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HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart3
by WI LL KEMP
i n OI L PAI NTI NG, PORTRAI TS
Whenyoucomebacktoyourpaintingyoullnoticehowtheoilhasbecometranslucent
overnightandwonthavethesamecoveragethatyoufirstthought.
How to paint a portrait series. This is part 3 of a 5 part series of tutorials for beginners making
the transition from drawing to oil painting.
Hereisaquickreviewofwhatwehavecoveredsofarifyoudliketojoinin
Part1Establishingthedrawing,includingtheshadowline.
This can be done in pencil or charcoal (that you can fix with fixative) try to keep the drawing
lines angular to start with.
Try to establish the basic shapes if you could only use a straight line, then add the contours as
the drawing progresses. A classic beginner mistake when drawing a portrait is an over
exaggerationofthecurvesintheface.Everythinggetsroundedoffandtheportraitcanhave
acartoonlikequality.Becausewehaveastrongvisualmemorysystemthattellsusfacesare
roundthiscansubconsciouslyaffectyourdrawing.
We the started to scrub in the underpainting layer. To a beginner, this stage is often skipped,
deemed to be unimportant, but a good foundation is key to success with portraits.
We then have our 3 part tonal underpainting which allows you, and your eye, to become more
in-tune with the image, and become aware to the tones.
Part2Developingthetones,addinglights.
We then worked over the top of the initial underpainting still just with the raw umber to
strengthen the tones and get a better feeling of form. These layers are all painted thinly.
The medium for this stage being a simple mix of 1 part linseed oil to 4 parts mineral spirits
(artistturpentineorodourlessmineralspirits)thisestablishesthefatoverleanrule.Witheach
progressivelayerbeingslightlyfatterwithmoreoilcontent.
We also added some roughed in lights with a faster drying white.
Thisistohelpusjudgethetonesforthenextstagesowhenwepaintthemontheydontlook
tooutwhenweaddthelights.
The Allure of highlights
I forgot to emphasis at the end of part 2 that the roughed in lights are the light tonal mass, and
not the highlights.
The highlights and the very darkest parts of the painting should be the last brushstrokes to be
done,buttheytryanddrawyouin!Itshardtoresistputtingthemonattheearlystage.
Andevenifyouvereadthewarning,itsamazinghow,whenyougetengrossedinthepainting,
your hand will be drawn to that lightest white.
This can seem counterintuitive if you are coming to the painting from drawing as we often erase
out the lightest areas, or work on this areas that attract out attention. The white highlights on
the eye have a particular allure.
When the painting is finished these will be seen by the viewer to be painted with the most skill,
however, a single dot of white can be painted by anyone, but resisting adding them takes the
practice of an artist.
A note about grey
One of the students following this series let me know about Gambiln Torrit grey competition
(Thanks Mario!) Every spring, the paint manufacture collect all of the residue paint pigment that
havebeencollectedbytheairfiltrationsystemandrecyclethemintoGamblinTorritGrey.
You can learn more about the Torrit Grey painting competition from Gamblin website.
Pigmentdustshouldnotgointotheearth,waterorlandfill,butintopaint,
Robert Gamblin.
For our grey we are going to mix a neutral using the raw umber and Ivory black.
Part3FirstPainting
Mixing a new medium
We now create a new medium for the next layer of the painting. Different artists vary the
richness of the medium depending on their own personal preference but the next mix is a very
useful one.
1 part linseed oil to 3 parts mineral spirit
Youcanusethepipettetomeasureoutamounts,orifImmixingalargeramountIllusekitchen
measurement spoons.
Pro tip: If you are doing a lot of painting it can be worth premixing a larger amount of each
medium in resealable jars, label them up and then you can simple decant the medium each
stage of the painting.
Mixing our black
We are now going to mix a neutral black for developing this monotone study. You can still
create some lovely studies just using the raw umber and white, it is a warmer finish than the
black, but you will still learn the importance of contrast in your paintings.
