1. Test out your colors.
Have a small sheet of watercolor paper to test your colors before they go down on the painting. This will save you time and frustration during your process. Also, choose a simple color palette when first starting out. This will help you ease into more complex color combinations later on.
2. Use simple reference photos.
I like to use reference photos for shadows, highlights, and feature placement. I also use ref photos for cool hair styles and skin tones. If you create from your imagination a reference photo can help add a realistic aspect to your artwork. I heard about unsplash.com from Ivy Newport over on Facebook.
3. Dont' rush - take your time.
Sometimes, I like to set a timer while I'm painting to help set my creative juices in gear. When you are trying to improve on your watercolor, take your time. Think about what you are putting down and why. Over time you will get quicker and quicker.
4. Upgrade your art supplies.
I had a super simple watercolor palette for the longest. Once I got serious about watercolors I invested in brushes and started upgrading my paint. You can just start with the primary color tube paints and a few good brushes. You will see the change in quality when you switch over.
5. Find your shadows.
One of the first things we do in my Painterly Watercolor Faces Class is figure out where the shadows are. Once we find the darkest shadows we can work slowly on darkening them up to create values on the face. This also gives you a clear view of what will stay light and white.
6. Add more paint to your palette.
You may need more paint on your palette or your paint brush. When adding layers make sure you are loading up your brush, testing out the color and applying a good amount to the painting. Remember your colors will dry lighter so it's ok to add more paint.
7. Create a routine.
I generally like to start slow with my shadows but I do see other artists going for their darkest darks right away. There is no wrong way to paint. If you create a routine this will help you slip into a new painting and see it till completion. Example: sketch - identify shadows - paint - line work - mixed media elements.
8. Keep your old paintings.
Hang on to a few of your old paintings - even if you are not too found of them. This will allow you to see where you've come from and where you're going. You can also look back on things you've tried that were successful or that didn't work out too well. For example, I used to use line work around the lips and now I just outline the smile line. I know it's a small detail but for me it has made a difference in my faces.
9. Practice and have fun.
Don't beat yourself up. Watercolors are hard. Just when you think you have the hang of it - the next painting turns out like a horrible mess. The only thing you can do is practice and have fun.
I hope these tips have helped you out! If you have any questions please let me know. Classes mentioned: Painterly Watercolor Faces