Watercolor Pet Portraits: Likeness, Composition & Costuming | Alana McCarthy | Skillshare

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Watercolor Pet Portraits: Likeness, Composition & Costuming

teacher avatar Alana McCarthy, Illustrator + Designer + Letterer

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

21 Lessons (1h 38m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Your Project

    • 3. Supplies

    • 4. Pick a Photo

    • 5. Choosing Accessories

    • 6. Identifying Shapes in Cats

    • 7. Identifying Shapes in Dogs

    • 8. Opportunities for Exaggeration

    • 9. Refining Your Drawing

    • 10. Transfer Your Drawing

    • 11. Color Palette and Theory

    • 12. Painting the Background

    • 13. Painting the Base Washes

    • 14. Painting White

    • 15. Painting Eyes

    • 16. Painting Accessories

    • 17. Final Details

    • 18. Using White Gouache

    • 19. Collecting Props

    • 20. Shoot That Artwork!

    • 21. Thank You!

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About This Class

Have you ever wanted to create a pet portrait that captures your pet’s purrfect personality? Maybe make a gift for that pet lover in your life or start a new side hustle? You’re in the right place! 


In this class, I’ll be teaching you how to create a fabulous pet portrait in watercolor, capturing your pet’s unique personality through costuming and composition.

Throughout the process, you’ll learn how to: 

  • Choose the perfect reference photo
  • Capture your pet’s personality through costume accessories
  • Draw your pet by building up from basic shapes
  • Transfer the finished drawing to watercolor paper
  • Paint your furry friend using different watercolor techniques
  • Bonus: you’ll also learn how to shoot your finished painting in a professional flat lay composition — purrfect for showing off on social media or in your online shop!

This class is geared towards beginner artists, or seasoned illustrators who want to learn a new technique for painting pets and capturing their likeness. 

With the skills learned in this class, you can paint gifts for family and friends, or maybe even start your own business. You'll become more confident in drawing cats and dogs from memory by breaking down their anatomy into simple shapes and you'll learn how to bring a uniqueness to your work that reflects your furry friend's personality. We’ll be focusing on some pet-specific techniques such as painting fur and making your pet’s eye’s look lifelike, though the general art and watercolor skills that you’ll learn in this class are easily transferable to any subject. You’ll learn how to let the watercolor paint take the lead, how to avoid and quickly fix mistakes when they come, and alternatively when to accept them as happy accidents. 

So let’s get started — see you in class!

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Alana McCarthy

Illustrator + Designer + Letterer


Hello, I'm Alana! I'm an award winning illustrator, designer and letterer. I help brands and businesses stand out and attract more customers. With almost 20 years of professional creative experience I'm an expert visual problem solver. I'm based in Toronto, but work with clients worldwide.

I've taught illustration at the college level and love sharing my knowledge and expertise with others. I also lead a team of freelance designers as a Senior Graphic Designer at an animation company. I take joy in helping other creatives learn new skills and grow to their full potential - and can't wait to do the same for you!

Some clients include: 

