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Tips & Tricks Portrait Painting


On this page I will try to answer all kinds of questions about portrait painting. As I started this blog in february 2012 I am still working to complete this FAQ page. If you have a serious question please post it. Maybe I will add it on this page.

 

a-portrait

Four ways to begin a portrait

 

 

 

How do I create a painter´s studio?

 

 

 

How do I light a painter´s studio?

 

 

 

How do I stretch & prepare the canvas?

 

 

 

Why use coloured pencil for the underdrawing?

 

 

 

Why use acrylics for the underpainting?

 

 

 

What colours do I use?

 

 

 

What paint, medium and brushes ?

 

 

 

What adjustments to the easel and my palette can I make?

 

 

 

Do I use black on my palette?

 

 

 

Why shadows are painted as transparent and the lights opaque?

 

 

 

What is chiaroscuro?

 

 

 

What are cool and warm colors?

 

 

 

How to make a good reproduction of a glossy painting?

Comment Section

75 thoughts on “Tips & Tricks Portrait Painting


By TEP on 9 June 2016

In your professional opinion, are oils better for portrait painting than acrylic? If so, why?


By Ben Lustenhouwer on 10 June 2016

There is no professional opinion about what is better. It is different. That is all.


By Nan on 8 January 2016

I am learning to paint portraits, and oddly enough the background is the hardest to deal with. If a person has a fair, but tan completion, should I use a cool background? And if a person has a dark complexion, should the background be warm? That's what I'm guessing, but I'm not sure. Also what would determine how busy the background should be.


By Ben Lustenhouwer on 11 January 2016

I dont pay so much attention to the relation skin - background. I base my background on what is to be seen around the head. Usually it turns out to be warm. I dont like so much details around as they distract from the model. I neglect them or make them very blurred. The focus point must be the head, not the background.


By Suraj Ravandur on 20 January 2015

Hey Ben! I have been painting a portrait... I wanted ur suggestions regarding adding detait to d painting and blending the skin tones to make them look as realistic as possible.awaiting ur reply


By ben on 20 January 2015

Unfortunately I can not to give everyone advice. There are too many questions of too many people. Hope you understand.


By shruti on 25 June 2016

u have to try urself out


By Suraj Ravandur on 20 January 2015

Hey Ben! I have been painting a portrait... I wanted ur suggestions regarding adding detait to d painting and blending the skin tones to make them look as realistic as possible.awaiting ur reply


By ben on 20 January 2015

Unfortunately I can not to give everyone advice. There are too many questions of too many people. Hope you understand.


By Harsh Bhavsar on 19 October 2014

Thanks a lot sir
Please give some tips skin color
I want to make same tone of skin


By Harsh Bhavsar on 19 October 2014

Thanks a lot sir
Please give some tips skin color
I want to make same tone of skin


By Harsh Bhavsar on 19 October 2014

Hi Ben I have been following your work from long time I want see a simple but fantastic painting which I can practice on canvas. As I can't waste any canvas due problem of funds. Please suggest me a painting or paint something new like that. Please sir


By ben on 19 October 2014

Just start with a simple picture of someone you know. And if you don´t want to spoil canvas start with board to study.


By Harsh Bhavsar on 19 October 2014

Hi Ben I have been following your work from long time I want see a simple but fantastic painting which I can practice on canvas. As I can't waste any canvas due problem of funds. Please suggest me a painting or paint something new like that. Please sir


By ben on 19 October 2014

Just start with a simple picture of someone you know. And if you don´t want to spoil canvas start with board to study.


By Sung- Han Hung on 26 April 2014

Love your work! Amazing work, when I see the portraits you painted. I see a person's soul. Not like other paings, all you see is a "painting". Is it possible for you to talk about brush strokes? I think that is one of the main keys to a good painting. Thanks.


By Sung- Han Hung on 26 April 2014

Love your work! Amazing work, when I see the portraits you painted. I see a person's soul. Not like other paings, all you see is a "painting". Is it possible for you to talk about brush strokes? I think that is one of the main keys to a good painting. Thanks.


By Jenet Peers on 13 March 2014

Does the tutorial of the little boy (light skin and blond hair) come with the pdf document?


By ben on 13 March 2014

Dear Jenet
The video ¨little¨ boy does not come with a PDF document.
Kind regards.
Ben


By Jenet Peers on 13 March 2014

Does the tutorial of the little boy (light skin and blond hair) come with the pdf document?


