Begin with a blank sheet of watercolor paper. One of the most important things for me is the correct type of paper. A high quality watercolor paper is needed for the paint/water to cooperate. Here, I'm using Canson's cold press watercolor paper. For larger and more finished projects, it's wonderful to experiment with the other high-quality papers found at Blick and other art stores. I've torn off a little piece about 5.5 x 4" for this project.
Using a pencil, I VERY lightly sketch out the design of the snail. It's really important to not draw too dark or heavy with the pencil, as the watercolor will not cover dark lines.
Usually I've drawn the character out ahead of time in a sketchbook, so it's a bit easier to get him sketched out on the watercolor paper. After I've gotten the image down, I'll go over it with a kneaded eraser lightly, just to make the lines very faint (but still visible enough to follow).
The watercolors I prefer to use are called opaque watercolors. You can find the palette I'm using in this project here, though there are lots of brands to choose from. Opaque watercolors do go on a bit darker than your usual translucent watercolors. I love the bright colors I can come up with.
For this snail, I've decided to use two colors: a dark brown, and a light tan/yellow. If you're following along at home, feel free to use any two colors you like. I think a snail would look great in a variety of colors! Here's the watercolor brush I'm using to mix the darker brown.
To begin, I dampen the area I'm planning to paint. I'm working on the snail shell first, so I've coated that entire area with water with my paintbrush. Next, I add a dab of paint to the wet area. You can see that the paint will flow out across the damp area of paper. Then I'll use my paintbrush to move the paint around the entire shell area, adding a bit of paint as I go to get the color I want. Watercolor will dry a tad lighter in color that it looks while it's wet.
Here's my second color choice:
I then use the same process as above to coat the snail's body.
After this has dried a couple of minutes, I think that I would like the snail's shell to be a bit darker. I go over the shell area again with the brown paint. Since the paint has not completely dried on the snail's body, you can see that the two colors are bleeding a bit. But that's ok! I like the look of the blended colors in watercolor paint. I let the paint dry just a bit before moving to the next step.
Using a tiny brush, I paint two pupils for the snail's eyes. This time, I don't wet the paper first, since I want the lines to be crisp, and not bleed. I'll then go ahead and outline the snail's body with that same tiny brush and dark brown. As you can see, the lines do bleed a bit around the body since the other paint has not fully dried. Finally, I'll add a few polka-dots to the snail's body.
At this point I'm finished with the watercolor, and I let the paint dry fully before finishing.
Using some micron ink pens, I outline the snail again, just right at the outer edges of the paint.
Using a thinner pen, I add some lines/texture to the snail's shell. And this little doodle is finished!