Art is the best form of expression. There is no better way to express oneself but through art. Painting a portrait is one of the best and deepest forms of art and that too a watercolor painting is the cherry on the cake. Watercolor painting is much demanded by people due to its artistic appearance captivating their attention. Watercolor paintings are nowadays used by people as gifts for their near and dear ones. You could refer to a lot of sources for getting your portrait done, one such gallery is that of bookmypainting. Watercolor paints are made with color tincture draped in a water-soluble base. The amount of water should be regulated to create a radiant painting. Where on one hand it seems to be a hectic and messy job, on the other hand, it is satisfying too.

The big question “How to?”

A novice painter should begin painting with a front-facing face because different angles of the face require different proportions and hence the job is not easy. The most important thing to do is painting the human eyes because eyes catch the viewers’ attention in a single go. Human eyes appear to be in the top division of the face, but in reality, they’re located halfway down the face. The second most important thing is the hair. The amount of water to be used depends if you want free-flowing hair or rigid ones. First, you should draw the hair outline and then the guiding lines. This forms the base of the hair and is essential to start with. Painting a portrait is all about understanding one’s feelings and present it on a sheet of paper or canvas.



Things need to go

  • A sheet of paper or canvas

To paint a human portrait with watercolors, the first thing we need is plain to paint on. For that purpose, one can go for a sheet of paper or a canvas sheet. A paper sheet will also do, it’s just that one needs to properly analyze the type of plain needed, as we are using watercolors to paint the portrait, the sheet of paper has to considerably thick so that it doesn’t melt away due to the use of watercolors on it. Whereas, for much better results one should always go for a canvas sheet which is way more suitable for painting a portrait with watercolors, as there are no chances of it melting away. So, a good quality canvas sheet of a suitable size must be obtained.

  • Pencil [for pre-paint sketching]

A good quality pencil, finely sharped will do. As we need it for pre-paint sketching, that will be a very light sketch, which we don’t want to be very strong and deep. The sharper, the better.

  • Paintbrushes [of varied sizes]

The paint bushes must be obtained of various sizes. That is, from very sharp and thin too much thick and dominant paint brushes must be arranged. The main types of brushes needed are:

  1. Round Brushes: These are those with less hair and pointed tips for minute details.
  2. Flat Brushes: These are those with more hairs, to spread the paint evenly in wider areas.
  3. Bright Brushes: These are a little shorter than flats, and are very much suitable for canvas painting, as it gives very fine and bright results.
  4. Filbert: These brushes are with domed ends, and gives best results when used for fine details.
  5. Fan Brushes: Fan brushes are really helpful for the background as it helps in the better spreading of paint in wider areas.
  6. Mop Brushes: Mop brushes are good for softer paint applications.
  7. Rigger Brushes: These are the brushes with longer hairs, very thin. Mostly helpful, when thin lines are to be drawn. 
  • Watercolors 

For watercolors, one should obtain all the relevant shades as per the need of the portrait. According to the skin tone, and background, etc. selective shades must be arranged for.

  • Initial Sketch

Watercolor portrait Initial Sketch

Initial Sketch

The very first step is to draw a light sketch of the portrait. It has to be done with a very light stroke pencil, so as to get a very light outline of our portrait. We are not supposed to draw any fine and sharp details over here, as all the fine details will be covered with watercolors. Hence, here we are supposed to draw a light sketch of the basic foundation lines of the face and rest of the body that has to be painted in the portrait. For a proper sketch, one should be very careful about the choice of the face cut, the shape of the eyes, the nose, and the lips. And make sure a proper synchronization is there in all of these. Once we are done with the sketching part we will move towards the painting part.

  • Painting 

After sketching out the foundation of the portrait, we will start with the painting of it. 


  • Background


Step 1.

Starting off with the background of the portrait. Use a round paintbrush to paint the background. Choose a color that will create a proper contrast with the skin tone of the human. Start with any particular corner and move towards the center in proper motion, evenly spreading the paint. 

Pro Tip:

Use a proper amount of water along with the paint to get a good texture in the background. Also, let the paint flow into the hairs and other parts of the portrait, it will not be a problem.


 Let the background dry. Do not start applying another shade while the previous layer is wet.


  • Face:

Watercolor portrait Painting The Face

Painting the Face

Step 1.

Now start with applying a preferable shade of yellow, as per the choice of the skin tone. This yellow is not obviously the skin tone of our portrait, but it will definitely add up to the best coming results. Hence, one should start applying a shade of yellow. If you are going for a lighter shade of the skin, you should preferably opt for a lighter shade of yellow, whereas if you are going for a darker shade of skin you should go for a more intense shade of yellow. Paint the entire visible skin of the portrait with the yellow you have selected. 