By ben on 13 March 2014

Dear Jenet
The video ¨little¨ boy does not come with a PDF document.
Kind regards.
Ben


By Dusan on 25 November 2013

Hallo Ben,

I have seen some of your demo of oil portraits paintings, I have tried to paint in oil my children in live and from photos too. The big problem during alla prima painting is that I can not to cover my underpainting (where only the principal shadows and lights are - to define the similarity with the model) with other layer of oil colours becouse of they are going to mix together. For example, when I apply a light onto nose, after some minutes, the light is getting gris or is mixing with the upper layer. My underpainting I do it with a very diluted/watered colour. What should I change? I do not understand why the lights you apply during the painting are not mixing with other applied before and remain bright. How do you do it or use them? Only with very dry paintbrush and not diluted colours?
Thank you very much.

Regards,

Dusan


By ben on 25 November 2013

Dear Dusan.

From your information I cannot say exactly what the problem is. The underpainting in watercolour seems OK however I dont have experience with watercolour for that purpose. I use acrylics.
Apart from your problem I have to know how you prepared the canvas before painting. It is really important to apply some layers of gesso. Even when the canvas comes already primed from the manufacturer.
I hardly use any medium and if I need some, in the beginning no oils like linseed-oil or similar. Later when you want to add a highlight I might add some stand oil to my normal drying medium.
Let me know if my comment helps you.
Kind regards.


By Dusan on 25 November 2013

Hallo Ben,

I have seen some of your demo of oil portraits paintings, I have tried to paint in oil my children in live and from photos too. The big problem during alla prima painting is that I can not to cover my underpainting (where only the principal shadows and lights are - to define the similarity with the model) with other layer of oil colours becouse of they are going to mix together. For example, when I apply a light onto nose, after some minutes, the light is getting gris or is mixing with the upper layer. My underpainting I do it with a very diluted/watered colour. What should I change? I do not understand why the lights you apply during the painting are not mixing with other applied before and remain bright. How do you do it or use them? Only with very dry paintbrush and not diluted colours?
Thank you very much.

Regards,

Dusan


By ben on 25 November 2013

Dear Dusan.

From your information I cannot say exactly what the problem is. The underpainting in watercolour seems OK however I dont have experience with watercolour for that purpose. I use acrylics.
Apart from your problem I have to know how you prepared the canvas before painting. It is really important to apply some layers of gesso. Even when the canvas comes already primed from the manufacturer.
I hardly use any medium and if I need some, in the beginning no oils like linseed-oil or similar. Later when you want to add a highlight I might add some stand oil to my normal drying medium.
Let me know if my comment helps you.
Kind regards.


By MIchael King on 16 November 2013

I appreciate all the information you provide! I saw a video of yours on youtube where you used a retouch varnish to even out the flat and glossy spots. I find so much seemingly contradicting information on this. I have finished up a commissioned work and I was going to oil it out using a very, very thin layer of walnut oil; then when that dries I was going to put a thin layer of Grumbacher retouch varnish (not the spray) on it so that the customer can frame it and hang it in her home. I told her I would like to get it back in a year to put the final varnish on. Does this sound like a sound approach? Thank you!


By ben on 17 November 2013

Yes that is the perfect way! After one year I come back to the client an put the final varnish. Well, not anymore now because my portraits hang in the world´s diaspora. But a local artis, or frame maker will do.


By MIchael King on 16 November 2013

I appreciate all the information you provide! I saw a video of yours on youtube where you used a retouch varnish to even out the flat and glossy spots. I find so much seemingly contradicting information on this. I have finished up a commissioned work and I was going to oil it out using a very, very thin layer of walnut oil; then when that dries I was going to put a thin layer of Grumbacher retouch varnish (not the spray) on it so that the customer can frame it and hang it in her home. I told her I would like to get it back in a year to put the final varnish on. Does this sound like a sound approach? Thank you!


By ben on 17 November 2013

Yes that is the perfect way! After one year I come back to the client an put the final varnish. Well, not anymore now because my portraits hang in the world´s diaspora. But a local artis, or frame maker will do.


By Marvin Schoessler on 26 July 2013

Hello Mr. Lustenhouwer

I really like your style of painting. Thank you for all these tips and tricks. They are very helpful.
I have one question that I was not able to find.
If you need to deliver the painting shortly after it is done so if you dont have 6 month to let the painting dry completely to apply a final coat of varnish, what kind of medium/varnish do you use to give the painting its finish ?

