Fish Market Step by Step

Step 3

The small area of buildings on the left

I have selected this area to start because it is out of the way, it is relatively unimportant to the picture and it gives us a chance to consider one or two of the basic techniques and not risk making a total mess of the exercise.  It is a sort of ‘warming up’ step !

First of all, our drawing does not include all the fine detail.

That would have been pointless as we can easily draw in the detail we need with reference to the photo.  Yes, the pen version does make some shapes unchangeable, but most of you will have drawn out the picture using either Graphite or Watercolour pencil and anything which is in the wrong place can be erased.  Our drawing simply ensures that most of the picture is in the right proportion and in the right place.

The picture in this area is a minor player in the overall scene, so we don’t need to have strong colours and hard contrasts.  We can stay with lighter colours, certainly for the first steps.  

Look at the main building, it has mainly light terracotta walls and creamy white pillar decoration to the walls and round the windows.

The roof is a darker terracotta and the eaves with the block decoration are in shadow.  There is a diagonal shadow across the wall to the left hand archway, and the darkest areas are the lower window openings and the archways themselves.  The market stall covers are as light as we are going to see, so we can leave these the white of the paper.

Moving to the right, there is a collection of buildings also in red terracotta, but these are much warmer red, in different shades of red and the windows show up as dark slots.   Just in case you wondered, the dark shape on the right of this area is a bronze statue on a plinth on the corner of the Fish Market building, I don’t know, but I would guess it is of a Sea God.

To the right, here, I include another photo of the far corner of the main building which might clarify what you are seeing.

What colours do you have available in your pencil set ?

The chances are you don’t have the correct colour


With so many people working the picture with different colours available to them

Some with full sets of 120 Faber-Castell colours ( or Caran d’Ache Supracolor)

Some with sets of 60 Staedtler or 72 Derwent,

And some with a mixed bag of various colours found in the drawer.


And no single way is ‘CORRECT’

To demonstrate this, I will use the full 120 set of Albrecht Durer from Faber-Castell on the Arches paper  ( No 1 )

The set of 72 Derwent watercolour pencils on the Clairfontaine pencil drawing   ( No 2 )

And a half box of the Staedtler ( 36 pencils ) on the pen and wash version  ( No 3 )

All of you should be somewhere in that mix and it is simply a case of reading the notes for each of the versions and applying what you learn to your own version.  Frankly it doesn’t matter if you are working with just 6 colours, provided that the colours you have, give you a wide range of mixtures and you understand something about the way a colour wheel works.

If you don’t understand the colour wheel and mixing colours, then I will explain

When Caran d’Ache launched their Museum brand watercolour pencils back in 2013 they sold an introductory pack comprising just 6 pencils.  The colours included are shown below, and the competition for artwork using just those 6 colours resulted in some superb work

The colours in this set were:

350  Purplish Red              ( on the blue side of red )

560  Light Cadmium Red   ( on the orange side of red )

530  Gold Cadmium Yellow   ( an orange yellow )

240  Lemon yellow   ( carrying plenty of green in it )

670  Permanent Blue  ( also carrying green in it )

640  Dark Ultramarine  ( with some purple in it )

Effectively two reds, two blues and two yellows

This enables you to find good greens, oranges and purples by mixing the colours carrying the most related hues.  It also enables the mixing of dark greens, oranges and purples by mixing the opposites of the twins.

You can do this with any similar 6 colours from any brand - see the small trio of samples to the right of the mixing wheel.

They show some examples of dark mixtures.

If you would like to see a YouTube film of the entries to that 2013 competition, it will give you an idea of the range of colours that can be achieved from 6 pencils.  The link is here

When we do our main work with Aquarelle pencils we aim to apply the dry colour to the paper, and then mix and blend colours on the paper with a Damp brush ( just enough water to soften and mix ).

If we use two colours on the paper which have an affinity - for example the lemon yellow and the greenish blue, we have two colours containing green.  We would therefore expect to be able to get a good bright green from the mixture.

If we were to take the orange yellow, it has very little green content. Then mix it with the blue green and we have some green but not a bright green.  The amount of green content is low.

If we mix the orange yellow together with the blue with purple content, we have very little green - if any at all - so our mixture will be quite dull and earthy.  

By taking colours which are not neighbours on the wheel, we can get a wide combination of hues which give us many of the colours we will be looking for in this picture……   Though getting the right bright red for those blinds to the market arches is going to involve some entertainment, I think !!!!!

