Paint a Realistic Watercolor Animal: Boston Terrier | Lisa Long | Skillshare

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Paint a Realistic Watercolor Animal: Boston Terrier

teacher avatar Lisa Long, Lettering & Illustration

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

    • 1.



    • 2.



    • 3.

      Choosing a Photo


    • 4.

      Preparing the Image


    • 5.



    • 6.

      Layering on the Eyes and Nose


    • 7.

      Adding to the Ears and Face


    • 8.

      Adding Darker Values


    • 9.

      Adding Darker Values Continued


    • 10.

      Final Touches: Nose


    • 11.

      Final Touches: Eyes


    • 12.

      Finishing Touches


    • 13.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

This class will take you step-by-step through the process I use to paint a 5x7 Boston Terrier with watercolor. I will show you what tools you need, how to choose a great photo, how to transfer that image to paper, and how paint it with watercolor to make it look realistic and pop off the page.

I'll take you through the steps I use including:

  1. What tools to use to get the best result, but feel free to use what you have.
  2. How to pick a great photograph to use as a reference.
  3. Layering your watercolors to get depth in your painting by starting light and working your way to dark.

Painting with watercolors can be intimidating, but fear not! It's just working with the lights you already have and adding in the darks.  It's almost like painting backwards if you're used to mediums like acrylic or pencil, but you can do it! I'll show you how!  

Can't wait to see what you make for the projects section. Make sure you upload as you go so I can give you pointers along the way!

Meet Your Teacher

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Lisa Long

Lettering & Illustration



I love art! I've always loved drawing and creating with whatever I could get my hands on.  It soothes me down to my very core.  It's my meditation. It's my escape from the every day stresses of life! I love creating! I had zero idea what to do with my creative bug, so I became an art teacher, and I taught in public schools from 2007-2019.

After teaching art to children in public school for many years, I'd been dreaming of ways I could teach outside the classroom, and then I found Skillshare! I love this place so much and love learning at my own pace from so many amazing artists and professionals. I now have 7 classes for you to watch and am working on more for 2020 including a class on how to draw what you see.

