Today, I’m going to teach you how to harness the power of the wet on dry watercolor technique to make a henna watercolor cat illustration. With some help from a pointed pen, you can make an illustration that’s bursting with henna tattoo-inspired vibrance!
1. Gather Your Supplies
To make this henna watercolor cat, you’ll need a few supplies:
2. Make a Pencil Outline + a Watercolor Base Layer
First, sketch a pencil outline of a cat onto your watercolor paper. If freehand drawing isn’t your forte, you can print off a picture of a cat, then use a light box or a bright window to trace an outline. Once you’ve drawn the pencil outline, use a dark yellow watercolor — Cadmium Yellow Pale Hue is a good choice — to paint inside the outline. Add color to everything except the eyes.
Don’t worry if your watercolor tones aren’t uniform. Variations in color will add to the artistic appeal of the piece.
3. Add Shadows
Once your yellow watercolor has dried, use a black watercolor like Lamp Black to add shading to the cat’s chin, back, tail, and legs. After you’ve painted the shadows, moisten the brush with water to blend the black tone into the yellow tone.
To add interest, you can supplement your shadows with a hint of dark blue.
Then, use a tiny paintbrush to fill in the cat’s nose with a nice green tone like Emerald. Use that some brush to apply coral accents to the edges of the cat’s ears. (To get a coral tone, try mixing Burnt Sienna with a bit of Cadmium Red and plenty of water.)
4. Add a Henna Motif
First, use a small brush to fill in your cat’s eyes with a true yellow tone. Leave a couple of spots without color to denote light reflection. Wait for the eyes to dry. Then, load your pointed pen nib with blue watercolor as shown in the How to Create Watercolor Calligraphytutorial. Use the nib to trace an outline around the eyes, then start drawing a henna motif off of that outline.
Finish up the cat’s face with blues and greens around the eyes and nose. Once you’ve done that, you can use a bit of coral on a size 3-ish paintbrush to add some shading to the nose, chest, and legs. Then, load your nib with brown paint and use that paint to accent the ears. Next, use the brown to draw a flower outline on the cat’s back.
5. Add Color to the Flower
Use a tiny paintbrush to fill in the flower you just drew with shades of rich yellow and coral. You can ensure the vibrancy of these colors by using a small water to paint ratio.
Then, load your calligraphy nib with green. Use that green tone to outline your flower with parallel lines as well as vertical lines.
6. Finish Filling in the Face
Use shades of coral, blue, and green to add more details to the face of this cat illustration. You can use white watercolor and a paintbrush to apply subtle highlights if needed.
7. Add Details to the Legs
Once you’ve finished up the face detail, use the watercolor calligraphy technique to add an intricate pattern to the cat’s legs.
When the paint has dried, you can switch between your pointed pen and a paintbrush to accent the pattern with colors.
8. Embellish the Neck
Now, use a dip pen and your paintbrush to add a nice, big flower and a curly leaf to the back of the cat’s neck. You can enhance the front of the neck with a little necklace.
9. Add a Henna Pattern to the Tail
Next, add a henna pattern to the tail. I used the same flower on the middle of the tail that I did on the cat’s back, then I finished off the tip of the tail with a brown flower.
10. Embellish the Back Legs
The last step in this henna cat illustration is to add a nice, big pattern to the back legs! I like to use a rich brown watercolor for this step.
Fill in the pattern on the cat’s back legs with some color, and you’re almost finished.
11. Draw Whiskers on Your Henna Watercolor Cat
You’ll finish up your cat by using your dip pen to draw little blue dots on the cat’s cheeks. Then, use your coral watercolor to create curved, thin lines to represent whiskers.
Here’s a close-up of what those whiskers and the cat’s face will end up looking like:
Once you’ve drawn the whiskers, you can go back through your henna watercolor cat illustration to add contour or details as you wish!
I hope that you enjoyed today’s tutorial! Remember that you don’t have to use this technique to draw a cat. I’ve successfully used it to create other subjects, too, like the henna dog below. There’s not much that you can’t enhance with vibrant colors and well-placed henna motifs.
If this henna watercolor cat tutorial seems appealing but intimidating, consider enrolling in The Ultimate Beginner’s Watercolor Course. Upon completion of the course, you’ll find that projects like this watercolor henna cat are perfectly achievable and enjoyable to create.
Thanks very much for reading TPK, and enjoy the rest of your day!
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