How to watercolour: the Panda art print

Step 9: Erase pencil drawing | How to Watercolour: the Panda Art Print | Pigments by Liv

It’s crazy to think Pigments by Liv launched over a month ago, so I think it is high time that we had a new nature-inspired print to decorate our shop with. Without further or do let’s give a warm welcome to the BRAND-NEW Panda collection as we investigate how to watercolour the Panda itself!

Affectionately known as “The Purple Panda”, this giant panda joins the Orca, Fox, Daffodil and Rhino collections we currently have in our online shop. Alongside the Panda Art Print, we are launching a whole collection with his adorable face on. Welcome to the family Panda Bear!

Love pandas? Shop the collection now:

Pink Panda Sweatshirt | Pigments by Liv

Why a Panda Print?

You might be thinking that a Giant Panda is a bit of an odd addition to our current family of nature-inspired prints, but there is, in fact, a link. Did you know one nickname for Orcas is Sea Pandas? Nope, I didn’t know either, but I think it’s a much better nickname than Liv.

Anyway, I digress.

There is a logical reason behind the launch of the Panda Collection. It’s a homage to the WWF, and specifically their collaboration with Netflix and Silver Back Productions to create the series Our Planet. This eye-opening documentary led to me and hopefully many others around the world to make drastic changes to our lifestyles.

If you haven’t seen Our Planet, then I would recommend taking some time out of your day to watch it. For me, the excerpt about the Walrus’s made me realise the catastrophic damage we’re doing to the planet. As a result, I changed my diet, my shopping habits as well as my plastic consumption in a bid to live more sustainably.

Therefore, this print is a tribute to WWF, for opening eyes before it’s too late.

Giant Panda Facts

So back to the bears, let’s get to know who we are painting!
  1. Giant pandas became an ‘endangered species’ due to poaching and deforestation but thanks to some brilliantly determined people, they have recovered enough to be upgraded to a ‘vulnerable species’. Although this is good news, there is still a long way to go until full recovery.
  2. The world-famous WWF logo is modelled off Chi-Chi, the Giant Panda that lived at the London Zoo in the 1900s – who was also the only Panda living in the Western World at the time.
  3. Giant panda eyes are dissimilar to most bears, they are more like cats eyes as their pupils’ slit.
  4. They spend 10-16hrs per day eating, which is my kind of diet.
  5. Not all pandas are black and white, some are brown and white! Although these are quite rare.
It was their iconic black and white colouring that was my biggest fear when I decided to make the panda art print the latest addition to the Pigments by Liv collections. I too pondered over how to watercolour a panda.

How to watercolour – step by step

First things first, there are so so so many tips and tricks to painting with watercolour, like all art everyone has their style and techniques. I guess this is, therefore, a “How to Watercolour” like Liv.

I hope you can use this as art inspiration, whether like me you’re creating a panda art print or an entirely different subject matter.

Step 1: Choose a reference image

If you can draw a Giant Panda or any other subject from memory, then hats off to you. However, without a reference, I know my proportions would be all over the place which is not ideal.

For the giant panda art print, I used this stunning photo that I found on Pexels. A top tip for choosing a reference is to get one from a website, like Pexels, that publishes royalty-free images – just in case you are a bit nervous about image copyrights.

Step 2: Sketch a simple outline

Step 2: draw a rough outline | How to watercolour | Pigments by Liv

Outline your subject using a pencil to create a rough guide for your painting – don’t worry this isn’t cheating.

Make sure it’s only a light outline as we’ll be rubbing it out later!

I’m a huge advocate in using circles to work out proportions, and it turns out there’s a lot of round elements in a Giant Panda!

Step 3: how to watercolour - start with the light areas

This step may depend on your subject matter, but over time I have found that when it comes to watercolour it’s better to work from light to dark. So start by painting in the lighter areas. You’ll be able to achieve a much greater magnitude of colours this way.

Like all paints, once you begin to paint in black or darker colours it’s very difficult to add visible colours in after. So be sparing with the areas you choose to fill in, it’s okay to let some paper show through.

Step 3: look for colours in the lighter areas | How to Watercolour: the Panda Art Print | Pigments by Liv
Look for as many different colours as you can. Art is all about interpretation, interpret the colours that you can see and be bold! In the white fur of my Giant Panda I could see a lot of yellows, browns and even blues, so not just the typical white and grey.

