The Art Of Portrait Painting

Painting portraits is a skill that takes years to master. As well as the technical painting skills, which you need to paint portraits, the portrait painter needs to bring out the subjects personality. The main reason a person wants a portrait painted is to present a public image.

It is the job of the portrait painter to bring out this image on the canvass. A quick look of old portraits from the past show that the person getting the portrait painted (the sitter) wishes to be portrayed in a certain way. Many portraits show royalty or members of the old ruling class sat astride a horse attired in full battle dress. Obviously wishing to be shown as a warrior. Some wished to be shown as scholars and would sit surrounded by books.

A good portrait should show the sitter's deeper qualities that may not be on view in the sitter's day-to-day life. Whether these are good or bad. In the past, it was only royalty or the ruling class who could afford to get their portraits painted. Today anyone can get his or her portraits painted for a reasonable price.

There is no right or wrong way to paint a portrait. No secret way to produce a likeness of the sitter, this comes with experience and practice there is however, a few rules that a good portrait painter will work to to ensure their portraits reach a high standard.

The portrait is not usually started until a number of sketches of the sitter have been made. Preliminary sketches are crucial to helping the artist work out how to transfere the sitter's features onto canvass. This requires a close inspection of the sitter and this can be achieved by careful sketching of the sitter's features. Portrait painting is not an easy art but like everything else, it can be mastered with patience and practice.

There will parts of the sitter's features that are easy to paint and can be put onto canvass with broad easy strokes but there will also be difficult features of the sitter which require more precise and detailed work.

As a rule the subject should not cover more than two thirds of the canvas, it's important that the artist gets the size of the subject right. If the subject is painted too small, then there will be too much space to fill in and this could distract from the subject. The artist will usually ensure that the source of light will fall on the sitter's face in such a way to make the best use of shadow. Good use of light and shadow can give the impression of strength and solidity to the subject's face. Most portrait painters will focus on certain parts of the face that may be expressive, like the eyes or nose for example.

The background is important in portrait painting. The subject of the painting is the sitter not the background. So the background should be subdues bringing the sitter to the front. Avoid putting distracting things in the background so the eyes of the viewers will always be drawn to the subject of the portrait, and not to things in the background.

Paul is the owner of the online arts store
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Portrait Painting Tips & Techniques

Being able to capture the likeness of a human being on canvas, using paint, is certainly a sought after accomplishment for many new painters. It can also be somewhat challenging. This article will cover some of the more basic portrait painting tips & techniques and help lessen some of the confusion many beginners face. With practice, you will soon be painting portraits like the masters.

If at all possible, I highly recommend you paint your portraits using a live model as opposed to a photograph. There is simply no substitution for painting from life.

Painting a successful portrait is all about how you observe the subject. You want to study the subject as a whole. Study the bone structure and try to see shapes and planes. Do not try and paint every little detail exactly as you see it.

For beginners, it is probably best to start out with a lighting effect where light and shadow are in high contrast. This will make for a much easier painting.

Focus on one section at a time. Finish each section before moving on to the next.

Keep the darks of your portrait at a thin consistency while your lights should be painted on thickly.

Many beginners struggle with mixing flesh tones. I know I did when I first started painting. Remember that skin comes in a variety of colors & textures, so there is no specific formula for mixing flesh tones in portrait painting. You will have to experiment and practice, until you find the right color mixtures for any particular subject. Never purchase any pre-mixed flesh colors. When mixing your colors be careful not to over mix, which can deaden a color.

Try and repeat the colors and values in your painting to create balance.

When painting hair, don't try and paint every individual strand of hair. Look at the hair as one object and then paint the lights and darks. Paint the hair in the direction of the shape of the head.

The muzzle area of the face (the space between the nose and mouth) is generally the same color as the flesh but cooler.

When painting backgrounds, don't make them too detailed or busy. If you do, you will draw focus away from your portrait.

Add bits of color where the shadow meets the light in your portraits.

Fleshier parts of the face are generally warm and bonier parts of the face, like the chin for instance, are generally cool in color.

The white in the eye is not white. To get an accurate color for the white in the eye you can take the subjects basic flesh color and then lighten it with a gray made from black and white.

I hope these portrait painting tips & techniques have helped. Portrait painting can be difficult, possibly even frustrating in the beginning. Never give up and keep practicing. You will get the hang of it.

Ralph Serpe is Webmaster and Founder of Creative Spotlite. Visit today for more portrait painting techniques.
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Oil Portrait Painting

Earlier when photography was not invented, portrait paintings of oil colors and sketches were the mediums used by people to get the images of their loved ones made and conserved for future generations. In fact, oil painting portraits were very popular and greatly in demand in earlier times.

After the invention of photography, portrait paintings of oil colors became very costly and could be afforded only by the well off people. They became a status symbol for many. Many famous oil painting portraits flooded the markets, but they could be bought home only by very few. Photography introduced a new form of art to people. But it could not take the place of oil paintings in the heart of people.

