Blue Door, Venice
Watercolor Painting Tutorial

by Jennifer Branch
I'm continuing my little series of Venice Door paintings with this lovely door on to a canal.

When you start a painting, whether on location or from a photo or sketches, the first step is to decide your center of interest. Your goal is to grab the viewer's attention and keep it hovering in that area. Here, that's obviously the door. Always ask yourself, what's the most important thing about this subject?

This painting has a few things I could choose to focus on. The lovely ironwork and strong contrasts. The rich color of the pink stucco and the deep teal of the canal reflected on the door. The lovely orange pole. The texture of the stucco and moldings. Warm rich pinks against cool blues.

If I try to paint all these things with equal importance, the painting would be a fussy little mess!

I went for colors and contrast, with the most extreme of both around the door. I do love color!
Blue Door, Venice Watercolor Painting tutorial

Painting Tutorial Level


Skill Building


Vivid Colors


Art Supplies

Blick Art Full Bellied Round, no.12


M. Graham watercolors

Azo Yellow
Cadmium Yellow
Quinacridone Red
Quinacridone Gold
Pthalo Green
Pthalo Blue
Cobalt Blue
Cobalt Teal
Burnt Sienna
White Gouache

Painting Demonstration 1

Blue Door, Venice Watercolor Painting Lesson 1

The light is flat in this photo, but I'll fix that!

Painting Demonstration 2

Blue Door, Venice Watercolor Painting Lesson 2

The first wash always gives you a base to build on. I wanted beautiful pinks and subtle glowing oranges in the first layer.

Work fast! I want colors to flow together. I'm building an interesting texture underneath the layers.

I make certain I have a medium dark in the first layer. This gives me something to gauge the rest of my values by.

Painting Demonstration 3

Blue Door, Venice Painting Tutorial 3

Here I'm just adding a few more darks. I drybrush the sides of the pole where the light catches it. I want to feel like it's a little sunnier than in the photo. My memories of Venice sparkle!

I'm using cobalt blue and burnt sienna for the darks. Nothing too strong.

Artist Tips

Use a combination of wet into wet wash and dry brush to give clouds volume.
Blue Door, Venice watercolor painting tutorial by Jennifer Branch

Painting Demonstration 4

Blue Door, Venice Painting Tutorial 4

Mmm... adding some of the deep strong blues in pthalo blue and cobalt teal. Lovely strong blues – it's too bad they'll have to be toned down a bit. I'm painting the glow under the water, just like the glow under the stucco layer.

I paint the green shadows under the landing in dark dark pthalo and burnt sienna. I'll pull a little paint out later. I start the drybrush mossy texture on the lower blocks.

Painting Demonstration 5

Blue Door, Venice Painting Tutorial 5

Now that I laid the base for the painting and everything is still wet in patches, it's time to really move that brush!

I do strong, rich darks on the door in pthalo blue and cobalt teal, with a touch of burnt sienna and quinacridone gold. I drybrush bits so the paper white sparkles. I'm planning on going back with a touch of white gouache so I don't worry about reserving ironwork whites.

I dash the brush around the water, letting the reflection flow.

I add more texture to the blocks and stucco with scrabbled drybrush. And just a touch of glowing gold under the step!

Blue Door, Venice Watercolor Painting demonstration

To purchase Blue Door, Venice original watercolor painting, please click!

Blue Door, Venice Final Watercolor Painting!

I used dashes of which gouache for the reflections on the ironwork. There's such beautiful ironwork in Venice! As an alternative, you could use a knife to scratch out the white reflections if you don't want to use gouache. I've come to view gouache as an excellent tool, but it can be deadly to a painting when used instead of planning a painting out!

The color shift on the final painting is a combination of paint drying – always remember watercolor paint dries softer and lighter – and taking the photo under proper color corrected conditions. It takes a few minutes to adjust the photo so it looks just like the painting so I don't do it on the demo stages unless it's very different! As a quick guide (using a scale of 1-10), most paints will dry about 3 value and saturation levels lighter than they started. The solution is not to gob on paint, which will dull the stained glass quality of watercolor, but to build up slowly.

This painting took about an hour and a half to do. That's pretty standard for a little painting. Obviously, the individual washes can't dry in that amount of time so they have to be done a bit all over the place, wet and dry. That suits a highly textured painting beautifully!

I really enjoyed painting this watercolor. It's very simple but the scene has a lot of what I love about Venice, lovely bright colors, textures, and the wonderful light bounce glimmering from the reflecting water.

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