In this step by step tutorial, we will learn how to paint a realistic Robin bird using watercolors.
But before jumping right to painting, I am going to explain the steps on how to draw a bird. For a beginner, drawing or painting a bird might be a little intimidating, but let me tell you - they are not at all difficult to draw. And once you can sketch a bird, you can easily paint them. All you need is to understand the technique and do some practice and you are good to go.
Supplies You need to get started:
Watercolor paper - at least 140 lbs or 300 GSM (I used Canson XL )
A regular paper for sketching practice
A pencil and an eraser
Winsor and Newton Burnt Umber
Winsor and Newton Burnt Sienna
Sennelier Lemon/light yellow and Brilliant red
A Round Brush size 6 or 8 and a small detail brush.
Watercolor / colored pencils (optional)
Now grab your supplies and let’s get started.
Let’s start by understanding the structure of a bird in general. Just collect a couple of bird images and observe them. You will see that most of the birds have same basic structure.
If you break down the structure of a bird, you can see two ovals joined together which make the head and body of the bird. However, the angles and orientation of these ovals depend on the pose of the reference image you are using. This is the very first step of drawing a bird.
Note: It is very important to keep the pencil marks/lines as light as possible as eventually we’ll have to erase them.
Make two ovals, as shown in Image 1, larger one representing the body and the smaller one the head of the bird. Then join the two ovals as shown in the Image: 2 by making the curved lines (representing neck of the bird). Draw the other parts of the bird like eye, beak, feathers, tail and feet, as shown in the Image: 3 and 4.
Now you can add more details and erase extra pencil marks. I have also drawn a line to earmark the breast of the bird to fill brown/orange color as shown in image 5.
This step is all about colors. Let’s start with coloring the breast of the bird using Wet on Wet technique.
Take the Round brush and spread plain water on the breast area of the bird. (Image 6)
Paint the breast area with light yellow color. (Image 7)
Then drop some red or burnt sienna into yellow and gently mix them on paper to get a brownish orange shade. (Image 8)
This will result in nice bright brown shade (as shown in Image 9).
PS: You can also mix these colors in the palette to get the right shade instead of mixing it directly on paper in layers.
Let this color dry for couple of minutes before starting with next step.
Now that the breast area is dry, let us start painting the head and back of the bird using same Wet on Wet technique.
Take the Round brush and spread plain water on head and back area. (Image 10)
Mix payne’s grey and burnt umber in the palette to get a greyish brown shade. Spread it over the wet area (as shown in Image 11).
Spread it gently across the wet area (Image 12)
Let it dry
While the paint of the body is drying, we can simultaneously start working on the other parts like legs, feet and beak. We’ll use Wet on Dry technique for these parts because the area is very small.
For legs and feet, I have mixed burnt umber and burnt sienna to get a dark brown shade. For beak, I have used Payne’s grey.
Use the small detail brush for this step.
Now that the upper body is dry, we can start with the lower area of bird’s body. We’ll use Wet on Wet technique for this.
Take the Round brush and spread plain water on area.
Take watery Payne’s grey and start spreading it from the top of the area leaving the bottom part untouched (as shown in the Image 16). The water will make the paint flow slowly toward the bottom and result in a very light grey tone.
Also while this part is still wet, just add a little Payne’s grey under the feathers to get the shadow effect of the feathers.(as shown in the Image 17).
In image 18, I am lifting some of the dark paint with dry brush to highlight some of the white hair/feathers.
Now let us paint the tail and eyes. We will use Wet on Dry technique in this step.
For Tail, use the same color that we used for legs.(Image 19 and 20).
For Eye, use watery Payne’s grey and create a flat layer with detail brush. Let them dry. (Image 21)
Once the eye is dry, use a darker tone of Payne’s grey or black (you can also use pigment marker) and create a second layer leaving a little light spot to show reflection (as shown in the Image 22)
You can also use black pigment pen only for eye if you are not comfortable using a brush for the same.
Now that the bird’s body is completely dry, we’ll start with the second layer of paint.
For head and back, create another layer with the same shade as in the first layer using Wet on Dry technique. (Images 23 and 24)
Mix some yellow to burnt sienna to get a bright orange brown shade and create a second layer with this paint on the breast area.(Images 25 and 26)
Use similar method for other parts of the body. In this step you can play around with colors, add shadows wherever required.
Now you can work on the tree branch.
Simply use wet on wet technique. Apply a layer of water (image 27).
Add brown shade (you can create your choice of shades by adding burnt umber, burnt sienna, grey etc,)(Image 28)
Be careful while painting around the claws. Use the smaller brush for painting such small areas.
I have added a little sap green in some areas to give it a more interesting look. You can skip this step.(image 30)
In this step, use your detail brush and create the thin lines on feathers with dark brown color (you can add some Payne’s grey or black to your brown color to get the right shade) (Image 31). Same step applies to the tail.
You can make thin lines for hair to get more realistic look. But this is completely optional. (image 32)
Add more depth at the bottom of the beak by making it darker. Here you can use dark paint or pigment marker.(Image 33 and 34)
If you want to do some more detailing, you can use a white gel pen to add some highlights, a black pigment pen for adding dark lines in the feet and feathers. You can also use a colored pencil or a watercolors pencil to add more details. Adding details, or keeping it a loose style is completely a personal choice.
And you have your Robin ready. If you paint a robin or any other bird using this tutorial, please share it on Instagram and tag me using @markdisha.
PS: I am so honored to have Chris Harris (@cjh_natural on Instagram) allow me to use one of the photographs of Robin from his profile. If you want to use a reference image from his profile, you can directly ask him for permission on Instagram.
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