Greetings from Germany

Marvin


By ben on 29 July 2013

Hi Marvin.
Usually after two weeks or so, the painting is dry to the touch. Apply a layer of retouching varnish and the painting can be delivered. After one year it needs a final varnish.
Grüsse.
Ben


By Marvin Schoessler on 26 July 2013

Hello Mr. Lustenhouwer

I really like your style of painting. Thank you for all these tips and tricks. They are very helpful.
I have one question that I was not able to find.
If you need to deliver the painting shortly after it is done so if you dont have 6 month to let the painting dry completely to apply a final coat of varnish, what kind of medium/varnish do you use to give the painting its finish ?

Greetings from Germany

Marvin


By ben on 29 July 2013

Hi Marvin.
Usually after two weeks or so, the painting is dry to the touch. Apply a layer of retouching varnish and the painting can be delivered. After one year it needs a final varnish.
Grüsse.
Ben


By shen on 26 June 2013

Hallo Ben,

Ik wil graag online les voor portrekschilderen kopen, maar ik heb er geen visa kaart,
kan ik met Ideal betalen?

Met vriendelijke groet,
shen


By ben on 26 June 2013

Hallo Shen.
Helaas is er geen mogelijkheid voor Ideal voor zover ik weet.
Groet.
Ben


By shen on 26 June 2013

Hallo Ben,

Ik wil graag online les voor portrekschilderen kopen, maar ik heb er geen visa kaart,
kan ik met Ideal betalen?

Met vriendelijke groet,
shen


By ben on 26 June 2013

Hallo Shen.
Helaas is er geen mogelijkheid voor Ideal voor zover ik weet.
Groet.
Ben


By Sylvie Thomas on 28 April 2013

Hello Ben. Is your video "Learn how to paint a portrait" still available? I would like to order a copy. Thank you.

Sylvie Thomas


By ben on 28 April 2013

Hi Sylvie. The video is still available on my blog.
Kind regards.
Ben


By Kamryn on 27 July 2016

I guess finding useful, reliable inofmration on the internet isn't hopeless after all.


By Sylvie Thomas on 28 April 2013

Hello Ben. Is your video "Learn how to paint a portrait" still available? I would like to order a copy. Thank you.

Sylvie Thomas


By ben on 28 April 2013

Hi Sylvie. The video is still available on my blog.
Kind regards.
Ben


By Ton van Zwol on 10 January 2013

Beste mijnheer Lustenhouwer,
Ik volg op dit moment u videocursus " Jongensportret" en ik heb de volgende vraag:
Alvorens in outline de contouren van het portret op te zetten, moet dan eerst het
doek bewerkt worden met een onderlaag olieverf of begin je direct op het linnen
te werken?
Ik hoop op een reactie van u. Ik volg u ook via facebook. prachtige portretten zie ik voorbij komen.
Bij voorbaat dank,
vriendelijke groet,
Ton van Zwol


By ben on 11 January 2013

Hallo Ton.
Het doek behandel ik eerst met een aantal lagen gesso. Daarop teken ik direkt het portret. Als ik de onderschildering maak in acryl verf hoe ik de tekening niet te fixeren zoals in de demonstratie.Soms maak ik de onderschildering in olieverf, ook in ruwe sienna, en dan moet ik eerst de ondertekening "vastzetten" met een fixatief. Ik gebruik daarvoor schellak, maar zo uit een spuitbus kan natuurlijk ook. zie ook: https://www.paintingportraittips.com/how-to-prepare-the-canvas/

Groet.
Ben.


By Ton van Zwol on 10 January 2013

Beste mijnheer Lustenhouwer,
Ik volg op dit moment u videocursus " Jongensportret" en ik heb de volgende vraag:
Alvorens in outline de contouren van het portret op te zetten, moet dan eerst het
doek bewerkt worden met een onderlaag olieverf of begin je direct op het linnen
te werken?
Ik hoop op een reactie van u. Ik volg u ook via facebook. prachtige portretten zie ik voorbij komen.
Bij voorbaat dank,
vriendelijke groet,
Ton van Zwol


By ben on 11 January 2013

Hallo Ton.
Het doek behandel ik eerst met een aantal lagen gesso. Daarop teken ik direkt het portret. Als ik de onderschildering maak in acryl verf hoe ik de tekening niet te fixeren zoals in de demonstratie.Soms maak ik de onderschildering in olieverf, ook in ruwe sienna, en dan moet ik eerst de ondertekening "vastzetten" met een fixatief. Ik gebruik daarvoor schellak, maar zo uit een spuitbus kan natuurlijk ook. zie ook: https://www.paintingportraittips.com/how-to-prepare-the-canvas/

Groet.
Ben.


