Portrait in layers


Phew! This technique goes against every slapdash bone in my haphazard body. But I like the result. The idea is to build clear and glowing skin tones over a purple (yes, PURPLE) underpainting. Then with a light touch use layers of yellow, red and blue to build up the portrait.  Here’s the end result:


There is a fabulous lesson on Skillshare by the artist Sadiesavestheday, if you are intrigued.

so first a tonal underpainting using diox purple/violet. You are looking for staining, transparent, non granulating colours throughout. This layer takes the longest as you are building the structure of the entire portrait:


Next add your yellow layer. This neutralises the purple to make brown. Think of the yellow being the fat under our skin and the brown being the melanin. It starts to make sense.


Let’s add in red, for the oxygenated blood.


And then blue for the deoxygenated blood. You could tweak from here, but the fewer layers will help keep the transparency. Make sure each layer is really dry too.


3 thoughts on “Portrait in layers”

  1. Thank you so much for this sequence. I teach “let’s try that” watercolour classes. We have a great time trying out ideas that come our way. Can’t wait to try this!


    Sent from my iPad


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