A simple black line drawing can get so much more interesting when you draw it on a colourful background wash.

It gives the page that little bit of je ne sais quoi.

This is what artist Koosje Koene said in a recent video I watched of hers, all about background washes.

In the video, she shows how to create a background wash in a Moleskine sketchbook, and how it makes a sketch “pop”.

Here’s the video:

As you can see, Koosje’s drawing looks amazing on the background of a simple watercolour wash! And splashing looks like so much fun.

So, I decided to give it a try for myself.

First, I did a yellow and red wash. I was wondering what to draw, and my wife said I should draw a pig. So I did. I actually drew it while the was still drying (this was a mistake – I’ll explain why in a moment).

Here is the pig:

Pig Watercolour background

As you can see, I also drew an outline around the wash. I think it works well.

Then I did a blue and green wash.

This time, my wife said I should draw a frog. I agreed, a frog would look really nice. However, as we have a friend’s tortoise who is staying on holiday with us, I decided to draw a tortoise instead.

Here is the tortoise on a background watercolour wash:

Tortoise Watercolour Background

There was one problem when I drew the tortoise: my pen wouldn’t work!

I think drawing on top of damp watercolour for the pig might have blocked up the ink. However, after some shaking and persistence, I got the ink to flow again.

Lesson learned: don’t draw on damp watercolours.

I really like this technique. It’s quick, and it brightens up your sketchbook. Thank you to Koosje Koene for sharing it!

Do you ever use a background watercolour wash? How do you use them?