Architectural Presentation Techniques: How To Make a Watercolor Portrait of a Dog

Have you ever looked for the perfect gift for a friend who loves (or perhaps lost) their pet? Well, how about a portrait of their dog (or cat, or horse) painted by you!? Don't worry, you are a talented (and caring) can do this, and here are 10 easy steps to follow:

What you will need: photo of dog; printer; #2 pencil, piece of 9" x 12" 90 lbs Arches cold press watercolor paper; double-stick tape, light table (or well-lit window); basic watercolor kit; #8 watercolor brush


1- Dust off your old watercolors (come on, you're an architect or know you have them).

2- Take a brief, confidence building refresher course in watercolor by clicking here

3- Make or find a... favorite photo of the pet in question


4- Print the photo on plain old 8-1/2" x 11" copy paper, then... place the image on your light table or tape it to a brightly lit window.

5- Place the watercolor paper over the photo and trace the image with a sharp #2 pencil

6- Take extra care with the shape of the eyes and head. These are the most recognizable parts of any particular dog, and your effort won't really count as a portrait unless they recognize their dog in it.

7- Mount the watercolor paper to a piece of 1/8 " or 1/4" foam core using double stick tape.

8- Lay out your paints, get some water (2 containers--one for new paint and one for rinsing--will stay clean longer than one) and lay down a couple of paper towels to absorb excess water from your brush

9- While constantly referring to the photograph, start painting

10- When you feel like you're done, gift wrap the painting and present it to your friend.

It's that simple. I hope this helps get you over the hump and have faith that you can do this, but if you don't have time or would prefer me to do it for you I'd be happy to help.

(Author James Akers is a registered architect and architectural illustrator with years of experience helping architects and interior designers develop and present their ideas in dramatic and cost-effective ways. From concept design to final presentation, we work in your office or from our NYC studio. 413-250-8800.)