By Alfred Common on 4 January 2013

Hello Ben. could you please tell me where and why green and blue are
used in portraiture

Thank you


By Alfred Common on 4 January 2013

Hello Ben. could you please tell me where and why green and blue are
used in portraiture

Thank you


By jhun on 26 November 2012

may i know how you made a picture unfocused? like making it blured and color separated. thanks bro.


By ben on 26 November 2012

Hi Jhun.
I made the blurred version in Photoshop. Reduce the number of pixels and try a filter.


By jhun on 26 November 2012

may i know how you made a picture unfocused? like making it blured and color separated. thanks bro.


By ben on 26 November 2012

Hi Jhun.
I made the blurred version in Photoshop. Reduce the number of pixels and try a filter.


By leninnarayanan on 16 November 2012

sir you are very great artist


By leninnarayanan on 16 November 2012

sir you are very great artist


By klein colaco on 15 November 2012

hello ben
my question to you is,while painting portraits with acrylic paints,do you need to add a little bit of water while mixing or applying the paints....??or should it be mixed or applyed directly...?


By ben on 16 November 2012

I did not paint so much portraits in acrylic. But yes, you can add water to the paint. But as little as possible. Adding too much water makes it like watercolor. And the paint looses power.


By klein colaco on 15 November 2012

hello ben
my question to you is,while painting portraits with acrylic paints,do you need to add a little bit of water while mixing or applying the paints....??or should it be mixed or applyed directly...?


By ben on 16 November 2012

I did not paint so much portraits in acrylic. But yes, you can add water to the paint. But as little as possible. Adding too much water makes it like watercolor. And the paint looses power.


By Edwin van den Dikkenberg on 25 September 2012

hello Ben,

Can you tell me what kind of varnish you use, before you sell a painting. I was told that the paint has to dry for at least four month. I suppose you don't let your clients wait for four months?

kind regards


By ben on 25 September 2012

Hello Edwin.
After three weeks you can apply retouching varnish. After at least one year you can varnish your painting with a final varnish.
So a delivered portrait still needs a final touch.

Kind regards.
Ben


By Edwin van den Dikkenberg on 25 September 2012

hello Ben,

Can you tell me what kind of varnish you use, before you sell a painting. I was told that the paint has to dry for at least four month. I suppose you don't let your clients wait for four months?

kind regards


By ben on 25 September 2012

Hello Edwin.
After three weeks you can apply retouching varnish. After at least one year you can varnish your painting with a final varnish.
So a delivered portrait still needs a final touch.

Kind regards.
Ben


By Anton Kie on 16 September 2012

Hello Ben

Thank you for sharing this much. I am a beginner, this blog helps me a lot.

I have finished your tutorial “Portrait of a little boy”. Now, I am practicing my first self-portrait. Since most of your model in tutorial is blonde, I have problems in mixing colours for my dark hair.

Can I send you my photo ? I need little advise.

Thanks


By Anton Kie on 16 September 2012

Hello Ben

Thank you for sharing this much. I am a beginner, this blog helps me a lot.

I have finished your tutorial “Portrait of a little boy”. Now, I am practicing my first self-portrait. Since most of your model in tutorial is blonde, I have problems in mixing colours for my dark hair.

Can I send you my photo ? I need little advise.

Thanks


By ben on 12 September 2012

Ben, question for the people coming in September/October:
Photo's glossy or Mat for Portrait Painting Masterclass?


By ben on 13 September 2012

Glossy Photo´s are good.


By ben on 12 September 2012

Ben, question for the people coming in September/October:
Photo's glossy or Mat for Portrait Painting Masterclass?


By ben on 13 September 2012

Glossy Photo´s are good.


By cris on 20 June 2012

tnx for the tutorial sir


By cris on 20 June 2012

tnx for the tutorial sir


By Suzanne on 16 June 2012

Hi Ben , Thank you for your great video!! I recently rent your video demonstration “Learn how to paint a portrait” for 90 days. Now I don't have access to it. Can you help me? (sorry for my english...) Thank you!

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