Best Seller

Artistic Watercolor Techniques for Illustrating Birds

A course by Sarah Stokes
Artist. Bewdley, United Kingdom.
On Domestika since 02/02/2020
, Artist

Bring vivid wildlife compositions to life by exploring modern methods of watercolor painting

  • Best Seller
  • 99% Positive reviews (923)
  • 17393 students
  • Audio: English
  • English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, French, Italian
Artistic Watercolor Techniques for Illustrating Birds

Bring vivid wildlife compositions to life by exploring modern methods of watercolor painting

  • 99% Positive reviews (923)
  • 17393 students
  • Online and at your own pace
  • Audio: English
  • Level: Beginner
  • 18 Lessons (3h 14m)
  • Available from the app
  • English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, French, Italian
  • Unlimited access forever

Modern watercolor painting is synonymous with freedom and spontaneity. Some of the most interesting results are achieved by simply going with the flow of the paint and seeing where it takes you. Add a step by step methodology and some expertise, and the results become filled with meaning and expression.

Sarah Stokes is a self-taught wildlife artist who translates her passions for creating art and being close to nature into expressive watercolor compositions. Her work can be found in UK galleries like Whitewall Galleries and Clarendon Fine Art, as well as others around the world.

In this course, Sarah guides you through her step-by-step process for creating an expressive wildlife composition using modern watercolor painting methods. Start from the basics, adding artistic techniques to the flow of your paintbrush to create expressive wildlife compositions.

About this course

Course table of contents

  • U1
    U1. Introduction
  • U2
    U2. Materials, Seeing Tone and Understanding Color
  • U3
    U3. How Watercolor Works
  • U4
    U4. Preparing for Our Bird Painting
  • U5
    U5. Painting Our Birds
  • FP
    FP Final Project
View details

Get to know your teacher Sarah Stokes, who tells you how she became a full-time gallery artist and introduces you to the work of some artists and photographers that inspire her work. She also introduces the materials you’re going to need and how to use them.

Begin with some theory on tonal values and see why it’s so important to get them right. Do your first bird drawing in graphite, ensuring the dark, light, and mid-tones are correctly applied. Then, Sarah goes through some color theory, starting with how to mix and use watercolors effectively. Learn how warm and cold colors play their part in a composition and create color palettes using both saturated and desaturated hues.

In the next unit, learn to master watercolor properties such as pigment control, timing, wetness, and more, to obtain the results you want. Practice a variety of expressive brushstrokes and mark-making techniques before painting your first watercolor bird using just one color.

See where to get the ideal photo references and work on them digitally to get them “paint-ready”. Use practical aspects like branch shapes, negative space, and color to tell a story through your composition.

Finally, use gel pens to finish your composition and add paint splashes and drips to complete your piece. Sarah finishes the course by sharing some ideas for taking your concept further and developing a series.

What is this course's project?

Create a watercolor illustration of birds perched on a branch using modern techniques.

Projects by course students

Who is it for?

This course is for anyone interested in learning how to use watercolor to paint wildlife.

What you need

You do not need previous experience with watercolors, as Sarah starts by teaching you the basics. Those with some experience will also benefit from this course by learning new methods to include in their repertoire.

As for materials, you need good quality watercolor paper (preferably 635 gsm), watercolor paints, a range of brushes, graphic black pens, and a white gel pen, white gouache or acrylic, tracing paper, kitchen roll, water pots, scrap watercolor paper for testing, a hole punch for tonal value guide, photo paper and a printer, a ruler, a pencil, and an eraser.


17393 Students
923 Reviews
99% Positive ratings
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Sarah Stokes

A course by Sarah Stokes


Sarah Stokes is a self-taught artist from the Midlands region in England, a place where she finds inspiration and creates work that is full of life. From a young age, Sarah has always been her happiest when painting and drawing, using her creativity to build a successful business career before deciding to return to what she loved most.

She has created artwork for bands, restaurants, breweries, and schools, as well as giftware for clients like Enesco. Her work is exhibited in Whitewall Galleries, Clarendon Fine Art, and several independent galleries. Sarah’s prints can also be found worldwide in places like Next, Wayfair, and on Amazon.


  • U1


    • About Me
    • Influences
    • What We Will Do On the Course?
  • U2

    Materials, Seeing Tone and Understanding Color

    • Materials
    • Tonal Values
    • Colour Theory 1
    • Colour Theory 2
  • U3

    How Watercolor Works

    • Pigment Control and Basic Layering Techniques on Dry Paper
    • Wet Paper
    • Brush Strokes
  • U4

    Preparing for Our Bird Painting

    • Obtain and Enhance Photo References
    • Compositions and Transferring
    • Colour Palettes
  • U5

    Painting Our Birds

    • Painting Birds 1
    • Painting Birds 2
    • Painting a Loose Branch: Adding of Pen Work to Define Shape
    • Finishing Touches
    • More Ideas / Different Choices
  • FP

    Final Project

    • Artistic Watercolor Techniques for Illustrating Birds

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  • Domestika's courses are online classes that provide you with the tools and skills you need for completing a specific final project. Every step of the project combines video lessons with complementary instructional material, so you can learn by doing. Domestika's courses also allow you to share your own projects with the instructor and other users, thus creating a dynamic course community.

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Artistic Watercolor Techniques for Illustrating Birds. A Illustration course by Sarah Stokes Best Seller

Artistic Watercolor Techniques for Illustrating Birds

A course by Sarah Stokes
Artist. Bewdley, United Kingdom.
On Domestika since 02/02/2020
  • 99% Positive reviews (923)
  • 17393 students