Introduction: Self Portrait Watercolor Costume

Picture of Self Portrait Watercolor Costume

Oh man, I love Halloween. And costumes. And face paint.

I've never taken a class, but played around with a Lichtenstein costume a few years ago and discovered a knack for using facepaint.

In case you're curious, none of the photos have been photoshopped (although some may have an instagram filter or something).

I've tried to reconstruct the process the best that I could through photos, but I did the costume twice over two different weekends, and since I'm making this thing up as I go, the processes varied a bit.

I also conceived and executed the boyfriend's costume this year, so you may see some photos, and I'll create another Instructable for that.

Without further ado- let's paint!

Step 1: The Shirt.

Picture of The Shirt.

To create a watercolor shirt, I used sharpies and alcohol.

I found the perfect size of cardboard to put my shirt on and then just sketched where the shadows were going to be on me. I then just went crazy with sharpie colors that matched the face paint that I have. When I thought I had the shadows pretty accurate, I started with the alcohol.

At first I tried to use a paint brush and some cotton balls. This was an epic failure. So then, I just started pouring alcohol on the shirt starting from the top. This worked pretty well and so I did that with the whole shirt. I recommend LOTS of ventilation for this step.

Once the shirt dried, I went over all of the seams (buttons, collar, pocket, shoulder seams, etc.) with a fine black sharpie to create an outline.

And voila- "waterpaint" style shirt!

Step 2: Setup and First Phase of Paint.

Picture of Setup and First Phase of Paint.

I've developed quite a collection of face paint over the past four years of Halloweens! I like to use water-based paints because they're easy to use, mix, and wash off- Nobody wants to have to show up at work the next day in your costume from the night before!

So, I went ahead and just spread all the colors out on the sink. I left the lids of the colors next to the colors and for the more watery tones later on, I mixed a LOT of water with the facepaint. I'm getting a bit ahead of myself here though.

FIRST! Paint all of the skin that will be showing a nice base white. This will give the effect of the canvas and also help the colors to pop once you start with them.

Step 3: The Green, Purple, and Blue.

Picture of The Green, Purple, and Blue.

I'm sure you're not supposed to start with dark colors when you're painting for real. I think I read that somewhere. Oh well, I did!

I used the green face paint first with my finger and put it wherever I saw some shade. I chose the green because it wasn't the darkest color I would be working with, and I thought it would show up nicely under the other colors. For this step, you'll want to stand in a light that casts some shadow, so nothing too bright and direct. This is my way of "cheating"- you basically just follow the shadows! It will also eventually give the painting a perspective.

Once I finished with the green, I went on to the purple. This is the serious shading business! I used every painting tool at my disposal, including my fingers and a few paint brushes that I had lying around.

I wish I could describe more of the process, but hopefully the images provide a clearer idea. Basically, shade anything that is in a shadow!

After the purple, I then did a layer of blue to give more definition and color.

Yep. I also did my ears and my hands, although I forgot to take pics of that process, and really didn't want to get paint on my phone during the hand painting process.

Step 4: Pink, Yellow, and Aqua.

Picture of Pink, Yellow, and Aqua.

I added these colors for more depth and highlighting.

Again, follow the shadows that you've already made and move in toward the white. There should be layers of color around your face that give the effect of the colors mixing and of a water color painting.

To soften or darken the colors, just mix more or less water with the paint. Easy Peasy! I also made sure to go over the eyebrows with a darker color, eventhough I knew I would be using a black outline on them later. This is for depth!

Step 5: Outlining and the Lips!

Picture of Outlining and the Lips!

I went ahead and used black paint to outline any parts of the image that I really wanted to set back. This included the eyebrows, around my nose, lips, eyes, and dimples. I found that this effect really brings out the contrast and makes your face look 2D.

As a note: I used liquid eyeliner instead of black paint on the first go. It worked, but I thought it faded too much throughout the night.

The Lips: Paint a solid color- I used red, but you could use any solid color really. Once you have the red color, trace the entire lip with the black paint. I then went into the center of the lips with the black paint as well to increase the shadow between the two lips. Following that, I dabbed a little white for highlights.

Step 6: The Hair

Picture of The Hair

Like I said, I did this costume twice, so one time I went with brighter red hair, and the second time it was green. This was simply because I straight up ran out of the red (I used it for something else) and the store only had green left.

First, I put my hair in a top knot (way easier with paint coverage). I then sprayed it black. This helps the other colors to pop and covers up any of your hair that would show through the color so it looks more 2D. I then sprayed on the color in streaks in the direction that the hair was going.

Lastly, I took a brush and, with the face paint, I put in additional colored strokes.

Step 7: The Final Look and Party Time!

Picture of The Final Look and Party Time!

I would say that the facepaint probably took around an hour each time, and the shirt took a total of probaby 2 hours, letting everything dry. I've gotta say, not many folks knew what I was, but that didn't really matter to me, especially when folks were posting pics the next day! Apparently, the makeup is much more effective in pics than it is in person, although I did have quite a few people stop me in the metro and ask to take pics :)

Happy costuming, and let me know in the comments if there is anyting you would like me to explain more.

P.S. There's a sneak peek of the boyfriend's costume, and the link to that instructable is here.


seamster (author)2014-11-05

This is very impressive! The shots of you with other people make this that much more striking.. especially that shot in step 7 of you with the red headband girl!

