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  • Yufen Zha

Tutorial: Hopps, Anyone Can Be Anything - Feel Good Watercolor on Paper

Updated: May 10, 2021

"Hopps, Anyone Can Be Anything", watercolor on paper, 9" x 12"

Hello everyone! Spring is right around the corner and next weekend is Easter. I was in search of a baby animal themed painting for the LIVE paint along session and really was trying to shy away from painting a bunny. Don't get me wrong, I love bunnies but it's been done so many times. How could I do it differently? I didn't think I could.

Then my daughter reminded me of one of our family's favorite movies, Zootopia, and its main character Judy Hopps. Well, this project finalized in my mind almost immediately after my daughter finished her sentence and the execution was smooth sailing.

I have always loved Zootopia because of Judy Hopps' positive messages her character and the movie as a whole convey. Even though it is a kid's movie, it is also very entertaining for adults... at least I think so. The message not only applies to kids but it also applies quite well to adults... especially towards our artistic process. If you haven't seen the movie, check it out!

Below is the supply list for this painting. I’ve included a few affiliate links so you can find the products I love.


Supply List

1. To start, I drew the bunny in my sketchbook and lightly traced it onto my watercolor paper. If you don't know how to transfer a line drawing, please read my post here.

The line drawing for this painting is here for your reference.

I used Cascade Green, Quin Gold, and Undersea Green for the background. I did not take any progress pictures for painting the background as that has been demonstrated in my YouTube video here.

I have to say that the background in this painting is just as important as the subject itself, if not more so. To me, it's the intense background that symbolizes Judy Hopps' can-do and persevering personality. It is also this background that gives me the feeling of Judy jumping off the paper and trying to tell me that "you CAN do it"!

2. In most cases when I paint animals, I start out with the eyes (the last elephant project was an exception as the eye was very tiny and didn't play a large role in the overall painting). In general watercolor is known for "painting from light to dark" but since eyes are usually the star of the show in an animal painting, I like to start there. This way if some unrecoverable catastrophe happens, I can start over and not waste my time on the rest of the painting.

For the darkest part of Judy's eyes, I used Moonglow straight from the tube; leaving some white areas for catchlights. I then used a damp clean brush and moved some of the pigment to the lower part of the eyes.

Generally, when we think of eyes we think of a solid black circle, courtesy of the forever knowledge from our pre-school and kindergarten days, lol. Even though a black solid dot serves as an eye just right for a small kid, it does not give you that nice 3-D rounded feel. By pulling the pigment down from dark to light, you are giving the viewers that illusion of roundness. Combined with the white of the paper for the catch lights, your eye will look 3-D and glassy.

By the way, if you accidentally covered the whole eye with pigment and didn't leave any white of the paper, don't panic. You can add the white catchlights by using the white gouache paint. Although I find leaving the white of the paper generally gives a more organic look.

3. Ears on an animal usually do not get much attention but in the case of a bunny, they are probably the second most important feature. I lightly wet the inside of the ears and dropped in Quin Gold, Imperial Purple, Moonglow, and a smidge of Cascade Green, taking care not to mix the gold and the purple too much as that would dull the pigments. I also left some whites closer to the outside edge of the ear as that is the part of the ear exposed to light.

4. Next up is the outside of the ears. I opted to paint this with less saturation using Burnt Tiger's Eye and Moonglow so there is contrast between the inside and outside of the ears. Burnt Tiger's Eye is a very gentle color without a lot of tinting power. This is perfect for the application here as I didn't want to end up with totally brown bunny ears. I would definitely stay away from any heavy brown paints here.

5. The body of the bunny echoes the same colors as the rest of the painting: Moonglow, Burnt Tiger's Eye, and Cascade Green. This was painted wet on wet, with quite a bit of water. I tilted the paper with one hand and dropped the paint in, followed by clean water, then followed by paint again, all while letting the paint mingle on the paper and flow to the bottom. It's probably a good idea to have some paper towels underneath the painting to catch the drips as I have done here. Please watch the accompanying video for this as well as the next step as the video will make it a lot easier to understand this process.

6. Time to finish up the rest of the face. I used the same colors as the body and the same wet on wet technique. You can see in one of the pictures above that I tilted the paper with one hand and painted with the other so paint can flow. Please make sure you leave some whites of the mouth area as well as the outside of the cheeks. To give the cheeks that rounded 3D effect, use the same technique as what we did on the eyes: drag the pigment from the inside of the cheek to the outside so there is gradation in terms of color intensity.

7. Almost done! The last step is to add the eyelashes and whiskers. When using Moonglow straight from the tube, it can achieve that dark look almost like black. The white whiskers were painted using white gouache. Using a rigger brush is essential here to get those thin lines. Here is my completed Judy Hopps.

I hope the LIVE paint along session combined with these written steps as well as this accompanying video tutorial will inspire and help you to give this painting a go.

To see the work from fellow artists from this session or to share your work from these paint along sessions & tutorials, please follow my Facebook studio page "Yufen Zha Studio" and request to join our private group "Friends of Yufen Zha Studio".

Please remember to subscribe to this site so you won't miss any future tutorials.

Until next time, happy creating...


Holly Horton
Holly Horton
Mar 30, 2021

Which Sakura palette colors would correlate to the Daniel Moore‘s that you’ve posted? I’m getting ready to paint Judy from the tutorial!

Yufen Zha
Mar 31, 2021
Replying to

Hi Holly! I would use a yellow, a blue and two shades of purple. In the Sakura palette, I'd pick Permanent Yellow, Turquoise Blue, Quin Rose, and Purple. Hope this helps!


Beth Sakmar Foster
Beth Sakmar Foster
Mar 29, 2021

I am happy to have found your site and look forward to trying some of these beautiful projects!

Yufen Zha
Mar 29, 2021
Replying to

Thank you Beth and glad you enjoy the tutorials. Please share your work on Facebook group “Friends of Yufen Zha Studio”; we’d LOVE to see it!

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