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Adding zentangle patterns to a watercolor and mixed media portrait : Selfie

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Adding zentangle patterns to a watercolor and mixed media portrait : Selfie

Working in mixed media to add patterns on a portrait painting can be a fun way to make it stand out. Here I worked from a reference picture that my daughter took in front of a mirror.

You might also like: How to paint skin tones with watercolor- 7 tips

Here are the steps you can take to paint a watercolor and mixed media portrait with zentangle patterns.

draw the portrait with graphite on watercolor paper

The first step was to transfer your drawing on a piece of watercolor paper, here I used carbon paper, but you could also use a light box.

I used Arches 300 lb so I didn’t need to stretch the paper before painting.

adding masking fluid to the watercolor portrait to preserve some of the white areas

One of the first step when painting with watercolor is often to preserve a few white areas and highlights with masking fluid. I find that using a silicon brush to apply the fluid is one of the most convenient way to do that.

use a limited color palette to paint your watercolor portrait

You don’t need many colors to paint a portrait, here I am using a simple palette of Yellow Ocher, Lemon Yellow, Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Sienna, Payne’s Gray, and ultramarine blue to paint the figure.

I am a Blick Art Materials affiliate and I receive a small compensation for sales. That does not effect in any way the cost of the purchaser’s order but it helps me keeping the content of this blog free.


Da Vinci Artists’ Permanent Watercolors, 292 Yellow Ochre, 15 ml

Da Vinci paints are exciting, intense, and rated among the best in the world for quality. The paints are permanent, with the highest tinting strength and pigment concentration available, and a creamy consistency for smooth, easy dispersion with water.

layering colors to paint the watercolor portrait

I am layering colors until I am satisfied with the colors, then using a soft brush and water, I am softening a few edges.

layer washes of watercolor to paint the portrait

Layering light washes of color is a simple and effective way to paint the figure.

remove the masking fluid once dried

The next step is taking off the masking fluid and softening a few edges also with a stiff brush and water.

I am a Blick Art Materials affiliate and I receive a small compensation for sales. That does not effect in any way the cost of the purchaser’s order but it helps me keeping the content of this blog free.


Daler-Rowney Masking Fluid

This fluid is used to create striking white highlights or to mask areas for overpainting at a later stage. It forms a fast-drying, water-resistant film on watercolor paper and board, and is easily removed when dry.

soften watercolor hard edges with a stiff brush and water

It is a good idea to blend the areas that were preserved with masking fluid on the hair and perhaps adding a few highlights as well with a stiff brush and water.

watercolor portrait step by step tutorial

At that point the portrait looks like this.

paint the background with India ink

Next I am painting the whole background with India Ink, paying extra attention to the edges. India Ink is ready to be painted and very dark, so it is more convenient to use than black watercolor, but black watercolor would work as well, or black acrylic paint.

The background has been painted with India ink around the watercolor

I want a bit of texture on the background, so I am not looking for an even flat color, I want a bit of variation.

painting white acrylic on top of the layer of India ink

Next I am preparing a bit of white acrylic paint. I am going to go over the India Ink and because the acrylic is a bit translucent, some of the India Ink background will show through in some places.

painting around the figure leaving a black outline for visual interest

When painting around the figure I want to leave a fine black outline for interest.

the background has been painted with white acrylic on top on India ink

I let the background dry overnight.

drawing concentric circles with a pencil and thread

Next I am drawing circles using the lens of the camera as the center. As the circles would be too big for a regular compass, I did build a simple system with a thread.

drawing the outline for the zentangle patterns around the watercolor portrait
drawing zentangle patterns with a red colored pencil on top of the acrylic paint

I am filling the circles with patterns I am drawing with a red colored pencil, you could also use a watercolor pencil.

I am a Blick Art Materials affiliate and I receive a small compensation for sales. That does not effect in any way the cost of the purchaser’s order but it helps me keeping the content of this blog free.


Derwent Watercolor Pencils

These professional-quality, water-soluble pencils offer the freedom to switch from drawing to painting in an instant, with no change in tools. Use them to shade on dry paper, then quickly wash over with brush and water to get a blending effect. – Watercolor Pencil Sets

layering watercolor and colored pencils in mixed media portrait

On some of the dark areas of the patterns, I will paint on top of the colored pencils with red watercolor paint to add a bit of contrast. I am also painting the outer circle with red watercolor paint. Because of the acrylic layer underneath the red watercolor paint is drying making interesting patterns.

watercolor, india ink, colored pencils portrait with zentangle patterns in concentric circles

The finished painting: Selfie, Watercolor and mixed media on paper.

4.7/5 - (3 votes)

Comments (10)

  1. Muriel

    So inspiring! Your are a very good at explaining your process. Thank so much. I’m on vacation in Arizona and this is my time to draw and use watercolour, fine tip markers and pastels.

    1. Thanks Muriel 🙂
      Have fun on vacation, I am sure the landscape of Arizona will be amazing to try on watercolors and pen !

  2. Aino Shperber

    I adore your art, it’s lovely and inspiring!! Wow!

    1. Thanks Aino for your kind words 🙂

  3. Donna Richards

    I am committed to painting a portrait of my grand daughter. I have yet to put paint to paper even though that is the next step. Just afraid I guess. I think I will just set out my paints and paint on waste paper until my brush touches the paper I have drawn her on. Your tutorials inspire me to try new techniques and I think I may try the abstract florals you did for the art show. I think my grand dtr would enjoy making these.

    1. Yes, portraits can be challenging but if you take it one step at a time. Working on a few waste paper before painting on your drawing is an excellent idea.

      I think it is a great idea to try the abstract florals with your grand daughter, working from imagination works very easily with kids. It doesn’t have to be flowers, sometimes they see people or animals.

      Have fun painting 🙂

  4. panacea

    Good day! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay.
    I’m definitely enjoying your blog and look forward
    to new posts.

    1. Thanks panacea, yes I am here on twitter: @PelissierS

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    I constantly spent my half an hour to read this web site’s posts everyday along wirh a cup of coffee.

  6. […] Selfie,Watercolor portrait painting demo […]

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