Things I Wish I Knew Creating My First Watercolor Portrait

Good Afternoon. I am so glad you will join me!

Today, I am excited to share with you my first watercolor portrait experience, as well as what I have learned from this medium when creating a portrait.

Little Historical Background: Over the last 15 years, I have primarily been a digital artist due to severe allergies to almost everything – which means most, if not all, art materials have been off-limits without emergency medical consequences. As much as that has been a difficult part of my life and I love and respect digital, I have ached to have various mediums in my hands. Recently, I was finally given a diagnosis (after 18 years) which helped me receive a treatment that has opened so many doors! So, I am now able to work in colored pencil and now… I slowly embark on playing with watercolors (carefully). This is my first portrait, with no major reactions….. so let’s jump in and talk about this experience and what I learned!



For this project, I am going to create a portrait of a woman from a reference image using mostly watercolors on Canson Watercolor Artboard. I will be testing this medium for the first time for a portrait and I am very excited and very nervous. Let’s get started!


The watercolor specific tools (paint/brushes) chosen for this project are not professional or suited for watercolor paintings. I felt it was not wise to invest in such things right away until I was sure I like the medium and it did not send me to the hospital 😛 

Prang Watercolor
Trekell Brushes
Plastic Dish
Paper Towel
Testing Paper
Water Cup for Brushes
Caran D’Ache Colored Pencils
Prismacolor Premier
Uni-Ball Signo White Ink Pen
Canson Watercolor Artboard


I am using an image of model Jessica Stam from the Fashion Spot website ( as a reference. However, it will be done in my own style.

Not all artworks I create come from references. However, if they do, my goal is never to create an exact copy of the image. When using a reference, I use it as a baseline. Sometimes I use one image, other times I use numerous images, and other times it comes from my weird brain. The idea is to always use my own style, choose my own colors, and be the cheerleader of my own stylistic decisions.


⊳ Watercolor is a difficult medium, but also a lot of fun. Unlike painting, drawing, or sculpture, watercolor is a lot harder to control and manipulate.

⊳ I would have mixed my paint tones beforehand. So, I had a better idea of the skin tones rather than just staring with a base color and mixing colors as I go for the skin.

⊳ I would have let layers dry in between for a little longer so the build-up was cleaner.


⊳ I would have added a wash to the background so I could have had her on a paper color other than white. It is easier to do a quick wash beforehand, rather than doing it after the fact and try to paint around the head.

⊳ After reading a few blogs I learned that you can paint wet on wet or wet on dry. When painting wet on wet things spread quickly and it is a lot harder to control, however, it creates a better-blended feel.

⊳ I feel it would be easier to work with the watercolor if I actually had watercolor brushes. The ones I used did not seem to suit the medium.

⊳ Working with limited colors (8: red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple, Brown, and Black) was not that hard, and feel that you don’t have to have a wide range to create the things you wish. Mixing colors is fairly easy.

⊳ Less expensive watercolor worked fine to achieve the results that I wanted and it was inexpensive for testing purposes. However, I am interested in what professional-grade watercolor would be like to work with. Also, I am interested in archival tools, so I will try other brands. I will update soon with what I find.

⊳ Working with good paper created for watercolor and other wet materials is vastly important. I love the board currently over paper, but I may change my mind.

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