King Henry VIII Historical Infographic

King Henry VIII Historical Infographic

King Henry VIII is best known for seeing off a few of his wives and for the English Reformation. You can see some highlights of his reign in this infographic (scroll to the bottom of the page for a larger version). A high quality poster of the infographic is also available: Henry VIII Poster.

Historical Infographic


The main painting was created using acrylics on watercolour paper. This blog post follows the painting steps.

My main reference was the famous painting, below, of King Henry, after Hans Holbein the Younger, in which the king is seen with a pair of gloves in his right hand and a small sword hanging from his waist belt. His attire is opulent, his stance that of one secure in his manliness and virility.

King Henry VIII
King Henry VIII, after Holbein

Codpieces in 16th Century Europe – not a topic I feel the need to write a thesis on but I’ve seen that picture a million times and not until I started this painting did I notice that thing jutting out the middle (Henry! You’re supposed to be secure in your virility!!).

It turns out the codpiece was a major part of men’s dress in the 15th and 16th century. They were designed to emphasise the genital area so I imagine thrusting out in that manner was probably thought quite attractive.


Painting King Henry the 8th

I started with a very rough pencil sketch transferred onto a 9×12 inch sheet of Arches Cold Press watercolour paper as seen in the image below. The style was to be somewhat of a caricature, a large head, with sightly exaggerated facial features, on a miniature body.

A Rough Sketch
Step1: Rough Pencil Sketch


I hadn’t wanted to copy the Holbein pose completely, I don’t actually like its full face frontal view, it makes the face look flat. A three-quarter view gives more depth and can be much more interesting. So I went looking for a few more references for Henry’s face.

Other Portraits of King Henry
Other Portraits of King Henry


The next stage was just to get some colour on the paper, make a basic underpainting. I used a mix of phthalo blue and alizarin crimson to get a nice range of deep purples, reds and lighter blues.

Phthalo Blue and Crimson
Phthalo Blue & Alizarin Crimson for the Underpainting
Step 2: Underpainting
Step 2: Underpainting


Then onto the first few layers of colour. You can see below how I’ve laid in the base for the skin, tunic, cloak and the accessories.

Henry VIII Step 3
Henry VIII – Step 3


The painting is going to be completed over a number of sessions so I use my homemade stay wet palette to keep the paint soft and workable. Colours laid out are white, crimson, cadmium yellow, phthalo blue, ultramarine blue, burnt sienna and yellow ochre.

Paint Palette
Paints & Palette


I continue adding more details, more modelling of the cloak and tunic, the golden embroidery on the cloak and hat, and I also begin on his medallion. Unfortunately I didn’t take a shot of the brush I was using but yes, it was quite a small one!

At this stage it’s clear I’m going to have to do something about his head and face. I want a rounder head and the eyes are currently too close together.

Henry VIII - Step 4
Henry VIII – Step 4 – More Facial Work Needed
Step 5 - Work on the Face
Step 5 – Henry’s Looking Rather Dashing!


In the second image above I’ve widened the eye spacing and increased the size of his head but I feel the head needs to be bigger still, I want to give more of an impression of the portly man that he was.

So I make his head even rounder and add more fat to his face. I also make his facial hair more red. Like his daughter Elizabeth the First, Henry was a red head. And the reddish tinge really does fit the colour scheme better.

Step 6 - King Henry VIII - Final Paints
Step 6 – King Henry VIII – Final Painting


This is as far as I take it with the traditional painting. The painting is scanned and imported into the digital editing program Krita where I tidy up some details, finish off the background and include the text and information for the infographic.


Henry 8th Infographic

Henry VIII Historical Infographic
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