In this free tutorial, we are going to paint the always adorable robin. They are one of my favorite little birds!
This cute robin tutorial is with photo explanation and is a bit more difficult and therefore a bit longer than the other free tutorials. Don’t let it hold you back!
About the robin
The robin is generally a shy, stealthy little bird. Clever she is, too. She has trained herself to follow other animals such as wild boar. In the churned up ground she finds small animals to eat. This behavior is also seen by robins in gardens. If you are gardening she will follow you so she can easily find her tasty morsels to eat. If you work in the garden often, robins can become especially tame.
- Watercolor paper
- Round brush size 6 and size 00.
- SAKURA Pigma Micron fineliner size 003
- SAKURA Gelly-Roll 10 (Gel pen) or white gouache
- Pencil and eraser
- Clean cloth to clean your brush
If you use another fineliner, at least make sure it is waterproof. Instead of the white gel pen you can also use white gouache.
The paints I used to create this bumblebee tutorial:
Winsor & Newton
- Ivory Black
G106 (Extra opaque white)
G244 (Indian yellow)
G254 (Perm. Lemon Yellow)
G278 (Pyrrole Orange)
G331 (Crackle varnish dark)
G370 (Perm. Red light)
G409 (Burnt umber)
G411 (Burnt Sienna)
Paper I used for this robin tutorial:
For this tutorial, I used 320 gram Khadi paper. This is handmade paper from India and made of 100% cotton. It has a beautiful texture and is very strong!
Tips before you start
- Every time you use a new coat of paint, clean your brush with clean water. Pat it dry, and then pick up your paint with your brush.
- Rather work with a few more layers than too few. You can use wet-on-wet technique which allows the paint to easily run into each other, or wet-on-dry. Then you let the layer dry completely before painting the new layer.
- Always work from light to dark.
- There is no right or wrong! Have fun and if something goes a little differently than you wanted: embrace it with love! Everything is a learning process.
Your reference photo for the robin tutorial
Step 1: Print the outline for this robin tutorial and transfer it to watercolor paper.
You can transfer them with carbon paper (also called transfer paper). If you don’t have that you can also use a soft pencil. Cover the entire back > lay the side with pencil on your watercolor paper > trace the outline with a sharp pencil or pen.
Step 2: Trace your outline with fineliner
Trace the lines you want to keep. Erase mistakes or lines that turn out to be unnecessary later on. Note, if you have used transfer paper it is almost impossible to get rid of the lines you have applied.
Step 3: Painting the robin!
Yes, you are ready to make this tutorial of a robin! First, wet the head with water and then color it with Indian yellow (G244). You go along the edges with the paint and then let it flow inward.
While this layer is still wet, apply the next layer with Pyrrole orange (G278). Again go lightly over the edges. If the paint does not flow well take some extra water on your brush. For everything to flow well it is important that everything is wet.
As above, on top of the head it may well be a little more paint. At the bottom a little less.
Then you take Kraplak dark (G331) and immediately apply the next layer. Do not cover everything. At the beak and the eyes you can apply some dark Kraplak, as well as at the bottom of the chest.
This step is optional: With Burnt Sienna (G411), apply a few dark spots.
Now mix some black with white to get light gray. Make it in proportion 2/3 with water so you can apply it thinly. On the head you apply lines. This is also done on the chest and wings (1) Then use Burnt Sienna (G411) to make the wings brown (2) The color difference can be obtained by making a thin line on the edge of the brown. Clean your brush and let it run with clean water. You can also use Kraplak dark (G331) to make some darker accents.
At the next step, take brush size 6 and use lots of water and little Sierra burned (G411). (Ratio 2/3). Color in the lower body (1). Then take white (G106) and dab with lots of water and little paint (Ratio 2/3). on the chest (don’t smudge!), and on the head (2). Then color again with a ratio of 2/3 with Pyrrole orange (G278) the orange pieces if you find them too light to dry. (3) is optional.
You can now blur the transition on the chest from orange to brown/white with a little water by brushing over it. If you like hard edges better you can leave it that way.
Then you can color the eyes and the beak with your 003 fineliner.
Step 4: Painting the berries and twigs
We start with the first layer. Use very little Indian yellow (G244). Do all the berries and then go straight on with the second layer. For this use Permanent Red Light (G370)
Create highlights by leaving parts yellow. Paint the edges with Permanent Red, then clean your brush, dab with clean water to blend the layers nicely.
Now we can start on the branches. You can use the first layer of paint in proportion (2/3 water/paint) in the color burnt umber (G409). Next, look where the branches could be naturally darker. Like under the robin because of shadows. On the inside and bottom side of sprigs. Apply some more layers here.
While the paint of the twigs is drying, we are going to paint the leaves. The first coat on the leaves is Perm. Lemon yellow (G254). Then use Emeraude (G616) and don’t color the tips of the leaves. Then use Burnt umber (G409) and color only the lower part where the leaves are still attached to the berry.
Using Emeraude (G616), apply moss to the branches. Alternate with light stripes and dots.
Step 5: Apply details with fineliner and white gel pen
With your fineliner you can now add details. Experiment with dots and dashes. Use white to add details in and around the eyes, on the berries in the light areas, on the feathers and on the robin’s legs.
I myself found the robin’s head not quite right after I made the tutorial, so I painted and drew feathers.
What did you think of this robin tutorial?
I’m really curious to see how your robin turned out! Will you show it to me?
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