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 - a self taught artist and long time watercolor teacher

My story is simple.

I loved drawing from childhood, but was discouraged from art as a waste of time. So, I became a nurse, worked at a lot of hospitals and raised a family. But I kept painting.

Over time, I became better at the realism I loved, and just kept working toward improving through painting and self-study. I've always enjoyed painting scenes from my life and small town community (which I call my Small Town America series).

My paintings are not usually famous or majestic subjects, often they're just everyday stuff I see around. But I see so much beauty there, and show it to the rest of the world by painting it.

Now, my watercolors have been in exhibits and won awards across the nation. Yet, it's when my art connects me to other people that it's really done what I wanted, and teaching certainly does that!

Happy Painting.



Course Curriculum


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

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