How to paint faces in your art journal

Hi you, beautiful creative souls! I am so happy to be back with another tutorial for a brand new Get Messy Season of Contrast. Can I just start by saying that I feel incredibly inspired by each and every one of you! Your creativity is limitless and I feel lucky being in the same tribe as you! All right, now back to the tutorial.

The Problem

So, here’s some harsh truth for you – I suck at drawing realistic faces. Of course, I might start practicing every day, take some classes, read some books and achieve relatively good results. But what if I want to put a face on my art journal spread like… right now?! I first started thinking about it when I saw new Jane Davenport face stamps being released. I thought it was a brilliant idea for people like me – people who want that hand-drawn feeling to their art, but can’t actually draw that well. These stamps, however, are quite expensive to ship to Poland. There is also another option – tracing paper. But I honestly have no idea where to find it in the city I currently live in. So, I gave up on the idea of having realistic faces in my journal for a while. Until one day I was playing with my art supplies and had that AHA moment.

The Solution

Remember that watercolor tutorial I shared with you in Season of Art 101? Well, then you know that I love my plastic packaging and use it extensively in my art journaling! One day I was playing with some water based markers and the packaging. If you doodle on top of plastic with a water-based marker/felt tip and then press it down onto the wet paper, you’ll get washes of color and stains similar to those you would get using watercolor in the same way (ha! Sneaked in another mini-tutorial for you! 😉 ) Then I thought – why not try the same technique to attempt transferring specific images to the paper? I grabbed a magazine, whipped out my black water based marker, and traced a random face through the packaging. Then I lightly wet the page and pressed the outlined portrait face down… and it worked!! I have no idea if this technique was invented before me (it probably was!), so feel free to inform me about the original source. But for now, I am going to claim it as my own and teach all of you exactly how I do it.

The Process

You’ll Need

  • water-based markers/felt tips
  • plastic packaging
  • paper/your journal
  • magazines or photos to copy your image from
  • water

*Sorry for the glare from the plastic packaging. Unfortunately, there was nothing I could really do about it.

Important Things To Remember

  • For this particular technique, paper makes difference. I found it works best on smooth paper, no gesso on top. But feel free to play around using various kinds of paper – it might give you some cool effects!
  • Experiment with the amount of water you add on the page – the more water, the more fuzzy and dreamy the print will look and the less details it will have.
  • Don’t add too many small details before you print the image. There is a high chance that they will be smudged or lost during the transfer process. Instead, outline the biggest, most basic features (face shape, eyes, brows, nose, lips, ears, neck etc.)  and add any small details to your portrait after it has been printed.
  • In some cases, adding wet media on top of such printed image can reactivate the water based marker. So, be careful and make a paper+marker combination “test drive” before you commit and create a big print.
  • If you want to ensure that your portrait will save its shape even after you add some wet media on top, try tracing the printed face with a waterproof pen. 
  • Don’t rush cleaning the marker off your plastic packaging. You can use it to add a color wash to your background! Just wet the paper or plastic a little and press to the page. The same way we made a watercolor background in the previous season.
  • Keep in mind that the image you print will be mirrored! So, if you created this portrait with a specific idea in mind, make sure it will be facing in the right direction.

Action Steps

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Try printing a portrait and a full body image.

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Try printing in single color and using a few colors for added contrast.

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Print a self-portrait. Create an art journal spread with it, using one of this week’s prompts.

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Trace only the face, leaving the hair line open. To go with it, create a bright/crazy/magical/whimsical hairstyle using paint/collage/drawing.

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Print directly on your journal page. Create contrast around it, using color.

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Print on a loose piece of paper, cut your image out and collage it into your next art journal spread.

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Don’t limit yourself to only printing images of people. This technique can work with an array of subjects (animals, plants, architecture, etc.)! Have fun with it!

I seriously can’t wait to see the world of possibilities opening in front of you, when you start using this faux-drawing technique! Moreover, you will see how your drawing skills will start improving too, because your hand is getting used to making the face shapes and your eye will start catching the correct distance between facial features. Double win!

