Watercolor Portrait Tutorial

Painting a portrait can be tough and painting one with watercolor can be really tricky. Here is a tutorial that will help you get though it step by step. So, grab some paper and paint and let’s get started.


The first and most important stage of a watercolor painting is the drawing. If you don’t get the proportions right in the beginning your whole painting will be off. This is because watercolor paint will stain your paper and if you get paint in the wrong place, it is hard if not impossible to remove.

After you sketch out your face, you will want to start blocking in the lightest colors on your portrait. Remember to keep the white areas white. Then take a break, get some tea, and let the whole thing dry for a few minutes.

Next, you will want to start working on the form of the face and adding in some of the darker areas. Look for the shapes of the sparkles in the eyes and leave them white for now. I like to finish the eyes early on in the painting so that they can be a good reference for the face tones. Try to think of the colors and shadows on the face as shapes and fill them in with color.

Next you will want to finish the hair. It helps to think of the hair as a shape instead of bogged down with individual hairs. Using a round brush will help you get thin lines. Because the hair was the darkest part of this painting, finishing this stage helped me get the right values on the rest of the painting.

Adding a color wash behind your portrait can really help it pop. Use a big brush and be careful as you cut in around the edges of the figure. After everything was dried, I used a damp brush to soften any hard edges on the face and between the background and the hair. I also added a little color to the whites of the eyes and to a couple of the sparkles. Check out some of my other watercolor portraits here.

Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the process!




Benjamin Schipper

Benjamin Schipper is an artist whose work I have admired from the time we were in art classes together in college. Schipper uses a combination of traditional and digital media to create unique illustrations. I love the use of line, color, and shape that makes his work look spontaneous and yet still complex.


When asked to say a little about himself Ben says that he, “loves to create artwork and illustrations that have sad, spooky, and poignant emotions. He likes people in general, and animals in particular. He lives in Greenville, South Carolina with his wife Karen and their little black dog Willow. He wishes it rained more there”.









Benjamin Schipper has illustrated several books including the ones pictured above and below. You can see more of Ben’s artwork and read his blog at  www.benjaminschipper.com



Blue Eyes


This little girl is such a joy and her bright blue eyes are beautiful with innocence. I’ve really enjoyed doing a series children’s portraits in watercolor.  Check out more watercolor portraits or my watercolor tutorial explaining my process!

Shape and Shadow

I have always admired art that has a good balance between simplicity and complexity. When drawing this self portrait, I wanted experiment with the use of shape and shadow as a way to simplify and better my work. First, I chose dramatic lighting to accentuate the shadow shapes on my face. I then sketched out the basic shapes of my face and hair before filling them in to varying degrees with a number six pencil.