Painting Faces in Watercolour: Fun Sketching Exercises

Watercolour Mentor
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Hi and Welcome to Painting Faces in Watercolour: Fun Exercises To Help You Get Started

Faces and portraits are one of the most challenging subjects for beginners and advanced painters alike. In this class, we're going to take the pressure off and work on understanding basic facial anatomy and create some quick and expressive sketches of some watercolour faces.

By the end of this class, you will be able to turn a reference photo into a portrait sketch, and feel more confident in understanding how to use layering techniques efficiently to paint skin tones, shadows and facial details.

Although we'll be using a variety of reference photos, the aim of this class is not complete accuracy but rather an understanding of how to create quick impressions of a subject via sketching in pencil and watercolour.

I'll be showing you:

  • How to keep colors fresh and vibrant.
  • How to paint different skin tones using a limited range of colours.
  • How to sketch and paint 10 different faces, based on 10 reference photos.
  • How to quickly draw faces and portraits from a reference photograph freehand.
  • How to paint subjects in various poses and lighting conditions.
  • How to layer paints to add depth, shadows and details.
  • How to use essential watercolor techniques in the context of portraitures, such as wet-in-wet and wet-on-dry.
  • How to determine a light source and the correct use of values in painting.
  • What essential paints, paper, brushes and drawing materials you will need.

This is a feature-packed class, and I have included many demonstrations to provide you with more opportunities to learn how to paint different subjects.

Join me in this class and let's get painting!

Project Description


Your class project is to draw and paint your own watercolor portrait sketch using the processes and techniques covered in this class! Complete all 10 portrait sketches. Try to be efficient when drawing and painting, to use fewer brush strokes and layers. If you're feeling adventurous, how about changing some of the facial features or trying some different colour combinations?

If you've completed the demonstrations featured in this class, find a reference photograph of a person whom you'd like to paint. Consider trying to paint a family member or a loved one as you will be more familiar with their facial details and feel a personal connection towards the subject. Using the techniques and processes shown in this class, transfer the reference photo over to your sketchbook or watercolor paper, and paint with watercolor.


Use any pencil, watercolour paper, paints and brushes you have available. I recommend:

  • Mechanical pencil (0.5mm)
  • 100% cotton watercolour paper or sketchbook
  • Watercolour Paints: Hansa Yellow, Permanent/Perennial Red, Ultramarine Blue
  • Watercolour Brushes - mop brush and a variety of round and flat brushes.

Getting Started:

Review the class demonstrations first. There are various portrait sketching and painting exercises. You can also download the tracing templates to transfer over your portrait drawing if you wish.

Sharing Your Work:

Share your final project(s) and progress shots with the class by uploading them to If you have any questions or need more tips, please let me know. I'm happy to help.

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Painting Faces in Watercolour: Fun Sketching Exercises

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