Famous Paintings in Miniature Tutorial: Jane Seymour by Hans Holbein the Younger

In this tutorial I show you how to recreate this famous painting of Jane Seymour 1536/1537 by Hans Holbein the Younger, in miniature for your dolls house of miniature collection.

Follow the links below to see other tutorials in this series:

Hans Holbein the Younger

Following a successful career in Europe, Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543) returned for his second English period in 1532 where he undertook many portrait commissions working his way up through merchants, courtiers, landowners and nobility. He had a reputation for painting portraits with an astonishingly accurate likeness, and his drawing and draftsmanship skills are amply demonstrated by the many surviving charcoal and ink preparatory drawings for his portraits.

Holbein became court painter to the Tudor King Henry VIII in 1536 and this painting of Henry’s third queen, Jane Seymour, was one of his first works for his new patron. Jane died in 1537 shortly after bearing King Henry’s only son, the future King Edward VI.

Interestingly the National Portrait Gallery in London have carried out some research that shows that it is possible that Holbein used mechanical tracing devices to transfer his preparatory drawings of heads and hands to his canvases, and then drew in the clothing freehand afterwards.

You will need

  • 300gsm smooth watercolour paper
  • Sharp craft knife, cutting mat and steel ruler
  • Sharp Pencil and an eraser
  • Masking fluid
  • 2 or 3 water pots
  • Fine nib dip pen (not your best pen, it may get sticky) 
  • Size 00 watercolour brush with a good point
  • Size 4/0 watercolour brush with a good point
  • Size 10/0 miniature brush with a good point
  • Winsor and Newton Designers gouache paints in:

    • Indigo
    • UltraMarine
    • Spectrum Red
    • Permanent Yellow Deep
    • Burnt Umber
    • Burnt Sienna
    • Zinc White
    • Permanent White

Holbein’s painting Jane Seymour measures 654 x 407mm. To find how big yours needs to be simply divide these measurements by the scale you're working in. On a 1:12th scale, dividing by 12 will give us  55 x 34mm; for 1:16th we need to divide by 16 to get 41 x 25mm; and for 1:24th divide by 24 giving 27 x 17mm.

I'm working at a 1:12th scale.

Using your steel rule and craft knife, cut out the watercolour paper to the correct size. I recommend adding at least 5mm all around the edges to allow for framing – you can always trim this off later if your chosen frame does not require the extra allowance.

Step 1

Divide your canvas into 4 x 4 equally spaced sections (you will need your ruler for this bit). They will not be squares since your canvas is rectangular, but I will call them squares for simplicity’s sake.

Please draw your grid lines very faintly so that you don’t need to worry about paint coverage later on.
Starting in one of the corners, copy the black lines into your chosen square. Methodically moving from one square to its adjoining square, continue to copy the drawing until yours is complete. Try not to be tempted to jump around the grid – it is all too easy to make a mistake when counting squares and very frustrating to find that the drawing doesn’t meet in the middle!

When you have finished, erase as many of the grid lines as you can with a soft eraser. Be gentle to avoid damaging the delicate watercolour paper surface.

Step 2

With the lid on, shake the masking fluid to mix it thoroughly and then leave it to rest for a good half hour to allow any bubbles to disperse.  My masking fluid is purple – it also comes in white, blue and pink. My recommendation would be to get the purple or pink one, as white is difficult to see where you’ve put it on white paper, and blue is tricky to see when used in a sky situation. 

Dip the end of the nib pen (again, don't use your best dip pen) in the masking fluid, taking care only to immerse the nib end and keeping any ink-well bits and pieces clean, and draw in all the gold braiding on the dress and hood, the gold on the jewel hanging at Jane Seymour’s breast, and add a few dots for the pearls.

Much further on in this tutorial I noticed that I missed a little masking fluid on the hood so I have added it later - you can add it in now.

Masking fluid is very rubbery and can be tricky to use, so practice first on a scrap of paper.  Allow the masking fluid to dry fully before moving on to the next step. Any masking fluid left on your nib can be rubbed or picked off.

Step 3

Squeeze out a little Indigo into your palette, leave a gap, then squeeze out a little Zinc White. In the space in-between roughly mix the edges of the two paints so that you have a range of colours varying from pure Indigo, through pale indigo to pure Zinc White. 

Pick up your 00 round brush and in the lower right hand corner, starting with your mid range Indigo/Zinc White begin to paint in the background. 

Use the Indigo/Zinc White mixes on either side of the mid range colour that you started out with to vary the tones, keeping it darker on the right hand side. 

Continue around the background in the same way, finishing with pure Indigo on the shadows on the left hand side.

