Watercolor painting portrait #1

Watercolor painting portrait #1

I’ve made a watercolor portrait spanning december/january for a friend’s birthday. Considering I hadn’t painted anything in nearly 10 years, I’m really proud of myself.

First, I did this sketch using references (below) from unsplash.com.

The goal was to have an idea of values before applying any paint down, as well as composition in general. However, just note that colors in my sketch are never final. I just use whatever is easiest to work with on the moment… which makes them very messy.

I did some tests on my watercolor paper to figure out which colors I wanted, then I started layering in the colors.

I wasn’t very happy with the woman’s face, so I took a break working on it for a while… In the meantime I was watching more watercolor painters on YouTube and SkillShare, when suddenly someone showed how to remove watercolor pigment from the paper. Just add some water to a paper towel and scoop it up!

There are conditions, of course, for it to be possible: the paint has to be non-staining, but since I was using student grade paint, it just happened to be that the technique worked.

I first tested it on a separate sheet of watercolor paper, that I previously used to test my colors, and it worked like magic. The paper was almost entirely white again.

At first, all I wanted to do was fix the chin and nose. But then I got carried on and decided to redo the eyes as well, as they were too stern.

Unfortunately, working the paper this much eventually broke it. The paint just wouldn’t move or absorb normally anymore… and it looked like a mess.


I just couldn’t salvage it and I didn’t have the heart to redo it, so I decided to cut my friend’s portrait out, since it was his birthday, and it’d just be a standalone piece.

I added some gold on the sides (and on the glasses frames; and on the bandana; I had to stop myself from adding it everywhere) to “hide” the fact the piece was supposed to have a white frame, and it was done.

The end result didn’t go the way I wanted, but it was still pretty cool!

I’m proud of it despite everything, because not only is it a good looking watercolor piece (to me, anyway), but also a nice portrait. It was a nice gift to make.

Heres a final close up:

By Karine Frenette-G.

All in all, I loved doing this. It was fun and I could apply some of what I learned over the months on YouTube and Skillshare. Here’s a tiny list of my favorite videos I watched (not necessarily those I used in the painting above, tho):

  • https://www.skillshare.com/classes/Watercolor-Portraits-Dynamic-Atmosphere-and-Whimsical-Skin-Tones/1208638125/projects
  • https://www.skillshare.com/classes/Abstract-Watercolor-Paintings-Explore-Through-Freeform-Planned-Process/1235578619/projects
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-LDUK-XhRM
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3goAWYpvfU
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYuDo1jnLwQ
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qr6LcToeouU