My favorite medium... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: Hi, I'm Lisa Long , I've been an art teacher for 10 years and I paint pet portraits. I love them. They're so fun to paint. Animals are awesome. They're so cute. In this premium Skillshare class, I'm going to teach you how to paint your own realistic watercolor animal. I love using watercolors. It uses the white of the paper to produce the lightest tone. You slowly start building it up and create darker tones. It will be easy with all the tips and tricks that I reveal in this class. Being able to easily paint pet portraits could be something that you could do as a side business or maybe it's something that you could do for yourself just to relax on an afternoon. I will walk you through all the steps that I use in my process to create pet portraits for my business Lisa Long Designs. I'll be using watercolor paper, a 140 pound watercolor paper. Definitely something you should invest in. Watercolor paper is essential to use with watercolor. I will also be using watercolor paints in a tube or if you want to rate your child [inaudible] , you can find their watercolors and use them for the class project. You'll be creating your own five by seven watercolor animal that looks realistic and pops off the page. So excited to get started. Let's begin. 2. Supplies: Here are all the supplies that I'll be using for this project. Let me walk you through them. Feel free to substitute whatever you have on hand if you don't have the exact supply I have here, with one exception, the watercolor paper. You will need some paper towels. I really like the paper towels from Viva. They're very cloth-like, and they work so well with watercolor. Paint brushes, I like to use round tips for this, and I like to have different sizes on hand. You'll also need a ruler. I recommend using a 4H pencil, nice and hard. A hard pencil that won't smear when you paint over it, and a white eraser to erase any stray marks or erase the pencil marks when you're done painting. You'll also need some tape, drafting tape, masking tape, or washy tape will do. You'll need watercolor paper, I use £140 for this. You'll also need a board to take your watercolor paper to. You'll need a photo of an animal. This photo is provided in the resources for you so you can print that off, or you can find your own 5-by-7 photo, that'll do fine. If you have a light box, great. If not, don't worry, you don't need a light box. You can just use a window. You're going to need something to cut, so you'll need some scissors. Or if you want some nice clean lines, you can get a paper cutter. These are awesome to have on hand to get some nice clean edges. You'll need a heat tool or hairdryer, and you'll need some watercolor paints. You can raid your kid's stash and use theirs, or you can use these two watercolor paints. They come in these tubes and you can deposit it into your paint palette. When they dry, you can just reconstitute it with water, and I recommend having two jars of water. These are the tools that I'll be using. Feel free to use whatever you have on hand. 3. Choosing a Photo: It's really important to have a good image when you're painting something that looks realistic. I found this website,, that provides free high-quality images. It's pretty amazing because any image that you pull from this website is free of copyrights under Creative Commons and you can download, modify, distribute it, whatever you want to do with it. We're going to be taking this photo and making a painting from it. Type in whatever you are looking for. If you're looking for a Boston Terrier, this is where I went to find the image of the Boston Terrier we are going to be painting today. If you want to you could paint a rooster. There's some great images from this site. One thing I look for when I want to have a great image to pull from is I look for, does it have highlights? Does it have shadows? I really want to see the highlights in the eye because that's what makes it look alive and stunning. On my website, I provide a little example of what you would want the ideal image to have. Now, of course not everybody's going to have access to high end photography equipment like the photos that you saw on pixabay. However, there are tricks that you can use in order to get the perfect shot. Take your animal outside or find a photo of an animal that's been taken outside. The natural lighting is the best lighting. In the shade or indirect sunlight is best, but if there's direct sunlight, that also provides some dramatic highlights and shadows that you can use to make your picture look even more realistic. Tip number 2, get near a window. By placing your object near a window, it provides that natural lighting that you would get outside. Don't place the window behind your animal, that makes it look dark and it won't show up a lot of the details. As you can see on this photo on the left, it's dark, has bad lighting, I can't really see any of the details, especially the eyes. It's slightly blurry because it was taken inside in bad lighting. The second photo of the same dog, you can see outside, clear. If I zoomed in, I could see every little hair on his little face. I could make a good painting from this because I can see all the details inside. It's very important to start from a good photograph. If you're starting from a bad photograph, you're probably going to have to do a lot of guesswork and it's not going to end up looking that realistic. 4. Preparing the Image: First let's talk about paper. Watercolor paper is this awesome paper that works really well with watercolors. When you get your paper, you may notice that it has a rough side and a smooth side. You're going to want to paint on the rough surface. So tear out a sheet, I'm going to show you how to cut this. So you come up with two strips and then two 5 by 7. If you mess up, you have an extra one to work with. Now, you could use scissors, but your lines might be a little crooked and you would definitely need to use a ruler to make some straight edges or you could use the sharp edge like an exact overlay. Those are handy, but I definitely recommend having a cutting mat or a cutting board or something underneath so you don't slice into your table or you can get one of these handy paper cutters. What I like to do is cut the short side first, and with the paper cutter, it has inches already laid out for you. So you can move it over to the two and then up to the top to keep the line straight. Line that up with that edge right there. Then I'm just going to press down and drag this across and I have two inches cutoff. That's perfect little sheet of paper to do some hand lettering on. Then I'm going to turn