As long as I can remember, I’ve always loved the look of watercolor. Interestingly though, there aren’t that many artists who do cartoon watercolor painting. To date, my own attempts at incorporating watercolor into my large scale cartoon illustrations haven’t worked out well.

Now I’m REALLY determined to learn cartoon watercolor painting!

The catalyst this week has been an illustration flop. I created a cute new cartoon drawing for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Draw This! contest. The June Draw This! word prompt was “Camp.” As you can see, I had a lot of fun imagining what goes on after hours in a boys’ cabin! I really wanted to keep that sense of play when I moved on to working on the colored draft.


However, four versions later, I STILL wasn’t happy with the result!


(As you can see, I tried a variety of mediums. Pictured, clockwise from top left, are: an all watercolor version, a watercolor pencil version, yet another watercolor pencil version, and a fourth version using both Copic markers and watercolor.)

I didn’t like any of the above versions. Sigh.

So I settled on an India Ink wash for this illustration.

India ink cartoon "Camp" illustration by Joana Miranda

(I say “settled” because I would have really preferred color for this illustration!)

Which means I’ve decided to go back to school (well, Youtube University, for a start), for some pointers on watercolor painting.

One intriguing and helpful site I’ve discovered so far is by the very talented Singapore-based artist and teacher Teoh Yi Chie. Although he’s not a cartoonist, he does occasionally draw people. I really admire the colorful, easy style of his ink and watercolor urban paintings. And this drawing video on painting with a limited primary watercolor palette has been eye-opening, too!

My first limited primary color cartoon watercolor painting resulted in this whimsical sketch:

Cartoon watercolor painting experiment by Joana Miranda

(I used only yellow, red and blue watercolor paints to color the above cartoon sketch. The resulting shades you see were obtained by mixing those primary colors. I also used Fabriano hot pressed watercolor paper since the Bristol board I use most frequently for my cartoon work is a bit too thin for really wet media.)


Could there be promise?

Funny cartoon watercolor sketch of young woman by Joana Miranda

Next up…

Will be to try “drawing” first with blocks of watercolor before I add any inking. As much as I crave more freedom in my work, I draw the line (literally?) at showing visible guidelines in my finished cartoon illustrations.

Hope you’ll stay tuned…


  1. sharonia628 says:

    This looks decidedly different from your usual. Yes!(I still like your usual) Xox

    • Joana says:

      Hi Meh-meh,
      I can’t wait to post some of the results from the new experiments! Even though I felt like I banged my head against the wall on this last illustration, I DID learn quite a bit in the process. I lurve you!

  2. Helen Reich says:

    Well, I don’t know what you didn’t like about the colored cartoons, but I like the shades you’ve produced with the water colors.

    • Joana says:

      Hi Helen,

      The colored versions looked too busy and not cohesive enough. Even though it IS a busy illustration, I wanted the overall color scheme to tie things together – not make them more confusing. In any case, I think I have some good ideas for what to focus on moving forward. And, as a good exercise, I think I will just “table” the illustration for now so that I can come back to it soon. I won’t be in time for the SCBWI deadline, but if I can redo the illustration coloring to my satisfaction I can still use it for my own purposes.
      Meanwhile, it FINALLY stopped raining (it’s been a soggy week!) and I’m appreciating the drop in humidity. Yay! Hope you’re staying cool and enjoying a lovely weekend!

      xox – Joana

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