• Absolut Vodka • Adobe • Cadbury Chocolate • Owlkids • Coca-Cola • C... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Have you ever wanted to paint your pet? Hi, I'm Alana McCarthy and I've been a creative professional for almost 20 years. This is my chunker Pumpkin. He's a little camera shy. I'm an Illustrator, designer and letterer and I've worked with some fantastic clients. I was also a senior graphic designer at an animation company. While I was in office, I created a side hustle called Geeky Pet. At Geeky Pet I would paint people's pets as pop culture icons. Geeky Pet actually got a nod from Robert Downey Jr, Iron Man himself when he posted one of my pieces, cat avengers to his Facebook page. I sell my portraits online as well as travel to comic inventions all across North America. I work digitally as well as in watercolor. Today's class will teach you how to capture your furry friend and convey their awesome personality. This class is aimed at beginner illustrators or those with experience who are looking to strengthen their skills and try a new medium like watercolor. For your class project, I'm going to have you paint a picture of your furry friend. You'll learn how to see your pets in simple shapes and exaggerate their features. You'll also have a chance to capture your pet's unique personality through the choice of accessories, my favorite part. By the end of this class, you'll be able to pick good reference photos, draw your pet, transfer that drawing to watercolor paper and then paint it using different techniques. As a bonus, I'm also going to teach you how to professionally shoot a flat lay composition to show off your awesome new artwork. You can share it with friends on social media or even as example photos in your own online shop. I'm super excited to see you and your furry friends in my class. You good kitty. I think we all love our pets, right Punky? Let's get started. See you in the first lesson. 2. Your Project: Today we're going to be creating a bust portrait of a cat with some cute fashion accessories. A bust portrait is pretty much chest up. You can include some paws if you want. Also feel free if you want to draw a dog instead, go ahead because I'll just be breaking down the figure into a bunch of different simple shapes. You can apply this easily to a dog, and I will give you a quick demo on how to do that too. I chose this project because it's a simplified dive into painting pet portraits. You can get a good likeness of your pet. You can also try out a bunch of different techniques for drawing in water color. But you don't have to worry about their whole anatomy. To have a successful project, you should have a good flat workspace, and all of your supplies ready. Before diving in, I want you to collect up a bunch of reference photos. You can either follow your pet around, and shoot them, well, not literally, shoot them with a camera, or you can search the Internet. The Internet has a ton of cat pictures or dog pictures too. I'll walk you through what makes a good reference photo later on in the course. We're also going to collect reference photos for the accessories you want. Just start thinking of what little bits and bobbles will sum up your pets personality. Speaking of reference photos, I'd love to see your furry friend because I'm a real pet lovers. Please post your photos in my project gallery. You can also post your sketches, and your final project as well. I'd love to see it all. I think we're ready to start. In the next lesson, I'll walk you through all the supplies you're going to need. 3. Supplies: Here are the supplies you're going to need for your project. Some watercolor paints, white gouache, a palette or a white plate and a water container. Here's a suggested palette. I chose these colors because they're all easy to mix together and they cover all the hues. When buying watercolor paint, try to purchase the best you can afford as it'll mean more pigment and stronger colors on your paper. The white gouache is optional. I like to use it for whiskers. Next, you'll need some paint brushes. I like to work with rounds and flats in small, medium, and large. For drawing, you're going to need a pencil, eraser and some paper. To transfer your drawing to your watercolor paper, you'll need either a light box or a window, tracing paper or graphite paper, and some low tack painter's tape. I like to use Arches Watercolor Paper. You can choose hot or cold press as long as it's 140 pounds or more. The heavier your paper is, the less likely it will warp when you paint on it. Now for some bonus supplies for photographing a flat lay composition of your painting. Use whatever props you have around the house. Some suggestions are plants, art supplies, rocks, wood, cat or dog toys and a white or colorful background. Once you've collected up all your supplies, it's time to move on to the next lesson where we're going to be finding reference photos for you to work from. See you there. 4. Pick a Photo: In this lesson, we're going to be choosing our photos, first up cats, and then we're going to do dogs. The Internet is full of cat photos, so if you don't have your own photo, feel free to go to Google image search and type in "Cats". I go to images up here, and pick one to work with. What you're looking for is a nice, clearly lit closeup of a kitty. You want to be able to see their markings clearly. Any of these guys would work, even this fury dude. Be sure to avoid photos from the movie Cats because no one wants to see that. Of course, the same search can be done for dogs as well. Dogs come in all different breeds, shapes, and sizes, so search for the specific one you want to paint. Again, you're looking for a well lit photo, with good markings, and not too far away or too close. I want to take you through some poor choices for pet photos. First off, this photo here is just way too far away. You're not getting any of the detail of the cat's face. It's also a little blurry. Although this one is a beautiful photo, it's very back lit, so you're not getting any detail on the cat's markings. This one is super cute, but too blurry, there's no details. You don't even see the cat's nose, mouth, nothing. I think this one speaks for itself. There is no way you can paint a cat portrait or from this one. Well, you could, but it'd be pretty wonky. I wanted to share the photo that I chose for my cat, Pumpkin. This is a great photo because it's nice and close, you've got some great natural lighting. This is actually a really good tip. If you're choosing to shoot your own pet, then you should try to capture them next to a window or natural light source. You can see all of his markings in great detail, he's got minimal shadows, and he's pretty much ready for his portrait. I actually shot this photo on an iPhone, so you can see what kind of great results you can get just from a cellphone, as long as you have great lighting and a cute subject. Speaking of cuties, I'd love to see your chosen pet photos. Post them in the class project gallery. See you in the next lesson where we'll be choosing accessories. 