12 Easy Watercolor Portrait Painting Tutorial 1

12 Easy Watercolor Portrait Painting Tutorial

A watercolor portrait is a must-try for the watercolorist. It gives you a different perspective of the transparency you can get by using this painting medium. Watercolors’ vibrant and transparent colors are best to start your watercolor portrait and transform those pictures into a new dimension.

Watercolor Portrait Painting
An image of a child – 12 Easy Watercolor Portrait Painting Tutorial

What are the easy watercolor portrait tutorial steps to follow for beginners? Can you work with watercolor portraits using a few colors to mimic a filter-like image? What are the factors to consider for a successful watercolor portrait painting?

Watercolor Portrait Painting Tutorial For Beginners

Watercolor portrait painting tutorial for beginners may be tricky. But we have simplified everything just for you on specific instructions that you will quickly catch up with. But before that, let’s prepare all the essential materials we will need.

There are also a few factors that you need to take into consideration. There are also a few tricks for your successful watercolor portrait painting. If you are having trouble or sketching an image is a challenge. Why not try tracing it as well?

You see, there are always solutions for artists. It brings out the creativity in you as well. Watercolors are fantastic for portrait painting because of their transparent characteristics. The vibrant colors that you can get with them have a unique style.

Let’s grab those materials and start painting your first-ever watercolor portrait. And don’t forget to keep exploring and exposing yourself. It will help you enhance skills that are essential for your artwork.

Watercolor Portrait Painting
Monochromatic watercolor portrait – 12 Easy Watercolor Portrait Painting Tutorial

Materials For Your Portrait Painting

If you are wondering what are the essential materials for watercolor portrait painting. Then check out this list for easy reference and guidance. The materials you use are always almost the same as those from other painting techniques and styles with watercolors.

  • Watercolor Paper – If possible, always use watercolor paper and not ordinary paper. They have different results when water is applied to them. Watercolor paper has a higher absorbency level than any other paper. You can check for the best paper that works for your style and preferences.
  • Watercolor paints – Be that of tube or pans, as long as you are most comfortable to work with. If you are starting with your portrait painting, check for pans or palettes. They usually have a variety of colors, to begin with. Try working with your blending skills as well.
  • Paintbrush – Use a small and a medium paintbrush and a mop brush. This can be a great combination to start with.
  • Pencil – To sketch or outline your subject image on your paper.
  • Photo Image – For your inspiration and to copy for your portrait painting.

Print the image that will serve as your inspiration for your watercolor portrait. You can work on different filters to print and try working with. But first, check for a subject image with a great light source and shadow.

Watercolor Portrait
Watercolor portrait – 12 Easy Watercolor Portrait Painting Tutorial

These two factors are significant for still-life and realistic portrait painting. You will understand it more when you are exposed to this painting style.

Factors To Consider For A Successful Watercolor Portrait Painting Tutorial

Before starting your watercolor portraits, it is best to consider a few factors. These factors make or break the portrait painting when it is done. It also allows the artist to experiment and explore. Plus, a great deal to understand the unique characteristics of watercolors.

The painting surface is an essential factor to consider. If you happen to use ordinary paper for your watercolors, it will buckle when water is present on the surface. The paints will not work as how you wanted them to be.

The absorbency level of watercolors and made for painting. So best to get used to working with the suitable materials always. There are different types of watercolor paper to try. Do not limit yourself but try different types and brands. That way, you will easily find which one works best for you.

The paint colors that you will use depend on your style. You do not need to copy everything on your subject image. It is there for reference and inspiration. You can try duplicating it over time but for now, just work on your style.

What you want to build depends on you. The painting should allow you to express. Check for colors and experiment with every blending. The shades and tones that you produced. Take note of them so you can easily predict colors.

Blending skills can be learned over time with exposure. Once you master this, you have developed an excellent talent for the arts.

watercolor portrait painting tutorial
Watercolor portrait painting

Easy Step by Step Watercolor Portrait Painting

Now that you have completed all the essential materials. And take every factor in mind; you are set to start working on your first ever watercolor portrait. Have fun!

Step 1. Look for the subject image that you will work for your portrait. The secret to a successful watercolor portrait is the proper subject image. Looking for enough shadow and light sources is essential. This will be a bit tricky for a start.

Step 2. Posterized effects allow you to work efficiently. Check with your editor to modify your subject image.

