Oil is a fantastic medium for painting portraits and because of it’s slow drying time oil makes it easy to blending colors with one another allowing you to paint incredible shadows just as they appear on the face of the subject.
And to help you to pick up the art of painting portraits in oil you’ll find a comprehensive and extremely easy to follow portrait oil painting tutorial below with a bunch of tips and tricks along the way that’ll have you painting stunning portraits in no time!
Choosing A Photograph
The very first thing that you’ll need to do is to select a photo to paint from. Whilst painting a live subject can work well it’s much more difficult than by using a photo. Photos have the advantages of not moving or changing positions and they don’t need any breaks like a live subjects do!
So choose a photo of your subject that has good lighting and that captures a facial expression that you want to paint.
Painting A Thin Layer
Start your portrait oil painting by using a medium to large brush to paint a thin layer of paint over the canvas that covers the whole picture plane. To thin out your paint a bit you can also mix it with turpentine or some other type of paint thinner.
For now ignore shadows and highlights for now and just paint the base colors of your subject. As you are doing this continuously compare what you have on the canvas to the colors that you see in the photo and adjust accordingly.
Building Up Your Layers
Once your thin layer is finished start to build up your layers more. And if you’re canvas becomes to wet to build up any more layers then leave it overnight to dry.
Once you’re layers are nice and built up start adding details to the painting using smaller sized paint brushes. For areas that require blending such as highlights and shadows dry brushes work particularly well. Also note that for shadows on flesh shades of brown work better than black or grey.
If you’re having trouble getting the features of the face to line up correctly then you can also map out the facial features using mapping lines which are lines that are drawn over the face both horizontally and vertically so that you can easily arrange the features to be symmetrical and look correct.
If you’re still having trouble to get the features symmetrical even after using mapping lines then turning the painting upside down is another good way to get everything in the right spot.
Get A Fresh Perspective
When you’re close to being done leave the painting out of sight somewhere to rest for a few days. When you come back you’ll have a totally fresh perspective on the painting and will usually be able to easily see where and how you can improve the painting.
Portrait Oil Painting Techniques Video
For more useful tips and tricks for successfully creating beautiful portaits using oil paints check out the video below.