WATERCOLOR SILHOUETTE TUTORIAL!
Hello, I’m Hayley! I am a Christian, wife, mom, maker, and artist. I am passionate about mental health, and I believe art is a wonderful healer. Stealing a few moments to enjoy the process of making can boost your focus while releasing tension and anxiety. However, I know that busy moms rarely have much time for themselves, so I love sharing shortcuts and quick projects you can enjoy in a small amount of time. You can follow me @hayleyraedesigns on instagram to learn more. Thank you Ashley, for inviting me to share a project today!
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We are going to create a simple watercolor silhouette of our kids that makes a great gift for grandparents, or art for your own home. Because this project is so simple, your kids can try it too. Encourage them (and yourself) to focus on the process. Take notice of how the paint flows into the water, and observe how the colors blend with each other. This is a great first watercolor project for kids and adults!
Supplies you will need:
A side profile photo of your subject.
Pencil and Eraser.
A cup of clean water, and a dish for dirty water.
Large paint brushes, I use this set.
Watercolor Paper, I prefer Strathmore Best. It’s inexpensive, and will give you great results.
(Optional) Hair Dryer or Heat gun to dry paint between layers, a ruler to create lettering guides, and a white gel pen to correct mistakes.
I’ve done my best to write out instructions for you, but I am much better at teaching on video. If you would prefer to watch and learn, click the video below! You can also check out a number of other art tutorials on my channel while you are there.
The first thing you will need to do is find a good side profile photo of your subject. I don’t usually take this type of photo of my daughter, so we quickly took one in our entryway before leaving the house. This might be the most difficult part of the project, but here are some tips to make it easier!
First of all, you do not need a nice camera for this, since we will not be using the actual photo for anything aside from tracing their face shape. This also means you don’t need to clean their face or coax them to smile! See? We’re already saving so much time.
Find a well lit area with a solid, and preferably darker background. The dark painted wall made a good backdrop.
Fill the frame with their profile, including only the neck or part of the shoulders. This will make it easier to catch the little details you will want to include in your silhouette to make it unique!
If you are having trouble getting them to look straight ahead, play “follow my finger”, and make a few funny noises or voices for your wandering finger. I took about 7 photos of my daughter, and 2 turned out well enough. You could also use burst mode, or get someone else to distract them while you hold the camera.
When you have a photo you like, you can leave it as is, or do some simple editing on your phone to increase the contrast and make it easier to trace. I used PicTapGo to turn the photo black and white, and increase the contrast.
Next, I printed the photo on regular printer paper for tracing on to my watercolor paper. In order to make it 4x6, I reduced the size to 10% of the original. You can also trace directly from your phone or iPad if your paper is the correct size to easily lay over your device. I used a light table to trace my silhouette, but a well-lit window would also work well for this step.
Once your silhouette is traced onto your watercolor paper, the real fun begins! Use an eraser, and lightly remove any heavy pencil marks. Watercolor is translucent, so anything dark will show through your paint, and it can be difficult to erase at the end.
To paint this silhouette, we are going to use the “wet on wet” technique. This brings out the magic of watercolor! Begin by wetting our paintbrush with clean water, and painting it over your silhouette. One of watercolors greatest features is that it will not spill outside of the wet area. So, only place water where you want paint to go.
With your silhouette wet, apply a small amount of your first color on to your brush. A little bit will go a long way. Begin dabbing it into the water on your paper, and pushing it a bit to cover the entire piece. Pick up more paint as needed, but be very conservative. Look at that, you have finished your first layer! You can wait and allow this layer to dry completely, or speed it up by drying with a heat gun so you don’t have to wait.
If you want to deepen your color, you can add a second layer. Just paint it in the same way as the first. For this layer, you can choose a similar color, or even the same color for a monochromatic look. If you want to blend colors, choose colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. So blue + purple, red + orange, + red + yellow, or blue + green, etc. These are called, “intermediate colors”. If you choose primary colors that are opposite each other, your colors will become very muddy, aka brown. I often use shades of blue because I find it very calming.
Use your smallest paintbrush to add small details to your silhouette. I always add eyelashes, because that really seems to bring the face to life. You can also add some wisps of hair, lengthen the neck, etc. If any of your paint has gone a bit far out of bounds, you can use a white gel pen to “erase” the lumps of paint. Just go slowly, and try not to overwork it!
For our final touch, we will add interest to our work by splattering some paint across the page. Take your smallest brush again, and dip it into a small amount of paint. Then, use your largest brush to tap the paint across the paper. I used pink and purple to do two layers of splatters here. You can practice on a piece of scrap paper first if you are nervous about getting it right, but really, there is no wrong way to do this, just have fun!
An additional touch I like to add is the name of your subject, and the year their silhouette was made. I used the fine tip of a Tombow dual brush pen to write my daughter's name with faux calligraphy underneath her silhouette. Faux calligraphy is when you write something in cursive, and then draw another line on each downstroke to make it thicker. This would be a fun annual project to do with your kids, and watch how they change from year to year!
Now that you understand how to create this project, you should be able to do it in 15 minutes or less. Share your work, and tag me on Instagram @hayleyraedesigns so I can see what you’ve made! If you would like to learn more painting techniques, you can check out my youtube channel, Hayley Rae Designs. I do my best to post weekly videos of simple lettering projects and easy doodles for you and your kids to enjoy. Happy Creating!