How to Paint Nine Ladies Dancing in 4 Steps

nine ladies dancing in watercolor

We’re up to day number nine in this painting series. Today’s prompt is “nine ladies dancing”.

In the 12 days of Christmas rhyme, it’s said that the religious meaning of this verse is the fruits of the Holy Spirit as described in Galatians. This includes virtues such as love, kindness, joy and goodness… And Christmastime is a good moment to reflect on these worthy qualities. 

But could this part of the song also be inspired by the secular theme of merrimaking and feasting? Some have suggested that the nine ladies are actually another type of bird (yes… more food for the banquet table!). 

For example, cranes perform dancing during courtship rituals. Cranes and cormorants were a well appreciated game bird in the middle ages. They were hunted and served at the diner table. 

Not something you find at the grocery store these days…

If you have stumbled across this challenge in the middle, you might want to check out the beginning of this challenge here

Step by step painting of nine ladies dancing

You can download the worksheet for this lesson here:

Try this painting for yourself ! Click the button below to download the worksheet for this painting.

And the paint colors I used were these:

If you’d like to receive daily email reminders for this painting challenge (starting with day #1), you can sign up below:

Finally, I’ve created a special category for these tutorials which you can view here. This will provide an overview of the whole challenge.

nine ladies dancing 4 step painting process

Step 1

Print out the worksheet. Then Trace the outline of the dancing ladies onto a sheet of paper. 

Step 2

Begin by painting the skin with a flat wash of color. Skin tones can be tricky to mix. Think of them as slightly neutral reds, oranges, and browns. 

If you want help mixing skin tones I have a complete article on the subject here…

I varied the colors of the skin tones from one dancer to another, painting the shapes with a flat, uniform wash. Try mixing variations of reds, yellows and browns to achieve your skin colors. And make the mixtures highly diluted (high water-to-paint ratio)

Paint the big letters for the “NINE” in gray.

Step 3

Leave the first wash to dry completely then start adding color to the lady’s dresses. 

I did this using a variegated wash, with a transition of color from pink to purple (quinacridone rose and french ultramarine make a lovely bright purple appearance).

Use plenty of paint on your brush so you keep the shapes damp during the painting process. Like this, the colors will diffuse as you vary the color on your brush.

When you’re finished with the dresses, use a very small round brush to add the delicate dancing shoes on the lady’s feet.

Step 4

Paint the hair with a warm reddish-brown color. Then add another glaze of skin colored paint to the legs. Identify the back leg of each dancer and paint a new layer of watercolor over this shape. Then add a shadow shape at the top of the other leg, simulating the cast shadow from the dress.

You can also add a touch of shadow under the lady’s chins.

Add shadows to the big “NINE” word and add the text underneath.


Will you be dancing this Christmas?

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