Fiona Di Pinto is a watercolour portrait artist with a great sense of colour and emotion! In her FREE Demo with us, she shared her secrets for mixing colours, sketching the anatomy of the face, and embellishing a composition to make it truly unique.

Once you finish following her demo, you will know so much about expressive portraiture! Let us begin.

Step 1: Draw the Outline

It’s always true that you should never try to shortcut the sketch phase of a drawing because the sketch is the framework for everything else, but when drawing a human face, this is especially important.

Make sure to map out the shadow areas and give the more complex forms some dimension before using any permanent media on the paper. This is a light sketch, but it can still be as detailed as you need it to be.

Read here for a quick guide on how to draw faces! 

Step 2: Undertone

For this step to make sense, you have to understand how the skin works anatomically. Skin is never just whichever main colour it appears to be at first glance.

Because skin is made with different layers, light shines through it, sort of like it’s a stained glass window. In this instance, for this portrait, it is acceptable and realistic to use green as the first colour in the watercolour painting.

Once your first layer of green has dried, make a second layer of more diluted green to add some mid tones.

Step 3: Shading

Use a modest shade of brown (I used Dark Brown from the Etchr 24 Half Pan Set) and layer it over the green in the areas that need more shadow.

Underneath the eyebrows will need some darker colour, because that area is somewhat indented, and the same goes for underneath the lower lip.

Step 4: Pink Tones

Here, we counterbalance the green and make the skin tone look more balanced and realistic. The middle of the face, the nose and cheeks, tend to have the blood vessels a bit closer to the surface than the rest.

The exact colour of the undertone will depend on the skin tone of the model you’re drawing from, but in this instance, it’s a rosy colour. Use the same colour for the lips as you do for the cheeks so that it all looks natural and cohesive.

You might want to take a few layers with this so that you don’t have any sudden colour shifts in the cheeks or nose since the gradients there need to be soft.

Step 5: Definition

Now it’s time to return to the dark brown and also to a mixture of brown and blue, that will be our darkest shadow colour. Using a lot of paint and not much water, define the eyelashes, mouth, and nose details.

Fiona compares the motion to putting on eyeliner, which is not something I have personally experienced, but I’m sure the analogy will be helpful to many of you. Paint the “inside” of the hair with the dark shadow colour made from brown and blue.

Step 6: Smoothing Things Out

Now, we’re going to return to the green from before. Put a thin layer of it over top of the entire face, and then once that’s dry, go back and add a shadow underneath the nose and anywhere else that you think might need a shadow.

You’ll notice that the portrait will look much more like real flesh once this step is finished.

Step 7: Tying it All Together

Fiona’s painting style, rather than being photorealistic, is expressive and centres around an emotion or thought. To further the emotional point of each picture, she likes to add botanical details or splatters of paint to give the face a setting to inhabit.

For this painting, we will splatter some green paint for ambience and use varying shades of green, brown, and red to paint flowers around the figure. The red for the tulips is the same red used for the red details on the face, and the greens are mixed from the green undertone used for the skin.

By using only leftover paint at this stage, you will automatically have a visually cohesive image!

If you got as much value from Fiona Di Pinto’s Live Demo as I did, I’m sure you will enjoy her 90-minute art class! Also, feel free to subscribe to the Etchr Email Newsletter for updates on new instructors and classes! 

Elsa Wahlstrom is an illustrator/writer living in the south Idaho hill country. She  loves to create cozy, homey pictures and populate them with funny little creatures  having surreal little adventures. Her biggest inspiration is the music and comedy that  came out of England in the late 60s. When she’s not busy making art, she goes for long  hikes, plays a few instruments, and collects vinyl. 

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