Macbeth Painting Process

Let’s take a look at the process for my Macbeth painting.


Last year I had to paint a poster for a play or a musical (some type of theatre). My limitations were that I had to use only 4 colors, with the addition of black and white. I chose to paint a poster for the play¬†Macbeth. I thought that I’d give painting with gouache another chance since I had pretty much abandoned it since my color theory class a few years ago.

The four colors I used were Flame Red (Holbein), Permanent Yellow Deep (Holbein), Iris (Holbein), and Primary Blue (Winsor & Newton). In addition to those four colors I was allowed to use white and black. I used Permanent White (Winsor & Newton) and Jet Black (Winsor & Newton).

You can see the thumbnail sketches I did below:



I then picked out my nine favorite thumbnail sketches and drew slightly larger refined thumbnails of those nine sketches. The nine refined thumbnails can be seen below:
Refined Thumbnails

I decided that I liked the bottom right corner thumbnail the most. I gathered some reference photos of Macbeth characters from on the internet.

I found a Sketchup model of a person and set up lighting to find the direction of the cast shadow. I’d like to use Sketchup more in the future.
Sketchup Reference

It was time to do the pencil drawing, which once completed, I projected onto illustration board and refined the drawing even further.
Macbeth Pencils

After the pencilled image was drawn I needed to decide what colors to use for the painting. I printed two reduced 3″ x 4″ images of my pencilled drawing and taped them to some cardboard with painters tape. Below are the two color studies I did:

Color Study Color Study

After the color studies were finished I proceeded with the painting.

Pencils on Board

Red Background

Purple Shadow

The trickiest part of the painting (besides maintaining a consistent¬†viscosity of paint) was painting Macbeth’s flesh without mixing the colors together. Although I could use four colors plus black and white, I could not mixed the colors together (except with black and white). For example, I could not mix red and yellow together to make a nice orangey flesh color. I had to use red plus white and/or black, yellow plus white and/or black, without overlapping.

Painting the Clothing


Clothing Detail Process

Almost Done

After the painting was completed I scanned it into the computer for the usual color correcting and removal of dust from the scanned images. My teacher recommended that I make the shadow a little lighter and I thought the painting looked better that way as well. I lightened the shadow a little bit and then I added the text.


If you don’t know the story of Macbeth, I highly recommend reading it. It’s a great story and although I read it years ago, it still resonates in my mind.

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