Line first or color first?

One of the questions I get asked all the time is: Do you do line first or color first?

I go either way, depending on the scene I’m capturing. Or how I feel like working that day. And, I think of it as line and shape, color is incidental. Whichever way I start, I go back and forth quite a bit. Sadly, I rarely remember to take photos of my process when I’m in the middle of a sketch. This one was an exception.

Paint goes on first here, after a little bit of pencil line to lay in the composition. clock_arrow_sign_1

Then I define a few bits with my Sailor Bent Nib Pen.clock_arrow_sign_2

Back to paint to add some darks and dirty washes to capture the decaying look of this sign. And a whole new wash over the sky to make the sign stand out. Last of all, some Titanium White gouache for the neon tubing. clock_arrow_sign_3

I hope that helps. I keep getting asked to shoot video of the process, but once I’m sketching I can’t imagine monitoring another process. So I guess it’s only going to happen if someone wants to come along while I sketch and shoot the process 🙂

About Suhita Shirodkar

obsessive-sketcher. graphic designer.
This entry was posted in california, Everyday Sketches, san jose, Silicon Valley, Vintage Signs, watercolor and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Line first or color first?

  1. Caroline Greene says:

    That’s really helpful. And seeing the sky wash ‘before and after’ makes it clear how important contrast is too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. discovering says:

    Thanks, that’s really interesting!


  3. Really interesting to see your art process. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. mike says:

    “I keep getting asked to shoot video of the process, but once I’m sketching I can’t imagine monitoring another process.”

    even for my little drawings, making a video of it adds a difficulty factor of 11 to it. You do good watercolors, something I find to be the hardest thing to do.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I do the same, sometimes ink first sometimes watercolor. However when teaching new sketchers, particularly those who “think they cant sketch”, I get them to do watercolor first as it gets them away from thinking about everything they see as lines, instead thinking about blobs of color and shape. I tell them the watercolor will be without much detail and not precise, and that is OK. We add a bit of definition with the ink. I always love your stuff, get so many ideas.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I each it both ways: I find there are line people and shape people and coming at it both ways gives everyone atleast one way of seeing and drawing that is easier for them to grasp, and one that is a stretch way…


  6. What a wonderful blog! I’ve sketched a few things on my travels, but want to get better. 😁

    Liked by 1 person

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