Step 4

Swap to your 0000 brush and dip it directly into the Spectrum Red tube and wipe it on the palette. 

Clean your brush and dip it into the Permanent Yellow Deep tube. Mix this into the Spectrum Red on your palette. 

Now take around three or four times that amount of Zinc White and mix into the Spectrum Red/Permanent Yellow Deep combination. 

Test the colour on a scrap of paper. Is it a very pale flesh coloured? Perfect! If not, keep adding the tiniest amount of whichever colour is missing – if it’s too yellow, add red, if it’s too red, add yellow, if it’s too strong add white – until you have a pale flesh colour. It’s not easy, so be patient.  

Use your flesh colour to paint the face, hands and neck.

Step 5

Switch to your tiniest 10/0 brush. 

Add a tiny touch of Burnt Umber to your flesh mix and use this to add shadows to define the facial features. 

A little to the left of the nose and then blended away towards the left will define the bridge of the nose. 

A little on the underside of the nose will define the fleshy part. 

A little under the eyebrows and under the eyes will define the eye sockets. 

A little under the double chin and onto the right hand side of the neck will define the where the head joins the neck. 

A little under the hood line will make the head look three dimensional. 

A little on the left hand side of the shoulder on the left hand side of the picture will add definition here. 

Next move on to the hands; simply outlining your drawing will suffice on this scale to give the hands definition. 

Move back to the face and use the same mix to paint in the upper lip, then pick up some Spectrum Red/Permanent Yellow Deep to paint in the lower lip. 

The eyes are Permanent Yellow Deep/  Ultramarine, with Burnt Umber to define the upper eyelash line. Don’t attempt to paint in any eyelashes, just a line is all you need here.

Step 6

Squeeze out a little Burnt Sienna into your palette, leave a space for mixing, and then squeeze out a little Spectrum Red. Roughly mix the two in the space that you left so that you have a variety of colours ranging from pure Burnt Sienna to pure Spectrum Red.   

Continuing with your smallest brush pick up some of the colour in the middle ranges of your mix and paint the shawl, making sure that your paint touches the paper inbetween all of the masking fluid. 

You may need to use a swirling, tickling motion to achieve this.


Step 7

Dip your brush into the tube of Permanent Yellow Deep and mix a tiny amount into the Burnt Sienna/Spectrum Red mix. Use this to paint the highlights on the dress.

Step 8

Pick up some of the Burnt Sienna/Spectrum Red mix and paint the rest of the dress, using a clean damp brush to blend the colour into the highlighted areas. Again, simply paint over any masking fluid that is on the dress.

Step 9

Mix Burnt Umber and UltraMarine until you almost have black, then add enough water to make an inky consistency. 

Load your nib pen by picking up some of your inky mix and wiping it into the part of the nib that holds the ink, then test on a scrap of paper. You want a grey colour that flows easily from the nib. If it’s too thick or too dark, add more water. 

When you’re satisfied with the colour and texture of your ‘ink’, use this to draw in the lacy patterns on the bottom of the sleeves. 

Do not worry about getting the pattern perfect, simply swirls and curvy lines will give the general impression.  

If you don’t have a very fine nibbed dip pen, just use the smallest brush that you own. 

If you make a mistake don’t worry, simply tickle a little clean water onto the still-damp problem spot and dab with a tissue. If it won’t completely lift off you can wait until it is dry, paint over with permanent white, and once it is all dry you can try again. 

Continue down the lacy section of the front of the dress.

Dot in the sleeve edge, again using the nib pen, then add more water and dot in a tiny pattern on the frilly sleeve cuffs.

Step 10

Use your pale Burnt Umber/UltraMarine mix, adding a little more water if necessary, and paint the rest of the lace on the sleeves. 

Leave a few tiny white areas to add to the lacy look. 

Paint a slightly darker grey line along the left edge of the sleeve on the left hand side, and on the right hand edge of the lace on the right hand side where shadows are cast by the shawl.

Step 11

Pick up a tiny amount of very pale grey from your Burnt Umber/UltraMarine mix and dot in a few shadow creases on the white trimmings of the sleeves. 

Move up to the hood and add a little shading on the top and bottom of the white section of the hat on the right hand side, and a little shading on the section by her chin and temple on the left hand side of the painting. 

Step 12

Pick up a strong, fairly thick mix of Burnt Umber/UltraMarine and paint in the dark, almost black, hood. When it is dry, add two lines to define the folds using a watery Zinc White.

Step 13

I’ve noticed that I missed a part of the under-hood when I was applying masking fluid, so I have gone back in and added a few cross hatched lines of masking fluid on the under-hood. 

