Easy Watercolor Figure for Beginners

Painting figures in watercolor is a snap when you work step by step – paint the color, paint the shadows, paint the background. Beginners start here for easy instructions that yield great watercolor hair, skin colors and folds in clothing.

Original reference photo can be downloaded or viewed at this link. The photo is displayed at the bottom of this lesson, also.

Downloads for Beginners Watercolor Figure

Suggested Colors and Alternates for Watercolor Figures for Beginners

  • Red – any red
  • Yellow – any yellow
  • Brown – Burnt Sienna or any brown
  • Dark Brown – mix brown + black or Ultramarine blue
  • Black – any black or mix your own with Ultramarine Blue + Burnt Sienna
  • Blue – Cerulean, or mix Cobalt + a little Phthalo
  • Green – light spring green or mix your blue with your yellow

Painting Steps for Beginner Watercolor Figures

Step 1 – Draw or trace your outline onto your watercolor paper with graphite paper.

Keep the shadow lines fairly light in value and be sure your face outline is correct.

Step 2 – Paint your first watercolor washes of color on the figure.

Apron or Pinafore – white? If you want to leave the apron white, don’t add a color in this step. If you want it light beige, mix your color with yellow and a little brown and paint the apron.

Skin – mix a light skin color with brown, yellow and a little red, or mix with a red and yellow and add a touch of blue. Light skin color is mostly water. When your mix looks okay, paint the face and arms.

Dress – your dress can be whatever color you like, but keep it light and watery. I used red and dabbed most of the color up with a paper towel to keep it light.

Shoes and Shadow – use watery black and dark brown. Paint the sole of the shoe with watery black and the rest of the shoe mass with dark brown. It’s okay if it mixes. Paint the shadow with black near the feet and add water so the shadow gets lighter towards the right – a graded wash.

Hair – paint the hair on the head dark brown (brown + black), leaving the highlight near the ponytail white. Paint the ponytail medium brown.

Step 3 – Paint the shadows on this easy watercolor figure.

Shadows can be difficult to see when looking at a photo – try switching to black and white or squinting your eyes to eliminate detail and see shadows more clearly.

Skin – mix a darker skin color (add more brown) and paint the face, the side of the left arm and the entire right arm.

Apron or pinafore – if you picked white, mix a blue gray (blue + a little brown). If you picked beige, add more paint and/or a little brown to the original color to darken. Paint the apron shadows as in the photo, or pull up the original reference photo and copy that.

Dress – Paint the shadows in the dress with darker color as the photo.

Basket – mix an orangy brown – brown + red or orange. Paint the basket orangy brown with black on the left side. Dab up some of the color on the right so the right stays light.

Step 4 – Add details in the shadow areas of this figure for beginner.

step 4 in easy watercolor figures for beginners deepen the shadows

Arms – The right arm gets darker on the left side. The right arm gets darker where the elbow is and around the wrist, thumb and inside fingers.

‘PINKING UP’ – If you skin looks too brown, paint a wash of red over it and quickly dab off the color with a paper towel. That’s called pinking up the skin color.

Shoes – Use black to outline and paint inside the soles of the feet.

Reference head for easy watercolor figure

Hair – Paint a hint of light brown color on the highlight. Use a damp brush to rewet and lift out a few lines extending from the highlight into the dark hair on the right. When dry, use brown to put a few darker lines in the highlight and ponytail.

Paint the hair tie any color you like.

Apron/Pinafore – add lines anywhere you think will look good. Darken the right side of the main folds and add a line of shadow underneath the apron.

Dress – you can darken some shadows in the dress if you think it needs it, also. Use thick pink paint (or your color) to add random dots for flowers.

Step 5 – Suggest light color for the background, wet on wet.

Mix a puddle of green and a small puddle of yellow. Mix another puddle of blue for the sky.

Wet the paper well. Use a big wash brush to wet the back of your painting. Then wet the area around the figure – soppy wet. Use a small brush to carefully wet the area right next to the figure, inside the basket handle and arm. Tilt the top up and let the excess water drip off. if it runs over the figure, dry that area of the figure well with a paper towel.

Blue – With a big wash brush filled with paint, lay some blue around the top of the figure, letting it run at the edges.

Green/Yellow – paint the green around the figure to about the bottom of the skirt. Without rinsing your brush, pick up yellow and paint to the bottom.

Reference photo for easy watercolor figure for beginners

Summary for Easy Watercolor Figure for Beginners

Beginners often think that figures are too hard to tackle – not true!

Simplify your colors into light and dark and concentrate on one thing at a time. Don’t be confused by the details – they need to be put in last, after the colors and values are established.

Staying in the lines is overrated – let your watercolor bleed here and there for a painterly effect.

Relax and have fun painting – you’ll find your work turns out well.

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