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Beach Portrait Tutorial
Watercolor Painting Tutorial

by Jennifer Branch
YouTube Watercolor Painting Tutorial

Is there anything like a child's first view of the beach? First, they can't believe the vastness of the ocean. Then, they concentrate on the sand and seashells. There's so much wonder in their eyes.

Here's a portrait painting tutorial of my son when he was about 3 years old, shell collecting on the beach. It took about 30 minutes total to paint. The video is cut to 15 minutes - but I left in all the good parts!

Let's take a trip to one of the best parts of childhood - playing at the beach!

Beach Portrait Tutorial Watercolor Painting tutorial

Painting Tutorial Level


Skill Building


Painting Water

Art Supplies

10" x 14"
Twinrocker Cold Press

Isabey Mop, no.6
Isabey Pointed Round Sable, no.8


M. Graham watercolors

Cadmium Red
Nickel Azo Yellow
Cobalt Blue
Ultramarine Blue
Cobalt Teal
Cobalt Violet
Quinacridone Rust

Painting Demonstration 1

Beach Portrait Tutorial Watercolor Painting Lesson 1

I start with the background sand. It's a hot day with glaring light on the sand, so not a lot of detail. I kept my brush strokes very loose and dry.

Painting Demonstration 2

Beach Portrait Tutorial Watercolor Painting Lesson 2

I continue painting down into the water. There's not much of a clear transition in this stage. The sand moves effortlessly into the water. I keep plenty of highlights on the water.

I pull the background into the shadows on the figure.

Painting Demonstration 3

Beach Portrait Tutorial Painting Tutorial 3

Funny how just a shadow makes all the difference. The figure suddenly appears to have shape.

I continue lightly layering watercolor washes on the water. I want a lot of movement in the waves.

Artist's Tips

Take your time building up the background.
If you make it too dark, the figure doesn't stand out as much.

Painting Demonstration 4

Beach Portrait Tutorial Painting Tutorial 4

Just a touch of blue reflections on the shadows of the face. I'm just painting the shadowed areas on the figure at this point. I want it to stay very loose and undetailed until the last moment.

I'm still building up the water.

Painting Demonstration 5

Beach Portrait Tutorial Painting Tutorial 5

His cute little USA t-shirt is a fun one on the Fourth of July.

A bit of ultramarine blue and cobalt violet make a nice navy. I'm still blurring edges and details.

Just painting the ear silhouette makes the head look more real.

Painting Demonstration 6

Beach Portrait Tutorial Watercolor Painting Tutorial 6

Just the clothes being shadowed make the figure more present.

Painting Demonstration 7

Beach Portrait Tutorial Watercolor Painting Tutorial 7

I have a lot of fun with his hair. The wind was blowing and it's all over the place. (Of course, it usually is anyhow. I'm afraid he got my messy hair. :) )

All the face detail is on the bright side of the face. I want the shadowed side to blur completely.

Beach Portrait Tutorial Watercolor Painting Tutorial

Beach Portrait Tutorial Final Watercolor Painting!

I'm so glad I finally had time to paint this. It really just took a few minutes, and the memories it brought back for me were wonderful.

I thought this would be an especially good painting for the Fourth of July. The USA shirt, of course, but the height of summer and the beach just go together.

Whatever your country, I hope you have a picnic on the beach and paint a portrait of your loved ones.

If they're small, like mine was here, realize your job now is keeping them alive on the beach. Take photos and remember the moments. You can paint them later.

Related Art Lessons

Beach Portrait Tutorial watercolor painting tutorial by Jennifer Branch

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