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How to Paint A Watercolor Portrait with India Ink, Acrylic and Colored Pencils : Selfie

How to Paint A Watercolor Portrait with India Ink, Acrylic and Colored Pencils : Selfie

Working in mixed media to add patterns to 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.

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


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


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.


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


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


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


At that point the portrait looks like this.


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.


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.


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.


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


I let the background dry overnight.


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.



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


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.


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



{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Muriel October 31, 2016, 10:09 am

    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.

    • Sandrine Pelissier October 31, 2016, 10:52 am

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

  • Aino Shperber August 27, 2016, 10:44 pm

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

  • Donna Richards December 10, 2015, 12:29 pm

    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.

    • Sandrine Pelissier December 10, 2015, 12:34 pm

      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 🙂

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