To mix the neutral we use 3/4 ivory black to 1/4 raw umber. This helps take the blue out of the
black (black has a blue base, this is why you can mix lovely muted greens with black)
Ivory black
Ivory black is a slow drying pigment, by mixing in 1/4 of the raw umber (which is quick drying) it
will match nicely with the titanium white (slow drying) and at this stage of the painting the longer
opentimewehavewiththepaintsthebetter.Ivoryblackalsohasalovelyrichnesswhen
painted thinly which will help out in the later stages of the portrait.
This way you will have time to work through your painting and blend and fuse edges that you
need to. This is why we started with the raw umber, it dries overnight and has a cooler
undertone when working with portraits.
Materials
Winsor & Newton artist quality Ivory black
Micheal harding artist quality Raw Umber
Old Holland artist quality titanium white
Winsor & newton Sansador ( odourless mineral spirits)
Winsor & newton Refined linseed oil
ThereisntanyspecificreasonwhyIuseeachbrand,IoftenintermixbrandsasIliketo
experiment using different manufacturers colours. Whatever is available where you are. The
one key throughout them all is that they are artist quality (See: the 8 key differences
between artist quality & student grade paint)
Paint consistency
When you are just beginning with oils, the handling of the paint can vary greatly depending on
the consistency of the paint.
Oil paint (especially the titanium white) is often too thick and stiff to work with at this stage of the
paintingstraightfromthetube.
To make the paint more fluid, I slightly dilute it with the medium shown above. I use a pipette to
drop a few drops of the medium onto the paint mixture and mix it thoroughly with the palette
knife. Using the palette knife for mixing your paints is a very useful technique.
The video below shows a quick tutorial on how I dilute the oil paint.
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I often mix the colours on a separate, tear off palette and then transfer the mixture to the clean
glass/ perspex.
Ifyourejustbeginningwithoilsyoullnoticehoweasilyyoucancontaminatecolourswhen
using a full palette of colours, this can lead to muddy colours and frustrating painting.
This helps you to learn clean working methods. I am naturally more impatient so it is a discipline
to spend the time mixing the colours as you just want to get painting but it will pay dividends.
Step14Mixingour tonal colour strings
Thisnextstageoftheportraitiswherewereallygetpaintingasin,thicker,moreopaque
colours mixed together. If we look back at the last couple of weeks lessons you can see that we
haventactuallymixedanytonestogetheryet.
Wehavesimplybeenblockinginthebasictonalvalues,inwhatissometimescalledthedead
colouringstagethisisbecauseweareusingalimitedamountofoilinthemix,andmore
mineralspirits.Asthemineralspiritsevaporatethecolourcanappearflat,anddeadasit
doesnthavethelustrethattheoilgivesus.
Pro tip:Whenworkingwithcolour,thisisalsoreferedtoasaddingthelocalcolourofa
subject. For example a lemon would have a local colour of yellow.
So before we start the painting we are going to premix a range of 9 value tones.
White (1) is the lightest, black (9) is the darkest. This enables us to get a mid tone 5 and split
the tones into lights, half tones, and darks. These are called tonal strings, you can read more
about them on A beginners guide to tonal strings
Using a value strip
Print out, or paint out your own value strip.
When you are first starting, working from a print out it can be handy because the value strip will
be the same tones as your reference photograph compared to the hues of the black and white
paint if you were to paint your strip.
Just slide the value strip under the glass. This way when you are trying to match the tone you
can test it by dabbing a swatch ontop of the tone underneath to determine how close you are.
The first tone I match is a number 5. It will take you a few attempts to get it spot on, this is
normal.
BeawarethattheblackhasastrongertintingstrengththanthewhitesowhenIadditImjust
scraping a small amount with the palette knife.
I then match a light value 3
Then a value 7. With these 3 tones you can create some great value studies (which are
sometimescalledposterstudies)theseallowtoquicklypracticeandsketchouttonal
compositions for future paintings.
It is also handy if you want to experiment working with a compressed value range.
Waterseller of Seville -Diego Velazquez, 1619
IfwelookatVelasquezspaintingbelowwecanseehisuseoftheumberunderpainting,and
the range of tones used to direct the views gaze.