5. Choosing Accessories: Now for the fun part, finding costume accessories for your pet. We're going to be painting a bus portrait. Make sure you focus more on head and neck pieces. Start by thinking of your pets personality. Are they bold? Shy? Do they have a favorite toy or a strange habit? Here are some suggestions. Hats, glasses, bandanas, ties, necklaces, flower crowns, crown and scepter, feather boas, superhero masks, and shirts. Always consider your pets personality. Another great tip is to check out online costume shops. There's no reason that a human costume couldn't work perfectly on your dog or cat. I painted pets whose costumes aligned with their names or their owner's professions. This one was painted for a scientist couple who were getting married. This one went to a fireman to celebrate his retirement. Whatever you end up choosing, make sure it means something to you. I'll see you in the next lesson where we're going to learn an easy way to draw a cat. 6. Identifying Shapes in Cats: In this lesson, I'm going to show you how to draw a cat by identifying shapes. Basically, you start with two balls. This is the hips and the shoulders were working off of this cat. Then the head, a third ball. Basically a cat's body is like a bean, so they're very stretchy creatures. But once you get the basics down, you can bend and mold them anyway you want. Cats have little square snouts, most of them. I mean, there's some pug faced ones and then a cone for the ears. You can see where the eyes go too, the mouth, a little nose. Then, this is where the shoulder blades hit, and this comes down in a diamond shape. Their shoulders, the arm, the paw, and the toes. Then we get into the hips. The hips come down like a funnel almost, very square bunny feet. Then of course, they walk on their toes. I love this part, the ankle part. That's my favorite part to draw on a cat. Then we have the other part behind, the toes, the rectangle. Then this leg that comes behind as well. Another triangle, little square, and the toes, and of course the lovely long tail. What you're trying to see is, you start with the three circles, and then you do the jelly bean shape. Then a cat sitting forward is also another three circles. We're going to be looking at this cat over here. The head, the chest, and the body. Then you just join them. The neck is also a cone, and then I usually like to see the snout as a rectangle. The nose is halfway on it. The rectangle ends in a little triangle for the chin. The eyes, pretty much here. You can see how I'm just building it up, using simple shapes. Once you have these simple shapes down, you can draw a cat from memory. The hips sit here. Big, rectangle, bunny feet, with the toes on the end, got the shoulders. Come down. The arms, smaller rectangles, and toes. Let's pretend we can see his other foot, and of course the tail. Once you've mastered the three ball roll of drawing cats, you can put them in any position you want. We've got the hips, we've got the shoulders, and we've got the head, and you just join those balls up, with your bean. Put his little neck on, you get the basics. Now let's speed things up. There's my stretching cat, and then we can also do in arching cat. We've got the hips, shoulders, and they're actually quite a bit closer than on the other cats. Remember, cats are very flexible. Their spines actually stretch out. Here's the head. Then [inaudible] Arching his back. The shoulder blades here, chest here. Cones for the ears. Eyes are lower on the head, so he's facing down, but we still have the same square snout, the nose, and the big puffy [inaudible] tail because this cat is freaked out. You can see you can do a lot with these three circles in terms of building your cat up. Let's even do, pumpkin here. He's for shortened, so there's this head is chest, hips. I'm going to exaggerate him even a little more. His jelly bean body goes like this. He's got his snout. Then I love folded paws. I love putting folded paws in my illustrations, they're so cute. His rectangle feet and this little toes are pointing downwards. It's such a cute position. Ready for belly rubs or depending on your cat, might be ready to attack you. My theory is cats can't laugh. They have to scratch you when you rub their bellies. I've included these sketches as a PDF in the resources, feel free to download it. Be sure to post the drawing of your cat to my project gallery. I'd love to see it. See you in the next lesson, where I'll show you a simple way to draw a dog from memory. 7. Identifying Shapes in Dogs: For everybody that's deciding to draw a dog instead of a cat, I'll show you some simple ways to draw a dog from memory. Of course, there are tons of different breeds. I just put this graphic up here to let you see all the different shapes of dogs. The legs, very short Dachshund, too long Schnauzer. Basically, I'm going to do the basic dog shapes, so let's do a little Golden Retriever. It's similar to a cat. You've got the head circle, you've got the chest circle, and you've got the hip circle. But the thing with the dog is the hip circle is much smaller, whereas the cats are more like a kidney bean when you connect them together. Dogs have more of a chest. They still have the cone for the neck, and the head is a circle, and then they have a snout, which ends on an angle. You can add a floppy ear or a pointy ear depending on your breed. Again, big hip, similar shape to a cat, and then you've got the ankle joint, the foot, and the toes. Again, ankle joint, funnel going to it, foot, which is a rectangle, and the toes. I chose this pose because you can really see where the dog's paw bends. Again, you've got the shoulder coming down in a funnel. You've got the rectangle, comes down into the ankle, and the paw. On the other side, you've got the shoulder coming down into the joint, you've got the rectangle, and then it comes down into the paw. Very basic dog. You give them a cute little tail. It's wagging its tail. The eye falls at the top of the snout. Then if we want to make him panting, you can open its mouth. There you go. Then a sitting dog, start with the circles again. Head, chest, hips. Again, the chest is bigger than the hips. Joins together like that. Got the cone ears. Got the snout that comes out on an angle. A funnel shape coming down into the elbow, into the rectangle leg, another ankle, and then the toes. Similar on the other side, and then the hips, so you can see where this guy's legs fold. Then he's got the big flat rectangle and the toes coming down, and the tail. Eyes at the end of the snout, and the nose. There you go. Basic dog. For your reference, I'll be including these drawings as a PDF in the resource files. Feel free to post your doggy drawings in the project gallery. I'd love to see them. See you in the next lesson where we'll be finding ways to exaggerate our pets. 8. Opportunities for Exaggeration: Once you've mastered the three ball method of drawing cats and dogs, you'll find that there are a lot of different ways you can exaggerate your subject. Take a look at your pet, maybe they have something that stands out about the, are they thinner, chunky, have gorgeous eyes? Maybe your dog has a really long tongue, or your cat has incredibly long whiskers, lean into these strange quirks and you'll find it really helps to capture their personality in your portrait. Now I'm going to sketch out four different quick examples of exaggeration. First up, the chunky cat. Let's start with three balls. The head, the chest, and the hips. Let's make this guy really big. It's going be pear shaped. Let's give him some cute folding paws that he's resting on his belly. It's two cone ears. Put his nose a little higher on his face. Maybe he gets a nice double chin. Those eyes are nice, and big and wide. Let's give him some splayed paws. This guy's just loving life. A nice big fluffy tail. Looking good. Now for the second example, a twisty skinny cat. This guy, we're going to start with the same three circles, but we're going to put them a lot further apart. Let's put his little nose on,his ears, eyes, his cone neck. Maybe top of his paw coming out. His chest is going to be facing forward, but I'm going to put his back paws twisted around, and up in the air. This cat's managed to do, and maybe let's have him going for a cat toy. Smooth at his back, his chest, smooth at his nose, his hips, and his little toe jellybeans, you can't forget those, and a long curvy tail. Nice. Next up, a chest heavy, beefy dog. Let's start with the three circles again. Remember that dogs have wider chest. I'm also going to give this guy a big, wide head, a long snout, it's little eyes, cone ears, maybe a big tongue lolling out. Well, he looks like a big, tough cuddle monster. Here we go, his little