Sun Tiger

I was pretty happy to finish up a new illustration for coloring a few days ago, and since there’s not a whole lot else we can do while isolating ourselves from a virus gone wild, I spent a day coloring the illustration to use as a sample for my Etsy listing. The coloring turned out fine in the end, but I did run into some issues with the card stock I used to print the design. My watercolors bled. Really bad.

I grabbed a sheet of card stock from a pile of miscellaneous stock under my desk, so I don’t know which brand it was, unfortunately. I started the coloring by focusing on the tiger and used light layers of Faber-Castell Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils to give me a base of browns and ochres, then once dry, started adding layers of Polychromos. I know I have mentioned this in prior posts, but I like to use a base of watercolor under my pencil work because it provides a nice base of color and tooth. Next, I used a waterbrush to fill in the sky with Karen Spencer’s handmade watercolor micas (Blue Gold) over a light layer of Albrecht Durer Helioblue reddish. I may have used a little too much water but that’s when I noticed the bleeding issues begin.


Dilemma. Do I keep going (I was pretty happy with the way the tiger was turning out) or scrap it, reprint on better card stock and start again? I decided to keep going and spent time working on the leaves and the center of the sun image which is sort of mandala-like. I tried to keep my colors balanced and not let the mandala overwhelm the tiger, and also played around with adding some pattern into the shapes. For this, I used a really sharp Irojiten pencil (Plum) to draw tiny circles and then burnish the shapes with a Caran d’Ache Blender Bright stick.

Note: when using a Blender Bright to burnish, because it is waxy and creates a nearly impermeable layer, be careful not to let it overlap into areas you have not yet colored—especially if you plan on using paint. The paint (watercolor) will likely be repelled. Burnish carefully, or wait until you have all your color down before burnishing. I am impatient and get ahead of myself sometimes.


Once I had most everything colored in, I started working on the swirly rays of the sun using Karen’s micas (Gold, Golden Orange, Sunset Orange) and ugh the bleeding got really bad in spots. It wasn’t the fault of the paints—it was partly my ratio of water to paint, but mostly, as suspected, poor choice in card stock. And, certain areas of the stock seemed to be more prone to bleeding than others.

Ugh, now what? So close to being done with the design and I really didn’t want to give up because I was happy with the overall color palette and balance … and I probably had at least 12 hours into coloring it.


I forged ahead. My first step to mask the bleed out areas was to use a Phthalo Blue Polychromos to color over all the blue sky, paying close attention to covering the bleed out areas as best I could. Coloring over micas takes away some of the shimmer, but it still retains a lovely sheen. Next, I used a Caran d’Ache Buff Titanium to help white out the bleeds and blend with the Phthalo. Not perfect coverage, but not too bad. A glimmer of hope anyway.

Nest step: the Crimson Irojiten pencil to outline all of the sun rays. That took some time and hurt my fingers after a while, but it was helping. Maybe not so much up close with scrutiny, but from about a foot away, it was looked pretty okay!


In some areas, where my mica was too thickly applied, some of it flaked off. I also think I should have been more patient and let it completely dry. But I am not always patient.


Here’s how it turned out– not too bad all things considered!



If I end up using this art for a book cover or product, I’ll probably pull it into Photoshop for a little fine tuning, but overall, I am content. She might look pretty on a tote bag!

If you want to color this tiger yourself, she can be found here on Etsy along with a whole collection of downloadable, printable PDFs for coloring. And in case you haven’t seen it, I have a few free designs for adult coloring (and kids too) in my Mama Bear post.

Thinking of you and all my creative friends during this time—hope you are all being smart and staying healthy as best you can!

Peace & love