About this blog

WELCOME! My name is Ann Mortimer and I'm a professional watercolour artist and tutor from Nottingham, UK.

This is a "learn how to" and "problem solving" blog covering WATERCOLOUR TECHNIQUES.

You can look for things that interest you in the blog archive on the side bar when various topics have built up over time!

I'll be covering thing such as colour mixing, negative painting, using masking fluid, laying washes, painting water and all sorts of other things.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

TONE is the key to success!

I have, in a quiet sort of way, been racking my brains as to what to cover next in this blog to help people along on their watercolour journey.

And it gradually dawned on me that it was vital to talk about TONE.  Sometimes referred to as VALUE, it's basically about the light and dark in your painting, the contrast, the setting darks against lights that makes your painting come alive and jump out of the page.

You just have to look at the image that forms the background to the blog title at the top of this page to see what I'm talking about.  In that snippet of an image, you have the two extremes of tone.  You see the stark white of parts of the rose and in the same image you have the almost black of the dark crevices in between the leaves and flowers.  And then also there are the different tones in between in the pink buds, the leaves and stalks.

If you want that negative painting technique to work for you, then an understanding of TONE is essential.

The first hurdle we tend to come across is making the difference between TONE and COLOUR.

Each colour has a tone.  Bright red in a painting can stand out and therefore seem to be a dark tone, but looking at the same painting in a black and white print of it will prove that the red is often a medium tone.
Take the painting above of a terrace in Crete. The chairs seem to stand out with their bright red colour and you might think well they are definitely a dark tone.

But look at the chairs in a black and white print of the painting and suddenly the chairs seem to disappear into the background.  So the chairs depend on their colour to stand out.  Their tone is actually medium and about the same as the tree behind them.

Fascinating, isn't it?


  1. Anne I know what you mean about tone and value - I find it one of my hardest parts in painting - The colors can really throw you off when planning your lights and darks. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hi Debbie, Thanks for commenting, Debbie. Yep tone is a tricky one...look out for more in the next few days. I'll add your blog to my blog list when I get around to reminding myself how to do it!

  3. Dear Ann,
    I saw your blog on Debbie's blog, and had to visit...I'm now following ~ So nice to meet you!

  4. Chuffed to bits to come across your blog through your facebook page - I started painting 18 months ago - so relatively new and got lots and lots to learn but thoroughly enjoying it, it has helped me through a difficult period in my life - I just get lost in painting or drawing and all the problems fade away! would love if you could pop over for a quick visit some time, I will be following this blog with interest - loads to learn and very generous of you share your expertise, thank you!!!

    1. Hi Sharon, Thanks for your nice message. I am now following you....love the magnolias! Glad to hear the painting helped you through a difficult time.


  5. Ann... very good watercolor, I love : )