back legs and his tail. There you go, big tough guy. Finally, my last example, a prim and proper lanky dog. This girl's going to be tall and proud, to her head, chest, her little hips, maybe her nose is in the air, maybe she's judging us a little bit. Her neck, shoulders, nice and sleek, her hips and her toes feet, and there she is. All prim and proper. Now I have a mini assignment for you. I want you to draw either a cat or a dog from memory using the three circle method. I want you to draw two more of your pets, exaggerated in two different ways. Be sure to post your drawings in the course project gallery. I'd love to see what you come up with. See you in the next lesson, where we'll be starting the drawing of our pets. 9. Refining Your Drawing: In this lesson, we're going to be refining our portrait drawing. Please work off your pets reference photo and any accessories you've chosen. This is the reference photo I've chosen of my cat pumpkin, and what we want to do is we want to look at our reference and see the shapes, so cat's head is basically round. You're going to want to lightly sketch out a circle. Actually this is more of an oval, and then see the snout. It's a rectangle, and it basically comes down here, and then it ends in a little triangle. His eyes are about halfway up. I'm going to mark the moat boat here with circles as well. It's also got quite a wide nose. See how I'm just breaking everything down into simple shapes. Another triangle for his nose and then his snout ends in two circles. This is a really easy way to start getting the likeness of your cat in the proper shape. He also has nice beautiful high cheekbones. Aren't you jealous of cats with cheekbones? I know I am, and then his ears. His ears are quite big. Let me just move my eraser, and they're basically two triangles. This is also a good stage that you can start doing some exaggeration if you want. Normally for my cats, I tend to make their eyes a little bit bigger, and then he's sitting on an angle here. Just going to do that. You can even start getting into some of their markings. A pumpkin has this triangle of white and it goes past his eyes here. I'm going to simplify this, see how it goes in and around here. I'm just going to make it a pure triangle. Because when you're an illustrator, you can do whatever you want. See all these little black spots, those are actually freckles. Orange cuts tend to get freckles, and it's funny while I was going through the reference photos, I found earlier photos of him when he was younger and he didn't have those freckles. He's also got this marking here and his chin is orange. Now that we've got all our shapes laid out, what we want to do is start darkening them up and getting into the details. I'm going to start with his nose. Shape is like that. Pumpkins here to visit in the background. Hi pumpkie. I'm drawing you, and then his eyes. Cats have such wonderful, huge expressive eyes. I always like to exaggerate these. I shot this photo on a bright sunny day. Well, he was lying on my bed, so he's got tiny little pupils. You know what? I think I'm going to make them just a little bit bigger. Because I love throwing in a nice white highlight like half on the pupil, half in the iris. Getting a good highlight in the eyes really will bring your pet portrait to life. Those cheekbones I was talking about. You can come off this note there. Yeah, I think this is looking like my pumpkie. He's got a little bit of a double chin. He's not the slimmest of cats. Just more to love, and I think its head it's actually a little bit bigger. I'm going to erase some of this. Why we do it in pencil because you can erase, and his ears. I only like this little divot on the ears. I've always loved drawing that in my portraits. He's vary in the ears and a little bit, and then his triangle ends at its cheekbones. Little orange marking and it's little orange chin, and then his chest. Back is looking over his shoulder, and his fur. I've chosen to work on the size of sketch paper because it'll make it a lot easier to transfer once you want to put it on the watercolor paper. You know what? I'm going to give them as little freckles too, because it's very uniquely pumpkin. It's nice if you can catch on some of the uniqueness of your pet. Now, that we've got our cat drawing all laid out, we're going to add some accessories. For pumpkin, I've chosen a dapper blue set and tie. You can choose whatever you want for your pet. But my reason for choosing this is I really like the lighting on it. I like the reflections. Is going to be a lot of interesting things to paint. I'm also going to try to offset it a little bit just to create more interest in the portrait. Because sometimes when everything's too straight up and down, it's too stacked. If you throw some things on diagonals, it just makes the portrait more interesting. Big, beautiful, blue, shiny bowtie. I'm also going to choose to painted in blue because he's an orange cat and blue is the complimentary color to orange. I think you will look just stunning, and you know what? Now, that I'm seeing this, I'm actually going to change my mind about his arm coming down here. Again, I'm going to use my artistic license, and I think you would be better served by having a little bit of orange share and some chest. We'll pretend that he was sitting up. Look at my handsome boy. Isn't he going to look great? In the next lesson, we're going to take this drawing and we're going to transfer it to your watercolor paper. The reason why we do it on a separate piece of paper is because if you're doing a lot of erasing, it can really wreck your watercolor paper to the point where the paper will actually start resisting your paint, and you really don't want that. You can do all you're messing around on this paper and then transfer it over to your watercolor paper. Be sure to post your final drawing in the project gallery. See you in the next lesson where I'll show you how to transfer your awesome drawing to your watercolor paper. 10. Transfer Your Drawing: I'm going to cover four different ways to transfer your drawing to your watercolor paper. We're going to be using a light box, a window, tracing paper, and graphite paper. Now we're going to transfer our drawings to the watercolor paper. This is the first technique I'm going to use. This is a handy-dandy light box, it's probably the easiest way to transfer. It just turns on right there. Then what you do is, you put your drawing on here. I like to tape mine in place so I know that it's not going anywhere. Then you grab your watercolor paper, you place it on top of the light box, and it shines the drawing right through it. Now you can adjust your paper and figure out exactly where you want the portrait to be. I take into account that I'm going to want to do a washy background. I like to use a much larger paper, I think this is 10 by 14. It also allows you to play with the watercolor, and you can also trim it back if you wanted a certain size. Now I'm going to use some more of my painter's tape. Painter's tape is great because it's low tack, so it'll come off without actually ruining your paper. I think he looks good about there, and then I'm going to get sketching. Another great alternative to using a light box is to work with what you've got. I'm sure you have some windows in your house. It's a gloomy day here in Toronto, but it's still enough light that you can put your watercolor paper up and see your drawing right through. What I would do is definitely fix this watercolor paper to the glass so that it doesn't move as you're drawing, and you can see, you can still see your drawing and just trace it and [inaudible] instant light box. Of course, the only downside to this is you're going to have to do it during the day. Another technique which is a little bit more labor intensive is to use tracing paper. Tracing paper is very translucent. All you have to do is place your drawing