closeup oil painting how to paint and draw

How to paint portraits – Free Tips and Tricks for How to paint

Learning to paint portraits is awesome! There are many different ways to paint portraits and no wrong way. It’s art so it’s your interpretation of a person, dog or other pet. Although there are no definitive rules many would say there are some good guidelines you should consider before trying to paint a portrait.

closeup oil painting how to paint and draw

Here is what i have learned from a few years of focusing on How to paint Portraits

– Things that should be considered when you decide to paint a portrait –

  • Subject
  • Style
  • Likeness
  • Proportion
  • Medium and what type of paints you like to use
  • What is the best type of canvas or panel for painting portraitshow to paint portraits

If you are anything like me you enjoy painting faces, they look at you and you can connect with them.  For years i have tried to paint and draw portraits but it is difficult to get it right. Proportion is always a killer when it comes to this style of art.  I have learned over the years that it takes lots of practice but once you get a system in place it is easier than it seems.Wednesday Addams how to Oil Painting

A few notes before we dig deeper

  • 1. Don’t beat your self up!

– Let yourself just paint and stop criticizing EVERY little mistake!  We are all in this art journey together and you just have to trust yourself. It doesn’t have to look perfect every time!
As the famous BOB Ross used to say

  • “We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents.” …
  • “Talent is a pursued interest. …
  • “I guess I’m a little weird. …
  • “Let’s get crazy.”

Although every time i watch him, he always puts me to sleep after some time. Bob Ross was a very wise man.  and a famous painter, not just because he was good at it and had his own show but because he used a system and it worked for him. When he would make a mistake he would let it be a part of the process and never beat himself up!

elle fanning portrait how to paint

  • 2. Don’t worry about what others think. (This tip on painting is also related to the previous point.)

In life some people are obsessed with what others think. I would say this is something that we all subconsciously do.  Not worrying so much about what others think about you or your work is something that we all have to face. Whether you want to sell your work, be in galleries, impress a likeness on a canvas ect. It takes a strong mindset to just be confident enough to paint what you like and not think about what others will think of it. Here is another quote by the famous artist, Andy Warhol.

“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”

and then another favorite Warhol Quote –

“Don’t pay any attention to what they write about you. Just measure it in inches.”

These quotes both illustrate the importance of my point. Don’t worry about what others think about your art, just create and be happy.  The art you create will make some people happy, move them, speak to them ect. But the important thing is that it gives you joy and fulfills your creative nature.

Okay I know what your thinking… Great thanks for the motivation now lets get started!!


here is the system I use and you can use it too.

  1. Print out reference photos in saturated colors and saturated grey-scale
  2. Pre-mix colors and  setup your pallete
  3. Choose your canvas or panel
  4. Create a sketch based on contours and shapes
  5. Start with the eyes
  6. Block in the shadows
  7. paint in the highlights
  8. squint every once in a while
  9. wipe brushes between strokes
  10. clean brush before major color changes painted with same brush
  11. check your reference papers often
  12. listen to something that motivates you but is calm
  13. take your time and don’t rush it

These are the steps I use to create on How to paint a portrait and you can do this too. I have had great success in my learning by using these steps. I have been using oil paint mostly on canvas because the dry time gives you lots of flexibility and I LOVE the way impasto portraits look.

I will follow up this post in more detail soon but for now you have some of the basic tools and tips I use on How to Paint Portraits.




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