to the widest side and I'm going to cut two inches off of that side as well. So line up your paper. You don't even have to drag this to the top, you can now push down and drag up and then you have another two inch sheet. With my ruler, I'm going to make a little mark here right at the top at five inches and then I'm going to drag down to the other side and make a mark here at five inches, or maybe right at the bottom. I'm going to line up my lines with that center slit and the paper cutter and then just scroll through. You have two 5 by 7 sheets of paper. I'm going to bring out the light box, the light box is great because it helps you to see through paper. If I were to try to trace this right now, I wouldn't be able to see anything, but watch what happens. You can see the image come right through my paper. We're wanting to trace just the outline of the shape and every detail that we can find in here, and then we're going to remove it and sketch out the rest of the details and I'll show you exactly what to look for. Just do a light sketch, you don't want to press hard at all. You want the lines to be very light. You will eventually erase them. Now since I've gotten most of it sketched out, what I like to do is to check it before I move it, I turn off my light and I see that I have gone all the way around. I have the eyes which are important. I have everything mapped out the way I best I can. Now, if you don't have a light box, it is okay just to go ahead and tape these together and use a window. So now I have my image lightly drawn on this paper. What I want to do is go back in here and look for any dark areas. Here's some dark areas. Now, some people think that this is cheating by tracing it. But honestly, yes, I could sit here for an hour and draw this dog out and it'll be fine. I could draw a grid and transfer my object piece by piece. If you draw a grid here and draw a grid here, you draw in each box over here. That would take a lot longer too, this is a quick time saver. I want all my proportions to be right. Measure and make sure that you have things in the right places. There is a dark area here. There's going to be a dark area over the eyes, make note of that. Just going to make these a little more noticeable since the ears are black, the pencil lines aren't going to stand out too much. I'm going to go in and draw in some of the details for the ear. One thing I do want you to note is the highlight in the eyeball. We're just going to make a note of that so we don't get overzealous and paint it in. So it's like a tree line almost. But definitely get that eyeball positioned correctly and drawn out. You want to pay extra special attention to the eyes always, they're the windows to the soul. I have a board here. I'm going to keep my picture nearby to reference. I'm going to take my drawing and I'm going to tape it down with this tape. Now our paper is ready to go. We're going to start painting in the next video. 5. Underpainting: I have my photo here, I have my painting sketched out and taped down. I have my watercolors, my two jars of water, and I have a few different sizes of paint brushes. I have a zero, a four, a 10, an eight and, a six, to whatever works for you, I like using these, I got one, three and four, all different sizes of round tip brushes. You definitely want to jars of water, if you're changing color, it will help you rinse it out really well. It's also good to have a second jar of clear water, so one can be your rinse water and one can be the water that you use, if you need to do anything to your paper with the water. In that way you're not using muddy water. We're going to start our by doing what's called an under painting. We're going to lay down a really light first layer, it should be super light almost unseen,. You want to get everything down in the right place and then you start to build from there. The first layer is going to be really light. I'd like to start with my eyes just to make sure I get those looking nice right away, your animal can stare at you the whole time. I notice here that they're brown and what makes brown? Orange and black. I'm really going to start with a nice very light, not brown, but I'm going to start with orange. I'm going to get some orange on my brush, which you can see I'm kind of putting it in the palette here, and then I can come in with some water and make it almost watery. This is how to get your paint very light. I'm going to do some of this off the camera but I just wanted to show you this one first time. This is very watery. I'm going to use a watery mixture, super watery, and with a small brush, I'm going to look at my picture, and at the same time, paint in where I want the browns to be. This is just my first light layer, if you mess up here, it's not as bad, but once you get that paint down, it's hard to get it back up. I'm just going to put a very light layer here. Then I'm going to look at what other colors are light on my picture. I have this pink right here. I'm going to put the pink in there. I don't really have a lot of shadows on the white, but I do have some shading right here underneath the chin that's pretty light, so I'm going to add those in too. I'm going to put some red down and then add a tone of water. Rinse out your brush, a little pink tone. Now I can rinse off my brush, and to feather this so it's not a hard edge, I'm going to rinse my branch and use some clear water to start here, and then drag it to the red. I'm just kind touch to feather out that edge, so you have clear water here that comes up and just touch each edge of that and it'll feather and dry. Feathered instead of a hard edge. I'm going to do the same thing on the other side of the mouth. Now if you mess up and put too much color down, you have this handy paper towel here, you can come just blot. Now I'm going to start adding the black tones. I'm going to switch from my three brush that I was using, I'm going to switch over to my largest brush I have, which is a number ten. I'm going to add a tone water to this, really nice in light gray. Then I'm going to come in, I'm going to paint the darkest spot first. I noticed I have some dark spots above my eyes. I'm painting the darkest spots first, but I'm painting them a really light color. I'm always looking at my picture and referencing it. Even though I've drawn a little sketch, I still need to look at my picture to make sure I'm making the right shapes and everything looks proportional. I've worked on the right side and I need to go work on the left side. I, kind of screwed myself there. Try to always work from left to right if you're right-handed or from right to left if you're left-handed. If you're right-handed, always have the paints on your right, so you don't have to cross the paper in order to get them. If you're a lefty, makes sure your paint is around your left so you don't have to cross them, you're painting to get the paints with your arm because you could drag your arm across your painting. You could drip on your paintings. You have to be aware of all these things and I have my water on the right side too next to my paint, so I don't have to drip on anything. Just the little tips here to make it a little easier on you. Messed up there, if you mess up and let's say it doesn't just blot up, you can put some water over that and work it with your paint brush and then comeback and press down. Notice I'm not rubbing, I'm just pressing down. I'm going to let that dry and will come back when that's dry and do the mid tones. 