underneath, and again, I'd use your painter's tape to tape it down, so it's not going anywhere. Since this isn't a pad I don't have to tape this part down. I used to use this technique back in college when I didn't have a light box. Like I said, it's pretty labor intensive, so it's preferable for you to use a light box or a window. Take your tracing paper and flip it over, and I'm going to put a scrap piece of paper underneath. If I transferred it now, I would end up with a reverse image on my watercolor paper. This is why this technique is really labor-intensive, because, not only do you have to trace it once, you have to trace it twice, so again, a nice heavy line. Once you have this all double traced out, you're going to flip this paper again, put your watercolor paper underneath align where you want it. Always use your painter's tape to keep the drawing secure. See how I'm overlapping the watercolor paper as well as the tracing paper, so neither of them are going to go anywhere. Then I usually like to use a ballpoint pen or something that's going to make a different mark, so you know what area you've already gone over. Then you're going to trace over your lines again. It transfers the drawing on. Basically you're making your own graphite paper using tracing paper. A fourth way to transfer your drawing is by the use of graphite paper. This is like what we did with the tracing paper, but it has graphite on it already on one side. What you're going to do is you're going to lay your graphite paper down on your watercolor paper. Then you're going to line up where you want the drawing. I'm going to tape it down so it's nice and secure and then you're going to trace over your drawing, pressing at about a medium pressure, and you're going to go over all of your lines. Sometimes it's better, instead of pencil, it's better to do this in pen or something else that will let you know which lines you've already traced over. Then we can check and see if it's actually transferring, so you're getting your lines. This is just a more direct way using graphite paper. Now that you've transferred your drawing to your watercolor paper, you're finally ready to paint. Isn't this exciting? I'll see you in the next lesson. 11. Color Palette and Theory: There are a ton of courses on color theory and huge books written on the subject. I'm just going to give you a basic rundown. I'll also be including this basic theory as a downloadable sheet. Color theory in pigments starts with the color wheel. It begins with the three primary colors; red, blue, and yellow. These three colors can't be created by mixing. Next, we have the secondary colors; orange, green, and purple. These colors are created by mixing the primaries together. Tertiary colors; red-orange, red-purple, blue-purple, blue-green, and yellow-green, these colors are formed by mixing a primary and a secondary together. These are all the basic hues. Hue's just another name for color or shade. Next up is color harmony. Color harmony is created when colors placed together are pleasing to the eye. If colors aren't harmonious, they will be bland and boring or way too chaotic. Color harmony creates a sense of order and visual interest. Here are three basic color schemes to get you started. Analogous is a color scheme created by choosing three colors next to each other on the color wheel. An example is green, blue-green, and blue. Complimentary colors are two colors opposite each other on the color wheel. So red and green or blue and orange, et cetera. Triadic are three colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel. So yellow-green, red-orange, and indigo would be triadic. Some other colors to be aware of are cool colors and warm colors. Cool colors are found on the half of the color wheel from yellow-green to purple and they tend to visually fall back or recede in space. Warm colors run from yellow to red-purple on the color wheel and they tend to visually jump forwards or advance in space. Tones are the color wheels hues mixed with black. Tints are the hues mixed with white. If all of this theory confuses you, then you can take a quick shortcut. Pick a piece of art that you really love and look at the colors that it uses. You can even bring it into Photoshop and use the eyedropper tool to really get a sense of all the different colors used. Try to replicate that same color scheme in your own painting. I want you to be aware of the colors that you pick for your pet portrait. What do you want the feeling to be? Bright and bold? Neutral and sophisticated? Do you want your pet to stand out from the background or would you prefer that they just compliment it? Black and white dog, maybe they need a hot pink background. Ginger cat, maybe a nice royal blue wash would do him good. Whatever you choose, I'm sure it's going to turn out great. Once you've figured out your color scheme, I'll meet you in the next lesson, where we'll be starting to paint our background. So super exciting. 12. Painting the Background: I'm going to start by refreshing some of my paint. It's okay to work with dried-up watercolors. But of course, you'll get the best results if you use fresh ones. This is my gouache, the white gouache I use for details such as whiskers. In watercolor, basically, if you want something to be white, you have to plan it. Usually I'll look for the pops in the eyes, the white of his snout and other parts like that, and you have to plan to leave them empty. The white is the white of the paper. The only reason why we use gouache is because it's opaque, you can do fine details like whiskers on top of everything else once you're done. You're not going to touch the white gouache until the end. I'm going to start with my background. I wanted to do a Payne's gray background. I'm going to start by mixing up my Payne's gray, getting it nice and washy. I love this brush washer because it's got a dirty side and a clean side. You can always go in, clean your brushes, and then go to this side and get some clean water. We're going to start with wet on wet wash. I dip my brush into the clean water, and I'm going to trace out pumpkins background. You might not be able to see this on camera, but what I'm doing is wetting the entire background. Along the edges, I'm making some rough brush marks. I want this just to be an organic shape. I'm not going all the way to the edges of the paper because I find it's just more interesting. It's just blueish behind him. Then I'm going to take some of my Payne's gray and start dropping it in. The wonderful thing about watercolor is that it does whatever it wants. You really have to give up control. You're not going to be controlling all these bleeds. You can to a certain point, but it's best just to watch for happy accidents, as Bob Ross would say. I'm loving what's happening here, the bleed out. I don't really like how it's lining up over there, but we'll come in and deal with that in a second. I'm going to clean my brush, get it back to neutral, and I'm going to come in here and clean that line up. Always have a paper towel handy too. I'm going to add a little bit of Ultramarine in my wash. Just a very up the color, so I'm not using it straight out of the tube. Also, some nice pops of blue will look great against his bow tie. When figuring out a composition, you want the eye to bounce around the page. It's a great tip to use the rules of three from design. I'm going to have the blue here and here and then on his bow tie, so your eye will move around the composition. I think that's looking really great. Some beautiful bleeds going on there. You know what? I'm going to get a little wild and even add a little bit of purple here. What I'm going to do now is take one of my dry brushes, and I'm just going to feather out this edge. Try to dry brush it. I'm wetting it and I'm going in. I just didn't want it to end in a real harsh line. There we go. I think that background is looking great. Now