Your Own Photos to Watercolor Portraits

Year after year I struggle with “What gift do I give him/her for Christmas?” So at the 11th hour, when I was planning to give a gift card, and I still might as a supplement, I decided to make some watercolor portraits of my grand kids, and what follows is what I came up with. 

I really needed a break from the socks, gloves, screwdriver set, gift card routine and wanted to give something that would be memorable. To make a long story even longer, it’s hard for me to break out of the mold, but I am getting better at it.  

All that said, one of my adult kids needed an iron and ironing board. That was a tough one to skip, especially when he needed an ironed shirt for a special event and had to come and borrow Mom’s. Of course that meant he had to come and see me. Everything has Pros and Cons, right?

Back to the drawing board. Now I’ve had GIMP, a free program, on my computer for awhile. Every now and then I try to teach myself something in GIMP, but for the most part I have not had tons of success. Yep! Always the slow learner. But sometimes necessity brings out the best in us and I did figure out how to do this technique in GIMP.

First you want to open your photo in GIMP. File…Open…Select the file you want to open. Easy enough.

Now you’ll have your photo on the screen. I decided to use this one for my example.

This was when I first got a new camera and decided to zoom in on my son eating watermelon. Good looking kid, huh? However, he doesn’t look too happy with me. Anyway…

So you open your file in GIMP. Now you click on “Colors…Threshold”. You can play with the slider bar a bit until you get the amount of black and white that you want. Now you’ve changed the above photo into this:

When done, you can copy the photo “Edit…Copy” and paste it into Word or some other program to re size and print it out on your printer.

The next step is where a light table comes in handy.  I don’t have a light table, but you can make a simple light table by putting a piece of plexiglass over some sort of light source. I used to do with with a small, portable, plug in fluorescent fixture. To let you know how primitive it really was, I set my plexiglass over the top of a couple bricks so that I could slide my light underneath.

Well, I was bequeathed an overhead projector some time back and so I used that for a light table. Just put your water color paper over the top the original and trace the dark areas on to your paper as lightly as you possibly can. I used NO. 2 pencil. I’ll know better next time. Soft pencil can tend to smudge a bit.

So here is the nearly finished product. One of my grand babes in watercolor. I’m not great with watercolor but I did this with watercolor pencil and a couple sizes of small brushes. I think I’ll get better as I go along. Thankfully I don’t see the recipient until after Christmas, so I still have a little time.

We’re still working on the frame with a hand powered miter saw. Until next time…Have a wonderful and blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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