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Sketching, Drawing, and Painting Portraits with Acrylic Paints

Acrylic Portrait Painting

Acrylic portrait of two ladies from a tropical country.
Acrylic portrait of two ladies from a tropical country. | Source

Types of Portraits

A portrait artist enjoys duplicating the face of an individual onto canvas and other surfaces. It is a challenge to paint an exactness of a person. There are different methods of portraying a human being on a painted surface. The face may be painted as a caricature, an abstract, or realistic.

The essence of a portrait is to capture outstanding identifying features which identify the person. A caricature will maximize features which identify the person. Many of us see caricatures in comics, political propaganda, and street artists at entertainment parks.

Caricature Painting

An exagerated face typical of caricature painting.
An exagerated face typical of caricature painting. | Source

The realistic artist duplicates an exacting image of a person. These portraits have been in existence for hundreds of years. Faces of historical figures, celebrities, family members, friends, and self-portraits are but a few of the uses for realism.

Realistic Painting

A realistic portrait duplication of a young girl.
A realistic portrait duplication of a young girl. | Source

The abstract artist paints a portrait with original imaginings inspired by personal, fantasy, social, and cultural influences. I would include my style of painting portraits in this category.

Abstract Photo

Acrylic fantasy painting.
Acrylic fantasy painting. | Source

A Sketch and a Drawing

Sketch an outline or draw a detailed face before painting a portrait.
Sketch an outline or draw a detailed face before painting a portrait. | Source
A portrait drawing of a young girl.
A portrait drawing of a young girl. | Source

Drawing Portraits

Sketching is a quick freelance outline of the intended object. Drawing is a more precise replica of the object. An artist will make a quick sketch as an outline before painting towards a finished product. Other artists prefer to draw all details for accuracy then proceed to paint.

Drawing portraits requires study and many hours of practice. Until you are ready to take drawing lessons; test your current skills to determine training choice. Pick up a pencil, an eraser, and a sheet of paper. Select a face from a photo, a magazine picture, or any printed publication.

My mother and I tried this freelance method. We laughed a lot. The faces we drew went from horror to comedy. We laughed so hard, tears were rolling down our cheeks.

The eyes were uneven, the noses were distorted, the ears were unrecognizable, and the lip expressions were hysterically stretched or pinched into various shapes. Nevertheless, it was a worthwhile experience. We learned drawing lessons were necessary.

Folks, regardless of whether you do portrait or landscape paintings, it is in your best interest to know how to draw. Most paintings require a minimum of at least a sketching outline.

The funniest facial part to draw is the teeth. Have you done this? You truly do not want to draw a line between each tooth to note the individual teeth. The outcome is funny and ridiculous.

Eyebrows and eyelashes are rather tricky, noses are difficult (most appear like pig’s nostrils) as they require the understanding of shading and outlining. Ears…we are still working on that challenge. Drawing long hair for female portraits does an excellent job of hiding ear locations. A long and shaggy hair style may cover the ears on a male portrait, however, in most cases, the ears of males are exposed.

Drawing or painting a portrait will require much practice before acquiring reasonable success. Practice drawing a self-portrait, a friend, or a relative from a photo. Photos act as still life as the figure remains still for many hours and photos are not as expensive as hiring a model.

Acrylic Painting of Janet Jackson

Portrait of celebrity painted with acrylic paints.
Portrait of celebrity painted with acrylic paints. | Source

Drawing Instructions

There are free online classes; drawing books may be borrowed from a local library, or purchase a book. There are many classes taught at local art schools, colleges, and community art centers. As a hobby being self-taught will usually be fine, but to become an accomplished drawing artist it is best to attend formal schooling. Portrait painting is considered a fine art and to establish credentials or acquire careers a degree from an institution of higher education is essential.

How to Draw a Face Accurately—Exercises to Improve Your Drawings

Acrylic Paints and Brushes

Acrylic paints are available in tubes or bottles.
Acrylic paints are available in tubes or bottles. | Source
Paints on a palette in readiness for painting.
Paints on a palette in readiness for painting. | Source
An assorted choice of brushes.
An assorted choice of brushes. | Source

Acrylic Paints

Choose paints according to their pigment content. Purchase the appropriate brushes and tools which best accommodate the paint choice.

I prefer acrylics because they are non-toxic, no allergy reactions, multiple ways of using the paints, quick drying, several choices of paper, an array of colors, canvas, or other foundations, affordable, and easy cleanup.

Non-toxic: no need for paint thinners, or other products which are harsh on breathing and skin.

No allergies: because of its water base foundation and use of gentle products there appear to be no allergy reactions.

Multiple uses: the paints may be used to create watercolor effects, as an acrylic, or oil painting effects. Thinning or layering the paint will produce assorted texture effects.

Quick drying: Oil paints take a very long time to dry, acrylics dry quickly. Some artists do not like the quick drying, but there are additives which can be mixed into the acrylic paints to give it a longer wet life.

Choices of foundation: Acrylics can be applied to paper, canvas, fabrics, plastic, glass, wood, and other surfaces.

Colors and tones: there is no limit for color choices. These paints are very easy to mix. For more glamor glitter acrylic paints are available.

Affordable: Able to stay within a budget. The price will be higher as the pigment becomes thicker and this is understandable. The costs are dependent upon the foundation and the effects the artist wants to create.

Easy cleanup: during the painting or after painting. Water cleaning is all that is necessary.

Street Artist on the Charles Bridge

An artist painting directly on canvas in an open artist market.
An artist painting directly on canvas in an open artist market. | Source

Applying Acrylic Paints

After the drawing has been completed, apply tint choices. Use a thin or water color consistency to fill in the selected tints. The pencil markings will show through a thin layer of paint. Use light strokes when using a drawing pencil during the sketching process.

If the color choice is not correct. the acrylic paint will dry quickly allowing the artist to apply another tint in the same area. After color selections are satisfied, add layers of acrylic paint to hide pencil marks and to obtain the color depth and thickness of paint for desired texture.

Tip: Colored pencils may be used for sketching as their marks will hide very well under the paint.

Discovering the versatility of acrylic painting is as much fun as sketching or drawing a portrait.

Acrytlic Portrait Painting

Underpainting or Toning

Prepare the entire canvas with a thin layer of paint. It can be the first color which will be placed on the canvas, the last color which will be placed on the canvas, or choose whatever you like.

This technique is used often in oil painting. This technique is called under painting or toning. Many artists use this technique of canvas preparation to help hide canvas bleeds. The linen texture of the acrylic paper will direct the paint in the opposite direction from which it was intended. Applying a layer of paint on the canvas helps eliminate this problem.

Underpainting or Toning Example

Brush thin layers of tint covering work surface. This method prepares a foundation for easier paint application and adds richness and depth for any painting.
Brush thin layers of tint covering work surface. This method prepares a foundation for easier paint application and adds richness and depth for any painting. | Source

Acrylic Hand Painted Portrait

The painting of the actual portrait over the underpainting or toning technique. Notice the richness and depth of the painting and there are no canvas leaks.
The painting of the actual portrait over the underpainting or toning technique. Notice the richness and depth of the painting and there are no canvas leaks. | Source

How to Paint in Layers

Acrylic Painters

What is your favorite or special interest of acrylic painting?

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