we're going to sit, let it dry for a bit, and we'll start the washes on the body. 13. Painting the Base Washes: For this next part, I've got my drawing here for reference. I've also got my reference on my phone. I'm going to start with another wet on wet. I'm going to start doing his orange patches. Of course this is all being done after the background has dried. Otherwise, the watercolor might bleed into the background and you don't want that. I guess patience is a good way to control water color. Mixing some cadmium yellow deep, some burnt sienna. That's nice. You also want to make sure you mix enough paint for all your areas. Because if you run out of the color that you need, it's definitely going to look different when you mix it again. You can never really get the exact same mixture.I think that's good for a base coat. I'm also going to change my brush, I'm not going to use a flat anymore. I think I'm going to use one of my rounds. I prefer rounds for the detail work and for the body. It comes to a tight point, so you can get a lot more control. Okay, here goes nothing. You can see my water is already a little bit dirty. That's why you want to have two water containers if you don't have my special magic water container. I'm wetting part of his face, that's orange and also the ears. Then I'm going to come in with my orange color and start dropping it in. He's a little bit lighter around the eyes. The more pigment you pick up and you drop on the edges, the darker it gets. The thing with watercolor is you do want to keep it light. Once you start really thickening the paint, it almost becomes gouache and gouache is opaque. Watercolor, the beauty of it is that the light can shine through to the paper. I'm going to leave these little bits of white, it's just nice to have little pops of white here and there, even if they don't really belong. There is his ear. Also, another tip is to protect your painting by putting something under your hand. The oils from your hand can stain the painting. You might dip your hand in the paint accidentally and then find a nice big smear across your painting, which isn't that much fun. Doing his little markings here on his chin. It's funny because he just pushed his way into the room. "Hi, pumpkin". If you hear meowing in the background, it's because my cat does not like to be outside the room. Okay, this is looking good. You can see that I didn't pre-wet his little markings here and they're quite flat in color. Yes, pumpkin. Pumpkin is also very yappy, so there might be quite a bit of conversation going on here. But if I come in with water on his chin and I blot with my paper towel, look at how much that lightens up. This is another great technique for getting those darker edges. See that? Then I could come in with a little bit more paint, darken where the shadow would be on him. Also, if I'm painting and I don't particularly like the edge of the painting, I can come in with freshwater and soften that hard edge. I think that's looking pretty good. But I can't forget about his body. He's got his beautiful white bib, but the rest of this is all orange. Again, I want a rough edge to it. A little bit of orange fur here too. I'm dragging my brush along the side to get some roughness to the paint stroke. Now, we put the pigment down and we let it bleed out and it come in here and moving up. I'm going to add a little bit of orange for mixing with his bib, his white bib. Again, little pops of white. Again, if I drag it on the side, I get that nice dry brush effect. These are all great little techniques you can put into your painting to make it a lot more interesting. Okay. Liking that. Let me just a little bit darker and mix some more sienna. A bit darker on the edges here. Okay. Now I think we're ready to do the inside of the ears. I'm going to mix a new color for that. They're crimson and burnt sienna. You can see the color is really dark right now, but when I add water to it, it's really going to lighten up. Maybe a little bit more pink. Okay. Again, because I want a nice wash on this, I'm going to use another wet on wet technique and keep the edge of his ear dry, so that'll create a nice little white line to the edge of his ear, and the other ear. Okay. The darkest part of his ear seems to be here. I think this is coming in a little bit too dark, so I am going to take some of my fresh water and I'm going to add it to my wash. There we go, that's much better. Wipe some of the pigment off and I'm going to spread this around here so that it's not as dark. It has that for a nice shaded ear. A little bit more pigment. Okay, now the other one. Since the light is coming from this side, he's got a bit of shade on his concave ear. The light's coming like this and it's shading there. Then on this side, again the light's coming in and shading here. Now, you can see he's got a lot of white fur on his ears. I'm not going to worry about that till later, we can always add that in with gouache if you want. Sunlight on the edge and pretty dark near the tip here. Now, I'm actually going to mix some of my orange in this. Starting to dry brush a little bit. There we go. Got the ears done. I think that's looking pretty good. In the next section, I'll show you how to paint white fur. 14. Painting White: Now we're going to do some white fur. In watercolor you want to work from lightest to darkest so I don't want to paint the bright blue of the bow tie yet because it'll probably get pulled into my white as I work on it. What I usually do is I use an ultramarine mixed with some burnt sienna to get a beautiful blue gray. This is what I'm going to use for my shadows in the white. It'll also complement the background very well since it's very similar. Add a bit more water to that. I think I want to tip it over to the blue side. Clean my brush. Then again, I'm going to do a whitewash. I'm looking at where the shadows are on his referents and the bright white parts, I'm choosing to just leave alone. I'm going to keep them dry. Since his nose is like a really cute pink gradient, I'm going to wipe that as well and drop some crimson in there. Paying attention to where the shadows are. Now I'm going to come in with a very wet brush with a little bit of my mix here, and I'm going to start touching the darkest parts. Nice shadow under the cheekbone here, and the side. My head wasn't in the shot. I get pretty intense. Lean forward when I paint. Let's get some of that blue going in there. This nice deep dark part. Little bit of darkness there. You can alter this watercolor again by dipping your brush in the water avoiding the edge. I spoke about adding crimson to the nose so we're going to use the same color that's on this here. Woo that's a nice speed. Left the nose dry. I have quite a bit of control to come in here. It's bleeding at the side, but you know what? I don't mind it at all. Going to lighten this edge because again, this is where the light source is coming from. See what I mean about being able to get great detail, with a round brush comes to such a nice tapered tip. I'm digging that. Pumpkin is looking handsome. Soften this edge. Soften this a bit. When I see a bit of pink hiding there by his lip. Let's add that in. Nice. I'm going to use a lot of water and just a little bit of this ultramarine. I'm going to come in and do some of these little whisker deviates. Wonder if there's an official name for this. The base of the whisker and the fur, is probably some technical term. I'm even going to add them on top of my orange. Since it's a nice shadow color. A little bit of that around his eye too. Now we're going to move on to the chest. Again, wet the shadow areas. I'm going to make the water come to points. That'll be like a fur texture on his chest. Takes all my ultramarine and start in on the darkest areas. Start dropping the pigment. I actually really love painting whites because you can get very expressive than them. It's the same