As you advance, you will find the right angle for your portraits. It just takes a few tries to do that. And looking at the subject image with different effects on your photo editor will help you decide.

This will also give you the right effects or filter on your portrait’s appearance. The trick with using a photo editor is minimizing the number of colors you will use.

If you can find a Posterize effect will be great. This will allow you to control the colors you will need. Less color for watercolor portraits, especially for beginners, is easier than many colors used.

watercolor portrait painting tutorial
Modern watercolor portrait painting idea

Step 3. Minimize your colors to two. A darker shade and a light shade. This will be easy to work on now.

Step 4. Check for the size of the portrait that you wanted to create. You can print the subject picture the same size as your watercolor paper.

The trick to having the same size for your printed image is for easy tracing or copying.

Step 5. Trace the image on your watercolor paper.

Easy tip to transfer your image accurately: Flipping your printed image. Then cover the backside with enough pencil marks for easy tracing over. The graphite from your pencil will help you trace your image easily.

Make sure you can cover the backside adequately. When you are done, flip it over again.

Step 6. Tape your printed paper on your watercolor paper. This will prevent both from moving while tracing/transferring your image.

Step 7. Press and trace the outline of your subject image’s face. You can trace the whole image and just leave the background. This will give you an outline of the entire image.

Step 8. Remove the paper when you are done tracing the outline. Check the outline sketch if you did it right.

Step 9. Work with your watercolor paints now. Choose the color that is best for you. Fill the outlined image with your desired colors.

Step 10. Keep on adding colors on the areas same as the subject image.

You can keep your printed image handy for reference.

Step 11. Use complementary watercolors. You can also add additional colors to give it a unique variety of colors.

Step 12. Once you have done all the outlines of your sketch, fill the rest of the painting surface with colors. You can leave the background white to emphasize your image.

Just wait for the paints to be completely dried. And when they are dried, you are all set.

It is easy to work with your watercolor portrait painting with these easy steps. Do a couple more with different colors if you want to.

watercolor portrait painting tutorial
watercolor portrait painting tutorial for beginners

Different Techniques To Use With Watercolors

Watercolors are a beautiful medium to use for painting, and they offer a wide variety of effects that can be achieved. In this watercolor portrait painting tutorial, we’ll explore some of the different techniques that can be used to create stunning portraits.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when working with watercolors is very transparent. This means that you need to build up layers of color to create depth and richness in your paintings. Start by sketching out your portrait subject on paper, then begin painting in the lightest colors. As you add more layers of color, the painting will start to take on more dimension and realism.

Another essential thing to remember when working with watercolors is that they tend to bleed when wet, so working in small sections must allow each layer of color to dry completely before moving on. This will help you avoid muddiness in your final painting.


One of the most popular techniques for creating watercolor portraits is wet-on-wet. This involves working wet paint directly onto a wet surface, such as your paper. This can create some beautiful effects, but it’s essential to work quickly so that the colors don’t have a chance to blend too much.


Another great technique to use when painting watercolor portraits are known as dry-brush. This involves using a dry brush loaded with paint to build up layers of color on your paper. This technique can be used to create various effects, depending on the type of brush that you use and the amount of paint you put on it.

Adding White

One of the great things about watercolors is that they can be easily combined with other media. This tutorial will show you how to add highlights to your portrait using white gouache. This can add a lot of extra dimension and richness to your painting.

In addition to these techniques, there are several other things that you can do to create unique watercolor portraits. Experiment with different colors and brush strokes to see what results in you can achieve. With a little bit of practice, you’ll be able to create some stunning portraits using watercolors.

watercolor portrait painting tutorial
Watercolor bleeding colors on portrait ideas

Tips And Tricks For Creating Beautiful Watercolor Portraits

One of the joys of a watercolor portrait painting is the ability to capture a person’s essence and character in a painting. Let’s explore some tips and tricks for creating beautiful watercolor portraits.

1. Begin by sketching out your portrait using light pencil strokes. Make sure to include all the face features, including the eyes, nose, and mouth.

2. Once the sketch is complete, start painting the skin with a light wash of color. Be careful not to overload the brush with too much paint, or you will have muddy skin tones.

3. Next, add in shadows and highlights using darker and lighter shades of color. It’s essential to be realistic when painting shadows and avoid creating too harsh a contrast between the light and dark areas of the portrait.