When we look at the painting in black and white it is even easier to see how the most focus on
the painting has been placed on the subject with the broadest tonal range and
the background figure has a very compressed tonal range.
9 value tones
I then remove the value strip and we are ready to begin.
Iveplacedthepaletteovertheimagesoyoucanseetheeffectoflightfallout.
Due to my light source being above the subject the light drops off as we get further down the
face. When you look at the colour strings you can start to see how there is a subtle shift in tone
as we go down the painting. This is a key point to remember because when you take the paint
swatches away it is harder to judge the light drop off, your mind just accepts it.
The light was set up so that it was stronger on the top half of the portrait, and the value drops
away. You need to be aware of this drop off as you progress through the tones.
This can help in getting the fall of light right, and creating a logical progression throughout the
painting.
So what you can do now is remove the value strip from underneath the paint and hold it next to
your reference photograph. Make sure you have trimmed the edge of the value strip so you
donthaveanywhiteontheedge.Thiswillmakeithardertojudgetones.
Now shut one eye, this helps to flatten your vision and makes it easier to see tone. Then flick
your eyes between the tone and the value strip and the tone on the reference photograph until
you have a match.
Pro tip: If you are finding it hard to isolate the colour the use a hole-punch to punch a hole in
each square, this way you can use them as a viewfinder.
Solid painting
Forpurposesofstudythereisnothingbetterthansimple,direct,solidpainting.Paintingwith
transparent colour, with a mixture of solid and transparent, glazing etc are all things that must
betriedlateronbutforsometimeconfineyourselftodirect,solidpainting.
Harold Speed
On my image I start with the lightest part on the forehead, it is about a value 2.
I dip just the edge of my brush (number# 4 Rosemary & co ivory filbert) into the medium.
I then pull the paint from the side of the mixture and coat the end of the brush. The mixture is
thick enough to cover the underpainting, but still quite thin.
You are looking to cover the colour underneath with a solid tone, but still have a fluid mixture.
Gettingtheconsistencyrightcanbeanartinitself,sodontgetdiscouraged!
We just want a small amount of paint, notice how I pull the paint from the edge of the pile.
Youalsodontneedmuchpaint,justtrytogetthetipofthebristlescoated,Iworkthebrush
backandforthinthepaintsoithasacoverage,yetdoesntcomeupthebristlestoofar.
A beginners tendency is to overload your brush.
I then flick my eyes between the subject and my painting to judge the next tonal shift, I squeeze
any excess paint into a piece of kitchen roll untill the brush is dry,
Icanthengrabsomeofthenextvaluedownvalue3
Just to help my eye with the portrait I reinforce the white of the t-shirt with value 1.
This could have been put in first, there is no real hard and fast rule, I just scan the picture with
my eyes to look for any values that are in the first 3 light range.
Adding the midtones
I then move on to the mid-tones, again with a clean brush (I might dip it into pure mineral spirits
occasionally and scrub out the pigment into kitchen roll so I have a clean brush for the new
tone.
I then make my way down the tones using 4, 5, 6 . Notice how these are all still in the lights of
the subject.
Ihaventblendedanyofthetones,Iamjustsimplyblockingtheminwithaflattone.
Ithenblockinthetoneontheneck,againthiscouldhavebeendoneearlierbutyoullfindthe
more tones you add, the easier they are to judge in comparison.
All of the lights are now added, this has all been painting with values 1 through to 6.
We are now going to add the darks, working through 7 to 9
Adding the darks
As the light starts to drop off, I add the darks into the shadow side of the face, notice how the
tones have been dropping darker to the right and the bottom of the picture due to the light
source being from the top left.
I continue adding a darker value 8 into the shadow under the chin. Notice how blue the paint
appears next to the raw umber. The tones are still quite flat with limited blending, still just using
the size 4 ivory filbert.
I now mix a value between the 8 & 9, you could go straight in with the 9, but I wanted to leave
this for the final part of this stage.
I then soften the edge slightly using the filbert.
