Refining the Portrait

The block-in is a relatively easy phase of the painting process that quickly sets the tone for the painting. Most of the work is just beginning. The finish takes those early building blocks and refines them.

Most of the painting is going to be done with Impasto brushes. You can find all the brushes used in the painting in the Chapter 1 brush library.

There are a few things you should be aware of as you paint using Impasto brushes:

• You can turn the Impasto effect on and off to view the painting without the 3D effect. Sometimes this is valuable when you're working on small details in the painting. To temporarily turn off the Impasto Effect, just click on the Toggle Impasto Effect button. It is the small blue star in the upper-right corner of the document window. Then click the star again to turn the Impasto Effect back on. The appearance of the shape will either look flat if the Impasto Effect is off or look 3D if the Impasto Effect is on (Figure 1.20).

Figure Impasto
Figure 1.20 The Toggle Impasto Effect icon to turn the Impasto Effect on and off

When you move the painting around in the document window, you may feel a bit of lag as the image redraws. When zooming in and out, you may also experience some redraw problems with areas of the image that did not zoom in or out correctly (Figure 1.21). If you find this a nuisance, click the Toggle Impasto Effect button temporarily off. The redraw issues are caused by the computer processor trying to keep up drawing the effect as you move the image around in real time; sometimes it just can't keep up.

You might want to turn off the impasto effect while you paint. Areas of fine detail are often easier to paint if Impasto is temporarily turned off. At times, too much impasto is visible, and it distracts from the painting. Should this be the case, you can use the brush called Depth Equalizer to remove some of the impasto depth. This is a default Painter X brush and found in the Impasto category. Use it carefully, or you can remove too much too quickly. Included in the Chapter1 brushes is my own variant of the brush that I think is a bit easier to use.

Figure 1.21 A strange redraw problem when zooming the image with Impasto turned on

There is no correct way to approach the painting process from this point on; you may have a method that works better for your particular style. My usual process is to work from the dark to the light. I also move around the image working on different areas as I finish the painting. If you're following along, let's continue.

1. Select the Dons Oil 3 brush. This is a fine-bristled brush that was made to work on smaller areas with only a bit of the Impasto effect visible. It is the perfect brush to paint the face of the portrait. Leave the brush at the default settings to begin.

2. Paint and refine the features in the face. Place the brushstrokes across the forms in the face to give a sense of roundness. The direction of the brushstrokes is clearly

visible in Figure 1.22. You need to pick some colors from the Colors palette, and others you can sample using the Dropper tool from different areas in the painting. Some dark reds from the dress are placed in the deep shadow areas of the face and hair. Bright oranges are placed under the chin. Background greens and golds are used in the shadow areas of the face and hair. The most obvious green is on the shadow side of the chin and cheek.

Using a lighter pressure with this brush gives you a smaller stroke, enabling you to paint smaller areas and details. Loosely paint the features in the face without changing the brush size.

Paint the detail in her hair. The strokes used to paint her hair follow the flow of her hair.

Switch to Dons Opaque Oil 2 brush. This brush is similar to the brush you just used, with a few modifications. The most important difference is that the number of bristles is larger, giving a smoother and thicker stroke. Brushes that have many bristles are quite processor intensive, so you should take care when using them at large sizes. Too large of a brush, and a significant lag will accompany the stroke.

Paint the hair, and begin to paint the background using the brush. All colors are sampled from the image at this point. This brush is covering the canvas texture created in the block-in stage. That's okay since traditional oil paint often does cover the texture of the canvas it is painted on. The goal is to begin to produce strokes that have the thick, wet feel of real oil paint. There is also some subtle impasto starting to show in the hair (Figure 1.22).

Portrait Painting Thick Strokes
Figure 1.22 Early details are painted into the face using Don's Oil brush. You can also see the thick and wet quality of the strokes painted in the hair.

7. Switch brushes again and pick Dons Oils. This is a large brush made for painting large and rough strokes into the background of an image. The Impasto setting of this brush makes the strokes look 3D and gives a nice thick-paint feel to the areas where it is used.

Now the fun begins. Using colors selected from the background, paint some bold strokes back into the background. Use short and choppy strokes to start. This brush will cover most of the canvas texture from earlier steps, but do not paint into the corners of the image where the light areas of the canvas are still visible. Some of the canvas texture needs to be visible in the corners for later in the process. Notice that the harder the pressure is on the stylus, the more pronounced the impasto. Enjoy experimenting with the brush. There is no right or wrong way to paint in the background. The result is to create the look and feel of paint built up on the canvas (Figure 1.23).

