I think pet portraits look beautiful in watercolour. They take a bit of planning and a careful approach though.

Here’s how I painted a cat in watercolour recently. It’s on Arches cold press paper 300gsm, 100% cotton, beautiful to paint on but hard to lift mistakes!

1. First, I drew out the cat on an A4 sheet of paper.
Drawing out a watercolour is tricky as the surface of the paper is easily dented and damaged. However, when being careful and drawing lightly it’s difficult to see what you are drawing and easy to make errors.
I wanted to make sure I got the drawing correct so I could transfer to the watercolour paper without lots of drawing and rubbing out. So I drew on a piece of printer paper with confidence and once I was sure it was accurate, I traced the drawing onto the A4 watercolour paper sheet.

2. With the drawing transferred, I looked at my reference photo to see where the lightest parts were and used a ruling pen and masking fluid to mask them out. I masked the whiskers, some lighter fur details, some furred edges, and the eye highlights and well as a bit of background interest.

3. Once the masking fluid was completely dry I added the first washes of colour.
I used a dark, inky blue for the undercolour of the black fur, starting with a pale wash and building washes over the top to build depth.
For the white fur, I undercoated with a very pale ochre mixed with yellow and orange and added it on to wet paper alongside a very pale cerulean blue.
Notice that the whitest parts of the white fur are protected with masking fluid.

4. I continued to deepen the fur colours whilst the paint was damp. Onto the blue (black) fur, I added turquoise and purple to give shine and life.
I very carefully added more ochre, brown and pale blue to the white fur.

5. I added more detail and definition, adding the eye colour, nose, ear colour, deepening shadows and contrast.
I deepened the colour of the dark coat with Paynes’ Grey.
Once I was happy that I had layered in sufficient depth, and the paint completely was dry, I removed the masking fluid.

6. To finish, I added a little bit of pale colour to some of the very white areas, giving form to the whiskers and shadow under fur strands.
The background is a wet in wet wash of ochres, brows and blues with masked areas for interest.

Buy my pet watercolours

My watercolour pets are now available to commission through the Tilly & Blue website.

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