastness.

Visit this link in the WC Watercolor handbook for more information; http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=318465
Also check out the book Hilary Page's Guide to Watercolor Paints or The Wilcox Guide to the Best Watercolor Paints.
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Old 10-13-2007, 04:31 PM
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Re: The Top Twenty FAQs

5: PAINT BRAND - WHICH SHOULD I USE?

Watercolor paints come in many brands and are made in many different countries from all over the world. Most brands offer excellent and lesser quality paints depending on how finely ground the pigment is and what binder is used. An artist quality paint doesn't need to be super expensive, but should be labeled with their specifications along with a rating of lightfastness. (I-V) The higher the number the more unstable the paint, meaning it is fugitive or will fade. Not all watercolor paints are transparent, some are opaque. A great way to try a new color/brand is to purchase only a 5ml tube, this way you really aren't out much if you do not like it. Also in many art magazines they have specials where you can try a couple of tubes quite cheaply with a coupon.

There are about 20 major manufacturers of watercolor paints including, Windsor & Newton, Maimeri Blu; M. Graham, Daniel Smith, American Journey, DaVinci and many more and you should try several before you decide on which brand you want to build your palette with. They come in tubes or pans and you can now even use watercolor pencils. The tube paints seem to be the most used however the pan paints are handy for plein aire painting. Which you choose as an artist is your own personal decision but remember they are an investment so buy the very best that you can afford. Read and compare labels and ingredients, then decide if you want paint that stays moist in your palette, are portable, have tops that remove easily, are reasonably priced, have good saturation or granulation capabilities, are lightfast, are transparent, and etc.

Visit the WC handbook to learn more:

http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=318465 or check out The Wilcox Guide to the Best Watercolor Paints.
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Old 10-13-2007, 04:32 PM
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Re: The Top Twenty FAQs

6. PAINT CHARACTERISTICS: TRANSPARENT, OPAQUE, GOUACHE. WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?

Because watercolor color paints are made from finely ground pigments, the different properties of the pigments effect how much a given paint covers the paper or a previous layer of paint.

Transparency is the degree to which the paper, or a previous layer of color, can still show through, giving the "luminosity" characteristic to watercolor. Pigments vary: dye-based ones are very transparent, for example, while cadmiums are more opaque.

Opaque is the degree to which you cannot see through a color. Opaque or the French term, gouache, also refers to a category of watercolor paint that is dense and easily covers the underlying surface. White, for example, is an opaque paint that covers other colors, and hence is occassionally used for highlights or to correct mistakes.

Staining or Permanent colors discolor the paper and cannot be lifted or washed off. Permanence also refers to light-fastness over time.

Granulation refers to how much a color looks grainy or mottled. The pigment sinks into the paper, showing off its texture.

Handbook section on paints and their characteristics.
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Old 10-13-2007, 04:32 PM
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Re: The Top Twenty FAQs

7. PIGMENTS IN PAINT -SINGLE vs MULTIPLE AND WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE?

Pigment, finely ground and mixed with a binder, makes paint. Pigments can be natural or synthetic. The natural pigments include inorganic earth-based materials and organic materials such as plants and animal matter. Mineral colors include blue made from cobalt and green from chromium oxide. Ochre is ground stone, and red madder comes from a plant. Some paints are made from a combination of pigments, and some which were once from inorganic or toxic materials are now made through modern chemistry.

Indepth overview of paints and pigments.
A comprehensive list of paints, their pigments, permanance, toxicity, and manufacturers. (Source of reference: www.watercolorpainting.com)

Pigments have different characterisitcs which effect how they are mixed and used. Transparency vs opacity is one key difference. How a pigment moves in water, reacts to another pigment, and dries is another. Permanance over time, and toxicity are other considerations.

• Transparent pigments allow the paper or previous layer of color to show through; opaque pigment covers other colors.
• When transparent and opaque pigments are combined on the palette, the mixture will be opaque.

• Manufactures rate and label paint for permanancy, especially light exposure.
• Granulation is the degree to which the pigment shows as tiny particles when dry.

• Mixing pigments is actually chemistry: some combine better or repel others, or mix in distinctive ways.

• Wet pigment is always brighter than when dry; compensate for this change in intensity by using less water.

Handbook article on paint toxicity.
More on granulation and seperation of pigments.
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Old 10-13-2007, 04:33 PM
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Re: The Top Twenty FAQs

PAPER:

8. STRETCHING PAPER - AVOIDING CURLS AND BUCKLES: WHAT, HOW AND WHY?

The purpose of stretching paper is to eliminate warping and buckling, and to ensure a smooth, taut surface for painting. Stretching paper is a personal choice, and the benefits and approaches depend on several factors:
- the texture, absorbancy and weight of the paper
- the backing or surface to which the paper is attached
- how much water your style of painting typically involves, including whether you work upright (ie at an easel) or flat (ie at a table).

