How To Paint Children Portraits

Have you ever seen those cute kids’ portraits reflecting innocence and exuberance? Doesn’t a child’s painting naturally bring a smile to your face? Childhood pictures are worth treasuring and preserving forever.

Portrait painting is a calming process, and creating a child portrait gives the artist twice the joy. However, watercolor paintings are challenging, and drafting a kid’s face is one of the most complex tasks in art. Children's faces are soft with no strong shadows, making it difficult for the artist to create a realistic portrayal of them.

But do not worry. Through these suggestions, you can improve your artistry and attempt to make beautiful portraits. The top ten tips to know before painting children are as follows:

1) Ask the Child to Pose and Take Reference Pictures

The essential step to follow while making a child portrait is capturing reference pictures of your subject. Children are often reluctant to sit still and pose with the same expressions for long hours. They are always excited and eager to move around. Kids are impatient, making it difficult for the artist to paint their portraits on the spot.

A reference photograph can help an artist with diverse observations and information. Pictures clicked from different angles can assist in making a three-dimensional, lifelike portrait. They can use these images later and comfortably make a realistic painting.

You can choose setups like a park, a play area, a beach, etc., having appropriate lighting to take images. Using props like a child’s favorite toys, books, or stationery can make the portrait more attractive and appealing. You can ask the kids to pose with their siblings, or they can all play together to create a joyous moment. Thus, clicking pictures of your subject in a proper setting helps a lot.

Children's Portraits

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Parent Circle

Credit: Parent Circle

2) Focus on the Dimensions and Characteristics

Children are more honest than adults and cannot hide their feelings. Hence, focusing on the characteristics of your subject is essential. Once a portrait artist has the reference photos in their hands, observing and reading the kid’s expressions and emotions is necessary.

Concentrating on the subject's dimensions and features helps the artist create a naturalistic portrait. Understanding your subject's pose, anatomy, structure, and space is vital. Accurate proportions help ensure a realistic picture and capture the visual essence of the model on paper.

Thus, it is crucial to identify and comprehend the kid’s attributes and make their portraits accordingly.

3) Collection of Painting Equipment

Some essential materials are required to create any watercolor portrait .

● Graphite Pencils:

Drawing pencils help outline and make a rough draft of the subject. Artists recommend graphite pencils for sketching and drawing as they are light and easily erasable. Also, keep a kneaded eraser with you to correct any mistakes.

● Watercolors and Brushes:

Watercolors are the primary elements required for a watercolor painting. Always go for a highly-pigmented color palette that is dilutable and non-toxic. Use good quality brushes that are smooth and flexible.

● Painting Surface:

You can pick a canvas or a cold-pressed or hot-pressed paper, according to your needs. Some artists consider a canvas the best medium for a professional painting business.


Credit: Officeworks


Credit: Amazon

4) Make a Rough Sketch

Once you have understood the features of your model, the next step is to make a preliminary sketch. You must start sketching a rough draft of your subject using fine light lines. Try making structures and features that are accurate and precise based on the child’s characteristics.

If you are uncomfortable drawing free hand, use transfer paper to replicate the identical picture on the canvas. Using a transfer paper is an easy, effective, and time-saving blueprint-making method. After completing the sketch, you can entirely focus on the watercolor painting process.

Rough Sketch

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watercolor painting

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5) Wet-on-Wet Technique

As you begin the watercolor painting process, use the wet-on-wet technique to get a smooth yet textured finish. Pick up an area, for example, the face of the child, and apply a coat of water onto it. You can use a round clean brush or a spray bottle to dampen a part. Apply minimal paint to the selected area after using the first water washes.

Choose the colors from your color palette according to the reference photo, and if required, mix and blend colors to get the right shades. It is recommendable to go from lighter areas to darker, as it is easier to add dark paints on softer tints.

You can use the wet-on-dry technique to give crisp and hard edges to some areas. Artists apply paint strokes on dry paper to get more in-depth edges in this method. This way, you have more control over the watercolor process.

Yuvgenia Watts

Credit: Yuvgenia Watts


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6) Add Color Layers and Details

Now is the time that you play and experiment with your set of colors. Start applying colors on the water washes and spread them across the desired parts. Add a light color, and overlap it with a darker shade to bring the results. Change the color and orientation with every new layer.

You can mix the colors and diffuse them to create the correct impressions. In a watercolor portrait , the balance of paints and water is crucial. If your canvas is damper than required, use a paper towel or tissue to dab and remove the extra water.

Color Layers

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7) Pay Close Attention to Facial Expressions

Facial expressions are the most integral part of a person’s personality. The eyes of children should be happy and full of life. Creating cheerful and lively expressions is necessary in portraits, where you are depicting young girls playing with sand on a beach or boys having fun times with their parents.

To improve the facial features:

  • Work in-depth on the creases of the eyes, eyelashes, nose, mouth, and ears.
  • Look at the reference photo and identify the shadows and contrasts in the picture.
  • Use highlights to build and enhance your portrait and give it an authentic touch.

Facial expressions

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8) Focus on the Child’s Hair

Once you have completed the face, focus on the head and hair of the child. Diffuse paint strokes sideways to get a feathered texture. Make natural hair using colors like brown, yellow ochre, ombre, and black. Use white color to add highlights and contrasts and give it an original look. Consistent brush strokes help maintain uniformity in hair in the proper direction.

It is vital to note that the quality and growth of hair depend upon the child's age. So, use the reference picture and make the curly, wavy, or straight hair according to it.

Child’s Hair

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Little Portrait Paintings

Credit: Little Portrait Paintings

9) Concentrate on Background and Clothing

Another essential aspect to note is the background of the painting. The backdrop is significant as it hints at the subject’s actions, lifestyle, and activities. While making a portrait of children, a background setting displays and reflects the childhood of kids.

You can choose a fun and energetic atmosphere for making the backdrop of children's portraits. Some examples are young kids in a garden playing outdoor sports, a child with her parents behind a scenic landscape, two siblings talking to one another in a room, etc. But, if you want to keep the entire focus on the face of the child, then use a plain background in any contrasting color.

Clothing is also an effective medium of denoting the character of a person. Therefore, casual clothes complement a child's fun-loving and enthusiastic traits. Use bright and vibrant colors to reflect children's adventurous, curious, and excited personalities.

my DaVinci

Credit: my DaVinci


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10) Add Final Touches

Once you have worked on all the facets of your work of art, go through them again. Check out the shades, shadows, highlights, contrasts, and all other minute details. Soften the transitions and blend distinct lines. Make some modifications and adjustments to your art if required. You can even write a personalized message or note at the bottom or side of the portrait.

Once completed, leave your canvas to dry up entirely. That’s it - with these simple steps, you can create adorable children’s portraits.

children’s portraits

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Watercolor portrait paintings

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Watercolor portrait paintings might be a tricky art genre to crack. But anyone can excel in portrait paintings with determination, patience, and practice.

Parents love their children and want to treasure every memory from their childhood. They love to have a collection of pictures of their cute, adorable kids. While many apps today turn a photo into watercolor paintings online, hand-painted artwork has its grace and elegance.

Thus, the demand for children’s portrait artists is increasing daily. People hire artists to turn their cherished photos into watercolor art so that they can store them forever.

Capture a custom child portrait to cherish forever.

Capture the innocence and joy of childhood with a custom child portrait that will be treasured for generations. From the sparkle in their eyes to the playful tilt of their smile, every detail is meticulously rendered with care and precision.

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