Toning The Canvas For Portrait Painting
Figure 1.23 Dons Oils brush can be used to create thickly textured areas in a painting.

8. Pick the brush Dons Oils 2. This brush is similar to Dons Oils except that it is better for longer and more decorative strokes.

Paint into the background areas that border the fabric of the dress. Using longer strokes and varying the direction, begin to build up areas that look very much like thick paint. Varying amounts of pressure affect the depth and size of the stroke.

Move on to the dress and, using the Dropper to pick the color, start with the darker areas of the fabric and paint some nice thick strokes. I generally paint across the form of the dress just as in the face to add dimension to the folds (Figure 1.24).

A few of the original sketch strokes are still visible in the hands and hair, but most have been covered by this time. The rest will be covered shortly.

Hair Oil Backgrounds

Figure 1.24 Using Dons Oil 2 to paint in the background and move into the dress of the figure

Figure 1.24 Using Dons Oil 2 to paint in the background and move into the dress of the figure

9. Using the same brush, add long strokes of color to the hair. Take care to make sure that the strokes of the brush conform to the direction that the hair flows. The impasto of the stroke helps the illusion of painted hair (Figure 1.25).

Much of the work in the next few images is just a matter of moving around the image, switching brushes, and continuing to refine the painting. If there is any step that is unusual, I will describe the technique. Otherwise, the only changes to the brushes will be increasing their size up or down. Follow along so you can see how the work is done, but for the time being, there are no shortcuts or special techniques other than just painting.

Impasto Painting Technique

Figure 1.25 Large impasto strokes are painted in the hair using Dons Oils 2.

10. Moving back to paint on the face, switch brushes to Dons Opaque Oil 2. This brush has more small bristles and is just the thing for more delicate work. Continue to build the colors of the face carefully, trying to get a bit more finish. The strokes of the brush are still being built up across the forms as they start to blend together visually. There is no blending going on other than that which happens as the brushstrokes overlap.

It is never good to complete one area of a painting and then move on to the next. It is better to move constantly around trying to bring the whole image to completion at the same time. If you paint one area at a time, there is a good chance that the painting as a whole will not work well visually. The color might be spotty, or the values may be off. There are any number of small problems that arise when focusing on small areas. In the end, you will find yourself moving around and trying to make fixes and adjustments. Too narrow a focus is particularly hard in digital painting, where you are able to zoom into one particular area for work without seeing the rest of the painting.

11. Use the same brush that you used to paint the face—Dons Opaque 2—to paint the hands. Because the hands are not the center of interest, more impasto is built up as they are painted. Impasto can become distracting, so it's best to keep it to a minimum in the face and use it with more abandon everywhere else.

Also, paint some of the background around the hands. Paint the tips of the fingernails using a light background color. Then add some bright and slightly magenta color to the fabric by the hands. This is the lightest red color that will be used in the dress; going much lighter could push the color toward pink (Figure 1.26).

Figure 1.26 Painting on the hands, background, and fabric

12. Overall, the painting is coming along nicely. Continue to do more work on the face, dress, and background. Add a hairclip on the top of her head. Figure 1.27 shows the entire painting at this point.

Figure 1.27 The complete painting after work on the face, dress, and background

The painting is finished enough that we can add some of the smaller details.

Adding detail is always a bit tricky. Too much, and the painting will look overworked.

Too few, and a painting can look unfinished.

13. Move back to the hair and pick the Dons Oil 3 brush. Because this brush will paint with smaller bristles when using less pressure on the stylus, not much resizing is necessary. Paint in some smaller strands of hair in both the shadow and light side of the hair. Use the Dropper to select the right colors. Be careful not to overdo the number of small strands of hair that are painted. Too many, and the effect will be artificial. Figure 1.28 shows the smaller strands of hair painted into the larger hair masses.

Best Figure And Portrait Painters
Figure 1.28 Smaller strands of hair painted into the larger hair masses using the Dons Oil 3 Brush

14. Finish the hand. There is not nearly as much detail put into the hand as the face. Paint colors from the dress into the fingers and into the shadow areas. The addition of the red color warms the hand and harmonizes with the dress. Hands are quite red naturally, so the addition of the red lends reality to the painting (Figure 1.29).

15. The figure is nearly finished. Add a few small details, such as small strands of hair falling over the forehead (Figure 1.30).

Figure 1.29 Finishing the painting of the hands

Figure 1.30 The figure is generally finished, with a few small details added, like the hair over the forehead.

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  • harry waltari
    How to paint black hair portraits?
    8 years ago
  • Camryn
    How to paint faces in oil?
    7 years ago

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