How to Paint a Watercolor Portrait From a Photo


Watercolor portraits present a challenge even to experienced painters – yet can be highly rewarding!

This painting uses a black-and-white reference photo, making it easier for artists to assess tonal values – the lightness and darkness of colors- adding depth and realism to paintings. Get the Best information about portrait malen lassen.


Watercolor painting is an ancient and beloved medium that captures moments and images with striking clarity. Watercolor can also create realistic portraits and abstract works of art, making a custom watercolor painting from photos an excellent way to preserve and cherish an essential image for you or someone else.

Paper, paints, and brushes are essential for creating a watercolor portrait. A quality reference photo will inspire and guide you during the portrait painting.

If you are an amateur artist, one tip is to sketch out your subject with a pencil before using paints; this will ensure more accurate proportions and make the final work attractive. However, do this step cautiously, as too many pencil lines could show through later and detract from its overall effect.

Professional artists offer this unique service as an excellent way for people to give meaningful, custom gifts or commemorate special occasions with personalized art pieces that represent them accurately and beautifully.

To achieve a realistic portrait, it is key to master how to control the consistency of your paint. Working in small, manageable sections at once and waiting until each has dried is essential to avoid running or bleeding color and make corrections easier as you go along.

One effective way of controlling the consistency of your paint is by applying two or three coats of clear varnish over your final portrait. Not only will this protect its surface, but it will also impart it with a gorgeous sheen that emphasizes detail in your artwork.


Watercolor is a highly fluid medium, and your chosen paper dramatically affects its behavior. Most artists prefer paper treated with gelatin sizing that prevents the paint from penetrating deeply into its surface, thus permitting more precise brushwork (see Winslow Homer’s mountain scene below, for example). Less experienced or experimental artists may opt for absorbent Japanese papers or unsized sheets, which allow colors to merge more freely (as Hans Hoffman did with his study of grasses above).

Though quality paints are essential, it’s also vital that one understands and works within the fundamental characteristics of watercolor painting. Watercolor tends to swell, shift, and buckle when wet; to stay within these confines, it is helpful to paint larger shapes than more minor isolated details. Accept organic textures created from medium movement as part of its beauty, such as blooms, tide lines, or other organic textures found in landscapes or flowers, if the surface becomes too pronounced; otherwise, retouch immediately before trying again.

Start by gathering an ideal photo of your subject, one with proper lighting and facing forward. Avoid shadowed shots as much as possible or those with distractions like shadows. Next, select your watercolor effect (we used Watercolor 1) and click Apply to turn your photo into a watercolor painting. Each product also has its own Settings menu, so you can tailor its appearance further by tweaking various parameters.

If you want to add extra detail before beginning the painting process, sketch out your subject using a hard pencil like 2H so as not to leave depressions on the paper that might impact how your subsequent layers of watercolor turn out. A glass of water may also come in handy for diluting paints and cleaning your brushes.

Getting Started

Watercolors can be fickle and unpredictable, which may leave beginners feeling intimidated by the process. But remember: every painter once had to start somewhere! Many artists need help with portrait painting because accurately seeing values (the lightness or darkness of colors) is difficult. Therefore, many beginners find it easier to start by sketching their subject in pencil before beginning a watercolor piece; this allows them to assess how much detail will be necessary to capture their likeness and which brush sizes and styles would work best.

Once you’ve traced the black lines on your reference photo, apply a thin wash of your desired hue to each face area – this will create a light tone while setting basic shapes in place. Keep paper and brush damp to avoid puddling or streaking when creating this final result.

As you paint, carefully observing each face’s feature is also helpful. For instance, soft areas (cheek, ears, lips, nose tip) often tend towards warmer tones (i.e., redder) than bonier regions like the forehead. You can emphasize these shapes by adding darker brush strokes around them.

Once the wash dries, you can reassess its tonal values and build more vital shadow forms. Furthermore, adding additional water or decreasing it as required in your wash can alter its overall color temperature for maximum effect.

Once you are happy with the overall effect, it’s time to add background. A muted yellow-green wash complements the warm tones found in facial features while setting them off as highlights. In this video, Bill uses washes on hair and eyes for added depth in his portrait, then uses final washes to smooth any unintentional streaks or puddling and define facial structures.


Painting a watercolor portrait from a photo requires patience, practice, and time. Getting proportions right can be difficult while simultaneously achieving smooth skin tones; to help manage this task, it’s advisable to work in light layers, making correcting mistakes easier and creating a softer overall appearance. Also, wait for each layer to dry between applications thoroughly; watercolors can bleed into each other if they are only partially set before continuing the following application.

First, trace the outline of your subject onto paper with a pencil. This will provide a more accessible starting point for proportions and prevent overpainting later. Plus, this method is much quicker than drawing their outline freehand!

Begin painting the background. It is essential to do this first, as skin tones will look different against a white background than they would on one with colors. Painting in layers allows each layer to dry before adding another one.

Once your background is finished, begin adding color to the facial features. It is best to start with lighter areas like cheeks, ears, and lips; this will allow you to avoid adding too much paint at once and making your face too dark. Later, you can add darker features like eyes and nose.

Add thicker outlines around each shape if you want your painting to be more abstract. This can add a cartoon-esque or illustration-esque quality, creating more captivating images.

Follow this straightforward tutorial, and you’ll be on your way to creating a stunning watercolor portrait from any photo! This will help you learn to paint more realistically or experiment with something new. Still, most importantly, this technique will teach you how to utilize watercolors more systematically for future projects such as landscapes, still lifes, or more complex figurative pieces.

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