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  • Writer's pictureDiane M Kellogg

Ugly Sweater Season

By Amanda Novaes

Just in time for the holidays, Amanda has brought us this quirky take on the ugly Christmas sweater. A watercolor project perfect for the holidays!

This is the original project below.

Packages and background were added to create a holiday card.

Shrink the project to fit on a Christmas card.



Canson Paper Montval 9.4 in x 12.6 in (28 cmx 32cm)

Grain fin

Cold Presses 300g/m2 (140lb)


Arteza Premium Watercolor (tubes)

Aegean Blue - A227

Apricot - A212

Ballerina Pink - A202

Burnt Sienna - A107

Crimson Red - A105

Gray - A282

Indigo - A226

Latte Brown - A263

Light Apricot - A207

Noir - A163

Peach - A274

Saffron Orange - A215

Sap Green - A164

Sepia - A273

Titanium White - A101

Yellow Ochre - A113


Royal - 14, 12 Round - Zen Z83r

Loew-Cornell - 4, 6 Ultra round – LaCorneille

Winsor Newton - 0, 00 Round – Cotman

KingArt - 10/0 – Round – Original Gold - 9000-10/0

Miscellaneous Supplies:

Wash Tape (Masking Tape)

Masking Fluid

Flat surface or clipboard to stretch the paper (take off paper clip)

White gouache or White gel pen

Helpful Tip or Hint:

At art supplies stores mainly can be found two types of watercolor papers: celluloses or cotton. A cellulose type was chosen for this illustration so it won't have too many layers of paint. But for realistic designs, a cotton type needs to be considered. Their behavior is different when multiple layers of paint are necessary.

Before starting to paint let’s talk about basecoat or wash (A transparent layer of diluted color that is brushed on). The first layer applied to each section of your drawing will be more transparent and you can gradually increase the value layer by layer if necessary (milky consistency). Then first shading will be with the same color but with more paint on your mixture (creamy consistency).

Try to avoid using pure paint, especially on cellulose paper.


Stretch your paper on your surface using Wash Tape.

Painting Instructions:

Background: Pre-wet the background and add some random light colors strokes. (blue, yellow, green. Red). Allow colors to mix between them naturally. Let dry by itself. If you like it add more layers to increase colors value. (wet-into-wet wash: painting on a wet surface and letting colors blend as they may; looks strong and vibrant while wet but loses intensity when the colors dry.)

Bird: Wash with Sap Green. Let dry. Shade with the same color of the belly avoiding wing area. The beak is Saffron Orange. Using a liner brush add a counter line with the same green with a creamy consistency.

Sheep: Wash with Latte Brown. On the second wash layer while still wet you can add more paint randomly to create a soft texture (Just touching the brush on wet paper). Shade around the head area and next to Legs. Using the same color and a small round brush add some spirals randomly and the contour line. For head, ears and legs wash with Noir 2 or 3 layers. Allow to dry. Use a white gouache or a White gel Pen to add face details. See the above photos.

Pants: Wash with Aegean Blue. With the same color shade next to the waist, pockets, and next to pants cuffs. Shade on the same areas with Indigo. Add a contour line and stitch details with Indigo.

Sweater: Wash with Crimson Red. Let dry and repeat if necessary. Shade next to the arms and let dry. With the same color add all stripes (body, arms, hem, and neckline). Let dry. Using the same color but with creamy consistency add all sweater details and counter line. For waves use Indigo Blue.

Skin: Wash with Ballerina Pink avoiding the eyes area (or you can use masking fluid). Mix Pink Ballerina + Apricot (1:1) and shade all skin areas. For overlap shading use with Sepia (really diluted). Mix Apricot + Sepia (1: a touch) to add the contour line on all skin areas, nose, and mouth lines. For eyebrows and eyelashes use Noir. For the lips use Crimson Red. The eyeballs are Burnt Sienna.

Hair: Wash with Yellow Ochre. Let dry. Mix Yellow ochre + Burnt Sienna (1: 0,5) to add all ball of wool shapes.

Shade with this mix all overlap shadows of each ball. Repeat this shading but adding more Burnt Sienna on your mixture. With a liner brush with Burnt Sienna add more defined wool yarn and some loose yarns. Add some Sepia just on the corners between each ball. With Gray add all knitting needle. For the earring use Indigo.

Socks: There is no wash just shade next to the shoes with Gray then add a contour line with the same color.

Shoes: Wash with Crimson Red. Shade with the same color. For contour line mix Crimson Red + Noir (1: 0,5). For the tennis sole use Noir. On top of each shoe add White Gouache as seen in the reference photo. See above.

Floor: Use a Sap Green wash to add floor line. See photo above.

Presents: Wash with Indigo, Latte Brown, and Sap Green. Shade with the same color. For the ribbons wash with Vermilion Red, Vermilion Red + Noir (1: a touch), and Sap Green.

Holiday Background: Wash Prussian Blue. (2 or 3 layers) Let dry between layers. For the dotting use, a wet and clean round brush adding each dot and using a paper towel to remove the pigment from the paper. (star.jpg)

Suggestions: Your Watercolor illustration is done. Now you can add some packages and your lettering message, or you can use this design as a holiday card. Do not forget to include a beautiful envelope and maybe decorate it with the same little green bird. Be creative.

View Amanda's timelapse video for this project here.

About Amanda:

Painting has always been a passion of mine and I learned early that art at any time in life, as a hobby or a career, can bring balance to the soul. By investing time in an unhurried learning process, in my own time, I have been able to enjoy every lesson, book, and research of art, learning that a variety of styles, materials, and techniques are available for experimentation. I have dedicated myself to painting for over 20 years, and my current passion is wildlife through hyperrealism. I use acrylic techniques on wood surfaces, watercolor, and colored pencils. On my website, you can find a lot of e-patterns.

Download Line Drawing Here.

Download line drawing with presents here.


All photos and project content ©2021 Amanda Novaes

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