Tiny multicoloured hair painting – tutorial time!

tutorial watercolour pin-up girlWant 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.

pinup drawing tutorial

pinup watercolour tutorial painting     pinup watercolour tutorial painting

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.

pinup watercolour tutorial painting     pinup watercolour tutorial painting

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.

pinup watercolour tutorial painting
Smooth out the cheek colour and highlight on lower lip with the wet in wet technique. The upper lip is darker /less diluted.

    pinup watercolour tutorial painting     pinup watercolour tutorial painting

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.

pinup watercolour tutorial painting

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 😉

How to do Mr. Cumberbatch

In December I was given some pastels and at first I was not sure what to do with them. After a few tries, I realised how nice it is to work in a medium that gives your the freedom to change your drawing again and again. Unlike watercolours and ink, nothing is final in pastels and the pigments easily move across your page.

Some of you have been asking about my approach to portraits in pastels, so here is a little step by step tutorial on how to create a portrait.

Benedict Cumberbatch Drawing tutorialThis is my end result… the lovely Benedict Cumberbatch, star of the BBC show Sherlock.


Step1. Find reference with good contrast.

Go online and decide on a face that grabs you. You’re going to spend 4 hours looking at it so make sure you feel inspired. Benedict’s face will never bore me and one day I will make him mine. Don’t forget: there needs to be a strong difference between light and dark in your reference to make the drawing (process) more interesting.

Benedict Cumberbatch drawing tutorial step by step

Step 2. Establish light and dark.

First of all, think about where the light comes from in the scene. Using just two pastel crayons, start blocking out the darkest and lightest shapes of the face. You will see this gives your drawing a sense of three dimensionality. I decide on the forehead as my first point of reference and I lay this shape down on the empty sheet of paper. Scary! From there on I measure the distances of the new shapes against the length and width of the forehead. Remember: no details, just blocking in shapes! Just use scratchy lines at this stage of the drawing, blending happens as you go along. Also, nothing is final at this stage. The pastel can be moved around the paper easily with your finger.

Benedict Cumberbatch drawing tutorial step by stepStep 3. Think about the features

What makes Benedict… Benedict? His lips stand out: the upper lip has some serious pointy shapes and the lower lip catches the light as it’s protruding a bit. Really engage your eyes and try to find the planes that make up his facial features. The cheeks, the chin and even the lips can be broken down in these flat, angular shapes. Trust me, Andrew Loomis is better at explaining this.

At this stage, I also adjust the colours. The browns I used for the shadows on the left side are too warm, so I’m adding a cooler grey / blue tint on top and blend with my fingers. Make sure you have a cloth to hand to keep fingertips clean. Then, add some mid tones to soften out the light and dark planes. Use an eraser to rub out mistakes.

Benedict Cumberbatch drawing tutorial step by step

Step 4. Bedding it in

The neck and shoulders are very important indeed. We don’t want a floating head in space. Block these shapes in, measuring the distances and relationship between the facial features. Take a step back and be critical of your work. Does the figure fit on the page? Are the proportions correct? Is the forehead to small? In this case, yes… it is too short. And I didn’t even notice it. You see, drawing is a never ending story of learning and practice. Now also add the light and dark contrast to the hair without adding detail.

Benedict Cumberbatch drawing tutorial step by stepStep 5. Start to add detail

Use pastel pencils for the smaller accents of the face. There is a white line where the upper lip catches the light. Add detail to the eye and nose, all the while thinking about light and dark to promote the 3D element. The sun comes from his left so, the highlights must appear on the right side of his face. The pastel pencil doesn’t need blending so much, just use thin swift lines to block in shapes.

Benedict Cumberbatch drawing tutorial step by stepStep 6. All about the eyes

Take a step away again. Have a drink. I notice that the eyes on the shadowy side of his face should be a lot darker. What amount of detail will the eye need when it’s in the shadow? It’s trial and error. I don’t have to be afraid to go over it all with a black piece of charcoal as it easily rubs out again. I blend and blend until I have the right darkness.

Benedict Cumberbatch drawing tutorial step by step

Step 7. Finalise your drawing

Voila… I’m going to call this done soon. As a final touch, I add the littlest of detail such as the little crinkle in his brow by building it up with a white, black and red / brown pastel pencil. It’s up to you as an artist how much detail you put it. I’m not going to add Benedict’s wrinkles. Stuff like that just doesn’t matter, we have megaturbo pixel cameras to take 100% accurate images of people!

Golden tip: Don’t you ever use hairspray to fix the drawing. Official pastel fixation spray is also a nightmare. I have ruined quite a few pictures trying these out. Leave it as it is, scan it and take it to Photoshop to push the contrast and repair mistakes.

Please share your work with me by adding links below or message me directly!