6. Layering on the Eyes and Nose: Here's where the heat gun or the hairdryer comes in handy if you're tired of waiting, if you have a lot of puddles, just turn this on. Instant dryness. Now we're ready to move on. Okay, so let's start putting in some mid tones. We're going to start working in the values and we're going to slowly start getting it darker and darker and darker. First I'm going to finish off the eyes. I'm going to start adding some darker values to the eyes using this mixture I had made earlier just going to start putting in little black parts and then right around the edges, there's a dark edge of these eyes and then there's a dark edge at the top. I made a little mistake here and I'll pluck the whole thing out and then add in. The rest I'm going to speed up. Okay, now that we're done adding some darker tones to the eyes, I'm going to switch from orange. I'm going to bring in some brown this is called burnt sienna and I'm just going to start adding some shading to these edges that are a little bit darker and what I'm noticing is the highlight isn't very orangey. So I'm going to get some more orange and I'm going to play with there's too much water. Play with the shading on this. So I can always go darker. It's harder to get lighter. Those are looking good so far. If you look closely at the eyes, they have a little bit of blue in them and then take a little of my failover blue. I'm going to come in very watery that's not watering enough. I want it very light. I like to double my paper towel first to get a little bit of that water on. I'm just going to put a very like coding a blue on there. If the black is still wet, may run. So at this point, if there are any mistakes right here, we can correct them when we go darker. So this is just an underpinning, still just getting some values down that we can fix later in tweet. Okay, so now I'm going to go in and paint some of the darker colors. Actually I like to start here in the middle and work the nose. I'm going to paint very light coat of black and go right over the lines that I did earlier. I'm going to lighten that a little bit because I noticed I have some highlights here I don't want to get rid of, but they're not completely white like the paper. They're a light gray. So I'm going to paint this whole thing a light gray. So now that that nose is done, I can still work it all I need to do is dry it off. With the layers dry in-between, it'll start to layer up. If they don't dry now and between, they'll just mix together and you'll never get the dark areas with the lighter areas. So now that I've dried that area off, I can come in with some darker values. Once again, I'm just going to paint the darkest values I have and I'm going to lighten it up a little bit and paint some of the shadows here, leaving the lighter areas alone. You can, if you want to blend, get a clean brush, start from the light area and go towards the darker area. If you pull from the darker area, it'll just pull the paint into the lighter area. But if you start in the lighter area, it keeps that paint in the darker area and then this edge is getting hard here. So I'm going to come in with some water and try to soften that edge a little bit. I think we're ready to move on to the rest of the face for now. I can always come back and rework anything I need to. I guess I'm still working on this, I know I still need some more value here. So I'm going to let that dry and while that's dry, you can just let that dry and move on to a different area and that way you don't have to use a heat gun every time. 7. Adding to the Ears and Face: It's going to take some more flat, but somehow my palate rinse out my brush and add some water to it, I switch back over to my 10 from using my three again. I'm going to start doing the ears. Look closely for my pencil line. I'm going come in and lay down a nice layer of paint that's very thin and watery and just go right over all the dark or the shading that had pri put in there. Don't overwork, work over those areas because it will start to blend them out too much, you may not want to do that yet. So we just need a light coding here, like to where it's very drag a little bit of that paint into the ferry spots just to give a hint of fur, before this edge dries, I drag this down here and go right over, see how that creates a darker layer right there. So nice and come over here. I don't want this to be a hard edge, so eventually as I get darker and she's showing me where I need to put my shading so that I can remember, while we're here, I'm going to put in a very light coat down here for the shading under his jaws. This little line here, it's very watery, so that's going to drive very lightly. So picks some of that water back that by blotting my blush and going back over, featherless part out, some clean water. So there's our medium tones. Next video, I'm going to let this dry and we're going go in for some dark tones. 