That's a crazy effect!

theeJuicebox (author)2016-10-14

so dope! why is this not a submission in any contest???

Thanks! I was, and won two years ago :)

postlife (author)2015-11-02

I am staring at this photo and my brain can not grasp what my eyes are saying to it. This is absolutely incredible. You have such an understanding of color and application that I wish I had. Thank you for sharing!

JasonW53 (author)2015-11-01

its like someone photo shopped you in! From one artist to another, AMAZING WORK!!!!!

thesnowtheriver (author)2015-10-31

people don't recognize the reference because they don't see much art, ever.

i think this costume is awesome. good job!!!

Ferrellski (author)2015-10-31

This is fabulous and a great idea! I do a little watercolor painting, and, I gotta say you have really put this together well. It is hard to believe this is the only "painting" you do.

Archergal52 (author)2015-10-31

Well done!!! I wish I had the artistic skill to do something like this. Very effective!

rdmeeks (author)2015-10-28

Are you familiar with Alexa Meade? Totally lock your post!

An Ernest Living (author)rdmeeks2015-10-29

I've heard of Alexa Meade, she's great!

ffcabral (author)2015-10-29

Very realistic. At a first glance I actually thought the picture was a painting. Great job! :)

corsophoto (author)2015-10-29

Oh my god this is so cool!!!

Arts10 (author)2015-10-28

Wonderful. You have done a great job. I love this combination of art project and Halloween costume ideas.

Face Painting Kits

saskfire (author)2015-10-28

I agree.amazing

helmuel (author)2015-10-28

woooow!!! soo cool! You look awesome!

clewis21 (author)2015-10-28

As an artist, really loving this idea!

An Ernest Living (author)2014-11-18

Thanks everyone for your comments and votes! Winning the contest was a huge surprise, especially with all of the other amazing costumes!

DLJG (author)An Ernest Living2015-10-27

You're a genius! that is absolutely amazing. Thank you for sharing.

An Ernest Living (author)DLJG2015-10-28


samalert (author)2015-10-28

I mean if you could paint yourself so efficiently i am very sure you must be doing wonders on paper. The costume and makeup is sooooooo.... AWESOME !

I actually don't paint other than facepaint :/

ecsaul23 (author)2014-11-18

Congrats on winning the costume contest!!!

Himers (author)2014-11-17

This is quite impressive!!! You've got talent.

ThisIsMyNameOK (author)2014-11-16

Saw this before but didn't stop to read it until now. That is a pretty impressive paint job. In the photos it really does give you that 2D look. And I am definitely going to to try that sharpie and alcohol trick on a shirt sometime soon.

And just for the record, never listen to what people say you are *supposed* to do when it comes to painting. In this case starting with the shadows was really the only way to achieve the effect. At least, I think so, but I don't do watercolours so I don't really know.

syedhamzahasan (author)2014-11-15

This is absolutely brilliant. Thanks for this

siliconghost (author)2014-11-15

Wow, really cool effect. Nice job!

LD_P (author)2014-11-14

This is amazing. Incredible job, and I love the originality of it! Great idea.

ecsaul23 (author)2014-11-09

Very cool idea and very well done! I agree with seamster, that shot is awesome!

wolfsingleton (author)2014-11-08

Such an impressive costume technique. Nicely done!

Izzypup (author)2014-11-08

This is amazing! I had to keep reminding myself, especially while looking at the photos at the end, that you weren't a painting! You certainly succeeded in subtracting one D! Love it!

SparkySolar (author)2014-11-07

It took me a few times to realize you were not a PAINTING. I am amazed.

Youdid an incredible job. Thank you for sharing


SparkySolar (author)2014-11-07

It took me a few times to realize you were not a PAINTING. I am amazed.

Youdid an incredible job. Thank you for sharing


SparkySolar (author)2014-11-07

It took me a few times to realize you were not a PAINTING. I am amazed.

Youdid an incredible job. Thank you for sharing


Natalina (author)2014-11-06

Wow, this makeup effect is incredibly convincing. Nice job!

hernest (author)2014-11-06

More than fabulous! Good luck with the contest!!!!

buffy.irwin.7 (author)2014-11-06

nice effect. always wanted to do a pop art costume never had a chance.

Just found out no ones been able to see the vid of my costume Ghost rider on fire driving into parking lot . Tell me what you think

MMMaze (author)2014-11-05

Wow !!!

Flash67 (author)2014-11-05

Holy cow that actually looks like you're a painting! Good job

PaperChaser (author)2014-11-05

wow your makeup is amazing!

Wired_Mist (author)2014-11-05

Amazing :O you've got my vote

SparkySolar (author)2014-11-05


mazzinga (author)2014-11-05

So f'ing cool! You look like a cardboard cutout in every photo. Awesome!

sophia.stergiou.52 (author)2014-11-05

this is so great, Rebecca :)

tootler001 (author)2014-11-05

That is so cool!! It looks like lots of people and then an edited in painting!!!

1truedrum (author)2014-11-05

The photos look great. Nice original idea. Has a bit of feel from Gotye's video for Someone that I used to know.

rmoore40 (author)2014-11-05

this is a phenomenal costume. its cheap not to time consuming and the affect is astonishing! Keep up the good work.

About This Instructable




Bio: Reviews, Travel, Blog, Creative DIY
More by An Ernest Living:Creepy Victorian Ghost CostumeFemale Frankenstein's MonsterSelf Portrait Watercolor Costume
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