thing with blacks. I learned in art school you never paint just black out of a bottle because it's very flat. What you want to do is you want to mix blues and purples and find all those hidden hues in black, it makes paintings much more interesting. I'm going to furs these out a little bit. Maybe even come in with a bit of sienna, the nice brownie shadow against the blue bow. Yeah, I think he's looking quite handsome. Now let's this dry. Actually I just want to lighten this up just a little bit, it's getting too dark. Again, using the stamp method, wet it, stamp it. You can pull the color right back out. As long as it's still damp. I mean, if it dries, you can do a little bit but you won't have as much success as if it's still damp. I'm using water to blend the edge. Lovely. What I'm going to do now while this is drying is I am going to change my water. You can see it's gotten quite swampy on the dirty side and even the clean side isn't all that clean. When you paint with watercolor and you're using light colors like yellow and stuff, you really want your water to be clean because otherwise you might go to paint yellow and all of a sudden it's green because of the blue paint you used before. In the next lesson, I'm going to show you some techniques for painting lifelike eyes. 15. Painting Eyes: Now I'm going to clean my brush and with the water. I use my scrap of paper towel here. With the water, I'm going to fill in the eye, making sure that I leave a nice large white space for the reflection. It's the same with this eye, there is large white space at the two o'clock position. Always make sure that the highlights on your eyes are in the same position. If one eye is two o'clock, the other eye will be two o'clock. Dry my brush a little and we're going to come in with some yellowy green. Always work light to dark. I'm just to going to let it bleed from the edges. Actually, I'm going to change my brush, because this will give me a little more control, the smaller brushes. I told you three sizes, small, medium, and large, so that you can experiment and figure out what size of brush you prefer to work with. Again, I'm running this just along the edge, letting all these beautiful bleeds happen. Cat's eyes are a little lidded as well. So you're going to get more of a shadow up against the lid here. It's bright green eyes. I'm going to come in with a little bit of water and do that highlight I was talking about earlier, so it's where the light bounces. It's a little too rough. Actually zoom in on his eyes here. I'm not painting them perfectly realistically because this is an interpretation, it's an illustration. You can do whatever you want. So his eyes are going to be nice and bright. I want to take some of this green and I'm going to make a shadow color. I'm going to try mixing a little bit of burnt sienna to dull the green down a little. Add little more, come in. Well, that's nice. We're also going to be worrying about these shadows a little later in the class once we start building up all the texture. You can see he has a very dark shadow on this. Then with my wet brush, very carefully, smooth at the edge of that highlight. I love the eyes. I say the eyes are the window to the soul, the cats eyes are gorgeous. I'd like painting them nice and big with lots of highlights and shadows to really make them stand out. There's the base color to the eyes, and now we let that dry. Do you sense a theme here? In the next lesson, we're going to paint pumpkins bow tie accessory. 16. Painting Accessories: Now that we've got all the flats laid out, I think it's safe to start on the bow tie. I've picked out this dapper blue bow tie for pumpkin. Again, we start by mixing some paint. I think I'm going to go into a different blue since we have lots of ultramarine in here and start getting into my phthalo blue. Wow, look at that. Phthalo blue is a very rich blue. I'm going to put quite a bit on my palette. Hopefully you're using a palette or a white plate so that you can see the colors as fresh as possible. Now I am going to add a little bit of ultramarine over here. Look at that color, it's beautiful. I think for some of the shadows I'm going to get into some of the purple, but I'll just wait. Just wait on that. This blue is very rich. I'm actually having trouble washing it onto my brush. Again, I love my wet-on-wet technique for these base layers. But I'm going to exaggerate some of the highlights on this bow. Again, we're working from reference. We don't have to stick to it. We can use our imaginations and change whatever we want. I'm laying down my water keeping in mind where I want the highlights to be. The highlights are mainly on the fault where the fabric pops forward. I'm going to switch to my smaller brush so I have a little bit more control. Look at that. I keep forgetting to keep this under my hand. That is a beautiful blue. I'm going to soften some of these edges with some water. So shiny. Darken this edge quite a bit. I did talk about bringing some purple in. Let's do that, while this is still wet. The file it's going in the darkest parts. Mix a little more blue in with it. That first side is painted. This is actually it might have dried because I took too long with that. I'm just going to re-wet it with clear water again. I'm actually going to work from one side of the bow to the other side so that it doesn't bleed together. This side should be drying. Again, let's blend with some water. Blend these edges and come in with my purple, same as the other side and get some of this up in here. Now I'm going back into the other side a little bit. I tend to like working back and forth, back and forth, increasing the contrast, darkness. Here we go. Well, that's drying. I don't want to touch the middle. I'm going to go and maybe get into the eyes a little bit. I'm going to use my payne's gray, and you'll find this really brings your pet to life, black pupils. Do you notice how I've left a little white spot out of it. Then you can tell the shine on the eyes is above the pupil as well. This might be dry enough to go into the center of the bow now. Again, the wet-on-wet, we'll leave room for a little white highlight, I can always paint it out if I change my mind. But you can't paint the white back in. It's always good to plan your white larger than you would expect. See what's happening here. This side of the bow wasn't completely dry. The wet part from the middle is actually leading into it. But you know what? I don't totally mind it. Like I said, you have to accept the happy accidents sometimes with watercolor. This is how I like to work. I like to finish up all the base layers and then start getting into the detail of the stripes and the fur and such because you're going to layer up. I mean, right now it looks okay. It's very flat. I mean, maybe you could say it's done here, but personally to me, I don't feel like it's done. It's just the base. Let that dry as always and then we're going to get into the next part. In the next lesson, we're going to start layering up the fur and other details. 