I swap to a sable filbert for blending the edges further, as I mentioned before, I often use the
Ivory filbert for this, but sometimes, if the paint is pulling too much the sable can just give you
that blend that you are after.
BecausetheunderpaintingisnowdryImrestingbylittlefingeronthecanvas,thiswayIcan
pivot, with a stronger support. For larger scale painting, or of the background is still damp I
would use a mahl stick.
This is now with the value 9, the pure black mix we have made. When this first goes on it will
feeltoodark.Itsnot.
Iblockinthisblackslightlythinnerthanthepreviouspaint,Imstillconcernedwithcreatingaflat
tonalvalue.NoticehowIveleftaslightegdebetweenthisdarkertoneandtheedgeofthe
face.ThiswaywhenIsoftentheedgeitwontgotoodark.
A tendency when your first starting is to add, then blend, add then blend, but it will work better if
you keep the blending to a minimum.
This is easier said than done.
Notice how light the first shadow now looks in comparison to the black.
This stage of the painting I now have a full tonal range of opaque colour. I can now assess the
referenceimageandflickmyeyesbetweenthetwo,lookingforanythingthatlooksout.
The Importance of edges
I now look to soften out most of the edges. As with the underpainting, it is easiest to keep the
edges soft at this stage as they can easily grab a viewers attention. Sharp edges come
forward, soft edges recede back.
Pro tip:Ifyouarehavingtroublepullingthepainttoomuchswaptothelargersize10filbert
and gentle blush over the edge.
Wevenowfinishedthefirststageofmodellingtheportrait.Ihaventworkedonthefeatures
much, still just keeping the focus on the main areas of the form. The larger areas first, then we
can add details in the next stage.
You might also like:
1. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart1
2. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart2
3. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart4
{ 20commentsreadthembeloworadd one }
Gunner Dave April 19, 2012
Hi Will,
I have a question about your image which shows the 9 tones of the grey colour string. Would
it be possible for you to give these 9 tones in terms of RGB (or H, S & B) values on
photoshop? This way I could make my own grey colour string swatch on the computer and
print it out.
Also, as a beginner who has limited resources, is it worth using oil painting paper instead of
canvas until I get the hang of the technique? Are there any issues with this type of surface
that I should be aware of?
Loving your work,
Dave.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 19, 2012
Hi Dave,
Glad you like the progress.
Yes, if you have access to Photoshop you can create your own value scale. Matthew
Innis (from Underpaintings blog) talks through how he makes a scale using the Munsell
system (this is another approach for mixing and matching colours and, confusingly, used
10stepsandthevaluesarelabelledtheotherway)usingPhotoshopSeebelow:
To make the scale, I began with a new image file in Photoshop, 1 inch high and 11
incheslong,andwithabackgroundcolorofwhite.ThisIthendividedinto11
squares using guides. I approached each tone square as if this were a screen
printingproject,choosingtothinkofeachsectionasapercentageofblack(ie.Value
9, which is 90% white, can also be thought of as 10% black. Value 8 would be 20%
blackvalue7,30%blackandsoon).One by one, each square was then
selected, and filled using the color black and the Paintbucket tool. This action,
however, was done each time on a separate layer, which was later merged with the
background. The separate layers were necessary, because each successive layer
had a different fill percentage in order to control the density of black in each square
(eg.The layer which represented value 8, had a fill percentage of only 20%).
This, however, is for straight black and white, our mix is slightly warmer so might need a
bit of tweaking.
If you, or any of the readers, have another way to make a value scale with photoshop
please add to the comments.
Yes,byallmeanspracticeonoilpaintingpaper,youmightfinditfeelslikeitsitsontop
of the surface more, but just use a thicker mix of paint.
Thanks,
Will
REPLY
David A. April 20, 2012
Hi Will,
I was wondering about brushes again, and would like to know what is the difference between
a Bright, Flat and Shader. My local art store in Chicago does not have the brands you talked
about. Only Princeton ( they artist there say that they are from the UK).
I would like to know if you think that if the painting/drawing is wrong if it does not represent
the model perfectly.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hey David,
The difference between them is shape, so all have different uses.
