TUTORIAL: Water color legend of zelda painting step-by-step

 Hey there Internet!

Today I’ll be showing you how I painted a Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time Watercolor painting. It features many enemies from the game, and was lots of fun to work on. 

I’ll break down the painting process Step-By-Step and also highlight some important techniques that I used in the painting along the way. More in-depth technique information will be designated by a Technique Spotlight title. Feel free to skip over these if you’d just like to see the painting process generally. So Let’s get started with set-up!

For the sake of simplicity there is a glossary of terms at the end of this tutorial in case you are confused by any of my wording. 

Part 1: Set up


My materials.

Materials List: 

Pelikan K12 Opaque Paint Set

I really like this watercolor set because it behaves like opaque gouache or watercolor depending upon how thick you apply it. I also like the range of colors and the moveable paint trays. The set also comes with a small tube of opaque white paint that comes in handy.
Pigma Sakura Micron Pens (Sizes 01 and 05)
These are basically the only pens I use. They’re super water-proof, easy to find and come in many sizes.
Currys Synthetic Brushes (2500 Series Various Sizes)
I like these brushes as they are inexpensive and hold up well. They rarely get stray bristles and keep a point for a long time.
Drawing Pencil / Eraser / Pencil Sharpener
I’m not so picky about these things, but I like to use Staedtler pencils and products because they’re easy to come by and good quality. I usually draw with a B3 and B Pencil. ​
Watercolor Paper 
If you’re a beginner please purchase Watercolor paper, do not try to watercolor paint on any other surface, even expensive dry media paper. It just won’t work. I use cold-press papers, usually around 80lb. Student-grade watercolor pads are fine as long as they are archival, I personally prefer Canson papers.

These are the supplies that I use for 90% of my watercolor paintings, but I also recommend Reeves gouache and watercolor sets for beginners. 


This is my usual painting set-up. I have a cup of water and some paper towel to wipe my brush on, as well as my paints.

Penciling and Inking:

I start painting once my inked image is completely done and cleaned up. For this tutorial I’ll be focusing only on the painting aspect, but I’ll quickly outline how I got to this point for your information.

I use a B3 pencil to sketch out the scene that I want, and then refine it down until I had enough of a pencil outline to work from with my ink pens. I usually keep my pencil drawing fairly rough, but still refined enough to double-check my perspective and such.

I outline the entire image using my Micron pens (sizes 01 and 05), following my initial pencil outlines. I initially go over most of the image using the 01 pen and then use the 05 pen to outline the edges of each character. This adds dimension to the lines and helps the characters pop. I’ll go into inking further in a future tutorial. Once I’m happy with my inking I erase all of my pencil lines and I’m ready to paint!

Part 2: Flat color painting

For the first part of the painting, I want to fill each character with their base colors, without any shadow or further definition. For this I’ll dive right into a technique, which basically explains how I do all of my painting.

Technique Spotlight: Color Fading

This technique is how I do the vast majority of my painting. It goes a little like this:
Step 1: Select a shape you’d like to fill with color, and select the side that you’d like to be the deepest in color
​Step 2: Fill the side that you’d like to be deepest in color with moderately dense paint. Only fill about 30% of the shape’s total length.
Step 3: Clean off your brush entirely and dip it with clear water. Use the clear water to dilute the paint at the edge of the section that you just filled. Wipe your brush dry.
Step 4: Use the now dry, paintless brush to spread the water and diluted paint out. If you do this right you should be able to fade the color so that it is lightest at the other end of the shape. I repeat this basic technique with all of the shapes in the flat coloring phase of the painting.

​part 2: flat color painting Continued

From this point on, I continue using the above technique, filling shapes with color and then fading out that color. This is how I fill most of my basic shapes, particularly on Link’s body, which I want to look a bit more solid than the monsters.

Filling in Link’s hair with color.


Link’s body about half done.


Starting to paint in the Red Bubble.

Once I have Link’s body and an enemy or two filled with color, this brings me to the second major technique that I use when flat coloring. 

Technique Spotlight: Multi-Color Blending
In this painting I’ll use this technique to fill most of the enemies. I use this tecnique to get a more ‘soft’ look. It allows me a blend several colors together in a loose, watery fashion while still staying inside of a shape’s outline. It works something like this:
Step 1: Select a shape or area to fill, making sure that you are aware of it’s edges.
Step 2: Select the first color you’d like to use, create a blend of that color, that is both deep in hue and watery enough to flow into surrounding colors. Fill a desired area with that color, do not allow it to dry or leave the shape’s outline.
Step 3: Select a second color, again making a blend that is both deep in color and watery enough to flow into nearby colors. Paint it in nearby and into the first color, blending as much as desired. The two colors should flow into each other somewhat, you can experiment with the dryness level of each color. As a rule of thumb, the more dry the color, the less a new color will flow into it.
Step 4: Repeat step 3 as desired until you have the desired color range in your shape.
Step 5: Go around the edges of the shape with a dry, clean brush, blending the still-watery colors so that they just touch the outline. You should be left with a shape filled with a variety of colors that blend into each other in a loose, interesting-looking manner. 

​part 2: flat color painting continued

From here I’ll continue to fill each enemy’s body with the above technique, blending a variety of colors together to create a messy , watery effect in each shape.