Taking 6 colours from the Steadtler Karat box of 36 colours we can see some of the range of mixed colours obtainable

I have selected the following….  Light Yellow 10 : Sand Yellow 11 :  Cobalt Blue 33 : Cyan 37 : Carmine Red 29 : Red 2.    This gives me two each of primaries that are slightly different.   The light yellow is a low pigmented yellow but holds green in it. This yellow is easily overpowered by other stronger colours.  The Sand Yellow 11 holds a lot of orange and is very strongly pigmented so needs using with care in mixtures.  The reds are quite close to each other, but the Red 2 holds the best orange and with sand produces a good warm red.    Because coloured pencils are manufactured with the main aim of laying down colour dry on the paper, colour mixing with water has a lower priority and the lower priced brands are less ‘balanced’ as far as pigment is concerned.  More care is therefore needed to use less of the strongly pigmented colours in mixtures so that the end result is not overpowered by one element.





The six colours selected from the Derwent set produce very similar mixtures - though of course not identical.

The colours selected here were Ultramarine 29 ( a reddish blue ) : Spectrum Blue 32 ( a greenish blue ) :  Primrose Yellow 4 ( some green content but low pigment strength as with the samples from Steadtler ) :  Cadmium Yellow Deep 6 ( orange Yellow ) : Deep Vermillion Red ( with orange content ) and Madder Carmine 19 ( a purple red).  

As you can see from the mixtures above, we get a very good purple in the second box and some interesting darker greens when we mix the orange red with the Ultramarine in the fourth box.


You need to understand the colours you are using.  Having 120 colours is all very well, but you need to know how the colour you have selected is going to mix with the second - or third - colour in your blend.  How strong is it, is it easily overpowered by other colours ?      A test sheet of similar paper to your working paper, is essential because your dry colour mixture may look good, but adding water may produce a wrong effect.




Those walls in the far left hand corner of the picture require reds and oranges

But reds and oranges are among the strongest pigmented pencils

And we need very gentle shades to sit back and not be ‘noticed’

This is why I raised the subject of colours at this point

And it is also why we are first going to look at an area that is ‘out of the way’.

If we get it wrong

We can correct and the result will be in an area away from the centre of the picture.

I have first gone into my 36 box of Staedtler Karat Aquarelles for this demonstration. This restricted set of colours should give me the colours I need and those of you working with larger sets of pencils should find similar - or even better - colours in your collection.  

I need two basic colours here. A light pink for the walls and a darker brown for the roof tiles.

The buildings to the right are more red and orange, but I have still used the same pink as a foundation and will add a further layer in a moment or two.

I have done  small test ( Left here ) to check the wet strength of the pencils I have chosen.  The Pink ( Peach 43 ) is fine as it is a low strength colour.  The brown ( Fawn 49 ) is much stronger.

I have also used the Fawn as a foundation for the much darker area where the market stalls are.  This warm brown will disappear under a further layer of dry colour shortly

With a pad of clean tissue available to remove excess colour, I am now ready to add a little water from a DAMP brush to the pigment.  I am using a No 4 brush, but you could equally use a

No 2 as we need to keep some areas in the ‘pink’ building white where there are white pillars on the fascia.  If you are working over a graphite drawing, don’t worry about the grey/black lines. We will aim to remove those shortly once the first layer of colour is thoroughly dry.

Make sure that you even out the wet paint on the paper surface

- that is unless you want areas of darker and lighter colour.

I have used hardly any water at all here

Most of the graphite has now been erased - the rough paper means that some will be left behind, but mostly that will be absorbed into the scene.  The eraser will also lift a little of the colour, but as we now adding more, that doesn’t matter

I  am now going to sharpen up my pencils, add a grey and a dark brown and do some dry work to that corner.  This additional colour can be touched in with a damp brush as required, though I suspect it won’t need a lot.

So we have tried out our basic skills on this small area of the picture.

Some of the colour is dry on top of the underlayer, some has been drawn in with the damp brush ( the shadowed area of the market )

We can come back later and refine this  when we see how it fits into the overall scene.   There are a number of possibilities for refinement - one of which is to bring a fineliner pen into play.  We will see !

 You will note I have included that dark coloured statue on the corner of the main building.  Once again we don’t need detail, just a suggestion.

I hope this short step will have given you enough understanding of the selecting and handling of colours for your picture.   It is only a short step, but you can add information about the Colour Wheel and how opposite colours across the wheel have a darkening effect, by reading the Topics section on Colour and complementary colours.  That topic was written several years ago and was not written specifically with watercolour pencils in mind, but the basic rules are still valid.

I will now look at starting work on the picture ‘proper’

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