Kat Can Paint! Eyes

Free Painting Tutorial! How to Paint Eyes

Kat Can Paint! Eyes

Week One wraps up with a tutorial on how to paint the eyes that you learned to draw yesterday.

This painting tutorial is a primer for you to get familiar with painting: learning color mixing, paint flow, and laying down lines & forms with a brush instead of a pencil.  I’m covering the basics first, then we will wrap up all the lessons in one big class that brings everything you’ve learned all together in a finished painting.

Supplies you will need:

  • Canvas or paper : I like to use canvas paper or watercolor paper for studies or exercises like this one on how to paint eyes. Be comfortable with your supplies and enjoy the process. Please don’t worry about getting everything perfect or ‘ruining’ your good supplies, use sketchbook paper if you don’t have canvas.  
  • 3 brushes: one larger one to paint in the skin base, one smaller one that is your default brush, and one tiny liner brush for details. I use golden taklon brushes, because I like their springyness in these sizes; size 12 flat brush, size 2 round brush, size 0 liner brush.   Have no idea about brush sizes? Dick Blick has a great pdf for that!
  • Acrylic paint in:
  • white
  • black
  • burnt sienna
  • primary blue
  • primary red
  • yellow ochre for skin mixing if needed
  • optional colors if you don’t want to mix them yourself:
  • light blue
  • gray
  • skin tone of your choice.

Mixing a light skin tone:

Light Skin tone is white + burnt sienna + red.  The ratio for me is something like 5/1/1.  That’s five parts white, one part burnt sienna, one part red. If this mixture looks too pink to you, add a dot of yellow ochre.  There is a push and pull to mixing flesh tones because its subjective, if you like your skin mix darker, lighter, pinker, tanner, etc then you can customize just like a recipe, this is the base mix.

Dark Skin tone is burnt sienna + yellow ochre + blue + white.  The ratio is 5/3/2/1 ish.  Again, this is subjective, you should experiment to find a color mix you really like, use this ratio as a guide and make it your own.  Be careful with the white, though, it will make a rich brown look very ashy if you use too much.

I dedicate an entire bottle to my flesh tone base color.  I start with a white bottle of paint, add a squirt of burnt sienna, 1 drop blue, and half a squirt of red and shake it like a… yeah, I almost went there.  If you have an entire extra bottle of white paint and are going to paint a lot of portraits, then I recommend you make your own bottle so that your skin color paint is always consistent.

I always adjust my color as I need it, the key here is to really not get an orange skin tone.  Unless you are painting Snooki and George Hamilton, then pick up your nearest pumpkin orange and have at it.

How to Paint eyes easy tutorial from KatCanPaint.com

If you love it, share it.

Of course, you can always paint any color eye you want.  I realize that maybe you want a green eye, or a brown eye, or a lavender eye, or some sort of crazy peacock feather inspired eye.  Do it.  These rules are just guidelines to get you to see painting eyes in simple shapes and easy steps that you can break down and learn.

How to paint eyes color collage by KatcanPaint.com

Quick and dirty eye color studies. I like that brown eye!

Green eyes?  Paint the iris with your base green, then highlight with a brighter green, and add the white highlights accordingly.

Brown eyes? Paint the iris with a milk chocolate color, shade with an expresso, highlight with a teddy bear brown.  Brown eyes look great with a lot of different tone on tone shades and highlights, but white really dulls a beautiful brown, use it sparingly.

Purple eyes? Base your iris with a lilac, shade with a violet, and highlight with white.

See the pattern?  You can apply it to any color of eye you’d like.

Wacky peacock inspired eyes?  I used turquoise to base the iris, purple to shade, and lime green to do the four spoke highlight… then I just added the white highlights like normal.

Try metallic paints, or glittery ones, they can be very striking as eyes.  Just limit yourself to a few colors 2-3 plus white and black for small eyes so you don’t get your paint colors all muddy and lose detail.

Lets wrap this up, shall we?  Next week I’m going to show you how to draw and paint noses!

In this blog workshop / free painting series you can expect to learn how to draw and paint all the basics of a pretty female face:

  • How to Draw Eyes 
  • How to Paint Eyes (You are Here ^_^)
  • How to Draw Noses
  • How to Paint Noses
  • How to Draw Lips
  • How to Paint Lips
  • How to Draw the Face (facial structure) and Ears
  • How to Draw Hair
  • How to Paint Hair
  • Bringing it all together


    • How to Mix Custom Skintone Colors (we did that today!)
    • How to Choose a Canvas
    • Types of Paint : Quick and Easy Explanation and Reviews
    • Types of Brushes: Quick and Easy Explanation and Reviews (I’m feeling a theme here)
    • Gesso, Mediums, + more: demystifying the whys and whens of using primers and mediums
    • How to Incorporate Mixed Media and Collage elements
    • Where do I go from here?
    • Pinterest drawing and painting Inspiration

I know there will be a lot more additions to this list too, because I want to include everything I know about drawing and painting a pretty face in this series.  I want it to be easy to read and follow along and fun for beginners and more advanced painters alike.

