Portrait Painting and Drawing: How to Paint Portraits

Portrait Painting and Drawing How to Paint Portraits

American revolution made people realize that great leaders and personalities should be recorded. Earlier people used to make portrait painting which was used to capture the rich and powerful. But in the due course of time, around mid 18th century, it was not just limited to the higher class. The basic notion of portrait paintings is to depict a human, a pet, an animal or their group thereof.

Portrait paintings appeal to people because their paintings have the ability to speak. They try to convey the subject’s personality through their paintings. That is why portrait paintings are very compelling. A good portrait pantings just does not give us a visual characterization of a person, but sometimes it gives us the intrinsic nature of that person. We cannot fully judge a person just by looking at their painting but if we look close enough, there will be a hint of the key features in their portrait paintings.

A strong artist captivates the spectator, absorbs them into the painting and catches their attention. This causes the viewer to wonder about the person in the painting in no time. The key feature to look for in portrait painting to guess about the person are:

  1. Pose
  2. Clothing
  3. Expressions
  4. Objects
  5. Surroundings
  1. Realistic or impressionistic: The portrait painting can either be real or it can be used to show certain expressions.
  2. Normal skin color or unconventional color scheme: Using different color schemes help to show emotions more clearly.
  3. Detailed or Rough strokes: Adding details to the painting can used to give an essence of the subject but rough strokes can express a lot more.
  4. Face or Objects: Just a face depicts that the entire concentration is to be on the face but when objects are included, it is interesting.

There are three main views of the portraits:

  1. Profile view: It can also be called as the side view. It strictly shows the side of the face.
  2. Full face view: It covers the full face. To get a full face view, your subject should be facing directly towards you.
  3. Three quarter view: It is the view between the profile and the full face, mostly showing the ear.
  1. The initial task is to choose the materials. There are wide range of products that are used in portrait paintings, to name a few: canvas, paints, palette, various types of brushes etc.
  2. Sketch or trace the image of the subject.
  3. Lay the colours you need in your palette.
  4. Here the advice is to start colouring the eye first, then laying down the skin midtone and covering the rest with shadow or highlights.
  5. Add definition and detailing.
  6. Lastly, paint the background.

Following I have written some do’s and don’ts which is advisable to follow when a portrait is being painted.


  • The hairline should be kept soft by blurring it into the background.
  • Color the eyes first.
  • Lay a mid tone and then darken as and when required.
  • Keep the detailing for the end.


  • If the subject wears glasses, don’t try to perfect them.
  • Avoid blending much.
  • Try to avoid painting individual teeth,smooth the contrast.
  • Avoid keeping your palette full, you might need to mix certain colors.

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