Step 4: Lightly block out the darker areas

The beauty of watercolour is the easiest way to achieve a lighter colour is just to mix it with a bit more water to create a wash. Use this to block out particular areas.

These areas of colour act as a base that you can begin building on later. For the Giant Panda, it was easy to differentiate between dark and light areas, so I simply blocked out the black fur with thin grey paint.

You can also block out any foreground or background elements during this step too

Step 5: Add some unusual colours to mark out shadows

For my Panda, I chose to use purple, green and a nice bold blue to paint in the shadows and the mid-tones. I could see blue and green hues in the photo, but I wanted to include purple colouring to contrast the yellow I used in the lighter areas.
Step 5: Add unusual colours to shadows How to Watercolour: the Panda Art Print | Pigments by Liv

Layer multiple colours to give your painting depth. Watercolour paints are very thin so require lots of layers to strengthen colours. Although this may seem tedious, one of the beauties of watercolour is that by the end you will still be able to see all those wonderful layers.

Don’t worry if the colours you use are super wacky, we’re about to go over them with some more classical colours.

Step 6: how to watercolour in dark areas - add colour, sparingly

Pandas are black and white, so there is no avoiding the black paint. Use light and careful brushstrokes to add black areas to your painting. Or whatever the main colour is, e.g. if you’re painting an Ox, use dark brown paint etc.

Step 6 add black sparingly | Pigments by Liv
Think about the direction and weight of your brushstrokes and use them to achieve texture. Pandas are super fluffy, so I wanted to create lines rather than blobs of colour to give the illusion of fur.

Step 7: Add another layer of dark paint

Once the first layer has dried, add another on top. By building up dark layers you will give your painting more depth, but be careful not to overdo this and cover up all those lovely layers you spent time building before.

Step 8: how to watercolour highlights

As I’ve already said, going from dark to light is pretty tricky when using watercolour because it’s so thin. The only method I’ve found that works are to load a small brush with as much white paint as you can and use it to highlight small areas of your subject that reflect the light, e.g. the panda’s fur, eyes or nose etc.
Step 8: Creating Highlights | How to Watercolour: the Panda Art Print | Pigments by Liv

Even then, you may only be able to achieve a light gray rather than a bright white. A little cheat I found is to use a white gel pen to highlight small areas such as the eyes, nose or claws of an animal. You should do this sparingly or you risk your painting looking artificial.

Step 9: Erase any visible pencil lines with a rubber

We’re on the home stretch! Simply get rid of any pencil lines to give your painting using a putty rubber or eraser for a clean and professional look. This is my favourite bit because it’s so unbelievably satisfying – sad I know!
Step 9: Erase pencil drawing | How to Watercolour: the Panda Art Print | Pigments by Liv

Step 10: how to watercolour foregrounds and backgrounds

I am terrible and always leave this ‘til last because I’m only interested in the subject of the painting. Call me lazy, but this is the part where I tend to get creative and use different techniques to create a more exciting background or foreground:
  • Flicking paint: load your paintbrush with water and paint then flick it on to your paper for a splattered effect.
  • Washes: use a big brush and lots of water to create a thin wash of colour perfect for creating a blurred effect.
  • Tip and Blow: I’m not sure what this is called, but if you use a brush to load one area of your painting with paint then blow it across your page. This is quite a good technique for creating the illusion of motion.

Despite all these techniques, painting bamboo is now my least favourite thing to do.

Step 11: Sign your artwork!!

Step 11: Sign it | How to Watercolour: the Panda Art Print | Pigments by Liv

Congratulations!! You’re now a proud Mumma hen to a beautiful work of art, so sign it and post it on Instagram to celebrate. I hope this watercolour tutorial was of help to you, make sure you tag us in your artwork, I’d love to see them!

If you take nothing else away from this ‘How to Watercolour’ guide, then at least remember this: build up layers slowly.

explore the panda collection

‘Til next time!



Decorative signature

You might also like...


One graphic tee, 15 different ways to wear it. Enough outfit inspo to last over two weeks.


What simple sustainable swaps can you make for plastic-free July? And why do we need to cut down on plastic.


Discover the book that inspired the Orca Collection and the watercolour Killer Whale herself.

Shopping Cart