If you have questions go ahead and leave a comment so I can answer them & add them to the tutorial.

<3 Kat

Sleeps with Butterflies : original acrylic painting on canvas by Kat McBride

Sleeps with Butterflies by KatcanPaint

“Sleeps with Butterflies”
acrylic on canvas 8 x 10 inches 2012

She’s finished, and available in my Etsy shop!

Sleeps with Butterflies is an original acrylic painting on 8″ x 10″ canvas with 1/2″ sides.

She has a secret hidden behind that Mona Lisa smile. Her face has a beautiful mysterious quality, a playful thoughtfulness. Is she wistful?

This painting is romantic with soft glazing, butterfly wings, and roses balanced with saturated colors and captivating stares. I am really inspired by fashion editorials, beautifully photographed portraits, and subtleties in expression. The colors are soft and vibrant but may look different in person than on your monitor.

Sleeps with Butterflies is a part of a collection of paintings inspired by hazy summer memories and a surreal Florida childhood.

Painting grouping by KatcanPaint

Several paintings are a part of this summer collection:

Butterfly Summer

Girl with the Watercolor Rose tattoo

and an entire series of Overlapping Butterfly Wing paintings.

I’ll update with more this week, as soon as I can get everything scanned and photographed.  My prints should be here tomorrow, and I am more excited than a kid at Christmas.  This will be the first time my Etsy shop is full!   It’s incredible to see it all coming together: I’ll have original paintings, prints, and custom art listed…and I’m working on more art everyday.

Whoo hoo!

<3 Kat

And, in case you didn’t know, you can follow me on  Twitter ::  Etsy :: and Pinterest.

Love Bird 2009 by KatCanPaint

From the archives: Love Bird * an original mixed media painting

I’ve started cleaning up my archives and I found this post and painting I made in 2009.  It’s been hidden this entire time.

Love Bird * an original mixed media painting

Love Bird 2009 by KatCanPaint

Love Bird
Mixed media: collage and acrylic on Canvas

Love Bird is an original mixed media painting on canvas.  I tried a mixed media collage background but you can’t see it in this scan.  I’m trying to be more free and loose with paint and experimenting with new faces, I love the little fairy bird.

The baby has been keeping me busy this week, I wish I had more paintings finished. There are five sitting around my desk, all waiting to have some attention but I don’t know when I’ll get to them all. I’m a neglectful artist, babies are demanding!

<3 Kat

You can find me on Twitter ::  Etsy :: and Pinterest.

9x9 Alice in Wonderland painting by katcanpaint

Alice in Wonderland original painting Alice’s Favorite Necklace

Alice in Wonderland painting: Alice’s Favorite Necklace original acrylic painting by KatCanPaint.  Growing up, in the 80s,  I really liked The Black Cauldron and The Last Unicorn, Labyrinth, and The Dark Crystal.  Fraggle ROCK!  Inspector Gadget, JEM! I’m completely nostalgic for the movies and stories of my childhood.
color corrected Alice's Favorite Necklace by katcanpaint

©2012 Kathleen McBride, Alice’s Favorite Necklace, acrylic on canvas, 9″ x 9″ x 2 2/3″

Except, I didn’t really like the Disney version of Alice, a lot of the wit and charm from the original story seemed to be missing.   I’m a big fan of the sweeter side of Alice in Wonderland.  I remember the stories as a child holding so much magic and weirdness.  I always wanted to be Alice.  I used to imagine her going back and forth between Wonderland having adventures.

Based on that idea, I started a series of Alice paintings.  This one is Alice’s Favorite Necklace; I imagine Alice carrying mementos of her friends and adventures with her topside.

original acrylic Alice in Wonderland Painting by katcanpaint

©2012 Kathleen McBride, Alice’s Favorite Necklace, acrylic on canvas, 9″ x 9″ x 2 2/3″

I drew and painted that swirly, ornate background, I really want wall paper like that.

Can you see the Cheshire Cat and the White Rabbit?  I have so many more ideas for this series, I’m painting like a madwoman everyday.

You can visit my etsy if you’d like to purchase a painting.

<3 Kat

I have Unicorns on the brain.

My Little Unicorn
Acrylic on Canvas

I have drawn and painted this image, girl + unicorn, in so many different ways. I still haven’t exorcised it from my mind. I was thinking about the medieval maiden and unicorn tapestry and classic fairy tales and my little ponies. There will be another incarnation of this, I will keep at it until it feels right.


