Eight Maids A-Milking in Watercolor Tutorial

eight maids a milking in watercolor

Hello again! 

The eighth day of this watercolor painting challenge (based on the “twelve days of Christmas”) is “eight maids-a-milking”.

This is the first time the subjects move away from the theme of birds. So what does this mean?

The religious symbolism of the eight milking maids are said to represent the eight beatitudes found in Matthew 5 (beatitudes meaning “blessings”).

But remember when this song was originally written it probably had more of a secular meaning. In the 17th and 18th centuries, festivities around Christmas time had more to do with food and romance! After all… the word “maid” is a shortened version of “maiden” which means a “young unmarried woman”.

I’ll let you imagine the rest 🙂

Now… onto the painting:

BTW, If you happened upon this lesson in the middle, you might want to check out the beginning of this challenge here

Step by step painting of eight maids a milking

As per usual you’ll find the worksheet and sketch outline for this project below.

Rather than drawing eight actual maids for this composition, I used milk bottles instead (Yep… I’m sticking with the food theme for the moment!).

The color palette is yellow, green and blue. This actually sets up an analogous color harmony (colors that are close to each other on the color wheel). This creates a unified color scheme for this composition.

To get started you can download the pencil outline together with the accompanying worksheet here:

Try this painting for yourself ! Click the button below to download the worksheet for this painting.

The list of colors use in this project were as follows:

If you’d like to receive daily email reminders for this painting challenge (starting with day #1), you can sign up below:

Finally, I’ve created a special category for these tutorials which you can view here. This will provide an overview of the whole challenge.

eight maids a-milking 4 step painting process

Step 1

Print out and trace or transfer the outline sketch on a small sheet of watercolor paper. Any kind will do but I do recommend paper that is specifically for watercolor painting.

Step 2

Begin with a uniform wash of diluted yellow on each of the bottles (a uniform wash simply means there is no variation in tone or color). I used a very diluted warm yellow with a touch of brown (hansa yellow and burnt umber). Notice I also left a few white highlights.

By the time you’ve finished painting the last bottle, the first wash of color should be dry. This means you can paint the blue-green colored cap and label without the paint running into the previous wash (if it isn’t dry yet, give it a couple of minutes). If the paint was still wet and you accidentally touched the edge of the damp wash, you’ll see pigments diffusing into each other, making a fuzzy edge. 

Paint the word “EIGHT” in gray.

Step 3

Again, before moving to this step make sure the first washes of color are completely dry. You want to layer the colors using a glazing technique (in other words a wet wash of color over the dry shapes you painted earlier).

In this step I’m effectively adding shadow to the milk bottles. To do this I mixed a green color. Using gray for shadows often produces a harsh appearance and green helps set up a more pleasant analogous color harmony.

Step 4

Let the paint dry again then add the final details.

Again I used a dark green paint to make a small cast shadow next to each bottle and under the caps. And I used a bright green mixture to paint the words “milk”.

Add shadow lines to the word “EIGHT” and fill in the words below.

All that milk has made me thirsty!

See you next time 🙂

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