Seven easy ways for beginners to improve their portrait paintings

It’s very tempting to set up your easel and canvas and get straight into your painting  just to see where it goes.However taking  a little time to think before starting a painting always pays off and avoids many pitfalls.

I suggest the following to my students:

1) Have a plan.It helps to work out on paper your whole composition before you start.Try putting things in and taking things out,changing angles and spaces until you have something that you feel is right.You could also use pastels to add colour at this point and work out a rudimentary colour plan.Sketch the plan out on your canvas using charcoal.See how it looks, you might see something at this stage that you would like to change.

2) Develop an underpainting. Paint in your sketch as an underpainting in perhaps either Burnt Sienna or Burnt Umber.Make sure you develop contrasts between the dark and light areas so that you can see how it is all going to work.Cover the whole canvas in paint leaving no white areas.

3) Make a colour plan. Make a note of any colour mixes that you like so that you can find them easily when you begin painting.You can do this by keeping a record of the colours you have chosen by putting a samples of chosen colours onto a piece of cut off canvas or canvas covered board.

4) Check your light.You want a consistent light source when painting. In my studio I use daylight lights to consistently simulate natural daylight.In this way working during the evening is never a problem.

5) Step back from your work regularly.Work at arms length from your painting for as long as you can - it really helps to get in the basic shapes and to see the areas of light and shade before getting down to any detail.

6) Take regular breaks from your painting.Working for hours without a break allows mistakes to occur  due to tiredness.

7) Be adventurous and be individual.Develop your own style and don’t be the artist who just paints head and shoulders all the time.Push the boundaries a little bit and develop your skills as a portrait painter by making sure you can paint anything a portrait might throw at you.Try adding an interesting background or a pet for instance.

If you would like to book a lesson in my studio please see my portrait painting classes page and get in touch.

Date Published:

January 17, 2022


Portrait Painting Tips

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