The popularity of portrait paintings specially grew in the European countries. Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, painted in the 1500s, became the most famous and demanded oil painting portrait. Some of the most famous oil paintings were created in the European countries during the 18th and 19th centuries by famous artists like Rembrandt and Gainsborough. Some of these beautiful oil painting portraits are preserved in the National Portrait Museum in Washington.

The portrait painting of oil color, created ages before, tell stories of that time. Each portrait, whether they portray an individual, a group of people or anything else, are beautifully created by artists which take people to another world.

The popularity and demand for oil painting portraits are on a rise even today. People are very eager to get the portraits of their loved ones made. People also commission a portrait from their favorite photographs.

Portrait paintings have become the best decorative pieces for decorating homes and offices. With time these portraits have proven that they are a valuable asset and no other art form can ever take their place.

The authoress is a business writer and has done her masters in Arts. Visit at Portrayers to know more about Portrait and Commission Portrait.
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Portrait Painting Tips With Acrylics Or Watercolor

Painting portraits with acrylic or watercolor paint is easy, but does take patience and practice. Although every artist is different I generally use several thinned down layers of color to obtain the correct shadows and colors. In essence I guess my technique could be classified as watercolor portraits.

The first and in my opinion, the most important step in portrait painting is drawing the subjects features and head shape correctly. It does not matter how you master this, just get the features correct. One method is to use a grid. Place a grid over the photo then draw grid lines on the canvas and simply copy what you see onto the canvas square by square. You may even be talented enough to freehand the drawing. I will let you in on a secret, but you have to keep it to yourself. If you have the photo on your computer, just enlarge it, reverse or mirror image it, then trace with tracing paper. Now just put the tracing paper on the canvas and reproduce the exact image without knowing a thing about drawing!

Now create a skin color and block in the entire skin area. Using white, yellow, reds, and burnt sienna creates most skin color. Obviously adjust the amounts of each color depending on the actual colors and tones. The paint should be very thin like a watercolor. Use some of this color and add burnt sienna to paint in the outline of the eyes, nose and mouth. Make sure that you use a very fine, thin brush so that the lines will be thin.

Add some burnt sienna and crimson or other red to the skin color where you want the shadows to be. Study the photo or model and see where they are. Add more thin layers and blend them into the flesh color until the shadows are distinct.

Add details of the eyes, nostrils, lip color and eyebrows. Final details can be added by using pure white. Such details may be upon the eyelids, on the nose, upper lip or anyplace you want to look moist or where the light is catching it.

Painting portraits does take practice. Do not get disappointed if do it yourself portraits are not perfect. If you have a desire to paint people you will get it with enough practice.

Julie Shoemaker is an avid painter and hobbyist who regularly gives paintings as gifts to family and friends. To read more articles like the one here, and to see more free art tips, tricks and techniques and free step by step lessons Learn Painting Techniques or visit
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Acrylics Portrait Painting Tips

Painting, people, takes practice. Painting people or portraits in acrylics is done by painting in layers. While you are building these layers, you may be tempted to give up too soon. As long as the features are placed correctly, painting portraits in acrylic just takes layers and patience.

Getting the person's features correctly is the most important first step in portrait painting. I suggest using the grid methods to do this. In this example, you are painting from a photo or picture. Use a pencil and lightly draw a grid with equal squares on the painting surface. Use another grid and place over the photo. The grid you use over the photo will likely be a much smaller one. On your canvas, within each square draw the lines of what you see. If you want even more accuracy, you can draw smaller squares within squares. When your drawing is accurate, you can erase the grid lines.

Step number two is the foundation. The foundation involves using a thinned layer of paint for the person's skin tone. The consistence of this paint should be like watercolor. This is the under painting. Dilute the flesh colored paint with water and establish the entire skin area. You will add layer upon layer until you have built your shadows or highlights. The way that you do this is to reduce the amount of water that you add or just use the paint full strength. You should be able to see the pencil lines of the facial features.

Now, use a darker flesh color and paint in the facial feature lines. Think of this stage as painting in the lines like a coloring book. After you paint in the features of the eyes, eyebrows, nose, nostrils and mouth you can work on the final layers of the finished painting. It is the final layers of the painting that bring it to life.

Study your reference photo and notice where the shadows are. Layer by layer add the shadows. Because you are painting a portrait, don't be afraid to add red, and even blue to mimic flesh color. Add some highlights to make features appear to protrude. For example, notice on the nose, there is usually very bright highlights. To indicate the roundness of cheeks, chins and the center of the forehead, use a few layers of whitened flesh color to add these very important highlights. The last bit may be a touch of pure white.

The last thing to do in a portrait should be your final pure white highlights. Usually a person's lips are moist and have a touch of pure white. There is almost always a touch of pure white in a persons' eye where the light is reflecting.

Remember painting people takes practice. Painting people or portraits in acrylics is done by painting in layers. Don't get frustrated if your first few portraits aren't what you expected. You will more than likely need to practice and practice. Have fun and enjoy learning to paint.

Julie Shoemaker is an avid painter and hobbyist who regularly gives paintings as gifts to family and friends. To read more articles like the one here, and to see more free art tips, tricks and techniques and free step by step lessons Learn Painting Techniques or visit
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