Learn how to paint a mermaid with acrylic paint! This step by step acrylic painting tutorial will guide you through the process of how to paint a mermaid! This painting was done on a 16″ x 20″ stretched canvas with acrylic paint. There is a video, a FREE traceable, very detailed pictures and instructions!
I think it is definitely one of my favorites out of all the tutorials I have made! I love mermaids and all things nautical and I think this painting is just “magical”! Sparking water, heart constellation, jumping dolphins, oh my!
I’m not going to ramble too long about this painting so, let’s just cut to the chase because I know y’all are so anxious to view all the steps! I present to you “How To Paint A Mermaid”! Happy Painting Artists!!!!
Level and Duration:
Level: Easy/Intermediate, Duration: 2 Hours
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- 16″ x 20″ Canvas (This is definitely a “Go Big” design)
- Acrylic Paint (Match the colors to whatever brand you have on hand! I’ll try to provide enough info to help you color match. )
- Primary Red in Liquitex Basics (This is a cool red/ pink-red color. Use dark pink if you’re using craft paint)
- Cadmium Orange Liquitex Basics (This is a bright orange. Use Jack O’ Lantern in craft paint)
- Cadmium Yellow Liquitex Basics (Bright yellow in craft paint)
- Phthalo Blue Liquitex Basics (cobalt blue in craft paint)
- Ultramarine Blue Liquitex Basics (Any medium blue in craft paint)
- Phthalo Turquoise “Hobby Lobby” (Bright Aqua Green in Liquitex Basics, only darker. Try mixing phthalo green into bright aqua green. Golden and DecoArt also make a phthalo turquoise)
- Ocean Green “Hobby Lobby” (This is equivalent to Bright Aqua Green in Liquitex Basics or Caribbean in Apple Barrel)
- Purple Iris “Apple Barrel” (Equivalent to dioxazine purple or brilliant purple in Liquitex Basics)
- Fuchsia “Apple Barrel” (Equivalent to Medium Magenta or Quin Magenta in Liquitex Basics)
- Parrot Blue “Apple Barrel” (Equivalent to Light Blue Permanent in Liquitex Basics)
- Titanium White
- Mars Black
- Portrait Pink (Liquitex Basics, If you don’t have portrait pink, try mixing: “Yellow Oxide”, “White” and “Primary Red” Apple barrel does make some flesh color paints. You can definitely customize this as well!)
- Yellow Oxide (this is a dark yellow, you only need a TINY bit so don’t go out and buy this color. If you don’t have it, mix a bit of brown with yellow.)
- Paint Brushes
- 1″ Flat
- 1/4″ Flat
- #3 Round
- #0 Round (Tiny detail)
- Traceable (I provide that for you!)
- Graphite Paper
- Bronze or Gold Sharpie (I used bronze!)
- White Paint Pen (Optional)
Tips if you’re doing this with kids:
Transfer the mermaid to a smaller canvas. Use a sharpie to outline the mermaid, rocks and moon. Your child can paint in the lines like it is a coloring book!
Note: She is about 12.75″ from the top of her head to the bottom of the tail where it curves. I recommend you print this on a 9″ x 12″ paper. That will give you the size that my mermaid was. You’ll have to finish the area where her tail is cut off. If you can only do the standard 8.5″ x 11″, then it should still work out fine. Click here for instructions on how to scale up! I recommend scaling it 10% up if you’re doing a 16″ x 20″ canvas. Please let me know if I can help you! The PDF is in the PDF library. The mermaid JPEG can also be clicked on below and saved or printed right from there! As always, if you need any help let me know!
How To Draw:
This is a step by step drawing of how I drew the mermaid! I recommend you practice first then lightly draw it on the canvas with pencil. You can also do the entire painting and then lightly draw her with chalk!
Video (Also See On YouTube):
Step By Step Picture Directions:
1. Draw Horizon LineWith a pencil and a ruler, draw a line across the canvas. This is a 16″ x 20″ canvas and the line is approximately 6.5″ from the top.
2. Draw The MermaidI used a piece of graphite transfer paper and set it underneath my print out of the mermaid. Align her head just a little bit underneath the horizon line. And, since her tail was cut off, I just filled it in.
3. Draw the rock under the mermaid and the rock in the background. Lightly draw the rock with a pencil. The mermaid is sort of perched on this rock so the lines extend just to where her hands would be. The rock in the background is about 3.5″ high and extends almost to her right shoulder.