A Biri’s top , after having the same technique applied. I also dabbed some color out, which I’ll go into later.


Most of the enemies finished.


Link and all of the enemies are now flat colored.

Now that the enemies and Link and completely flat color, that is, filled with color but not shaded, that brings me to the next part. 

Part 2: the background

In this part, I’ll describe how I filled the background. I purposely painted the characters using bright colors, hoping that a dark background would make them pop even more. I also feel like having a nice dark background will add a more sinister touch to the finished painting, seeing as how it is filled with so many enemies.

I will be filling the background with fairly dark black paint. To do this, I start by picking a section of negative space, where no character is situated. I mix up my deep black paint, and begin filling the section, making sure to avoid actually touching the black outlines, while still getting as close as possible. This maintains the original black outlines that we spent lots of time on, and also creates a thin white line around all of the characters that makes them stand out even more.


I start filling a section of negative space with black, avoiding contact with the black outlines.


One section filled nicely with black.


More sections filled in nicely


A solid line of wet black paint that will be faded out using water.

When I get to the point where I’m about the deal with the edges of the painting, I use the color fade technique to make the black fade into the white, leaving a slight white border around the painting. I start by clearly defining an edge as seen above, while keeping the paint wet. I then use a wet, clean brush to fade out the black, as seen below. I repeat this all around the painting.

The border, now in the process of being faded.


Lookin’ Good

This brings me to a super quick but lifesaving technique that a lot of people forget they can do!

Technique Spotlight: Dabbing Out
This is an easy one. I use dabbing out very frequently when I feel like I’ve ‘made a mistake’ by either making a color too dark, or when two colors flow together in a way that I did not intend. You simply:
Step 1: Tear off a small piece of paper towel or similar material. Ball it up into a wedge shape so that it has a nice point.
Step 2: Pick a still wet section you’d like to fix and quickly dab out the paint using the paper towel.
Step 3 (optional): Use a wet, clean brush to add extra water to the mess-up, and dab it out again. This can be repeated to ‘delete’ large sections of your painting, even if it has already dried! Just work the water in a bit more into the dried sections, and the paint will eventually lift up.

​part 2: the background Continued

That’s actually it for our old pal background. You can see that the characters pop quite a bit more, now. The next step, though surprisingly quick, will really seal the deal. 

Part 3: Shading 

Light and shadow freak a lot of people out and I’ve never really understood why. If you’re one of those people, I will repeat my usual advice: less is more. That is, keep it simple and don’t try to re-work your shading much. With this painting, I’m going for a very toony or comic-esque style so I’m going to follow a pretty simple technique, which I’ll describe briefly.

Basically for shading, you want to create and then use a deeper shade of the color you’re adding shadow to. Yes, I said deeper, not darker. I personally make most of my shades by adding the complimentary color. IE: for shading Link’s tunic I added red to green NOT black to green. I find this helps to keep the colors more saturated and less muddy. Of course, it’s fine to add black if that is how you work.

​ From there, I just use my normal color fade technique to create areas of darkness, except I don’t have lines to work from now so I have to be somewhat more careful. I add shadow wherever I’d like it, again, keeping it as simple as possible. 

Link’s sleeve shaded


Link’s whole body mostly shaded

Once I’m done shading Link I move onto the enemies, using the exact same technique.

Enemies and Link mostly shaded.


Shading all done!

At this point, I’m happy with all of my shadows. For the final touches I use that little tube of China White gouache that comes with my watercolor set, and my very smallest brush to add some small highlights to important areas. Mostly Link’s eyes, and the surfaces of things that seem slimy, like the tentacle and Biri’s skin. 

Adding highlights to Link’s eyes with white gouache.


Also adding highlights to the tentacle to make it seem slimy.

Part 4: Done! and terms


Done !

Here is the finished painting, I had a lot of fun working on it. Thanks so much for reading! If you found this tutorial helpful or have any questions, please let me know by commenting below, contacting me via social media or emailing me. 

Have a deku-smooshing afternoon!

Find my art other places or keep in touch with me:

My Etsy Shop
My Facebook Fan Page
My Portfolio
My Tumblr
My Twitter: @graceparkman
My Youtube Channel

Glossary of Terms:
Color– Usually when I say color, I’m referring to the color of paint. 
Clean Brush – A brush with no paint on it.
Dabbing: Using a dry paper towel or other media to remove wet paint or water from the paper.
Dry– Paint that has already dried on the paper. Dry paint is harder to manipulate.
Fill– To completely “fill” a section of the painting with color. IE: a hat that is surrounded by a black outline, or a section I would like to shade that does not have an outline.
Fade– A gradient from one color to another: IE: Green to Light Green.
Wet- Paint that is still watery after being applied to the paper. Wet paint is easier to manipulate. 
Flow – Could also be called ‘bleed’. When two wet colors placed next to each other begin to ‘join together’. Can be used intentionally to gain interesting effects or can be really obnoxious when not intended.
Gouache– a kind of paint, like watercolor but able to be used completely opaque. 
Opacity/Opaque – How see-through something is, Opaque being not at all. 
Loose vs. Tight: How refined a detail  is in the painting. I usually use loose to refer to effects created by blending together multiple colors. 
Shape– Any distinct area in the painting, either surrounded by an outline or not. IE: A hand surrounded by an outline that I want to paint fleshtone into.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *