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Best portrait painting tips and ideas

Leah Spencer

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Painting a portrait is one of the most testing aspects for an artist. It may be similar to drawing inanimate objects, trees or flowers wherethe principle of proportions, principle of light, shadows and intensity remain the same. However, the incorrect proportions and lightings are more noticeable and can destroy your piece art. With a lot of practice, you can master the art of painting portraits in no time. Here are a few tips that can help you.

Charcoal study

It is always wise to paint your portrait in charcoal before moving on to painting in colour. A preliminary charcoal study will allow you to correct malfunctions in your portrait – from proportions to compositions to likeness of the portrait with the real person or animal.


How often has the hair in your portrait looked odd spoiling the whole painting? Painting hair can be a little tricky. Make sure the edges of hair where it meets the background are softer. When you are applying hair highlights, you must make them darker than you think. This will make the hair look more real.


Shadows are an important aspect of a portrait. There are typically two types of shadows- cast and form. While cast shadows are typically darker, form shadows are less intense as light tends to bounce making them lighter. Remember you need to use form shadows on those areas where your object of portrait is does not directly face the light source. On the other hand, cast shadow occur when your nose or chin prevent the light from falling on your philtrim or neck.

Intensity of colour

Just like your photo, light affects the intensity of colour in the portrait. Make lips, part of your forehead and cheek, with bright colour intensity and the halftone areas of these parts will be the brightest. Shadow areas, on the other hand, will be neutral or painted in washed out colours. Following this rule will make your portrait more realistic.


Some parts of your portrait will require warm tones, while others may need cool tones. Nose, ears, lips, fingers should be painted in warm colours. You generally add more red to these areas. Paint your forehead, jaw, neck and philtrimin cooler tones.

Colour harmony

Bringing colour harmony in your painting is not as tough as you think it is. One of the easiest tricks to ensure your painting does not overwhelm is by choosing as few colours as possible.


If you have noticed closely, artists usually give extra importance to the up-plane of the bottom eye lid. Curving out your eyelids around your eyeballs will make them more realistic. To make your portrait realistic and pleasant, never highlight both eyes in an identical manner. When one eye is highlighted stronger than the other, your portrait will look accurate.


Proportions play a very important aspect of your portrait. The right proportionhelp match the portrait with the real person. Similarly, head tilt and shoulder rotations should be taken seriously into consideration while painting a portrait.

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