20 June 2011

Watercolor Portrait Tutorial: No Photoshop

Gifts are a great excuse to try something new. I wanted to give my nephew a portrait, but the idea of it being a digital print didn't sit right with me, so I thought I would try something strictly old school. Watercolor painting is a skill that can take a lifetime to develop, but by using some basic techniques and keeping it simple even a novice like me can get fairly good results.

Step 1: I designed the layout in pencil on a nice thick piece of watercolor paper taped down to a board to prevent warping. I based the face on a photograph, and created a made-up composition of hip hop elements (I couldn't help myself). It's essential to plan your illustration in pencil first.

Step 2: Mask off the foreground details. Make sure the tape is firmly rubbed down. Watercolor loves to try to seep underneath. Once the tape is down, cut around the outline with a scalpel and peel off the excess (make sure not to cut through the paper!).

Step 3: Paint in the background with a loose, wet wash. My tape was very tight, but I still had some leaks in the end. That's one of the cool things about watercolor though, it's loose and lively, so mistakes can add character. Also, add a little water, and you can move the paint around on the paper again.

Step 4: Peel off the remaining tape and paint in the foreground elements.

Step 5: Once all your washes are thoroughly dry, paint in the small details, and draw the final outline with colored pencil. After I was finished, I went down the street to the charity shop and bought a frame for it. Instant gift!