8. Adding Darker Values: So I have my picture right next to me. I'm going to start adding in these darker values and feathering them out. I'm actually going to let this whole area with a nice layer, and then pay attention to the lighter area, lethal for marks. What I want to do as with some clean water. Make sure I pick up some of the paint with a clean brush. So that's called lifting. It lifts the paint right off. Then what I can do is come back. I'm going to get some black. I'm going to make it not so watery this time. So have a lot of black on my brush. I'm going to drop in to the parts that are darker. This will feather out into the wet area. So I'm going to do this before the paint I just laid down dries. You notice an area has started to dry like the ear. Right there you can just come back with a wet paint brush and drag the water down to the area you're trying to spread to. So I'm starting out this with this kind of light because I know I'm going to add some more paint. I know I might mess up. So doing it light first is always a good idea. When you get rid of all those harsh edges. Come back. Do some more lifting on the eye here, and here. A little in the cheek. Taking a dry-ish brush, it's damp. Damp clean brush and just coming back and lifting in the spots. Better lighter. There's a little hint of pink in the ears. So I'm going to lift some here. I want to further in some red. So I'm going to get something red, just a tiny bit of dark red. Drop it in. So I'm just touching, my paint brush to the paper and it just dropped that paint down in. We'll let that side alone. I'm going to go onto the other side and do the same thing. I'll speed it up for you. 9. Adding Darker Values Continued: Now I'm going to leave that side alone and I'm going to start working on the nose again. I'm going to switch to my smaller brush so that I can get more detail in there. Remember, you can lay it down and then go back and pick up the highlight. Just with a damp brash I'm just waling it across the surface to get that paint up in those spots. You can also dab it in bigger areas with a paper towel. It brings out some of the highlights. There are few spots here on the white areas that we can be painting in. The very watery gray mixture that we've been working with, I'm going to come in and just start drawing in a line here. Then what I can do, because I don't want it to be that dark, I'm coming with a clean brush and just drag it up and take away some, just feather out that edge. Some wrinkles in the nose here and here. I'm just making this bottom lip a little darker. Now that this side has dried up, I want to still add some more to it because it's not quite as dark as I want it to be. I'm going to take my big brush again and I'm going to load it up with some sticky. I want the paint to be stickier, not super wet. I'm going to come in into the dark areas, just giving an indication where those areas need to be. I'm careful not to put my hand on the wet part on the other side. Then what I want to do I'm going to blend that onto the face using my brush. I don't want to work it too much else you'll lose all the work you've done so far. I'm wiping my brush every now and then just to get it clean when I go into a new spot. I want some more blackness in the head here. Then we're going to come back and finish off the eyes in the last video. Do some more lifting so it doesn't look so sad. It's just a process of layering until you are happy with what you have. I'm going to I do the same thing to the other side and speed up the process. In the next video, we are going to come back and add in all the rest of the details in the nose and the eye, and then finish it off with a signature. 10. Final Touches: Nose: Now we're going to come in and finish off the nose, add in the details to the eyes and just make everything pop. So I'm going to switch down to a smaller brush. I'm going to come in and just go over these dark spots again. Kind of bring them out and make the nose shape a little better. Probably take some mistakes. When you make a mistake, don't freak out, just get your trustee. Now it's a damp cloth and press down and lift it right off, so nice. Stainless knows and it's close, but I think this part needs to come in more and my brush is too wet, so I'm going to dry my brush a little bit, get a tiny little bit of paint on there and come in and just fix the shape of that nose. If it's not perfect, it's fine. It's close enough. Paint in some of the shadows a little bit more. I'm not thinking dog nose while I do this, I'm thinking shapes and I'm thinking relationships, and I'm thinking dark areas and light areas. That's one good trick to get your brain to flip over to the spatial orientation side, the right side of the brain, they call it. Dry it off so I can add another layer. Just keep layering it up until I'm happy and then to finish off the bottom I'm going to really, really light layer of gray. Just going to push this back a little more under his chin by darkening it and what I want to do is go over the nose one more time with just a light glaze. Just darkening everything up, is a real watery mixture of the gray I've been using, which is going to darken everything. 11. Final Touches: Eyes: Now I'm going to switch and finish off the eyes. I have this orange color, which I want to bring out a little bit more. I want them to really pop. I'm going to add some more of this orange, just right up in the corners. Then rinse off my brush. I'm going to drag it across for the highlights. Dry that off. Now I come back with a little bit of my black, but not a watery black, more of a creamy black. I'm going to just paint in this top line here. It's my shadow onto my eye, so I'm going to pin it down to the eyeball a little bit and then we'll work some eyelashes coming down onto this highlights so that helps with the realism. Then a little line here and then around the edge of the eyeball, it's dark. If you look here, there's just like a little tiny bit of a white line between the eyeball and the bottom lid so I want to preserve that then I can come in and just blend. I think I need a little bit more black in the center. Blend that a little bit. The highlight is too harsh, I can come back in when that's dry and put some blue on top of it. We do the same thing with the other eyes. Speed it up a little bit for you. I really liked the way that turned out. You're going to zap it one more time with some air, dry it off. 12. Finishing Touches: So to finish of your painting, you're going to pull the tape off. You don't want to just pull it straight off, you want to pull it away and slowly and do that all the way around. Now, you have your finished piece. You can sign it. It has a white background like this, I like to use a pencil to sign. If not, you can use a paintbrush to sign. But since this is small and I'll have more control of the pencil, I'll use a pencil. Here's my little artist's signature. Then I put a 17 because this is 2017. Then it's ready for a frame. 13. Final Thoughts: Here are a bunch of other examples. You can see a lot on my website if you go to Thank you for joining me. I hope you learned a lot through this process. I can't wait to see what you post in the project section. Let me know if you would like some feedback. I'm happy to look at each one of your painting. I hope you have fun with this process. Don't forget to take a look at my website, Lisa Long Designs. Look through all the other dogs that I've painted. If you would like me to make another Skillshare class for one of those paintings, let me know, and I would be happy to do that for you and show you how I did it. Thank you for joining me, until next time.