Painting a Realistic Portrait | 01 |Getting Started

Painting a Realistic Portrait | 01 |Getting Started 2 clip image00112

[full_width_section bg_pos=”Left Top” bg_repeat=”No-Repeat” text_color=”Dark” top_padding=”50″ background_color=”#ffffff”][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]how to paint portraits in photoshop final sketch

Here’s a look at the final drawing that you’ll be left with at the end of this lesson on how to paint portraits in Photoshop.

painting portraits digital art cropping

Cropping the Reference Image

To start off our tutorial on how to paint portraits in Photoshop, you should look at the reference picture that you’re going to be painting from and see if it will need to be cropped or repositioned in any way.

This first step is critical and worth spending some time to consider how you would like your finished piece to look. Think about how much negative space you would like to include around your character and also remember the rule of thirds so that your painting will have a pleasing balance to it.

The rule of thirds if you are not familiar with it dictates that the center of interest of your painting should not be directly in the middle of the frame, but should rather be pushed off to the side slightly so that the center of interest is approximately 1/3 from the edge of the picture. This rule applies to photography as well as the traditional arts.

When this reference photo was originally cropped, some additional space was added to the bottom and the left side of the image. When learning how to paint portraits in Photoshop, you’ll want to work quickly and fill in those areas that do not have color so that you can get the basic values that you will be using in your painting.

The background has also been made more abstract and is something that can be looked at later on in the painting process. To get the correct values for painting in this blank area the eye dropper tool is used to select the color from the actual photo and then rough brushstrokes are used to paint over the expanded area.

Changing the Reference to Black and White

To start off the reference photo has been turned to black and white so that we can focus on the light and dark values without having to worry about color at this point. Just like using one single brush, focusing on the values first allows you to greatly simplify the process and concentrate on one thing at a time.

The next thing to do is to create a new document of the same size and fill it with the middle gray value. Using a middle gray value will allow you to not become overwhelmed by the white of the canvas.

painting realistic portraits tonal values


paint portraits digital art dark color values

How to Paint Portraits in Photoshop: Starting to Paint

Start off by defining the major shapes that you see. Use the edge of the canvas to judge how thick or thin the shapes should be.

For example, take note of how much negative space is between the back of the neck and the edge of the canvas, and then compare that with to the thickness of the neck. Observe your reference closely, but don’t be afraid to make some mistakes along the way.

After you’ve established the basic shape of the head the next thing you want to do is add the eye line.

After the eye line you can then draw in the ear which is an important landmark because it will give you the position of the nose as well as allow you to connect the jaw to the neck. At this point in the drawing you are just looking to establish the major shapes and features of the face.

In addition to that you also want to start defining the areas of shadow. One of the ways that you can more easily see the shadows is to squint your eyes so that the photo image becomes blurry and the larger shapes become more apparent.

As your drawing continues to evolve you can then switch to a slightly smaller brush and start to draw in with a darker line some of the major features of the face.

paint a portrait in photoshop final sketch


how to paint a portrait blocking in

And that’s it for this tutorial on how to paint portraits in Photoshop!

The last thing to take care of in this step is to grab a larger brush and block in some value for the background.


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