<3 Kat

Tattooed Muse by KatCanPaint

Things I learned from my two new favorite pink paintings.

Things I learned from my two new favorite pink paintings.

  1. I have no idea how to name my paintings.
  2. I’m always going to chase after an elusive idea of perfection.
  3. Having fun is important, being challenged is important: these aren’t opposite concepts.
  4. Keep painting, you’ll figure it out.


Tattooed Muse by KatCanPaint

©2012 Kathleen McBride, Tattooed Muse, Acrylic on Canvas, 8″x10″


Have I ever mentioned that I am total crap at naming my personal pieces? This one is my favorite, she is my muse. She embodies everything I have been considering painting concept and technique-wise.
I’m thinking about saturated colors, flowers, energy, patterns, tattoos, art nouveau influences, and things with wings. I’m always thinking about the differences between holding on and letting go, both physically and emotionally. I’m perfecting my girls, my expressions, my faces. Sometimes I see little glimpses while I am painting- that perfect face, that perfect curve to her lips, and I’m still painting because I’m not there yet.


Angel of Sunset acrylic painting by KatCanPaint

©2012 Kathleen McBride, Angel of Sunset, Acrylic on Paper, 9″x12″

I love painting flowers + girls + feathers. I bought myself a 10-pack of Golden Fluid Acrylics, and I love them. I love the fluid consistency and I love how pure and bright they are, even when I mix them. My work is bright and intense now. They dry fast, but holy moly, a dab of paint goes far with these guys.

Sometimes I really want to paint something pretty, without all the big ideas and big technique I cram into my other pieces. The balance for me is somewhere in between these two pieces, between something challenging and something effortless, big ideas and big fun. The more I paint, the more I know.


<3 Kat


Protecting acrylic on canvas by KatCanPaint

Protecting * A painting from the enchanted forest

Protecting * A painting from the enchanted forest

Protecting acrylic on canvas by KatCanPaint

Acrylic on canvas

This piece is much larger than my scanner so the image area you see here is from the middle of the painting. I really enjoyed painting the mushrooms and her dress.   This painting was originally from the Nest journal page, the concept has followed me.  I liked the original snowy forest from the journal but I wanted a bright and happy painting.  This polka dotted blue mushroom Enchanted Forest is too sweet.

I’m going to do an entire Enchanted Forest series.

<3 Kat

You can find me on Twitter ::  Etsy :: and Pinterest.

How I learned to paint again or how my little sister has more portraits of herself than anyone in the world

How I learned to paint again or how my little sister has more portraits of herself than anyone in the world

My youngest sister, Krista, has a part-time gig as my muse. Or maybe just a full-time position as a very annoying little sister who is tenacious and persistent. Either way it works enough to get me to draw things for her, and it eventually led to me painting again.

See, I went to a big-name, expensive, art college. I spent a lot of money on my education but I was very disenchanted with the entire experience. Its stupid really, because I carry that around with me as if it defines who I am, “Hello my name is Kat. I went to Art School and I hated it.”
But really, I was so confused as to who I was as an artist after school that I didn’t seriously paint anything for years. A lot of artists have had this same problem, and I just found this quote from Jim Hodges on another blog, Ullabenulla, where he describes exactly what I felt.

When I got out of graduate school, I stopped Painting because it was overwhelming and because I couldn´t find myself in the material. But I also stopped because I was forcing myself to be a painter because I thought that was what my education had taught me. I realized I had accepted a lot of belief systems that were not necessarily mine. From then on, it was just a slow process of deconstructing this education and breaking things down to simple words. And ‘beauty’ was one of them…. I felt that I was part of a long tradition investigating what beauty is all about—the mystery of it, the elusiveness of it. So, I set out to understand what that word meant for me.


Krista queen of hearts by KatCanPaint

The first piece I painted when I was jumping back into it was a very odd color explosion of a portrait of Krista. (We call her Roo.) Excuse the blur, its the only photo I still have of this piece. I ended up painting blue over the background and then I put it away for a while to think about painting. Because I tend to do that, sit and think about things when I should just be doing them.
Krista commandeered this piece while I was contemplating what it all meant… and then promptly demanded more paintings.