4. Finally, add in any final details such as hair, clothes, and jewelry. Make sure to use light and delicate strokes when painting these features so that they don’t overpower the rest of the portrait.

Watercolor portraits can be a beautiful way to capture someone’s personality and essence. By following these tips, you can create stunning portraits that will be cherished for years to come.

watercolor portrait painting tutorial
watercolor portrait painting tutorial

How To Add Details And Highlights Using Watercolors?

Watercolors are exceptional for adding details and highlights to a painting. In this tutorial, we will show you how to do just that!

1. Choose the colors you want to use for the details and highlights. For the skin, we chose light pink and light green.

2. Paint the details and highlights using small brush strokes. Make sure that you mix the colors on your palette before painting them on the canvas.

3. Let the paint dry completely before framing or displaying your painting.

Tips For Fixing Mistakes Or Errors With Watercolor Portrait Painting

If you make a mistake while painting your portrait, don’t worry! Watercolors are very forgiving, and there are a few ways you can fix errors.

1. Use a clean, dry brush to lift the wet paint from the canvas gently.

2. If the mistake is small, you can use a damp brush to lighten the area around the mistake slightly.

3. Another option is to paint over the mistake with another color. This can create an exciting effect!

Although watercolors can be tricky to work with, they are an excellent medium for beginners. We hope that this tutorial has helped you understand using watercolors to paint portraits. With a bit of practice, you’ll be able to create beautiful paintings that you can be proud of!


How To Sketch Your Portrait?

Now that you know how to add details and highlights using watercolors, it’s time to learn how to sketch your portrait. Sketching is essential in any painting process, but it can be especially helpful when working with watercolors.

1. Begin by lightly drawing your portrait onto the canvas with a pencil.

2. Once you’re happy with the overall shape of the portrait, start adding in the details. Remember to keep the lines light, easy to erase if necessary.

3. When you’re finished sketching, go over the lines with a pen or dark pencil so they’ll show up better when you paint over them.

How To Paint The Skin Tones?

Skin tones are one of the most challenging aspects of painting a portrait, but they can also be the most rewarding. Here are a few tips for painting realistic skin tones with watercolors.

1. Start by mixing a light pink and green color on your palette.

2. Paint the skin tones in layers, starting with the lightest colors and gradually adding more depth and warmth to the skin.

3. Use a variety of brush strokes to create texture and realism in the skin.

4. Let each layer of paint dry completely before adding another layer.

5. If you make a mistake while painting the skin tones, don’t worry! Watercolors are very forgiving, and you can quickly fix mistakes with a brush and some water.

With these tips, you should be able to paint realistic and beautiful skin tones in your portraits. Just remember to take your time and be patient while you’re painting. With a bit of practice, you’ll be able to create stunning portraits that everyone will admire!

watercolor portrait painting tutorial
girl portrait using watercolors

How To Paint The Hair?

Hair can be one of the most challenging parts of painting a portrait, but it’s also one of the most important. After all, hair is what makes a person’s face unique. Here are a few tips for painting realistic and beautiful hair with watercolors.

1. Start by sketching the general shape of the hair onto the canvas with a pencil.

2. Once you’re happy with the overall shape, start adding the details with a pen or dark pencil.

3. Use a variety of brush strokes to create texture and realism in the hair.

4. Let each layer of paint dry completely before adding another layer.

5. If you make a mistake while painting the hair, don’t worry! Watercolors are very forgiving, and you can quickly fix mistakes with a brush and some water.

How To Paint The Clothes?

Clothes can be another challenging part of painting a portrait, but you can create beautiful and realistic clothes in your portraits with a bit of practice. Here are a few tips for getting started.

1. Start by sketching the general shape of the clothes onto the canvas with a pencil.

2. Once you’re happy with the overall shape, start adding the details with a pen or dark pencil.

3. Use a variety of brush strokes to create texture and realism in the clothes.

4. Let each layer of paint dry completely before adding another layer.

5. If you make a mistake while painting the clothes, you can fix them easily with a brush and some water. Just remember to be patient and take your time while you’re painting.

watercolor portrait painting tutorial
face portrait using watercolor – simple ideas


FAQs And Troubleshooting Common Errors With Watercolor Portrait Paintings

Watercolor portrait painting is a beautiful and unique art form. But like any art form, it comes with its own set of challenges and difficult moments. If you’re new to watercolor portrait painting or having trouble with your current paintings, here are some FAQs and troubleshooting tips to help you get the most out of your work.