How to Stretch Paper?
The paper is saturated with water, attached to a support surface, and left to thoroughly dry. The paper is left attached to the support while painting. Those who work on stretched paper often prepare several boards, so that paper is ready at any time. Typical supports include foam core board, wood boards, masonite. As paper natually expands when wet, you do not actually need to pull the paper, but can rely on the drying to "stretch" the paper taut. Some speciality tools do exist which actually stretch the paper, but most find this unnecessary.

Steps for Stapled
Steps for Taped
Types of Supports or Backings
Use of a Stretching Device

Alternatives to stretching include:

Using 300# paper.Unless heavily soaked with water, it is stiff enough to resist buckling.

Using watercolor blocks or masking tape to attach paper to a support. Block paper is not stretched, but the attached edges of the block or taping to a support, eliminates curling and lessens buckling.

Painting in a wet-on-wet style. Paper is soaked and the wetness "adheres" the paper to a support, as long as the paper remains wet. The "Wet Paper" Approach.

Gluing paper to a support. Paper is permanently attached to a support, such as illustration board. Steps for Gluing.

Last edited by Yorky : 07-17-2008 at 10:49 AM.
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Old 10-13-2007, 04:34 PM
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Re: The Top Twenty FAQs

9. PAPER WEIGHTS - WHAT ARE THEY AND DOES IT MATTER?

All paper is defined by weight. A ream (500 sheets) of paper is weighed and the weight is used to describe the paper. 24 lb paper is the weight of a nice Bond printer paper. Card stock is thicker at 65 lbs, 90 lbs, 110 lbs. Watercolor paper is available in 90 lb/200 gsm, 140 lb/300gsm, 300lb/640 gsm, 400 lb/850 gsm and 500 lb/1060 gsm.

The weight of the paper is indicative of its thickness. 90 lb/200 gsm paper will accept a few layers of paint but very little water can be used before it buckles significantly. It is a good weight for a small sketchbook to carry with you. 140 lb/300gsm paper has significantly more bulk and will tolerate more manipulation, as with lifting, scrubbing or scratching techniques. It will still buckle so most artists stretch this weight paper. 300 lb/640 gsm paper is very heavy, sturdy and is not prone to buckling when saturated. It does not need to be stretched. It is very forgiving and will hold up under almost any circumstances. It does hold more water so takes longer to dry. Pigments are absorbed further down into the paper so it is not very easy to wash down a painting and re-use 300 lb/640 gsm.

400 lb/850 gsm and 500 lb papers are even sturdier and are rarely used. They are considered speciality papers. They are useful for very large paintings (among other things) as the integrity of the large expanse is preserved by the bulk of the paper.

There are several other specialty surfaces for watercolor which include Yupo, watercolor canvas and watercolor board.

Follow these links for more information about watercolor papers:
Watercolor Paper Article By CharM
WetCanvas! Watercolor Handbook
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Old 10-13-2007, 04:34 PM
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Re: The Top Twenty FAQs

10. PAPER SURFACES - WHAT ARE THEY AND WHY?

Hot Press, Cold Press (aka "Not") and Rough are the standard watercolor paper surfaces. Papers are milled or moulded. In either process a roller is used to compress the fibers of the pulp together.

When rollers are used in conjunction with heat the paper is called “Hot Press”. The texture of the paper is finer and smoother. It is a bit denser so absorbs water differently than cold press paper. It is suitable for work that requires fine detail, accepts both frisket film and masking fluid readily and is a excellent surface for using an airbrush to apply watercolor.

Cold Press (aka Not) paper is rolled without heat. The texture of the paper is more pronounced. Water is also absorbed a bit more readily. Techniques such as scumbling are possible on Cold Press but would not be possible on Hot Press. Masking techniques work on this surface, although liquid masking fluid works better than film.

Rough paper is the most textured watercolor paper available. Scumbling works very well on Rough. Granulating or flocculating pigments create an amazing visually-textured painting on this surface. It is also popular for mixed media such as pastel with watercolors as the higher tooth of the paper will hold more surface pigment. Masking materials do not work very well. It is difficult to get a film to adhere along the edge, allowing bleeding underneath. Masking fluid is very difficult to remove from Rough.

Watercolor paper surfaces poll
Hot Pressed paper
Cold Pressed paper
Rough paper

Follow these links for more information about watercolor papers:
Watercolor Paper Article By CharM
WetCanvas! Watercolor Handbook
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Old 10-13-2007, 04:35 PM
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Re: The Top Twenty FAQs

11. PAPER - DOES IT MATTER AND WHAT SHOULD I BUY?

Yes, it matters. Normally if you ask a 100 artists a question you can pretty much count on hearing 100 different answers. Not so with watercolor paper, the stock answer is “buy the best you can afford”. Paper is the single most important part of the painting equation. It is the basis for your work, the ground your painting stands on. You may only be practising but you never know when you finally “get” that one elusive technique and produce a masterpiece – on drawing paper.

