Watercolour painting for children: The Magical Unicorn

Who would like a pet unicorn? 

Me too! I have never seen one, have you? I'm not sure they'd like to be kept as pets, but maybe one day I'll be lucky enough to have one come for tea.

Meanwhile, we can paint one.

So let's begin.

You'll need

  • an adult to watch over you and help out
  • your watercolours
  • some good quality thick watercolour paper 
  • two round watercolour brushes - one big and one small
  • one small flat watercolour brush
  • two or three water pots
  • a pencil 
  • a soft rubber
  • salt
  • masking fluid (also called rubber solution) and a ruling pen
  • fine grade glitter (optional)

You can find my recommendations for paints etc here..

Firstly let's draw. 

A unicorn is a pony with a horn, right? Ok, a magical pony with a horn. That's better. 

Mine has a big head and short legs, because that makes her look cute. You can draw yours any shape you fancy. You can even print out and trace mine if you like.

Give her a big eye and a gorgeous flowing mane and tail.

Now we're going to use that masking fluid. That what? Masking fluid. It's messy stuff if you spill it, so ask your adult to help you here. Shake the pot of masking fluid before your open it to mix it all together and then wait a little while for the bubbles to settle. You can help them along by opening the pot and popping them!

Dip your ruling pen into the masking fluid and write a message and draw some hearts on the background. Mine is going to be a birthday card for a very special 11 year old in Berlin.

If you haven't got a ruling pen you can use a dip pen. Don't use your grandad's best pen - masking fluid can clog up the nib and he won't be happy with you.

If you want to use a small brush, use an old one and dip it in dish soap and then gently squeeze it out first to protect it. When you're finished wipe it off on a tissue and then wash well.

Fill some of the hearts in and leave some as simple outlines.

What's masking fluid for, you ask? Excellent question. It's a rubbery liquid that we will pick off later. Everywhere that we put the masking fluid will stay lovely and white because the paint can't get to the paper.

Next, drop a little water onto the colours you want to use in your painting box and let them soften up. I've used pink and purple. 

Paint plenty of clean water all around the unicorn. making the paper nice and wet. It's important that the unicorn itself stays lovely and dry

Now pick up some of your paint with your big round brush and touch it onto the wet paper. Watch the magic as the colours spread, merge and mingle

Just like you did with the snowman, you remember? No? Well here is the snowman tutorial to help you

You can paint right over the masking fluid.

While the paint is still wet, sprinkle lots of salt all over, and go and do something else while it dries.

Is it dry yet? No? Go read a book or something.

Is it dry now? Yes? Great! Scrape off all that salt with a fingernail or the edge of a spoon, and pick off the masking fluid with your fingers.

Now then, if yours is anything like mine it will have untidy edges.

That won't do at all!

Take a small flat brush, dip it in clean water and then squeeze it dry. Now tickle all of those untidy edges to make your unicorn look nice and smart.

Looking good!

Let's make our unicorn look pretty. Starting with the eye.

Use a small round brush and a good dark colour. Mine's indigo blue, because it goes well with pink and purple. If you've used oranges and reds then use a dark brown here.

Draw around the outside of the eye with your paint, and draw a little circle inside the eye, towards the top. That's going to be the twinkle.

Paint the eye, leaving the twinkle white.

Use the same colour, with more water, to paint the nostril. It needs to be a little paler than the eye - that's why we've used a little more water.

That's looks a bit flat doesn't it? So we need to add a darker bit at the top of the nostril, the shadow that makes it look more real.

Hmmmm, how are we going to paint our white unicorn? Mostly he's going to stay unpainted. All we need to do is add the shadows that define him. 

Using lots of water with your paint, add in shadows under his chin, at the bottom of his muzzle, where his legs join his body and under his fat little stomach.

Of course he'll need his hooves painting, he's got lots of prancing to do. I've done mine blue. Your's can be any colour you like!

And how about that beautiful horn? I've used a strong pink and a strong purple. They're the same pink and purple as before, just with a lot less water.

Quick quick! While the paint is still wet, sprinkle with a fine grade glitter.

Tap tap the extra glitter off when it's dry.

Now for the tail! Choose your darkest tail colour and paint in a couple of short stripes following the shape of the tail.

Now clean your brush, and paint over the middle to the end of each stripe with clean water, Carry on out along the stripe with your water and you'll find that the stripe dissolves and blends out beautifully!

Do the same with your next tail colour. I've used just pink and purple in my tail but you can add more colours if you want to. Once the white paper is covered, stop! Otherwise you will end up with a muddy looking tail.

What next? Ah yes, that wonderful mane! Just like before we start with the darkest colour. Paint along the bottom edge of each section of mane, bringing your paint up to the middle of the mane.

Now add in some of your next colour

And then clean your brush and blend with clean water. Remember to paint the forelock too.

And there we have it, we're done! One happy prancing unicorn! 

Mine's called Miya

What are you going to call yours?