Q: Why are my watercolors coming out muddy?

A: One common reason watercolors can come out muddy is that the paint is too thick. When the paint is too thick, it doesn’t have enough time to dry properly and can start to pool in areas, resulting in a muddied appearance. To fix this, try thinning your paint with water until it has a more liquid consistency.

Q: Why won’t my watercolors spread out the way I want them to?

A: Another common issue when painting with watercolors is that they won’t spread out the way you want. This can be caused by several things, such as using the wrong type of paper or not adding enough water to your paint. Try adjusting your technique or the amount of water you’re using in your paints to fix this.

Q: Why did my portrait turn out blurry?

A: Blurring is often a side-effect of incorrect mixing. When two different colors are mixed, they create an entirely new hue. If this new color isn’t accounted for in the original portrait, it can cause the overall image to appear blurry. To fix this, mix your colors carefully and precisely.

Q: Why are my colors fading?

A: Fading is usually a sign of poor quality paint or paper. If you’re using low-quality materials, they may not be able to hold up to the rigors of watercolor painting, resulting in faded colors. To avoid this, use high-quality paints and papers designed for watercolor painting.

By following these troubleshooting tips, you should be able to overcome any challenges you’re facing with your watercolor portrait paintings. With practice and patience, you’ll be able to create beautiful and vibrant portraits that will last for years to come.

Popular Artist Using Watercolor On Portraits

Here are some of the most popular and successful artists using watercolor on portraits.

1. Andrew Wyeth

2. Winslow Homer

3. John Singer Sargent

4. Mary Cassatt

5. Georgia O’Keeffe

6. Edward Hopper

7. David Hockney

8. James McNeill Whistler

9. Anders Zorn

10. Zhang Xiaoguang

These artists have all reached different levels of success while using watercolor on portraits. Some, like Andrew Wyeth and Winslow Homer, are considered masters of the medium, while others, like Zhang Xiaoguang, are contemporary artists pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with watercolor.

No matter their level of experience or success, each of these artists has something unique to offer when painting portraits with watercolors. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out their work.

watercolor portrait painting tutorial
portrait using watercolor paints

Famous Watercolor Portrait Painting

Some of the most popular and iconic portraits painted have been done with watercolors. Here are just a few of the most famous examples.

The Hay Wain by John Constable

This artwork is a perfect example of the beauty achieved with watercolors. The muted colors and soft edges make the image feel dreamlike and ethereal, adding to the emotional impact of the portrait.

The Blue Boy by Thomas Gainsborough

This portrait is often cited as one of the most beautiful Boy portraits ever painted. The blue hues give the painting a cool and calming feeling, while the delicate details add a touch of elegance.

Madame X by John Singer Sargent

This portrait is one of Sargent’s most famous works and is known for its controversial subject matter. The loose brushstrokes and muted colors give the painting a feeling of intimacy, making it more powerful.

Waterhouse painting Ophelia

This painting is a classic example of the power of watercolors. The soft, dreamlike quality of the image makes it feel both ethereal and tragic, perfectly capturing the mood of Shakespeare’s play.

These paintings are all incredibly different, but they all share one common trait: they’re all masterpieces painted with watercolors if you’re looking to create a portrait that will stand the test of time, study these paintings and see what made them so special.

watercolor portrait painting tutorial
popular watercolor portrait painting

How to Choose the Right Colors for Your Portrait

One of the most important aspects of painting a portrait is choosing the right colors. The colors you use will significantly impact the overall look and feel, so it’s essential to choose them carefully.

Here are a few tips to help you choose the right colors for your portrait:

1. Consider the subject’s skin tone.

2. Think about the clothing they’re wearing.

3. Consider the background and surroundings.

4. Choose colors that complement each other.

5. Experiment with different color combinations.

It’s also important to remember that the colors you use will change depending on the type of paper you’re using and the amount of water you add to your paint. So be sure to experiment with different combinations until you find the right one for your portrait.

Final Words

We hope that this watercolor portrait painting tutorial has been helpful. Painting portraits with watercolors can be a challenging but rewarding process, and we hope you’ll give it a try.

If you’re looking for more inspiration, be sure to check out the artists’ work we mentioned earlier. Their paintings are sure to inspire you to create your masterpiece. You can also check out our other blogs for more helpful tips and tutorials.


One response to “12 Easy Watercolor Portrait Painting Tutorial”

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