Watercolor Painting: Japanese Koi Fish

 Watercolor Painting: Japanese Koi Fish

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Recommended Materials

This project works best when using the materials shown below. Please Note: These items are found in the ArtSkills Premium Artist Case. These items can also be found at your local craft store.


Watercolor Paint Dries Lighter

With watercolor paint, a color will always appear more intense (vibrant and darker) when it is wet. As it begins to dry the color will lose its intensity.

Test a Color First

Watercolor paint dries very fast. Therefore, it's best to test a color on a scrap piece of paper.

Keep Water Clean

To prevent colors from getting muddy, it is important to wash off your brush when switching colors. Periodically replace the water in your cup to help keep your colors clean and bright.


Step 1:

Lay Down Light Colors. When using watercolor paint, start by putting down your lightest colors. Use Light Green on the lily pads. Add Yellow Orange in splotchy shapes to the two koi fish, without completely filling them in.


Step 2:

Start to Layer. Put a darker value on a lighter one, and then use water to blend them together. For example, put Bright Orange on top of your Koi Fish to deepen their color. Use Bright Orange on the Light Green lily pads as well. Use Black and pick up as little pigment as possible; then lightly drag your brush along the fins and tails for shading.

Step 3:

Add More Colors. Use Dark Green to add a layer over the lily pads with a very wet brush. Next, use Red and begin to lightly paint over the Bright Orange that was layered in Step 2.  

Step 4:

Add More Details! Paint a light layer of Blue in the background. Lay your paint down heavier around the fish. Take Red and lightly dab it over your Bright Orange splotches on the koi. Use Black watercolor pencil to make dots on top of the Red. Lightly accent the gray fins with Violet.  


Step 5:

Finish Your Painting! Use Blue to layer more paint on the water. Make the shades darker closest to the fish to indicate ripples in the water. Darken slightly around the lily pads as well. 

For an extra touch, use White acrylic paint and your smallest paint brush to add small, curved strokes on the backs of the fish to represent scales. Only do this step once your watercolor paint has completely dried.