Portrait Basics in Watercolor

How To Mix Skin Tones and Other Basics

Portraits - Step by Step

By concentrating on one step at a time, YOU can paint a portrait. And mixing colors for believable skin tones only takes practice, not special colors.

In this lesson, you'll see easy to follow and down to earth techniques for painting basic portraits, while watching the demonstration of this little boy.

Here's a preview of some tips for success:

  • Start with a good photo - one light source, preferably natural light
  • Pick the best colors to mix your skin tones by picking the best red, yellow and blue
  • Layer your shadows on damp paper for shadows with soft edges
  • Precise tracing of features using graphite paper
  • Basic hair - paint what you see and merge the light and dark areas

You'll have a thirty minute video demonstration, showing every step. Downloads include 5 pages of written instructions filled with helpful tips, a reference photo and even a doughnut exercise for fun skin tone practice.

One student was amazed. 'I didn't know I could paint people!' she told me, after she did a very nice portrait step by step. 'My very first portrait, and it looks good.'

This is my great niece, Sydney. Her portrait will be treasured for generations. Your portraits could be, too!

Notice I chose simple clothing - if the clothing competes with your person, it needs to go. Attempting to paint stripes, plaid, etc. is usually time consuming and counter productive, as it pulls your viewer's attention away from your subject.

While I encourage you to use your 'normal' colors for your portraits, I definitely do recommend buying Perylene Green. The cowboy below was painted using mostly Cadmium Red (his skin tone is kind of orangey) and Perylene Green. (The original reference photo, used by permission, from photographer Diana Robinson.)

Start your portrait painting career today!

Your Instructor

Deb Watson
Deb Watson

Hi, I'm Deb Watson.

My story is simple. I loved creating art from childhood, but was discouraged from pursuing art by my parents. So, I became a nurse, but kept painting.

I knew nothing about art, but taught myself over time and became a very successful artist, with hundreds of awards. Although my art and how to paint techniques are well known (in over a dozen books and online), I'm just a down to earth person.

I've always enjoyed teaching others how to paint with watercolor - sharing the joy!

Join me in your own personal journey into painting. My online lessons and zoom classes will teach you how to see and paint like an artist. No matter what your favorite subject is, you'll find it here - or email me your suggestions and I'll include a class in the future.

Happy Painting.

Course Curriculum

  Portrait Basics, Intro and downloads
Available in days
days after you enroll
  Video - Portrait Basics
Available in days
days after you enroll

Frequently Asked Questions

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