4. Paint the skyUsing a 1″ flat brush and “Mars Black” paint about an inch of horizontal strokes across the sky. This sky went completely horizontal.
After your 1″ of black, don’t rinse the brush off. Add “Phthalo Blue” to the brush and paint slightly over the black so it will blend. If your black has already dried, you might need to add a tiny bit more black to the blue to get it to blend.
Keep painting that phthalo blue almost all the way down. Smooth out any visible brush strokes along the way.
Leave about an inch of space.
CLEAN off your brush (you don’t want any black on the brush because you’ll make gray). Paint that bottom inch above the horizon line “Titanium White”. Let that white mix with the blue to make a light blue. If it doesn’t seem to be mixing, then add some blue to the brush.
Blend that bottom portion. The whole sky should be an ombre of light blue closest to the horizon line and black at the very top.
5. Paint The StarsI used an old toothbrush for this. Don’t dip the toothbrush in water or you’ll get too many drips. Just dip it in the white paint. Test it out on a separate piece of paper first so you can get a feel for how the splatters behave. Then splatter as many stars as you’d like.
6. Paint The Moon I used a 1/4″ flat brush for this. Paint your circle. That white might mix with the blue if it’s not dry all the way. If it does, you can go back and paint another coat of white on top to make it a brighter white.
As you see, my moon was light blue for awhile. Wait until that dries to add another coat of white.
7. Paint The Water (You’ll Need a light turquoise and a dark turquoise)I used a 1″ flat brush for the large areas and a 1/4″ flat when I needed to “cut in” around the mermaid and around the rocks. Start with your lighter turquoise. I am using “Ocean Blue” in Hobby Lobby Brand. This is equivalent to Bright Aqua Green mixed with white in Liquitex or “Caribbean” in Apple Barrel.
When you need to “cut in” switch to a smaller brush. I painted that lighter turquoise about an inch and a half before switching to a darker turquoise. The goal here is to create another “ombre” of light to dark turquoise.
Without rinsing the brush, I added “phthalo turquoise” and blended it with the lighter turquoise. This is also Hobby Lobby brand. If you don’t have “phthalo turquoise”, try mixing phthalo green with bright aqua green to make a darker tint. OR you can use bright aqua green not mixed with white. Don’t let the turquoises confuse you! Basically, you need a light turquoise and a dark turquoise.
Keep these strokes going left and right. Try to smooth them out as much as possible. It will be a challenge to “cut in” around the mermaid but painting it this way will be rewarding in the end!
Don’t worry too much about blending the two turquoises perfectly together. Think about how Caribbean water looks and how it changes from light to dark in some areas. Just try to keep your strokes as consistent, horizontal and smooth as possible.
I painted this phthalo turquoise almost all the way down. Those white areas shown above are where I started blending in my next shade of blue. Also, if you end up painting slightly over the mermaid, that can be fixed later! Just don’t loose here shape!
Next I added “ultramarine blue”. This is always a lovely blue to use in the water! It doesn’t blend as easily as I thought it would with the dark turquoise but I think the effect turned out great in the end. Basically I filled in the rest of the areas with ultramarine blue and did the best I could to blend it with the rest of the turquoise.
Be sure to use that small brush to cut in where you need to blend. That ultramarine blue was painted over and blended with a lot of the turquoise area up to about the mermaid’s shoulders. This is up to you how much ultramarine blue you want to show up. If you like the all turquoise look, you can limit the ultramarine blue.
I needed to go in and do an extra coat of ultramarine blue because this Liquitex Basics ultramarine blue was a bit translucent and I wanted it to be solid. Take your time, make sure those strokes are smooth and cut in as close as possible to the mermaid drawing.
8. Paint the rocksUse a small flat brush to paint both of the rocks “Mars Black”. I’m using a 1/4″ flat here. ALSO NOTICE that I painted another coat of white paint over the moon!
Then I switched to a small round brush to cut in even closer to the curves of the hair and the mermaid tail.
Are you getting excited yet! It’s really coming together!
9. Paint The Palm TreesI used a small round brush (I believe a #3 round) to paint the trees trunks.
Then paint the lines stemming out from the trunk.
Use the tiniest round brush you own to paint the little palms stemming out from each of the lines. I’m using a brush that is smaller than a #0.
Start from the center of each line and pull each little line outwards.
