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Nelson Mandela

July 21, 2010


by Nolan Clark

What colours are used in this painting ?
Cadmium Yellow
Prussian Blue
Cadmium Orange
Light Red
Crimson Alizarin

Medium Used : Watercolor on 300gsm (140lb) Card

What brushes are used in this painting ?
#2 Rigger, #8 Synthetic flat or toothbrush.

Other equipment used in this painting ?
300gsm (140lb) Card, Marking Pen, Craft Knife, Hair Dryer.


For this painting I want to do something different, so I have decided to use a splatter technique.

To demonstrate the effectiveness of this technique we are going to use a ‘difficult’ subject – a face. Since Mr Mandela is probably South Africa’s most famous person we will use him as our subject.



The preparation for this painting takes longer than the actual painting itself does, so take your time as the end result will only be as good as the preparation. As we can’t control our splatter we need a way to mask off the sections that we don’t want to splatter.

To do this we need to split Mr Mandela’s face into different colors. I used an image editing program like Corel Photo Paint to do this for me, but you can also do it by hand. I will explain the process used in Corel Photo Paint next. If you would like to do it by hand, then click on the split image above to open a printable version.

Computer Separation (Skip if doing by hand)

Note : If you don’t have an image editing program, then there are online ones like SUMO Paint that you can use for free as well)

Open the photo in Corel Photo Paint and posterize it [Image-Transform-Posterize]. You can now adjust the level until the best effect is achieved. I have used a level of 2 for this picture. Our picture is now in three distinct colors. Use the Color Mask effect [Mask-Color Mask] to select one color at a time. Copy each color and paste it as a new document [Edit-Paste-As New Document]. We now have three new files, one for each color. Print these three files out on 300gsm card. They will become our templates.

Hand Separation (Skip if doing on the Computer)

Print out three of the images that have been pre-split for you, all the same size.

When trying another picture, just look for individual colors or, as in our example, changes in the tone of the same color. These will be your clue as to where to split the image.



The color templates are drawn / printed onto 300gsm card (the same thickness as used for a business card). Use a craft knife to trim the templates out of the card. Above is what the red printout looks like.



When cutting your templates out you will need to do a little planning to see where your bridges must be. Bridges are used to ensure that all pieces stay connected to the main bulk of the card. An example is shown above. Below are my final templates.




Our biggest problem is to ensure that, when you put the templates onto the original, they are in exactly the correct position. To do this take a piece of tracing paper and print the posterized image on it (with all three colors). Draw a block around your picture, extending the lines to form a cross at each corner. Place the tracing paper onto each template, ensuring that they line up exactly. Using a pin transfer the position of your crosses. Do the same on your final painting. Draw in the blocks on your templates and very lightly on the final painting. You can now cut out the cross on each template. You can see how the template is aligned with the final painting in the photo above.


We have basically divided Mr Mandela’s face up into three sections – dark, medium and light. Choose three harmonious colors, ensuring that they have a good tonal range, i.e., good contrast between light and middle as well as between middle and dark. In this example I am going to use the colors the computer gave me, but look at the end of this tutorial for a “blue” Mandela.

The colors I have mixed are –

Dark – Prussian Blue with Crimson Alizarin
Middle – Light Red with Cadmium Orange
Light – Cadmium Yellow with Orange

Put one template down ensuring it is perfectly aligned. Using a toothbrush or your #8 bristle, splatter the color all over the gaps in the template. The toothbrush will give smaller, more concentrated, splatter while the brush will give larger, less controlled splatter. Use whichever gives you the best effect. Always double check the position of the template before you start, tape the final and template cards down if necessary. Also ensure that the template is not upside down or wrong way around.


When you are happy that the splatter is even, carefully lift up the template by pressing down on one of the sides to form a hinge. Lift up the template from the opposite side. Be careful that the paint that is lying on the template doesn’t drip off onto your final painting.

You can now dry your final painting and the template with a hair dryer.

Repeat the process with the next two templates. Your painting should look something like this :



We can already see that it is Mr Mandela, but the painting lacks definition. Add this in by hand. Use your rigger brush to paint your own dots in strategic places. I have added dots on the hairline, mouth, left ear, nose and under the chin.

Here is my finished painting :


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