That isn’t the beginning of the story. I have three younger sisters. I’ve always wanted to be an artist, more specifically a Children’s Book Illustrator. When my sisters were very young I would make up stories and illustrate the interesting bits to entertain my sisters while I babysat. Roo, the youngest and my junior by ten years, was always the one demanding more, she was in fifth grade in 2005, and in love with the Harry Potter series. She was diagnosed with dyslexia early in grade school and reading, well honestly school in general, was very frustrating for her. I read the first Harry Potter book to her, and she fell in love with the characters, and absorbed the rest of the books in the series almost overnight. I told her stories about her as a Gryffindor student and illustrated the funny parts. The story was renamed Kerri Potter (It was called Kerri Potter after another sister of mine, uhm… Kerri. Genius, right?) She and her older sisters were always getting into trouble. . They never saved the day, and were always in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was completely goofy. My sisters loved the stories. Roo’s frustration with reading and learning faded a bit with each story.

These silly stories and comics were mostly inside jokes. I don’t think they could possibly make sense to anyone else, but isn’t that how inside jokes work? Like every kid who is having trouble in school, Roo would fight to get out of bed in the morning and actually get to school.

So I drew little comics on her brown lunch bag, to give her a little something extra to read at school. They were completely ridiculous but every kid at her lunch table grew to anticipate lunch time so they could read the newest Brown Bag comic. (No pressure on the artist there.) These two starred all three of my little sisters, Caitlin, Kerri, and Krista, in the Kerri Potter universe, pretending to be Jedi Knights with bananas as lightsabers.
See, silly inside jokes. But it worked. As long as I kept up the BBcomics, Krista kept bringing them into school… and of course if the bags were going to school, so was she.

Not all the stories and images were particularly flattering…I wrote a story/poem I wrote for her called, “My Little Sister Is A Goblin.” It went something like this:

My little sister is a goblin.
It’s true.
Just look into those beady little eyes of hers-she’s not normal.
She has sharp elbows, sharp knees, and rows of extra sharp pointy little teeth.
Take your eyes off of her for a moment
And she is gone.
(off spoiling the milk or knotting peoples hair or doing other Goblin-y things)
No doubt about it.
My little sister is a goblin.

She will eat your liver.
She will eat your liver for breakfast.
Its her favorite thing to do.

… and it goes on. The bit about livers sounds odd but that is what she would threaten to do when she was angry with you- eat your liver.

I’m not sure she knew where your liver was, or what it did, so I illustrated your liver as being a type of breakfast cereal.

After Harry Potter, Roo’s obsession turned to Pirates. Everything I drew had to be of her as a pirate.


This evolved into her as a pirate with a pet octopus or squid. I started making finished pieces for her, she started being old enough and responsible enough to take care of them.

And now she is a teenager. She draws her own pictures and writes her own stories. She is interested in all things creative, especially creative writing. She wants to be an author.

Spoiled by an older sister who is an artist, Roo routinely e-mails crazy pictures of herself for me to paint. I think she has more portraits of herself than any person ever.

These are just a few examples. She has walls papered with examples of art pieces I’ll never be able to finish because she claims pieces from my sketchbook and from my unfinished piles for herself. She doesn’t take no for an answer. Which is fine, because I’ll be famous for portraits of my little sister… and I’ll make her draw pictures for me.


<3 Kat

You can find me on Twitter ::  Etsy :: and Pinterest.

art journal page 8 nest by KatCanPaint

Art Journal Page 8 : Nest

Art Journal Page 8 : Nest

art journal page 8 nest by KatCanPaint
This girl has followed me around for almost a year now. A lot of times images get stuck in my head, like this one, the girl with her nest in the forest. She has been created in varying styles and medium from canvas painting to a simple doodle in my sketchbook.. After creating and recreating this image so much, I’m starting to think she is a bit of a self-portrait. The more I look at her, the more I think she is pregnant, and the entire image is about pregnancy. (She’s been with me since before I was pregnant, which makes the realization a bit more profound, and mystifying… ) Is that crazy? Does your body know more about you than you do? I don’t know, it all sounds a little crazy to me. But sometimes that is what this whole art-making thing is for me… I’m just telling myself stories, I’m just working out things I didn’t quite realize before I made the piece. Maybe I haven’t gotten her right yet and so she sticks around.
On a different note – I really enjoyed gluing all those strips of book pages down. I’ve always wanted to incorporate a bit of collage into my work (but it seems like its a bit of what everyone is doing right now.) I’m still working everyday, trying to find my voice.


This is part of a series of Art Journal pages, see them all:

Art Journal Page 1 and 2

Art Journal Page 3

Art Journal Page 4

Art Journal Page 5

Art Journal Page 6

Art Journal Page 7

Art Journal Page 8

Art Journal Page 9

Art Journal Page 10

Art Journal Page 11 & 12

Art Journal Page 13 & 14

Art Journal Page 15

Art Journal Page 16 & 17

Art Journal Page 18


<3 Kat

You can find me on Twitter ::  Etsy :: and Pinterest.