Sasha

Sasha is a freelance online English teacher from Ukraine, currently residing in Poland. She has been creative since very young age being raised in the family of photographers and actors. Sasha is a classic example of a “scanner” personality and often tries new creative things.

34 Comments

    • Sasha Zinevych

      Thank you, Vanessa!

  1. Thea marie østerholt

    Never thought of using packaging to trace shapes or images..! Thanks for the tutorial, looking forward to trying it 🙂

    • Sasha Zinevych

      I know, right?! I don’t know how this idea didn’t occur to me earlier! Can’t wait to see what you create with it! 🙂

  2. Laura Rahuba

    How cool; can’t wait to try it!

    • Sasha Zinevych

      Can’t wait to see your results! 😉

  3. Serene

    Omg, I love this! Must try ASAP!

    • Sasha Zinevych

      Please, do!! So excited for your experiments with this technique!

    • Sasha Zinevych

      Thank you, Melody!

  4. Anna Oliveira

    I tried it very quickly! It was so fun! 😀

    • Sasha Zinevych

      Yay! So glad you enjoyed this technique!! 🙂

  5. Ashley Rodgers

    Oh my gosh, Sasha! This is brilliant! Can’t wait to try it.

    • Sasha Zinevych

      Thank you so much, sweet Ashley! 🙂

  6. Misty Granade

    I love art uses for everyday items! So fun!!

    • Sasha Zinevych

      Yay! Thank you, Misty!

  7. Kelli CRESWELL

    Ooh, can’t wait to try this! Now to remember to save my plastic packaging! 🙂 Thanks Sasha!

    • Sasha Zinevych

      Always save your plastic packaging! So many ways you could use it! 🙂

  8. Charlotte Erichsen

    So awesome for faces!!! I did this with handwriting, but got the paper too wet ->> smeared…

    • Sasha Zinevych

      What an amazing idea, Charlotte! I haven’t even thought of doing this with handwriting! 🙂 Ohh, dang! Sorry it didn’t work out the first time. I am sure you’ll soon get the idea of how much water you need o use for good results!

  9. Marianne Hein

    Awesome technique!!
    Thank you for the inspiration 🙂

    • Sasha Zinevych

      So happy you enjoyed it, Marianne!

  10. karen davis

    I loved this technique…. I bought myself some felt pens with a fine nib…. (children’s ones) and they work perfectly.

    If you email me your address I can send you the carbon paper

    I think this is a technique I’ll keep coming back too 🙂

    Karen

    • Sasha Zinevych

      Yes! That’s what I use too – cheap water based felt tips! So glad this is something you’ll keep coming back to! 🙂 Aww, you are so kind, Karen! Let me know your e-mail address! Thank you!

      • karen davis

        my email is [email protected]

        btw I am saving the packaging for everything now!!!! Totally addicted 🙂

        Karen

  11. karen davis

    I loved this technique…. I bought myself some felt pens with a fine nib…. (children’s ones) and they work perfectly.

    If you email me your address I can send you the carbon paper

    I think this is a technique I’ll keep coming back too 🙂

    Karen

  12. Cassandra

    Fab idea and wonderful tutorial Sasha! Love it! Going to have to give it a try!

    • Sasha Zinevych

      Yay! Glad to hear that you liked it, Cassandra! Let me know how it goes!

  13. Stephanie manic

    You are so ingenius! Love this!

    • Sasha Zinevych

      Thank you so much, dear Stephanie! 🙂

  14. Cheryl Angelini

    Thank you ! Great ideas Now I need to see what I have for plastic packaging !

    • Sasha Zinevych

      I use wraps from magazines or art supplies! 🙂

  15. julia Thomas

    Well this is pretty amazing !!!

  16. MarriannaD

    Very amazing tutorial. I found this by looking at the IG feed of @Debbie_Bamberger. I have lots of plastic packaging that I’ve saved for crafting. Now you’ve given me a new idea for my art journaling. Thank you.