Pro tip:

  1. Make sure the watercolors you are using are good enough to spread over the canvas or the paper evenly and are properly able to blend into each other. Because, if the quality of pant selected is not good enough and is not able to spread evenly on the sheet, and blend into each other, I will leave color stains, which will make your portrait look bad.
  2. Also, the quality of the brush should be good as if you go for a brush with frizzy hairs, it will end up leaving the dirty brush store on your portrait. And that too will not be good for our portrait.

Step 2.

While the yellow is still wet, start with another layer of color according to the skin tone you wish to achieve. For example, to achieve a lighter skin tone, start applying a layer of opera rose over it. For a proper fleshy tone. Once you are done applying this layer it may look very untidy or muddy. It’s not a problem actually. Wash your brush, rinse it and start again with a fresh layer of opera rose. Keep applying until it fully covers the yellow. This blend will help you to achieve a proper fleshy tone on the skin. 

Step 3.

While it is still wet, add up blues in the concerned areas. For a lighter skin tone, one can go for Cobalt turquoise blue. It has to be added specifically in the highlight areas. Hence, paint a soft layer of cobalt turquoise blue in the areas such as near the eyes, nose, neck, etc. Without being very bright or dark softly flow the blues in the neck and the hairs. Remember one has to be very careful about the blues. A proper choice of blue is very necessary. As if you go with the wrong blue, it will mismatch and end up giving a bad contrast. Your blues can either make your portrait or destroy it. Hence, proper use of blues is very important for the success of your portrait.

Pro tip: 

For better results, wash the brushes proper every time you go for a new shade.


Keep an eye on the edges, because it may get dry. So keep softening those edges, to make sure it does not gets hardened up. If it gets hardened up it will result in very bad texture at the edges which will totally destroy the portrait.


  • The Neck


Step 1.

Moving towards the neck, use the same color pattern for it. Firstly apply a layer of the chosen shade of yellow.  Use the same shade that you used for the face, as if you change the shade it will look weird. Once you are done with the shade of yellow before dries up apply another layer of opera rose as we did in the face tone painting. Get your brush washed and take another fresh opera rose paint and keep applying.

Pro tip:

  1. Make sure you do not change the shade. 
  2. . Here, for smooth coloring, use a smaller size of a round brush


Make sure there is proper uniformity among the tone of the face skin and the neck skin.

Step 2.

Keep working with the flesh tone. Do not let it dry, continue with the layers of yellow and opera rose, we-in-wet. Also, apply cobalt turquoise blue in the highlights of the neck. So that the highlights of the neck get softened up. 


  • Hairs 

Step 1.

Starting off with the hair, you will have to decide the color of the hairs, for the portrait.  Also, the choice of the hair color should be done after proper emphasis of the color contrast. For example, if we are planning to paint the hairs in burgundy, I would like to start by applying a layer of a dark yellow shade. Spreading it evenly along the falls of the hairs. While the yellow is still wet, apply a shade of maroon or dark pink, to give it a burgundy-ish tone. 


Keep applying and smoothening the hairs hereafter. Do not let it dry and get hardened up. 

Step 2.

After a few continuous layers, now start darkening the hairs with some dark brown or chocolate colors. Move the brush along the fall of the hairs to make it look more real. Keep moving brushes until you get the finest tone on the hair.


  • Final Touch [Details including eyes, nose, lips, etc.]

  • Eyes:


    Watercolor portrait Painting the eyes

    Painting the eyes

    Use dark tones to give out all the details on the face, such as eyes behind the eyes, etc. Eyes are one of the most loudly speaking character of the human face. Hence, it need much detailing with the utmost care. The lenses should be given a proper color that too in accordance with the face color. Also, the eyelashes have to be painted with a very fine tip brush. It should look really wavy and real. The eyebrows are one of the very prominent characters of the face. As it speaks a lot about the person’s attitude. Hence, it is very important that a proper shade, as well as a proper shape, is chosen for it.

  • Precautions:

The eyelids should also be detailed with a little more intense shade.

  • Nose:

Similarly, the nose should be painted. We can say that the entire beauty of the portrait lies on the nose. Hence it should be painted with the utmost care. A proper blend of colors will make it look great, also a little extra pink on the tip will act as a cherry on the cake.

Ears and lips:

Watercolor portrait Painting the lips

Painting the lips

Similarly, ears and lips and the other parts of the face are to be finished. The neck is almost done, just give it a final touch with a proper blend of colors. The neck should be very soft and highlighting. Hence, the proper balance of blues is also needed to be maintained.

Rest of the body parts on the canvas:

Now, all we are left with is the costume that is to be painted in the portrait it is all on you and your choice. You can actually use any combination of colors for clothes. 


  1. Once, you are done with all of it, look at it and any shortcomings found should be corrected. If your background needs a final touch, do the needful. 
  2. One should be very careful about it. Many times while painting a watercolor portrait, there comes a moment, where one thinks that it is looking horrible, and nothing can be made out of it. And they quit over there.

 You should make sure you are not giving up at any point in time and the results will be fabulous



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