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  • Annalisa Wallace

How to Paint Portraits in Watercolour

Over the past week, my focus has been solely on utilizing watercolour as my medium of choice, with portraits remaining the predominant subject matter.

Step 1

I lightly outlined the key features of the portrait using a soft pencil on watercolour paper that had been stretched.

Tip - if you use a watercolour pencil you will find the lines will blend seamlessly with the layers of watercolour that are added

Step 2

I mixed a generous amount of skin tone colour to apply as a first wash. Allow the first wash and all subsequent washes to fully dry before applying more paint.

Tip - Leave some white areas in the first wash to indicate the lightest areas of the portrait

Step 3

A stronger tone of skin colour was applied to the areas requiring mid tones.

Tip - Introducing a colour which is not normally associated with skin colours can add an element of interest and depth to the portrait. I introduced green into the areas which would be most in shadow.

Step 4

Continue to build layers using strong mixes of skin tone and apply to the darkest areas. I continued to add more and more layers until the darkest tones were achieved.

Tip - Include "lost and found" edges to add interest ie blend some lines and leave others as hard lines.

Step 5

The finished painting.

Tip - I will often set aside a painting for a day or two and re-visit it with fresh eyes; this often lets me see more quickly any errors that need correctly or areas that require further work.

Hope you have enjoyed seeing the process I use to paint a portrait. Please feel free to leave any questions or comments you may have.

Another John Singer Sargent quote which I hope does not apply above:

"A portrait is a painting with something wrong with the mouth"

Until next time,


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