Repeat to make a second palm tree! If you’re on a “palm tree fix” you can paint more!
10. Paint The DolphinsUsing a small round brush, start off by painting a banana shape body. Form the nose of the dolphin almost like you’re painting a dog’s snout.
Add the features of the tail, dorsal fin and front fins.
11. Paint The Mermaid TailHere is where I switched to Apple Barrel Craft paint because I didn’t have these colors in Liquitex. I don’t think there is a rule about mixing brands…at least I hope not! Oh well, artists break rules all the time. Any how, I wanted this tail to be “Mermaid Colors”. So “purple iris”, “fuchsia” and “parrot blue” fit the description. Check my materials section if you need help matching those colors.
I wanted this tail to fade from purple to pink and then to light blue. First I painted the tip purple.
Then I added in the fuchsia. Craft paint is harder to blend so I had to work the color in harder but it ended up looking great!
To help it blend, I did have to add more purple into the fuchsia. Here it is all blended.
Next I painted the upper portion with parrot blue.
The blue was tricky to blend and it ended up being a bit too purple. Don’t fret too much about the tail color! Remember that bronze scales will be drawn over the tail!
Next I went in and added some white on the end of the mermaid tail.
Then I made some splash lines. This was all done with a small round brush.
12. Paint The HairThere were areas that I needed to “block out” again because I got blue paint on the hair. If this is the case, just use some white mixed with yellow or just white to block it out.
I used a number 3 round brush to paint the hair. When you paint hair, each stroke goes with the flow of the hair. So follow each curve around as you are painting.
After starting with yellow, I added cadmium orange to my brush. Again, follow each stroke like it is a strand of hair. I allowed the orange to mix with the yellow as well.
Then I added primary red (dark pink). Again, follow each stroke like it is a strand of hair and allow the colors to blend on the canvas.
A good chunk of her hair ended up being primary red (dark pink).
Then I added some more layers of orange and yellow.
To add some more “pizzazz” I outlined some of the strands with titanium white.
13. Paint The Starfish In Her Hair With a small round brush and titanium white, block out an area where the starfish will be painted in. Wait ’til this dries and then paint it in with ultramarine blue.
14. Paint The Shoulders and BackThis is when I realized I have no flesh colored paints! It would have come in handy and I almost stopped in the middle of what I was doing to make a trip to Hobby Lobby but then I realized I can make the color.
I mixed 4 parts white, 3 parts yellow ochre and 1 part primary red (dark pink). Play around with the proportions if necessary.
After you are done mixing (or running to Hobby Lobby for your flesh color), paint the mermaid’s back and shoulders with a small round brush.
To paint the arm line you see on the left, I used solid “yellow ochre”. You can also use your bronze sharpie to draw it in after the flesh color dries.
Then I added her strap with purple paint. The line starts just under the armpit and extends to her hair.
15. Paint The Starfish BlueNow that the starfish is dry, I painted it in with ultramarine blue, or whatever you’d like! I chose blue so it will contrast against the orange hair.
16. Paint white lines in the waterI used a #0 brush and titanium white to lightly paint horizontal reflection lines in the water.
Don’t go too crazy with this step. Also I did more lines closer to the horizon line just under the moon. Just enough to make the water look like it is sparkling.
17. Outline some of the silhouettesI always like to slightly outline my black silhouettes because it makes them “pop” a bit. I did this with the dolphins, trees and rocks. Just lightly, use a tiny detail brush! If you don’t like the look, you can always skip this step.
18. Draw Mermaid ScalesI think this part really brings “magic” to that mermaid tail! The end result makes the tail look metallic and “color shifting”. I used a bronze sharpie to do this. I think the bronze looked the best as I tested it out with the gold first and it didn’t quite have the same effect.
Basically draw the scales like you are writing a bunch of letter “U”s.
Then fill in some of the scales solid color.
And, because I couldn’t resist that bronze sharpie, I gave her some highlights. Just a few!
19. Draw The Constellation I used a white paint pen for this. You can also use a tiny round brush to do this but I liked having more control with my pen! Draw out stars to form the shape of a heart. I highly recommend you try it with chalk first! I had difficulties with this when I did the original painting.
Then connect the stars like a constellation. Out of all the little details, this is my FAVORITE part of the painting!
There it is! A beautiful, magical, moonlit mermaid painting! I hope you had fun with this one and I can’t wait to see your paintings! Don’t forget to sign your name and show it off!!