Saturday, July 1, 2017

Hey Let's SMOOSH Some Birds!

I know that there were a few people who really wanted to learn how I made the sweet and zany creatures from the "Birds of a Feather" class, but who live too far away from Paper Anthology in Kenvil, NJ to be able to get here in person. So I've made a step-by-step tutorial of how it's done. 

But first, please meet Norbert* he will be our Spokesbird for this demonstration.

First things first--Some thoughts about color choices:

For each bird, you'll want to pick two** shades of ColorBurst Pigment Powder. For best results, choose pairs with a fair amount of contrast, that mix well, and make an interesting third color--such as red and yellow, yellow and blue, or red and blue. Avoid combinations that make brown, such as red and green, or purple and orange. 

In terms of ColorBurst, some specific pairs that I really like include: 
Alizarin and Lemon, 
Ultramarine and Gamboge, 
Prussian Blue and Fuchsia, 
Indigo and Chartreuse 
and, in this sample... 
Peony and Marigold 

Other Supplies Used:

4x5" panel of watercolor paper
5/8" circle stickers from the office supply store
eye dropper
5x7" acrylic die storage pocket 
(any piece of sturdy clear plastic, such as packaging or even a sandwich baggie will work)
an old catalog to work on top of and catch any overflow color
(a roll of paper towels standing by couldn't possibly hurt either)
small paint brush to "lift" any over-loads of pigment
fine-lined, waterproof black pen
(mine is a Pitt Artist pen by Faber-Castell, with an XS (.1mm) nib
brush-tipped markers in a few coordinating colors
(I love Tombow Dualbrush pens... just sayin...)


Before you begin, mask the bird's eyes by placing 2 small circle stickers on your paper so that they overlap slightly.

1. Using an eye dropper, place 6-8 drops of clear water above the bird's eyes, and 12-14 below. For best results, vary the sizes of the drops, and leave about 1/4" or so of space between them. When in doubt, err on the side of LESS than you think you'll need, both for water and for pigment. You can always add more, it's much harder to subtract!

2. Starting with the lighter of your two shades of ColorBurst, tap a tiny (and i mean TINY) amount of the pigment powder onto about 2/3 of your water drops. Leave some "clean" drops scattered throughout the design. Try to make some of your droplets lighter and some darker, by using more or less pigment, so you'll get a contrast when you blend. If you accidentally dispense too much powder, use a small damp paint brush to pick up a bit of the color and add it to the other drops that way.

3. Add the darker of your two colors to the remaining drops of clear water.

4. Carefully place a piece of clear plastic on top of your drops, so that it covers all of them with a bit of room to spare. At this point, it's normal for there to be some white spaces between your dots, as you see here.   

5. To fill in the white spaces, use your finger to GENTLY tap on a few of the dots of color. You can actually "encourage" them to move in one direction or another by sliding your finger towards where you'd like the color to go. Be careful if you get near the edge, though, and don't over blend or you'll wind up with a one-color bird. 
(Not that there's anything wrong with that, but in class, our favorite ones tended to be those that had the most variation of colors!)

6. CAREFULLY lift off the plastic-- it's going to be drippy!!! You might want to have some scrap paper or a sketchbook standing by for blotting. At this point, it's normal to have something which looks more like a Rorschach test than a bird, so don't worry! Set your panel aside to dry completely, or use a heat gun to speed up the process. 

7. When the ColorBurst is completely dry, you can peel off the circle stickers and outline the eyes OR outline around the stickers and then peel them off. 

Now comes the FUN PART: 

Add round black pupils to the eyes with a black pen.
(You'll be shocked at how this one step immediately makes a huge difference!) 
Draw in a triangular beak under the eyes. 
Using a fine-tipped black pen, outline the various segments of color on the bird's head and body with little squiggles, so he looks nice and "tufty".
Add "plumage" by making short flicking strokes with a coordinating brush pen to the head, tail, or any other desired areas.

 Optional Extras:
 ♥ glitter glue ♥ sticky back pearls ♥ googley eyes ♥ feathers ♥ gems ♥

(The very first version of this idea, from my sketchbook, last fall!)

About working with ColorBurst:

When it comes to ANY wet media technique, there's always a learning curve. Your first Feathered Friend might turn out too dark, too light, too splotchy, or too homogeneous.*** Or, conversely, you might hit upon the PERFECT mix, and then find it impossible to duplicate. Welcome to the wonderful world of watercolor! The good news is, if you adopt a Roll With It philosophy, you'll find that most "mistakes" are correctable and some actually turn out better than the thing you were trying to do anyway. Experiment, practice, try different things and above all don't forget to HAVE FUN!


PS: I've added a couple four-packs of Feathered Friends notecards to my etsy shop, just in case you need some ASAP! ;)


*Norbert actually thinks he's being featured in his very own documentary on Animal Planet, so be a sport and go along with it, k?

**yes, you can definitely combine more than two shades, but it will be easier if you start with two and get the hang of the method before you branch out!

***Here's a super-quick Troubleshooting Guide:
Too Dark=too much pigment; try "lifting" off a bit with a paint brush, or adding a little more water.
Too Light=not enough pigment; carefully add more ColorBurst, a tiny liiiiiittle bit at a time.
Too Splotchy=water drops are placed too far apart; snug them up, or retro-fit with a second set.
Too Homogeneous=water drops are placed too close and your two shades are blending immediately; use a little less water, and space drops out a bit more.


  1. Love that you posted this technique. I would have been at that class if I weren't in a different country and 1000 miles away :)

  2. thank you Lauren for great tutorial, I'm in for a testdrive on it tomorrow 😄

  3. Awesome tutorial I can't wait to pick up some stickers and the plastic thing when I figure out what it is

  4. This looks like too much fun! Can't wait to try my own. :D

  5. Very clever technique! Thanks for a great tutorial, Lauren, Jo x

  6. Thanks for the step by step know how!

  7. I'm so going to try this! Thanks for the tutorial...and all the tips!!

  8. Hahaha - how AWESOME....... I must try this :-D xxxx

  9. You are so clever! This looks so much fun.

  10. Great lesson, those birds are darling!

  11. Thank you for sharing the tutorial. So cute!!!

  12. This is SO COOL! I'm off to try it immediately! Thanks so much.

  13. Love this!! shared it with my Monday night Stamp club group! Thanks for sharing!


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