Want to make your own pin-up portrait? Just follow the steps below. You’ll need postcard sized watercolour paper, a pencil, pots of water, a medium watercolour brush, a detail watercolour brush, fine ink brushes, India ink and of course a (basic) watercolour box.
First of all, here is a very quick and dirty guide on how to sketch a stylised pin-up face.
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1. Use a fine mechanical pencil to sketch. Apply a minimum amount of pressure to reduce dents in the paper. Tip: make some sketches on a piece of (scrap) paper first and then transfer the design you like the most onto the watercolour paper. Keep that paper neat!
2. Use the ink to draw in the eye shape. The eyes are the focal point of this pic! Lay down the main colour with a thicker brush. Don’t forget that you can’t go lighter with watercolour. It’s a good idea to use the paint very diluted first and then work in the darker colours and shadows. Especially the highlight on the lip should be a thin layer of watery paint. By the way, for the skin tones I use a mixture of ochre, Sienna and light red.
3. While the base layer of skin coloured paint is still a bit wet, focus on the blushy cheeks. Use a pink colour for this. Work in the pink by pushing your diluted paint around the cheek area with the standard brush. Check if your work is not drying patchy. We want a smooth effect. Add a wet brush to the area to smooth out.
4. Add shading to the hair. It’s okay if the base layer is dry. We like a striped effect on hair.Think about the hair as a 3D shape. What area will catch the light? Leave these bits light, while adding more of the same colour (less diluted) to the bits that are shaded.
Smooth out the cheek colour and highlight on lower lip with the wet in wet technique. The upper lip is darker /less diluted.
5. Now the fun part: ink! The black lines will make your illustrations come to life. Use a fine brush and dilute the ink slightly. Try and vary the line thickness: thick line means “this is in shadow” and thin lines means “this is lighter, and less important, we’re keeping this airy!” – Don’t forget that the lines shouldn’t all meet. It’s nice to leave some area un-inked.
At this stage, also add a less diluted wash of the skin colour behind the nose curve. You can also add a bit of purple to skin shadows. Odd, but it works! And look… the eyes have no pupil! I find that a pupil of creates a “manic” look on the pin-up girl. We’re just adding a gradient from dark brown (top) and fade it out at the bottom where the light would hit the iris. Again, go lighter by adding more water. You can also “scratch off” paint with a wet brush if you feel an area in too dark. Make sure the water is clean for this.
6. Right, I think we’re pretty much done now. Just add some final lines where you need them. Make some hair shadows a bit darker, simply by adding another wash.
Photoshop tweakage is very important in my own work. I’ve added the picture frame in Photoshop later. The frame was made in watercolour using the same technique as described above. Another thing I always do in PS, is adjusting the colours. For this watercolour painting, I duplicated my layer and set it to “multiply” – 30 to 40 percent. It just brings out the colours a touch more.
Any questions? Feel free to email or comment below. More work in progress will follow on Miss Beretta’s Instagram. Please look me up, it feels kinda lonely out there 😉