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Painting a Tricolor Kitten

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Here is a close-up of a furry, tri-colored kitten painted with a Grisaille technique. Click here if you prefer watching a step-by-step video on our Watercolor University.

Materials used:

Brushes

  • Langnickel Royal Knight Striper dagger brush, L7190 3/8″
  • #2 Isabey brush
  • #8 mop brush
  • #4 wisp brush
  • Deer foot stipler
  • Worn out #5 boars bristle brush for lifting paint

Paints

  • Gamboge
  • Raw Sienna
  • Yellow Ochre
  • Rose Madder Hue
  • Vandyke Brown
  • Burnt Sienna
  • Burnt Umber
  • Sepia
  • Ivory Black
  • Charcoal Grey

Paper

  • Nielsen Bainbridge Hot Press 1000 Illustration Board

Miscellaneous

  • Liquid frisket (aka. masking fluid)
  • Container of water
  • Painter’s palette
  • Paper towels
  • Toothpick

Step 1: Sketch it in

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Lightly sketch the kitten from your reference image with minimal lines to block out the basic shapes of the where the darkest darks and lightest lights will be painted.


Step 2: Painting your first shapes

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Lightly dampen the dagger paintbrush and carefully add the charcoal gray to establish the dark side of the kitten’s face. Paint on dry paper. Be sure to pay attention to your major shadow shapes. In Grisaille watercolor, very little water is used when mixing the colors. You are essentially painting with a glaze, which is a dry brush technique.


Step 3: Applying liquid frisket

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To help protect the white of the paper for your highlights, dip a brush that is dedicated for the purpose in liquid frisket and carefully apply it to areas that you want to protect, such as around the eyes, the chin, down the center forehead, along edge of the ears. Allow the frisket to dry before applying any paint near or over it. Clean the brush immediately.


Step 4: Painting the eyes

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Taking the small #2 Isabey brush, carefully add a glaze of blue to the eyes.


Step 5: Dark shapes

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Continuing to use the small #2 brush, mix the black with enough water to create the consistency of thick ink. Continue to fill in the dark forms on the kitten’s face.


Step 6: Highlights

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For highlights, use the dagger brush to mix the sepia with water and orange with water until they have a thin consistency. Apply the sepia to inside the kitten’s ears, on his mouth, and nose. It is okay to over-paint. If you make any mistakes, wet and clean your brush and lift out the unwanted color. Next, apply the orange, which may appear very bright at first, to create the soft highlights of the left side of the kitten’s face.


Step 7: Ears and mouth

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Mix the red and sepia with water to create a light pink color. The paint should have a milky consistency before you apply it to the inside shapes of the kitten’s ears and mouth to create the appearance of a soft, delicate area.


Step 8: Lighter side of the face

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Add orange, yellow ochre, and van dyke brown to the palette. Add a small amount of water to each color separately using a medium-sized #4 brush. With the yellow ochre continue to fill in the left side of the kitten’s face using short brushstrokes. Short brushstrokes suggest the texture of fur. Be sure that the color is not too dark.


Step 9: Removing liquid frisket

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Remove the dried frisket with your fingers carefully. If some frisket accidentally lands in any wet ink, use a toothpick to fish it out. Next, using your dagger brush apply thin lines of black around and inside the eye to create the shadows and details of the eyes.


Step 10: Furry details

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Apply black with the deerfoot or dagger brush to create the texture of the fur along the edges of black shapes.


Step 11: More furry details

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Using your size 3/8 brush apply yellow ochre, using short strokes, along the black shape on the left side of the kitten’s face to create the illusion of fur along the edges. You will really only get one stroke at time, dipping your brush in the yellow ochre in between strokes, to prevent any black mixing with the yellow. Turn the painting upside down if that will help you have better access.


Step 12: Cheeks and chest

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Using the dagger brush, mix the raw sienna with the orange and a small amount of water to paint the tuffs of fur on the cheeks. Next, use your medium-sized #4 brush to paint some gray around the lower part of the face. Soften the edge with a large brush to create an abstract shape of the kitten’s chest.


Step 13: All Done!

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Final Touches: with the dagger brush, go in with white paint to sharpen the fine details, such as whiskers, fur texture, and muzzle. Continue to use the dagger brush with some black to paint final delicate hairs along the edges of the face and edges of the black shapes. Allow the painting to fully air-dry.