< Watercolor Portrait of a Boy Join

How to paint a boy in watercolor step by step.

A child is innocent, tender and sweet. Here is a free demonstration of my process of painting a watercolor portrait of a child.


Materials used:
View info on brushes
9" x 12" cold-press watercolor block
#2B pencil
paints: Red, Yellow, Blue, Burnt Sienna and Burnt Umber

Drawing and First Wash

For a portrait painting, I always start with a good pencil drawing. This is the step where I plan the composition and sort out the perspective, relationships, proportion and balance, and size and distance. A good drawing is the base for a successful painting. It can give you confidence and an obvious direction in which to proceed, so, don’t shortchange this step. Take as much time as you need.

I used my calligraphy brush to make a light yellow-orange wash starting at the top of the forehead and moved down to the point where the neck met the shirt. This base wash helped me create a soft, blended base of color for the face. Notice that I left the areas for the eyes and teeth untouched. Then, I introduced the second layer of color to define the shadow side of the face with a wash of burnt umber.

How to paint a boy in watercolor step by step.

Working on the Balance

Once the paint on the face was mostly dry, I started again from the top with burnt sienna, and then introduced some burnt umber for the hair on the forehead. I was still using my calligraphy brush.

When the areas of of paint on the head dried, I started to establish the shapes of the head with a mix of burnt umber and red.

I was in no hurry to paint the eyes and the mouth. Remember that the relationship needs to be defined before painting the details of the portrait. After, I used yellow to wash into the area of the shirt. I mixed yellow with small amount of burnt umber and blue to define the shadows. 

At this point, I added darker-value colors to the painting to further define the forms. I started with the hair, moved to the eyes, then the corners of the mouth. I mixed red and burnt umber for the areas around the mouth and nose. This was also a good time to work on adding more details to the garment. I gently lifted the area under the chin, and added a little bit of yellow as the reflected color from the yellow shirt. 

How to paint a boy in watercolor step by step.

Proceed to the Details

With mostly red and burnt umber, I worked into the middle tones. I didn't stay working in one area for long. I usually spend 10 seconds here, then 10 seconds there. It is important to keep your attention on the overall painting, color temperature, and balance while you work into the smaller areas.

Now it's the time to do the final touch to the eyes, the mouth, and the interior of the ear.

In the background, I used a light wash of blue and another of burnt umber on the left side. For the right side, I used yellow, burnt umber, and a little of blue. This would make the background enhance the main subject of the portrait painting.