Flat:Flatsquareedge.Goodforbroadstrokesandcreatingstraightlines.Nottheideal
for portraits because we want soft edges.
Bright:BrightsTheshorter,sturdierversionoftheflatbrush,(sohaslessflexifyou
were working with thick oil paints a bright would be able move the paint around easier.)
Shader: I think this is just a brand name and not in general used in other brush
manufacturers. I had a look at the Princeton website and the Shader is very similar to a
flat.
I forgot to mention Rosemary & co are mail order, but in terms of the Princeton brushes,
tell me your budget and I can advise which ones would be best.
There is no such thing as perfect representation, capturing a models character is more
important than a photo realist drawing. This all comes with practice and developing your
own style as an artist.
Dontgethunguponitbeingperfect,Iveseensomanystudentsstartportraitsget
disheartened and not continue on, just out of interest Picasso produced 50,000 unique
pieces of art over his lifetime.
Not every piece has to be a masterpiece, the process is just as important as the end
result.
Thanks
Will
REPLY
David A. April 21, 2012
Hi Will,
My budget per month is $25-35. I use half for painting and half for drawing.
The Princeton brushes at Blick cost between $6.29-15.00.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hi David,
You might be interested to look at the Winsor & Newton Artist Quality oil Brushes
(availableatblick)thesearereallyexcellentbrushesandtheonesIuseifImnotusing
the Rosemary & Co Ivory Filberts. They are slightly more reasonable than the Princeton
brushes and I can feel confident in recommending them.
Acoupleofhandysizes(ifyourworkingquitesmallA4papersize)are:
Long Handle Filbert, Size #2 ($4.37)
Long Handle Filbert, Size #4 ($5.14) (this is the same size as the brush I use for 90% of
this demo)
Size #5 & #6 are also handy.
Also, a small round for details with slightly softer hair, so either one of the synthetic
sables from Princeton (series 4000) or Winsor & newton Monarch are nice. (between a
size0and3dependingonhowdetailedyouworkIuseasize3forthisdemo)
For blending the filbert princeton size 6 ($6.45) or 8 ($7.05) (series 4000) is closest to
what I have used.
You could just start with the oil brushes though and see how you get on.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Michelle April 23, 2012
Do you ever use a different mixture for your shadows such as mixing a red,
ultramarine blue, and yellow ochre? This would be used after the initial raw umber stage on
just the shadows. I am starting to learn to paint portraits and have been told using this
mixture allows the shadows to remain transparent later on, however it seems to make things
more complicated than your method. Thanksforthisseriesitsveryhelpful.Looking forward
tothenextpart
REPLY
Will Kemp April 24, 2012
Hi Michelle,
Pleased to hear you are enjoying this portrait painting series. As this techniques is
focusing on the importance of tone and making the step from drawing to oil painting
keeping it simple really is the way the to go. So I will be only be using the raw umber and
Ivory black.
Forfullcolourportraits,Iuseasimilar,simpleapproach.Andwouldntinitiallyusered,
ultramarine blue or yellow ochre. I would still use a earth pigment like raw umber or burnt
umber.
Different artists have different approaches, but I am a great believer in keeping your
materials simple, so you can have more time to concentrate on the tricky part, the
painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
rod hulme June 3, 2012
HiWilleverythingokayhere!Have started playing with Golden liquids, [10 half oz.
bottles for 40.00] and find them interesting! Must pick up a 40 series knife to do my mixing of
theheavy,asthespatulatypeIhaveisawkwardforme,butprogress,asIalsofoundpaper
pallets I used to use with oils. There is something about a clean WHITE mixing surface..that
colorblind moi finds more accurate somehow in delineation of shades. Anyway, makes sense
tometome,andthatsjustfine.
Manythanksforyourpatience.cheersrod
REPLY
Will Kemp June 4, 2012
Hey Rod, yes the fluid acrylics can be very effective, especially for glazing
effects.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Alice July 5, 2012
Hello,Idontreallyunderstandwhyyouneedtopaintfirstwithrawumberwhycant
youjustpaintwithblack/whitestraightontothecanvas?Sorryifthatsanobviousquestion.
