Pentel Arts Takeover: Creating Self Portraits with Chris Koehler

Chris Koehler is a talented illustrator who has worked for NYT, Universal, Marvel, Penguin and many more. He is taking over our blog today to demonstrate four self portrait projects using Pentel Art products. 

This project is perfect for everyone. Whether this is your first attempt at illustrating or you're a seasoned artist, you'll thoroughly enjoy learning from Chris! 

First, watch the video below to see how easy it is to follow Chris's visual instructions he created for us. Then continue on to read the written step-by-step instructions for more details and tips. 

Visual Instructions:

Self Portrait #1

Materials needed:

  • Pencil 
  • Paper or canvas


  1. Draw your portrait in pencil, in a side profile, just like a cameo.
  2. Fill the Aquash with water. 
  3. Fill in the whole cameo part with water.
  4. Take the red color brush and squeeze it and drip ink into various parts of the portrait.

(you're going to see that the color just bleeds into the saturation)

  1. Take a sign pen micro brush and shake vigorously. It’s going to be dripping with ink. 
  2. Put the pen right into the drawing and it'll bleed out into the other colors 
  3. Squeeze the Black Pigment Micro Brush and put the dripping ink on the edge of the eyes, nose and top of head, to create some darkness and definition.
  4. Use the Aquash to put some more water onto the portrait. 
  5. Push the ink around a bit. Make it move.
  6. To  create some more interesting textures and shapes, you can blow on it or use the brush to push it around a bit.
  7. Clean up the edge by outlining the silhouette with the Sign Pen Micro Brush.

If you have a really tight edge, this will read as a silhouette and a portrait no matter how wild your colors are.

Self Portrait #2

Materials needed:


  1. Draw your face very lightly with a pencil.
  2. Take the Black Pigment Color Brush and put the ink on part of the hair, eyes, underside of nose, lips.
  3. Smudge ink on paper with fingers.
  4. You can add the paint directly onto your fingers and finger paint with it.
  5. Push the paint around with your fingers to really dig into the paper.
  6. When you're doing a self portrait, look for the key signifiers that define your face and your personality. (For me, I'm just going to stick a big nose right in the middle)
  7. You can also rub some of the ink off the brush pen and then use the side of the brush to really get a nice grit.

Self Portrait #3

Materials needed:


  1. Sketch out a coffee cup
  2. Add coffee crystals and not much water to the Aquash Water Brush pen
  3. Draw the coffee cup outline with the Aquash and push the coffee/water mixture around.
  4. Drip more of the coffee/water mixture “into” the coffee cup and push it around. It should  look darker than the outside of the coffee cup and look like coffee is in the cup.
  5. Build up the values from light to dark, adding more color to the side of the cup, bottom, rim and handle. 
  6. You can use Neo Sable brush with more of the coffee/water mixture to add more color.
  7. To get those dark values, you need to lay it on thick, using the sable brush or even a spoon, dripping straight onto the page. (Doesn't matter if it bleeds a little)
  8. Draw a face on the side of the coffee cup and a drip or two of coffee down the side.
  9. Add some shadows to the cup.
  10. Outline the coffee cup with a Pointliner.

Self Portrait #4

Materials needed:

  • Pencil


  1. Draw an outline of your face.
  2. Squeeze the Color Brush Pen so it is full of ink. 
  3. Blow through the bristles to splatter ink on the page.
  4. Use the Color Brush to outline the face and smear the splattered ink into the portrait.
  5. Fill the Aquash Water Brush pen with water.
  6. Use big brush strokes for definition and create drama with Aquash, making drips on the page. 
  7. Use the Aquash to move the paint around.
  8. Use a white paint marker and pull out the highlights on the forehead, chin and below the eyes, creating value, and defining edges.
  9. Use the black color brush and outline edges, to add more definition. 
  10. Use a fine white Presto pen to create details like lines through the hair, around the eyes and mouth.

We would love to see your own self portraits interpretations! Post your work using hashtag #supplyingcreativity on Instagram.  You can also enter the Pentel Arts challenge by tagging @pentelofamerica and using the hashtag #pentelchallenge for a chance to win a backpack FULL of goods! How cool is that?!

In case you missed our Pentel Arts What's New Wednesday yesterday...

Introducing the Pentel Arts Brush Sign Pen Pigment Pens!✍️

These pens are permanent, fade and water resistant! Not to mention the flexible tip allows for a variety of techniques including feathering, cross-hatching, outlining, calligraphy and detailed line work.
Available in three pigment colors. Preorder Now!




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