Figures can be FUN and EASY if you work step by step in watercolor.
This cute baseball player tutorial is demonstrated with three colors, plus black and white – for great experience in mixing color. (If mixing isn’t your thing – use a tube brown for the skin and mitt.) Easy methods for shading are also demonstrated and explained.
This boy with attitude is one of my grandsons when he was younger – now in college!
- Quinacridone Red
- Hansa Yellow
- Cobalt Blue
- Opaque white for clean-up if desired
- Brown? If you have trouble mixing brown, feel free to use a tube brown.
Downloads for Easy and Fun Figure Painting
- Reference Photo
- Card Size Outline with Finished Painting
- 8 x 10 Outline Page
- My Finished Painting
- Link to Reference Photo
Step by Step Painting Instructions
Step 1 – Get your figure outline onto your watercolor paper.
Draw or trace the outline onto your watercolor paper with graphite paper. If the lines are dark, use an eraser so the lines stay fairly light, especially for the shading.
Step 2 – Paint first watercolor layer on figure and background – keep it light and watery!
Shirt – paint the shirt blue, leaving the sunlit part unpainted. Paint over the number.
Hat/Shoes/Shadow – paint the hat/shoes and shadow underneath the figure with a mix of blue + black. Use a thirsty brush to lift up some of the color on the top.
Pants/socks – paint the part of the pants and socks in shade with a light gray (red + blue for purple, then add a little yellow or use a watery black.)
Skin/hair/baseball mitt – the skin and mitt are brown. You can use a tube brown or mix red + yellow for a reddish yellow, then add a little blue.
Background – wet the background with clean water. Paint any color in the background you’d like.
Grass – Suggest the grass – don’t draw it! Mix your blue + yellow for green and just lay it on while still wet for soft effects. Practice this on scrap paper first if you’ve never tried it.
Step 3 – Add second layer of color with darker values for shading and good color saturation.
Optional! If your first washes turned out great, don’t feel like you need repaint everything. Just touch up a few darker areas where they will add impact.
Shoes – the shoes can be as simple or complex as you like. Pull up the link to the reference photo and enlarge it to see all the detail.
Hat – darken the hat at the bottom, leaving the top slightly lighter.
Skin – most of the skin in this photo is in shade and should be fairly dark brown.
Shirt – darken the shirt, if it needs it.
Pants – use more gray to suggest the darker areas where the fold are.
Hair – my hair is darker brown, yours can be any color you like.
Step 4 Finishing Touches for Watercolor Figure Tutorial
For your third layer, evaluate and darken any areas you want (like folds in shirt.)
And when you’re sure the shirt is finished, you can finally paint the number on!
Watercolor figures are best done with two washes of color, then add finishing details.
The biggest issue students have with figures is when they start with the details.
Getting the color and value right is much more important for your watercolor figures.
Background? Best advice – work on the background as you go, or put it in first.