Tutorial – How to Paint a Rhino

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Artwork-Zebra Zensations Technical Pen and QoR watercolor on a Hahnemühle Cold Pressed Watercolor Postcard. Brushes: Princeton Aqua Elite Travel Brush Set. Reference photo courtesy of Dannysee on Pixabay.

Yesterday, my hubby took a rhino in his lunch bag.

Doodlewash prompt: Safari

This painting is what is known as a ‘line and wash’ because it is drawn in pen first and then painted with watercolor.

Before You Start

Before I started, I studied the reference photo to decide what drew me to it. It has a high drama, being a study in contrast and values. In this case, contrast was the same – the sun and shadow (contrast) = dark versus light (values).

Contrast and value are almost always linked. However, values may be subtle, so contrast may also come from differences in shape, texture or color.

I decided that contrast – that drama – was what I most wanted to capture. I decided to up the drama by using orange/blue complementary colors.

Note for beginners: Complementary colors are colors that make each other vibrate when they are next to each other. They make a neutral or muddy color when mixed together. The main complementary colors are: Orange and Blue; Red and Green; Purple and Yellow.


(This scan is darkened so you can see the pencil lines. You should pencil lines in lightly)

Because of the rhino’s pose, the face and shoulder are pretty complex, so I used the grid method for my drawing.

Not sure if you’re up to drawing this? Art Tutor has a great grid program that will help by applying a grid to your uploaded photo. You can also crop and adjust color and value.


Mostly, I kept to drawing the outline and a few of the wrinkles. Because this was done on a postcard, I only suggested those wrinkles in a few places. The worked fine – this a painting with deep shadow. In real life, the wrinkles wouldn’t stand out.

I did do a little texturing along the folds of skin at shoulder and hip, but I didn’t ink in any values, which I usually do. I want all the value to come from the paint.


I was vacationing at the coast when I painted this and only had a few colors with me. They didn’t include orange or purple, so I mixed them up.

  • Purple Mix – Ultramarine Blue Violet, Quinacridone Violet in equal amounts and just a touch of Iridescent Gold (Fine).
  • Orange Mix – QoR Benzimidazolone Yellow and Cadmium Red Light.

The only other color I used was QoR Manganese Blue.

When I mixed up my orange, I didn’t mix the paint thoroughly. On one side, I kept more yellow and I started painting the areas of light with this yellower mix. While it was still wet, I dropped the redder mix into the light areas around the head and neck, and let the two blend.

Once the orange dried, I added a light wash of Manganese Blue to the rhino. I let that dry, and added a light wash of the purple mix everywhere except the horn, forehead and ears. Again I let it dry.

I mixed up some of the purple mix and the manganese blue to a creamy consistency and used this for the background and along the bottom of the rhino.

After it was all dried, I decided to add a little more penwork on rhino’s backside and between the shoulder and face to make the face stand out better.


And where you can buy them

Hahnemühle Cold Press Watercolor Postcards (review).

QoR Watercolor 11ml tube:

Zebra Zensations Technical pens (review)

Princeton Aqua Elite Travel Brush Set, Series 4850 Synthetic Kolinsky  (review)

Published by Life Imitates Doodles Art, Reviews & Tutorials

Artist Ambassador for Zebra Pens. I'm a self-taught artist who dances about with all sorts of artistic mediums. My main loves are Watercolor, Zentangle and Ballpoint pen. The subjects of my work are many and varied and change at whim. I'm a little bit crazy, but doesn't that come with being an artist? At my Life Imitates Doodles Blog, I post a list of resource links for Tangles, Tutorials and Giveaways two times a week. I also write reviews, hold giveaways and share my art work.

4 thoughts on “Tutorial – How to Paint a Rhino

  1. This is wonderful! I hope you get these postcards back to put in an album or something. My hubby would love for me to put art in his lunch bag. I might be able to get one to him a couple times a week but not everyday. What a lucky hubby you have. 😀

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