Thursday, November 19, 2009

Christmas Idea: Cheater Water Color Portraits

This tutorial appeared last year on my teaching blog. Since I am taking a break with that blog, I thought I would update it and move it over here.

Last year at school for the Red Ribbon Week Door Contest I was inspired by a family portrait idea from Family Fun magazine. It was part of their frugal handmade gift ideas article. Their idea involved using vellum paper to trace a photo before painting it.  I came up with my own Cheater Self Portraits that used fewer supplies and worked out well for fourth graders with little experience with water colors. We won the contest which was bragging rights enough for me, but the Crayons were excited about the prize- a Battleship board game too.

Here's my tutorial for Watercolor (Cheater) Self Portraits:

drawing paper cut to 8.5" X 11"
water colors
a digital picture
a computer with internet access

1. Take a picture with your digital camera. I think a close up or a relatively simple scene would work best. (This picture is not of a student but, from an ad.)

2. Go to Picnik and upload the photo(s) for free! Choose their "create" menu and then scroll down the special effects until you find the one that is called "Pencil Sketch." Apply that effect to your picture.

3. Print the picture out on the drawing paper. (Any kind of drawing paper-thicker than photocopy paper.) At work I have access to a laser printer. At home I used an inkjet and I found worked well even with water colors. Just be sure to let the print out dry a bit before beginning.

4. Paint the picture with water colors. Nothing fancy here, you know -the kind that come in a thin tin at school.  Less is more. It's nice to let a little of the print come through. It makes the details like a nose, much easier.

I gave my students two copies so that they could practice controlling the paint and mixing colors. I had to help some with the eyes since the pictures were so small. I would go with a larger 5"X7" to make it easier, but I had to fit 25 portraits on my doors. It took two hour long sessions to complete.

 Water Color Girl
Here is one that I made for my colleague. It was pretty easy for me to do this in an hour or so. You can click on the picture to see it larger at Flickr. There you can see the printed details that show through. Nowadays with so much online photo sharing, it would be pretty easy to sneak and download a friend's picture and surprise them with a framed watercolor. For more frugal ideas, head over to the Shabby Nest's Frugal Friday. For more Christmas ideas, head on over to the Inspired Room.


Anonymous said...

That is the coolest thing! I didn't realize there was something out there that would let you create pencil sketches from photos. Love the idea.

pk @ Room Remix

Kendra@My Insanity said...

Great idea! Makes me want to pull out some paints!

Anonymous said...

I love using this program! There is so much you can do to play with - I use mainly the soften , vignette and another effect but mean to play with the others some more when I get some time- do you know where I can find any of that???LOL

Wendy said...

What a seriously great idea!! It's got my mind spinning. Thanks for sharing!

Holly said...

I totally love this in a big way! I have always loved watercolors, but alas, my talent was lacking. I can see using this in a lot of ways. Thanks!

Symone's Mommy said...

This is perfect for the parent who wants to freeze frame on their child at the perfect age of 4 (that would be me!). Thanks for sharing. I may do this for my parents for Christmas.

Anne said...

This is a fantastic gift idea for my parents who don't get to see their grandkids very often. I printed the sketches this morning and will paint this weekend. FUN!

Tiffany said...

Wow! That is so cool. I love that. My daughter would have so much fun painting a self portrait! Thanks for sharing!

Tamra said...

I just a couple days ago printed out a picture of my kids using the same program. Now it sits waiting for me to paint it. but i'm planning on using watercolour pencils instead of watercolours. Hope it turns out as well as yours. Cute!!

Wendy @ Ramblings from the Sunshine State said...

That is really cute!

Ruth said...

Great idea. I love Family Fun!! I still look through it even if my kids are older.


concretenprimroses said...

this is such a fun idea!

Tammy @ she wears flowers said...

This is such a great idea--what a wonderful gift idea.


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for posting this!