ThanksAlice
REPLY
Will Kemp July 5, 2012
Hi Alice,
Thanks for the comment. The reason I paint onto a toned ground is because it makes it
easier when you are first starting to judge your tones.
You can quickly establish your darkest darks and lightest lights and this will make it
easier to judge the other tones in your painting. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is
working onto a white canvas. you can read more about it here: How a prepared canvas
can drastically improve your painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
David Smith July 2, 2013
Hello Will,
Enjoying working through these lessons so far. Your method produces a nice look to a
portraitsimilartoVelzquez.
Regarding a value strip, I had a go creating one using GIMP (the free photo-editing
software). I edited the brush colour and altered the HSV (hue, saturation, value) settings.
Changing V amount from zero (black), 50 (mid-grey), 100 (white) etc. and all the tone
gradations in between.
David
REPLY
Will Kemp July 3, 2013
Hi David,
Pleased to hear the portrait course is going well, and that you could create a value strip
using GIMP, good one!
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
I am passionate about painting the figure, but have only worked in watercolors. My
question. Do you think it best for me to begin to learn painting in oils or do you think I should
work in Acrylics first. I was in fine arts for 10 years before I became an art therapist. Now that
IamretiredIwanttofocusonpaintingthefigure..portrait.Can you help direct me to
make the most of the next 10 years. My concern is the time it will take me to master two
mediums (acrylic and then on to oils). IlikeyourdemosandthinkIcanstartwithgood
training.Butwhichtrainingtobeginwithismyquestion.
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
Hi Bernice,
You might find this article helpful that goes through the differences between the two,
many of my acrylic painting techniques stem from classical painting techniques, so you
are inadvertently learning skills for both mediums.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
Yes, thank you. I think you are saying it would be good practice and learning
in acrylics before starting oils, since most of your acrylic techniques are taken from
classical oil techniques? Correct?
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
HiBernice,yes,Ivefoundforlearningaboutcolourmixingandpaint
techniques acrylics are very forgiving because you can easily work over them, so
are a great medium to learn with, can be painted anywhere, on pretty much any
surface, so are like a quick start painting. Then, when you feel move confident in
colour mixing and brush techniques you can go into oils there and will be less
mudmixedandmoreahamoments,asmanyofthetechniquesIteachare
transferable.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
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1
HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart3
by WI LL KEMP
i n OI L PAI NTI NG, PORTRAI TS
Whenyoucomebacktoyourpaintingyoullnoticehowtheoilhasbecometranslucent
overnightandwonthavethesamecoveragethatyoufirstthought.
How to paint a portrait series. This is part 3 of a 5 part series of tutorials for beginners making
the transition from drawing to oil painting.
Hereisaquickreviewofwhatwehavecoveredsofarifyoudliketojoinin
Part1Establishingthedrawing,includingtheshadowline.
This can be done in pencil or charcoal (that you can fix with fixative) try to keep the drawing
lines angular to start with.
Try to establish the basic shapes if you could only use a straight line, then add the contours as
the drawing progresses. A classic beginner mistake when drawing a portrait is an over
exaggerationofthecurvesintheface.Everythinggetsroundedoffandtheportraitcanhave
acartoonlikequality.Becausewehaveastrongvisualmemorysystemthattellsusfacesare
roundthiscansubconsciouslyaffectyourdrawing.
We the started to scrub in the underpainting layer. To a beginner, this stage is often skipped,
deemed to be unimportant, but a good foundation is key to success with portraits.
We then have our 3 part tonal underpainting which allows you, and your eye, to become more
in-tune with the image, and become aware to the tones.
Part2Developingthetones,addinglights.
We then worked over the top of the initial underpainting still just with the raw umber to
strengthen the tones and get a better feeling of form. These layers are all painted thinly.
The medium for this stage being a simple mix of 1 part linseed oil to 4 parts mineral spirits
(artistturpentineorodourlessmineralspirits)thisestablishesthefatoverleanrule.Witheach
progressivelayerbeingslightlyfatterwithmoreoilcontent.
