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Watercolour Portrait Painting For Beginners

You might be surprised to hear that there aren’t many painters who use watercolour for portrait painting. So, it is not a big surprise either that you will not find too many good options that deal with the matter. It thus will be of immense help for anyone desiring to learn the basic tactics such as flat wash, glazing, composition etc when it comes to portrait painting with watercolours.

If you are a beginner, we advise you to use a picture and do painting. Assuming you already have some prior knowledge of watercolour painting we jump to the following pointers to elaborately discuss painting portraits with watercolour.

  • Sketch the outline in a hard pencil

Usually, painters start with the eyes first and then work their way up to the nose and mouth and finally the entire face. The hair and clothing can be done later. Once the face is done, it is very easy to finish the rest.

Tip: The light and dark shapes have to be paid close attention to. The finer detail will be worked on in the later stages of the portrait painting.

  • Block the darkest value

The darkest values have to be first blocked using dark washes. Combine Burnt Umber and dark blue for the shades where you want black( except when you want them to be way too black). This helps to segregate the dark values when you look at your painting squinting your eyes.

Tip: Do not worry about not being able to use black. You always have a chance to add it later.

  • Do not touch the lightest area

Use light washes and paint the lighter areas of the face. Do not use much water in the washes as it will oversaturate the colours. You can add a bit of cool pigment to tone down the warm washes.

Tip: Use a clean wet brush to lighten any area which you think has become too dark. To do this, dab the clean brush against the dark area. This can also be used for blending the previous wash with a new wash.

  • Pay attention to where the dark washes are required

The lighter washes make it very much prominent as to where the darker washes are required. You can now go back to apply dark washes, for instance, if the face in the portrait painting has glasses on. For the hair especially, you need to pay proper attention to the highlights, shine and some strands in particular. Not each strand needs to be painted. Leaving a lighter wash in the hair visible, you can block darker values in the hair now.

Tip: Work with a small round brush for the details in the darker shades if the face wherever necessary.

  • The background

The washes in the background have to be carefully chosen such that it complements to the tones of the face. The background is also particularly helpful to distinguish the features of the face. For example, the cheek and chin areas might not be as prominent in a white background as compared to a mustard yellow background.

Additional tips:

  • Do not hang around much over one thing

It is very important that you pay equal attention to all parts of the painting and not just a specific part. Remember that you have to cover your whole painting.

  • Worry less

Do not worry if the final colour you are hoping to get is different from the one you are presently working on. You can, of course, make some changes in the later stages of the painting. It is very important that you are not afraid of making mistakes as you are only a beginner. The mistakes can very well be corrected later.

It is not necessary that an expensive watercolour can give you extraordinary results. Even the cheap watercolours do a great job if you know how to use them well. Watercolour is difficult to handle. So, conquering it like a pro at the first try is too ambitious. Things may not go the way we want them to be. The idea of portrait painting in watercolour is daunting as it is difficult to handle. It is tricky and conquering it like a pro may seem like a dream. Sure, it is a challenge but with the right washes and tricks, the results can be magnificent.

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