If you’ve ever wanted to paint some mouth-watering illustrations, now is your chance! In this FREE demo, AlisaWorkshop shows how to draw and paint a delectable doughnut in bright watercolours that looks good enough to eat!

Step 1: A Light Pencil Sketch

For this illustration, you’ll need an A4 cold press watercolour sketchbook, a round paintbrush (size 6 or so), watercolour paints, palette, a container of water, paper towels, a pencil (H or HB), and kneaded eraser. 

Note: These are just the suggested art tools for this demo, so feel free to substitute them as you see fit. Alisa also doesn’t draw from a reference, but you can take a look here if you need one.

Start with a light pencil sketch. If you find it difficult to sketch a doughnut accurately, you can break it down into some basic geometric shapes.

First, mark out the size of the doughnut, drawing a little dash to indicate how wide and high the doughnut will be. Within these marks, draw a cross connecting the top to the bottom mark and the left to right marks. Connect the endpoints of these lines to form an oval. 

Draw a smaller oval around where the lines meet in the middle for the doughnut's hole. To make the whole thing more 3D, draw the same oval shapes, but offset each slightly, so it’s below the original oval shapes. Connect the left and rightmost edges to form a kind of cylinder, then erase all the lines you don’t need. 

To make the glaze look more natural, draw it oozing down the sides in an uneven, wavy line. Follow the line for the oval to help guide the glaze line! Don’t forget to draw the glaze on the inside of the doughnut hole as well. 

Lastly, gently pencil in where the brightest highlights will be. The glaze can be pretty shiny, so these areas will be left white for more contrast. If you find that your pencil lines are too dark, gently roll a kneaded eraser over your whole drawing.

Step 2: A Light Layer

Once your sketch is done, it’s time to paint! Alisa uses the Etchr 24 watercolour pan set, but feel free to use your own paints and substitute your own colours if you don’t have them.

She starts with a very diluted pink, using her brush to quickly paint over the doughnut’s glaze while avoiding the highlights. As she says, this is your first layer, so don’t worry if it looks a bit too light – watercolour is about building on top and gradually darkening and adding details and contrast in layers!

Once this light layer is down, you’ll notice that the paint has created a hard edge. To soften this (i.e. make it more “blurry”), use a clean damp brush to brush at the edges and “lift” out some of the paint. This will help soften the edge and make the transition from white to pink look more natural.

If you end up making a mistake in this layer, don’t worry too much – since it’s just the first layer and is pretty light, you can cover the mistakes up later. You could also try using a lifting technique. 

Step 3: Deepening Shadows 

While your paint is still wet, use a more saturated version of your pink paint to darken the areas of shadow, such as the doughnut’s left curve and the inner glazed edge of the hole.

If your paper is dry and you’re getting a hard edge again, use the same softening technique mentioned in the previous step.

Once you’ve darkened this once, mix in a little Prussian blue with your pink for a pink-purple colour. Darken the same areas again, though reserve the darkest areas to the edges of the glaze.

You can also kind of outline the edges of the glaze as well, but do it thinly so that it’s not too noticeable. 

Step 4: The “Dough” in “Doughnut”

Make sure the glazed area is dry before you paint the doughnut underneath! This is so your paints won’t bleed into each other.

For the doughnut peeking out from underneath the glaze, paint a light layer of yellow ochre. Again, while the paint is still wet, add some mid-tones using burnt sienna or an orange-brown. Mix in some Prussian blue and a little alizarin crimson for the darkest shadows.

Tip: Don’t be afraid to go a bit darker for your shadows, as watercolour dries lighter than when you first put it down on paper. 

With the same method, paint the hole area as well, though you can skip the first layer of yellow ochre as the hole will be almost entirely in shadow. Throughout this whole process, you’re welcome to make the shape of your doughnut a little more uneven so that it doesn’t look too “fake”. Real doughnuts have flaws, too!

Speaking of flaws, you can add a few in the glaze as well, using a more diluted version of the pink-purple colour from before to paint in some marks and dots in random areas around the doughnut. Stick to the edges, though, as you want to reserve the middle area for painting sprinkles.

Step 5: Adding a Sprinkling of Sprinkles

At this point, your glaze should be completely dry, so let’s add some colourful sprinkles! Starting with a saturated orange or yellow (I used gamboge as it’s a yellowy-orange colour), paint in some small dash-like shapes that are angled in different directions.

Spread them out as randomly as possible, and don’t forget to leave a thin strip of an unpainted area in the middle for highlights! As this yellow-orange colour is relatively light, you may have to limit it to the lighter areas within your glaze, as it won’t show up in the shadowed areas.

Repeat the same process with red, green, and violet as well, making sure that your paints are quite saturated as you want them to stand out against the glaze.

Bonus tip: Alisa didn’t do this, but you can have some sprinkles overlap each other or stick out the sides of the glaze, as this adds some randomness to the doughnut’s overall look.

It helps add some interest to your painting, and makes your doughnut look a little more realistic, too!

Step 6: Finalising Flaws and Details

To complete your delicious doughnut, we’ll need to do some finishing touches. First, mix a very dark brown by using the same brown you used for the doughnut’s shadow, but add a little more Prussian blue and alizarin crimson.

Paint the outline of the glaze where it covers the doughnut, and enhance the bottom edge of the doughnut as well.

Paint the inside of the hole as well, making the left side darker than the right for extra contrast. Next, dilute this colour a little to dot in the crumb texture for your doughnut.

You don’t have to paint all over the doughnut; just a hint here and there is enough.

Then, enhance some of the shadows in the glaze using the same pink-purple colour as before, but add a little bit of your brown mixture for a darker pink. Be careful to avoid the sprinkles, though!

Last but not least, use the same colour but slightly diluted to paint a shadow for each sprinkle. This will help give it more dimension and really helps sell the look of the doughnut!

Remember to paint the shadows on the bottom and left sides of the sprinkles, as the light source is coming from the top right area.

Bonus tip: If you want to make your sprinkles stand out, even more, you can use a white gel pen or white gouache paint to paint in the highlights of the sprinkles! 

I hope you found this demo fun and easier than expected! Sometimes, looking at a realistic illustration may deter us from painting it ourselves, or maybe even look too challenging to know where to begin. But I hope that Alisa’s demo helped break down the process into bite-sized pieces!  

If you want to see more of Alisa’s work, feel free to watch her class where she teaches us how to paint a stack of delicious pancakes in watercolour. And as always, happy painting!

Interested in learning more about creating art? If so, we invite you to subscribe to our email newsletter. Whether you’re following along with our workshops or live demos, we’ll notify you of all the latest happenings with Etchr!

Nicola Tsoi is a practicing graphic designer and illustrator based in Hong Kong. During her downtime, she likes to watch birds do funny things, search for stories, and bake up a storm. She keeps a pet sourdough starter named Doughy. 

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