We also added some roughed in lights with a faster drying white.
Thisistohelpusjudgethetonesforthenextstagesowhenwepaintthemontheydontlook
tooutwhenweaddthelights.
The Allure of highlights
I forgot to emphasis at the end of part 2 that the roughed in lights are the light tonal mass, and
not the highlights.
The highlights and the very darkest parts of the painting should be the last brushstrokes to be
done,buttheytryanddrawyouin!Itshardtoresistputtingthemonattheearlystage.
Andevenifyouvereadthewarning,itsamazinghow,whenyougetengrossedinthepainting,
your hand will be drawn to that lightest white.
This can seem counterintuitive if you are coming to the painting from drawing as we often erase
out the lightest areas, or work on this areas that attract out attention. The white highlights on
the eye have a particular allure.
When the painting is finished these will be seen by the viewer to be painted with the most skill,
however, a single dot of white can be painted by anyone, but resisting adding them takes the
practice of an artist.
A note about grey
One of the students following this series let me know about Gambiln Torrit grey competition
(Thanks Mario!) Every spring, the paint manufacture collect all of the residue paint pigment that
havebeencollectedbytheairfiltrationsystemandrecyclethemintoGamblinTorritGrey.
You can learn more about the Torrit Grey painting competition from Gamblin website.
Pigmentdustshouldnotgointotheearth,waterorlandfill,butintopaint,
Robert Gamblin.
For our grey we are going to mix a neutral using the raw umber and Ivory black.
Part3FirstPainting
Mixing a new medium
We now create a new medium for the next layer of the painting. Different artists vary the
richness of the medium depending on their own personal preference but the next mix is a very
useful one.
1 part linseed oil to 3 parts mineral spirit
Youcanusethepipettetomeasureoutamounts,orifImmixingalargeramountIllusekitchen
measurement spoons.
Pro tip: If you are doing a lot of painting it can be worth premixing a larger amount of each
medium in resealable jars, label them up and then you can simple decant the medium each
stage of the painting.
Mixing our black
We are now going to mix a neutral black for developing this monotone study. You can still
create some lovely studies just using the raw umber and white, it is a warmer finish than the
black, but you will still learn the importance of contrast in your paintings.
To mix the neutral we use 3/4 ivory black to 1/4 raw umber. This helps take the blue out of the
black (black has a blue base, this is why you can mix lovely muted greens with black)
Ivory black
Ivory black is a slow drying pigment, by mixing in 1/4 of the raw umber (which is quick drying) it
will match nicely with the titanium white (slow drying) and at this stage of the painting the longer
opentimewehavewiththepaintsthebetter.Ivoryblackalsohasalovelyrichnesswhen
painted thinly which will help out in the later stages of the portrait.
This way you will have time to work through your painting and blend and fuse edges that you
need to. This is why we started with the raw umber, it dries overnight and has a cooler
undertone when working with portraits.
Materials
Winsor & Newton artist quality Ivory black
Micheal harding artist quality Raw Umber
Old Holland artist quality titanium white
Winsor & newton Sansador ( odourless mineral spirits)
Winsor & newton Refined linseed oil
ThereisntanyspecificreasonwhyIuseeachbrand,IoftenintermixbrandsasIliketo
experiment using different manufacturers colours. Whatever is available where you are. The
one key throughout them all is that they are artist quality (See: the 8 key differences
between artist quality & student grade paint)
Paint consistency
When you are just beginning with oils, the handling of the paint can vary greatly depending on
the consistency of the paint.
Oil paint (especially the titanium white) is often too thick and stiff to work with at this stage of the
paintingstraightfromthetube.
To make the paint more fluid, I slightly dilute it with the medium shown above. I use a pipette to
drop a few drops of the medium onto the paint mixture and mix it thoroughly with the palette
knife. Using the palette knife for mixing your paints is a very useful technique.
The video below shows a quick tutorial on how I dilute the oil paint.
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I often mix the colours on a separate, tear off palette and then transfer the mixture to the clean
glass/ perspex.