Mix some Permanent Yellow Deep with a touch of Burnt Umber to achieve a dark gold and use this to paint in the under-hood, painting over the masking fluid. There is a tiny amount of the gold under-hood peaking out on the left hand side of the painting, so add this in now, and then paint the rest of the black hood on the left hand side, flowing down behind her shoulder.

Step 14

Use the same gold mix to paint the part of the hood that is closest to the head. Next, dot in a gold jewel in each corner of the hood edging. In-between these dots there are four more dots on each of the top sections and 5 more on each of the side sections. Continue dotting in the jewels around her neck and on the upper edging of her dress.

Step 15

When it is all completely dry, remove the masking fluid by gently rubbing with a clean, dry, finger. 

Now using Permanent Yellow Deep mixed with a little Permanent White, paint the gold braiding on the shawl in a cross hatch style. 

Leave a few white spaces here and there to act as shining highlights on the braiding. 

Next paint in the gold braiding down the front of the skirt and a few gold squiggles down the chain that she is holding, hanging down the front of the lace on the skirt. 

You can also now paint in dots for the jewels hanging under the sleeves and the rings on her hand using the same Permanent Yellow Deep/Permanent White mix.

Step 16

Moving back up to the top, paint the stripes on the part of the hood that is closest to the head. 

On the right hand side of the picture the stripes go diagonally from bottom left to top right, and on the left hand side they go from bottom right to top left. 

Now pick up some Burnt Umber/UltraMarine mix, leaning towards the blue, and add a little water to make a bluey grey. 

Dot in four pearls in-between each gold jewel on the hood edging, the neckpiece and the dress edging. 

Clean your brush and pick up some of the skin colour that we used for the face and dot and squiggle along the upper edge of the front of the dress edging. 

Now dot in a tiny row of Burnt Umber/UltraMarine just above your squiggles to finish the dress.

Step 17

Next paint in the dark parts of the large jewel on the front of her dress. It consists of dots and dashes that vaguely resemble “i t i” with a couple of extra dots and dashes in-between and above. There are three dots at the bottom of the jewel.

Have a good look at your painting. Squint at it, look at it in the mirror, take a digital photo of it – all of these methods help you to be able to see anything that you have missed or that needs correcting. 

Now that the dress and jewels are done I can see that mine needs a little more definition in the face, so I’m going to go back in with the Permanent Yellow Deep/Spectrum Red/Zinc White/Burnt Umber mix to add more shadows.

Using weak Burnt Umber/Zinc White mix, very carefully add in the eyebrows, taking care not to make them prominent.

I cannot see a signature on Holbein’s original painting so we shall call this done.

You can see Jane Seymour 1536/1537 by Hans Holbein the Younger at Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien (KHM-Museumsverband) in Vienna, Austria, or online here: http://www.khm.at/en/objektdb/detail/966

If you have a go at any of my painting tutorials I’d love to see your artwork, you can share it on my facebook page or email it to me.


Always store your brushes flat, never resting on their points as this will damage them (either in or out of your water).
Gouache is very chalky and opaque. Before changing colours wash your brush in a series of two or three water pots, beginning in the dirtiest water pot and working towards the cleanest. You should find that this means that your clean water will stay clean for longer, you will need to change water less often and your colours will not get muddy. 
Watercolours and gouache can very easily form ‘cauliflower’ patterns if you add more water or more paint before the pervious layer has dried. Cauliflowers can be very beautiful in art, but they’re not what we’re looking for here. If you get cauliflowers with gouache don’t panic, just wait for it to thoroughly dry and then paint over it.
If you make a mistake lift off as much of the paint as you can with a damp brush and tissue, dab it dry then wait for it to fully dry, then simply paint over it.
If you want a slight sheen to your finished piece, so that your painting will appear as though it has been varnished, you can add a little Gum Arabic to your paints in your palette in place of some of the water. If you start to do this, you must continue throughout the whole painting, otherwise you’ll end up with a patchy painting.
When you leave your paints you do not need to cover them as it doesn’t matter if your paints dry out. You can reconstitute them very easily by adding a drop or two of water, and it’s a good idea to add a drop to each dried out paint puddle in your palette at the start of each painting session, then it’s ready for you when you need it.  When you need very strong colours use fresh paint from the tube. 
Remember we’re painting miniatures, you don’t need to squirt out a lot of paint from your tubes, the tip end of a small brush will suffice.


You can see Jane Seymour 1536/1537 by Hans Holbein the Younger at Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien (KHM-Museumsverband) in Vienna, Austria, or online here: http://www.khm.at/en/objektdb/detail/966


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