Painting Water Colour Portraits

Hi Everyone, it’s Tanyalee back with another tutorial for the Season of Music. This season I decided to show you all how I make water colour portraits. They aren’t your standard portraits, and I will show you two different types. One is a posterized image painted in a monotone style, and the other is a faceless character portrait. Here are some examples of art journal spreads that I have made previously that gave me the idea for this tutorial.



What You’ll Need

  • An image – choose a photo with a fair amount of contrast – so a light background
  • Access to a photo manipulation app (like PicMonkey or Photoshop)
  • Access to a printer to print out your image
  • Water colour paper
  • HB Pencil or Graphite Tracing Paper
  • Water colours (either pan or tubes)
  • Paint brush (you can use a regular brush or a water brush)

Let’s Get Started

I’ve prepared a video for you that shows the process for both of the portrait techniques as they are actually very similar. I hope you enjoy it, even though it is a little long.

I hope you found this technique inspiring and useful, and seeing as though we are in the Season of Music, here is a challenge for you, perhaps you could even call it a bonus prompt – choose a photo from the internet of your favourite musician and make a watercolour portrait of them. Share what you make using your chosen social media and then link it up over on the prompts page so we can all see it. If you are posting on Instagram, don’t forget to tag it #getmessyartjournal and #seasonofmusic.

Until next season, enjoy getting messy with art xx


Tanyalee is a mum to three grown up kids, a wife to her childhood sweetheart, a full time graphic designer and a part time crafter/art journaler. She loves growing veggies to feed her family, she loves raising her fur babies (cats, rabbits and guinea pigs) and she loves spending her spare time just pottering around her house. Tanyalee LOVES being at home more than anything else – as long as her family is nearby.


  1. Katie Smith

    I LOVE your style, TLEE!

    • Tanyalee Kahler

      Thanks Katie. Mutual style love babe xx

  2. Rose Sheridan

    I love this tutorial, thank you so much for sharing. Will be doing this as soon as I get back from holiday and have access to a printer again.

    • Tanyalee Kahler

      Glad you liked it Rose. Can’t wait too your attempt. Tag me (@drawingboardau) when you do!

  3. Lucia

    woooow, super cool, thanks 🙂

    • Tanyalee Kahler

      Thanks Lucia

  4. Kelli CRESWELL

    Oh my goodness — I love both of these so much and can’t wait to try these techniques! I am always inspired by your work and I loved seeing these come together! Thanks for sharing!!

    • Tanyalee Kahler

      Thanks Kelli. Hope you get to try it some time. Tag me if you share – I’d love to see it.

  5. Molly Anthony

    Oh my gosh, this is so cool! I usually avoid doing pictures of people, but I really need to try this. Thank you for sharing!

    • Tanyalee Kahler

      This technique does take the scariness of painting people away. Give it a go and tag me so I can see xx

  6. Stephanie manic

    It’s amazing!

  7. Lea G

    Sooo cool! I’m for sure going to try this. I have a technical question though, would the first technique – transfering the image with a pencil – work on a canvas? I’d love to paint a portrait on a canvas, when I saw your video I had the instant idea that this would make a great present for someone I know. Thanks for the help!

    • Tanyalee Kahler

      Good question Lea. You may need to put something into the back of the canvas to support it a bit. Or use graphite paper as it transfers the outline a bit easier. I’d love to know how you go with it. A canvas would look beautiful. I’m going to try painting one with acrylic soon too.

  8. Lauren Hooper

    This is AMAZING Tlee!!! Thank you SO much for working so hard to make such an awesome video! I could watch you paint allll day!

  9. Romana

    That is one good tutorial, thanks for sharing, this is going to be so useful and fun!