17. Final Details: Now we're going to get into the really fun part, the detail. This is where your painting will totally start to come together. I've got all my flat washes laid down. I'm going to start back onto the fur again. I'm going to mix my dark orange here, burnt sienna, and my cadmium orange. I'm going to start getting into some of the fur marking details. You can choose to do this as stylized, or as detailed as you want. I usually do it somewhere in between. You want to be aware of the way that the fur flows. It's always wider at the bottom, and then comes to a tip. You can see the shadowing on his head, because cats actually have wrinkly foreheads. If you've ever seen a hairless cat, they always have those wrinkly foreheads. That's actually all cats. It's just hidden under their fur. I'm looking at my reference quite a bit as I do this, because that's what it's there for. Now I'm adding some dark shadows above the eyes where the lid comes over the iris, and outlining the bottom of the eye. Adding some more stripes, and just looking at where all his fur patterning is. I'm going to come in with a little bit of detail on the ears. I can start suggesting that there are some white hairs coming out of his ears. I'm wetting the brush, smoothing the edge. Smooth edges, or sharp edges could be part of your style. Maybe you want big blocks of sharp colors, or maybe you want all your edges to blend nicely together. Whatever makes your painting look good. I always find a mix of soft and sharp edges create a lot of interest. It's all about contrast. Contrast in your colors, in your textures, and your technique. The eye is attracted to contrast. Let's get into his nose. I'm going to outline it first. He actually has an orange spot on his nose. It's a little darker area, and then the rest is pink, and then he has his little black freckles on top. Another thing I like painting is a little bit of open mouth on my cats. Now, I'm going to start doing a little bit of detail on the white. I'm going to use my ultramarine, burnt sienna mix and darken up some of the shadows in the fur. This is going to add quite a bit of texture. See how I'm adding layers, and the layers are adding depth. You want to build up these areas. You don't want to expect to just put down paint and be done with it. The layering will bring a lot of personality to your portrait. I'm going to speed this up as I finish up all the detail. My black pupil just bled into my green shadow. I'm going to blot it quickly with the paper towel. Mistakes in watercolor are nothing to be afraid of, you just have to be quick about fixing them. He's looking a lot more like pumpkin now. I'm going to finish up the detail, and then I'll see you in the next lesson. Where we'll be adding whiskers, and white ear fur using gouache. See you there. 18. Using White Gouache: I'm going to start with the ear hairs. As you can see, the gouache is opaque and it's sitting on top of the watercolor. That's why it's perfect to do fine for details like this. Feel free to turn your paper as needed so you can get a nice smooth line for these tricky details. Always remember that furs start wider at the base and tapers near the tip. So you may have to rotate your paper so get the right type of line. Now to turn my page and do his whiskers, and the other side. I'm going to put a careful second coat on some of these whiskers to make the white a little brighter. With gouache you have to add enough water to get a nice consistency that will allow you to paint a smooth line. It comes with practice, feel free to grab a scrap of paper and practice on that first before you commit it to your portrait. I'm going to try flipping my references as well. That worked. The last thing to do is sign my name. For watercolor paintings I usually just sign my initials, AMC. My finished pet portrait. If you can post your finished paintings to my Project Gallery, I would love to see how they turned out. See you in the next lesson where as a bonus, I'll be teaching how to professionally photograph your amazing work of art in a flat lay composition. 19. Collecting Props: Pumpkin and I have an assignment for you. We want you to walk around your house and see what treasures you have lying around. If you're like me, you probably have a bunch of quirky objects. What you're looking for are props for your flatly composition. Choose things that will look great from overhead, and compliment your painting. Plants, real or fake, are a great addition too. Small stones, shells or crystals can easily be moved around your painting, or maybe some cat or dog toys. Maybe some of the art supplies you've used to create your painting. Here's a list of some suggested objects. Take into consideration the color, shape, and size of your objects. You want colors that go with your painting, and objects of various shapes that aren't too big or too small. Also, consider the theme of your painting, if your cat's wearing a tiara, maybe it would be cool to surround it with fake gems, pearls, and a feather boa. Here are some of the props that I chose for my composition, and here's Pumpkin, coming in for a sniff approval. You'll also want to choose something for a background, use what you have around. You could shoot it on a tile floor, counter top, wood floor, grass, or maybe a paper background. I personally like to use bristol board because it's cheap, and it comes in a lot of different colors. All you want is for your surface to be flat, and portable if it's not in a well-lit area. Next, I'm going to choose my backdrop, so what I'm using here is just simple bristol board from the Dollar store. I've got a bright peacock blue and a paler blue, so try your artwork against it. I think it stands out much more on the peacock blue, so that's someone I'm going to use for my background. See you in the next lesson where we're going to start shooting our artwork. 20. Shoot That Artwork!: Okay, Now I'm going to go about setting up some of my props. Lets do maybe a bit of brain coral, rock, some paint. When I'm doing this, I'm trying to be aware of the design rule of threes. Odd numbers are always more interesting to the eye than even numbers because, I guess, even numbers are much too equal. So we want to balance out the composition of props. I'm putting some of my supplies down. Maybe a Giod. That rock is too much. Some of my little fake plants, these are actually great. I bought them at IKEA, and they work great as props because you don't have to worry about keeping a succulent alive for all your shooting. Another little fake plant. Another thing to consider is that your lighting is coming from here, so you really don't want any shadows being cast. So say I took this plant and I dropped it right there. All of a sudden it's casting this huge shadow across my portrait. You don't want that. The props are just accessories to show off your artwork. I don't know if this plant is overkill, but maybe I'll just tuck it over here. Pumpkin's been chewing on the leaves unfortunately. Let's see, move this out here. Just keep playing with the composition until you're happy. Then you grab your cell phone. You could use a tripod for this, but you don't really have to, and I just tried to shoot it from straight above. While you're shooting, you can actually take a moment, move some things around. Maybe something's not working for you. Overhead is the most typical angle to shoot from, but you can also try it on a slight angle, maybe make a diagonal. Maybe I want some plants more down here. This rock will work better up here. Let's pull this plant in a little bit more. Also, try to shoot wide because you can always crop into the painting. So you can crop off the edges. Okay. I think I got my shot and now it's time to tidy up and post it to social media, or you could even use this technique to post photos to your online shop and maybe start your own pet portrait business from all the skills you learned today. I'll see you soon. 21. Thank You!: Congratulations. You made it to the end. Thank you so much for taking my class. I really hope that you enjoyed it. You should now have the skills to choose the perfect reference photo, capture your pets personality through costume accessories, draw your pet by building up from basic shapes, transfer the finished drawing to watercolor paper, paint your furry friend using different watercolor techniques, and shoot your finished painting in a professional flat lay composition. Upload your sketch and final painting to the class project gallery. Be sure to follow me on Skillshare as I maybe making more classes like this sometime soon. If you're uploading to your social media, tag me @AlanaMcCarthyArt and @GeekyPet. I'd love to see your work on there and share it in my feed. Hope you had as much fun as I did. I'll see you soon. Bye guys.