Easy Ballerina Tutorial in Watercolor

Ballerina Watercolor Tutorial by Deb Watson finished painting

Ballerinas are a classic subject for painting. Set yourself up for success by getting the features drawn well with pencil, followed by simple washes for the background, skin and tutu. The ballet slippers and tutu top were painted dark pink after the video finished.

Downloads for Easy Watercolor Ballerina:

Suggested Colors For Ballerina and Background

  • Pink – any Quinacridone based red, magenta or pink (not Cadmium or Pyrrole Red)
  • Blue – any blue – I used a mix of Cerulean and Phthalo Blue, but Cobalt would also be a good choice.
  • Skin Color – many mixes will make a good skin color – mix Brown + Orange or mix a reddish orange and add a tiny bit of blue. Remember to add lots of water.
  • Dark Brown (hair and shadows) – mix Burnt Sienna + a dark blue like Ultramarine
  • Opaque White – Bleed Proof White by Daler Rowney is an excellent and cost effective white

Painting Steps for Ballerina Tutorial

Step 1 – Draw or trace your outline.

Draw or trace your outline onto your watercolor paper using graphite paper.

Be careful to get the facial features (eye, nose, mouth and ears) exactly the way you want them with pencil before painting.

Pull up the original photo on a big screen to see exactly how her face looks.

Step 2 – Paint the background.

Best brush for backgrounds – use a large wash brush for the larger areas and a small brush with a sharp point around the face and figure.

Mix a big puddle (more than you think you’ll need) of your favorite color in a medium and dark value, then tone it down with the complement (orange is the complement of blue) or black. You don’t want a bright color background that competes with the ballerina.

Wet the background with clean water, being very careful when you go around the face.

Paint one side and then the other – drop on your wash color and let it spread with the fewest brushstrokes. Using a damp watercolor fan brush to blend or smooth. (I added salt to my background for texture, but I don’t recommend it – a untextured flat background will be better.)

Step 3 – Paint the Step and Foreground

Easy Ballerina in Watercolor - paint the step

Mix a gray color. Mix Cobalt or Ultramarine Blue + Orange or Burnt Sienna to make a gray.

Paint the front of the step gray, darker at the bottom and lighter at the top.

Add the gray color that shows through the tutu and a small bit on the left side.

Paint the shadows. Paint the shadow under the extended leg and the spare ballerina slipper with gray.

Dry the step.

Paint the foreground. Wet the foreground with clean water. Paint the damp foreground with a watery gray mix.

Paint the top of the step with light, watery gray, also.

Step 4 – Paint the pink tutu.

Mix a puddle of any pink.

Paint the tutu pink. You can do some shading but the white at the end much more effective and easier than trying for perfect shading.

Step 5 – Paint the slippers.

Paint the bottom of the ballet slippers with a blue gray for shading. Dry.

Paint darker pink over the slippers and top straps of the tutu.

Step 6 – Paint the skin and features.

Mix the skin tone – very watery. Some good skin color combos are:

  • Raw Sienna + a touch of pink
  • Burnt Sienna + pink (and + yellow if needed)
  • Any red plus yellow for a reddish orange + a touch of blue

Paint the skin a flat wash of your skin tone color.

Hair and Shadows – use dark brown for the hair and shadows.

Facial Features – you can just leave your pencil lines or use a very small brush to add pink lips or darker eyes, etc.

Step 7 – Opaque White for the Tutu and Highlights.

Use plenty of opaque white on the tutu – check the reference photo for where to paint those highlights.

Add white highlights on the neck and shoulders.

Use white for clean up anywhere else that needs it.

Creativity takes courage - Henri Matisse