House Portrait: Step-by-Step

Welcome Everyone!

Please take your seats and get comfortable because this week’s blog is a TUTORIAL brought to you by special request.

Just follow along and in five easy steps you can paint too. 🙂



First, choose a main photo to be used as your reference photo for the rest of the painting. I have to share the reference photo above because it was created by my current client and it was too awesome not to share. I asked her about flowers and she made this delightful chart. It’s perfect! Like seriously, if there were an award for best reference photo ever this one would take home the oscar. It’s that helpful. (Carlie – You’re AWESOME! I seriously want you to come design my yard for me. Like STAT!)

Step Two: GRID

Day One in Pencil

Grid out your paper and  reference photo to match. I use photoshop for this because you can overlay a grid with just two keystrokes (“command” key and ” ‘ ” apostrophe key). The physical paper is gridded out by hand. Focus on the main areas. You don’t need to sketch out every little detail.

One of my favorite memories from childhood is my dad showing me and my siblings how to draw using a grid. So yeah, gridding is not considered cheating. It’s considered TRADITION. 🙂

Step Three: MASKING (Optional)

two two

This step is optional, but it will save you time and effort AND it’ll make your painting look extra cool down the road. Masking fluid is latex based paint that allows you to mask off areas of your painting so you can leave them white as you put down washes. My favorite is Grumbacher’s Misket Frisket/Masking Fluid. You can find it in almost any art supply store. It comes out in that pinky/orange color you see in the photo above. When you’re done, it’s easily removed with a rubber cement pickup. Check out the photo below to see what it looks like when it’s removed.


Day Three

Yay! Here’s the fun part. Using your reference photo as a guide, paint in rough values and shapes. Admittedly, watercolor is tricky because it’s hard to “undo” your brushstrokes. So, just go lightly and remember you can always dab it up with a paper towel before it dries. This painting strayed from the main reference photo fairly significantly so I got use my imagination and have a grand ol’ time. 🙂

Don’t get discouraged. Art is here for you to have fun – not to stress you out. A lot of people get frustrated because “it doesn’t look like the picture.” Well, who says it has to? You’re not going to hang the reference photo next to your painting. No one will know. This is YOUR painting.

Remember as you go along that everything is different and special in its own way. Nothing in nature is exactly the same as the next so why should your painting be any different? If you feel uninspired just take a look outside and take in the beauty you see around you. It’s the very best therapy you could possibly give yourself.


Now that everything is down on your painting it’s time to put your brush down, take a step back and take an honest assessment. Ask a friend for help or critique it yourself. It’s easier if you forget for a moment you’re the artist and imagine instead you’re the viewer.

Here’s a tip, sometimes I’ll prop the painting up on a wall and leave it for a few hours. Then when I see it again I try to judge my first reaction. If something “feels” wrong it probably is. Just trust your instinct. Photoshop is helpful here also. Any changes you make aren’t permanent. Above is a snapshot of the painting with a few changes made in Photoshop. After it felt more “complete,” I went back to the painting and made the changes that were needed.

Carlie (web)

I hope this mini tutorial helps you a little bit. If you have any questions, always feel free to ask.

And above all, remember to have fun. That’s what this is all about. 🙂