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How To Paint Portraits From Photographs

How To Paint Portraits From Photographs

One challenge in painting a portrait from a photograph is that there is no depth and yet you have to make it look as attractive as possible. But with watercolors, there are many techniques for you to achieve that. In this video, a portrait artist shows you how it is done.

I'm going to show you how to paint a watercolour portrait from a photograph. First of all, with a very neutral colour, I'm just going to use the brush to draw, knowing that however confident I am as a portrait artist, I'm probably going to revisit all this and change it, and because it's watercolour, I could easily do that. What I'm going to do is place the shapes of the face on the paper, almost as a drawing but because it's already in paint, it means that I can move it around and manipulate the colour a little bit.

I'm placing the eyes. Working from a photograph means that there's no depth in the photo. The image keeps still for you which is helpful but because there's no depth, you want to try and put some in.

All I'm doing is copying that shapes that I see and trying as always without, not to make anything, and I can see straight away I've made the chin too big so let's bring it down and up a little bit, across like that, and I'm going to incorporate that into the neck. The irises are right here and here. The forehead's quite high.

Just place the hair right the way down, okay, and I'm going to add a bit more of this neutral red. Now, I'm going to start with a little bit of a wash and then just use the edge of that line at the starting point to bring a little bit of colour into my portrait, just a tiny touch, a cadmium red and burnt sienna. The mix of the two is ideal for this particular base.

In my experience, most portraiture, most skin, most cultures, has a base of burnt sienna. It works very nicely. I've put a little bit of cadmium red and a touch there.

So, we're laying down our base coat loosely and quite wet. Those lines are showing through which is what I want and we'll come down to the neck as well, trying to remove that line with my stiff bristled brush which will lift it away because my friend would not like to have a double chin so let's just get that with a bit of colour under there, a bit of shadow, and then we come down at the edge of the image, right. Next, let's go back to the eyes, quite a lot of dark areas around the eyes so I'm using a semidry brush now, not too wet at all, and I'm using just a basic brown, it's a burnt amber on top of that burnt sienna.

It gives quite a deep tone, possibly a bit too deep so we can just remove a little bit, lift it away, and the same under here, under the fringe is quite dark and under the eye itself. Okay, if you got too much, just lift it off slightly. Let's put the eye colour in and this lady has got bluey gray eyes so I put blue in first, leave a little bit of light showing just to give it a bit of realism and as I said before, working from a photo is a little bit flat.

You haven't got the depth and you may not see the sparkle in the eye because you don't see it. With most parts of art, you would draw what you see but to do some of this portrait without that twinkle, it's a shame. So, you can always put a twinkle in once it would dry up.

Now, I'm emphasizing some of the shapes and I soften up where that's burnt underneath the rest of the flesh so there isn't a big line, emphasizing all these dark areas. I come around the nose a bit, round the cheek. That side of the mouth is quite dark if you look into it.

I'm softening up the edges where I've made an example, so just feathering it away with the brush, so lifting it a little bit and move that down to the dark area. Let's go back to those eyes to gray them off a little bit. Let's put a little bit on that top and around here.

Wait for it to dry and then I'm going to put the pupils in there. In the meantime, I can just darken up around the lids with a touch of eyeliner and mascara and of course, if you're painting from a photograph, you want to make your model to look as attractive as possible, so if they're wearing makeup in the photograph, put the makeup in the painting. Let's just go back to those lips while that's dry so deep Indian red lips.

The top lip is always darker i