Watercolor paper is made from 100% cotton rag. Paper is made from wood fibers. Cotton absorbs pigments, wood fibers hold pigment between them and contain tannins, which discolor pigments over time. Acids in regular paper will bleach Ultramarine in a matter of months. Watercolor paper is much more sturdy and can take a lot of manipulation that is common with the medium, whether as technique or correction of errors.

Watercolor paper also contains sizing. Various kinds are used but basically sizing is a type of starch that controls the absorption and evaporation of water. Watercolor can be very difficult to control and almost impossible without sized paper. It is possible to apply sizing to other papers, however it makes more sense to purchase the professionally manufactured papers.

Yes, it is more expensive to buy watercolor paper. The expense, however, is not unreasonable when you consider the following:

You can purchase a full sheet of paper and tear or cut it into as many as 8 pieces and still have good sized paintings.
If you don't care for what you have painted on the first side you can use the second side as well.
There are even times when you can wash the painting off the paper and start again!

You may save a little money by buying inferior paper yet it is not worth the frustration and regrets experienced with using inferior paper. Whatever your level, you deserve to be painting on quality watercolor paper.

Follow these links for more information about watercolor papers:
Watercolor Paper Article By CharM
WetCanvas! Watercolor Handbook
Guide to Watercolor Papers by Bruce MacEvoy
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Old 10-13-2007, 04:38 PM
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Re: The Top Twenty FAQs

SKILLS:

12. GLAZES AND WASHES - WHAT ARE THEY AND HOW ARE THEY DONE?

A wash simply means to apply a uniform color over a large area of the painting, e.g. a light blue wash for the sky, or a uniform green or blue color on a field or other area. The washes can also be uniformly moving from a darker shade towards a lighter shade like in a blue sky, where the nearer parts of a sky is darker and it becomes lighter when it is near the horizon. Other colors can also be blended in, e.g. the gradual changing from blue to orange when depicting a sunrise or sunset.

Flat and Graduated Washes by Rod Webb

A glaze is the application of one paint color over a previous paint layer, with the new paint layer at a dilution sufficient to allow the first color to show through. Glazes are used to mix two or more colors, to adjust a color (darken it or change its hue or chroma), or to produce an extremely homogenous, smooth color surface or a controlled but delicate color transition (light to dark, or one hue to another). Each new layer of paint is applied using a soft round brush, only after the previous paint application has completely dried. Each new layer is used to refine the color transitions or to efface visible irregularities in the existing color. Artists who use this technique may apply many glazes to create a single composition.

Last edited by Yorky : 05-22-2008 at 03:07 PM.
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Old 10-13-2007, 04:38 PM
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Re: The Top Twenty FAQs

13. WATER - HOW DO I USE AND CONTROL IT?

In watercolor, the water controls you! You must attempt to control the water - where it flows, how it flows, and at what rate. With the exception of dry brushing, you have no guarantees that the paint will stay where you put it. And, I suspect, that’s the intrigue and challenge of choosing to paint in watercolor. It’s rather like building a stream. You sop up the water if it goes where you don't want it, and you use tools to make a path for the water to flow where you do want it.

In a watercolor we may choose to begin with a wet or damp surface which is analogous to the "stream". We use tools, our brushes, sponges, etc., to control the flow of water in the "stream" and see that it doesn't exceed its banks.

Most folks begin their watercolors by dampening the paper and then working some pigment into the damp paper, roughing in the design. After the paper has dried a bit, another layer of pigment is added to further define the areas. This process is repeated until the image is as detailed as you want.
After the paper is dried, fine details are added by brushing a bit of color here and there as needed (dry brush techniques). Of course, the paper can be re-dampened as needed.

Article by Arnold Lowrey – Controlling Water
Article by Johannes Vloothuis - Controlling Watercolor Part 1 and Part 2
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Re: The Top Twenty FAQs

14. SHADOWS AND LIGHT SOURCES — HOW DO I USE THEM?

As one of the most important elements in a painting, shadows should be carefully planned and painted. Cast Shadows are caused by an object blocking the light; they fall on the surfaces behind and beneath the object and follow the contours of the surface they lay on. Form Shadows are found on the surfaces of the object that face away from the light source.

If the light source in a painting is a distant one, such as the sun, all the shadows will fall at the same angle and direction. If the light source is nearby, as with a lamp, the shadows will be at different angles and directions depending on the relation of the object to the light source.

Shadows are not uniformly gray or black, they contain colors reflected from the object causing them, the surface they fall on, colors of nearby surfaces, and the ambient light on the scene. When painting from photo references, be aware that shadows in photos generally look darker and less colorful than they do in real life and compensate for that.

Some interesting threads discussing shadows are Shadows and Reflections; When White Isn't White; and Any Recipes for Shadows?

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