Ifyourejustbeginningwithoilsyoullnoticehoweasilyyoucancontaminatecolourswhen
using a full palette of colours, this can lead to muddy colours and frustrating painting.
This helps you to learn clean working methods. I am naturally more impatient so it is a discipline
to spend the time mixing the colours as you just want to get painting but it will pay dividends.
Step14Mixingour tonal colour strings
Thisnextstageoftheportraitiswherewereallygetpaintingasin,thicker,moreopaque
colours mixed together. If we look back at the last couple of weeks lessons you can see that we
haventactuallymixedanytonestogetheryet.
Wehavesimplybeenblockinginthebasictonalvalues,inwhatissometimescalledthedead
colouringstagethisisbecauseweareusingalimitedamountofoilinthemix,andmore
mineralspirits.Asthemineralspiritsevaporatethecolourcanappearflat,anddeadasit
doesnthavethelustrethattheoilgivesus.
Pro tip:Whenworkingwithcolour,thisisalsoreferedtoasaddingthelocalcolourofa
subject. For example a lemon would have a local colour of yellow.
So before we start the painting we are going to premix a range of 9 value tones.
White (1) is the lightest, black (9) is the darkest. This enables us to get a mid tone 5 and split
the tones into lights, half tones, and darks. These are called tonal strings, you can read more
about them on A beginners guide to tonal strings
Using a value strip
Print out, or paint out your own value strip.
When you are first starting, working from a print out it can be handy because the value strip will
be the same tones as your reference photograph compared to the hues of the black and white
paint if you were to paint your strip.
Just slide the value strip under the glass. This way when you are trying to match the tone you
can test it by dabbing a swatch ontop of the tone underneath to determine how close you are.
The first tone I match is a number 5. It will take you a few attempts to get it spot on, this is
normal.
BeawarethattheblackhasastrongertintingstrengththanthewhitesowhenIadditImjust
scraping a small amount with the palette knife.
I then match a light value 3
Then a value 7. With these 3 tones you can create some great value studies (which are
sometimescalledposterstudies)theseallowtoquicklypracticeandsketchouttonal
compositions for future paintings.
It is also handy if you want to experiment working with a compressed value range.
Waterseller of Seville -Diego Velazquez, 1619
IfwelookatVelasquezspaintingbelowwecanseehisuseoftheumberunderpainting,and
the range of tones used to direct the views gaze.
When we look at the painting in black and white it is even easier to see how the most focus on
the painting has been placed on the subject with the broadest tonal range and
the background figure has a very compressed tonal range.
9 value tones
I then remove the value strip and we are ready to begin.
Iveplacedthepaletteovertheimagesoyoucanseetheeffectoflightfallout.
Due to my light source being above the subject the light drops off as we get further down the
face. When you look at the colour strings you can start to see how there is a subtle shift in tone
as we go down the painting. This is a key point to remember because when you take the paint
swatches away it is harder to judge the light drop off, your mind just accepts it.
The light was set up so that it was stronger on the top half of the portrait, and the value drops
away. You need to be aware of this drop off as you progress through the tones.
This can help in getting the fall of light right, and creating a logical progression throughout the
painting.
So what you can do now is remove the value strip from underneath the paint and hold it next to
your reference photograph. Make sure you have trimmed the edge of the value strip so you
donthaveanywhiteontheedge.Thiswillmakeithardertojudgetones.
Now shut one eye, this helps to flatten your vision and makes it easier to see tone. Then flick
your eyes between the tone and the value strip and the tone on the reference photograph until
you have a match.
Pro tip: If you are finding it hard to isolate the colour the use a hole-punch to punch a hole in
each square, this way you can use them as a viewfinder.
Solid painting
Forpurposesofstudythereisnothingbetterthansimple,direct,solidpainting.Paintingwith
transparent colour, with a mixture of solid and transparent, glazing etc are all things that must
betriedlateronbutforsometimeconfineyourselftodirect,solidpainting.
Harold Speed
On my image I start with the lightest part on the forehead, it is about a value 2.
I dip just the edge of my brush (number# 4 Rosemary & co ivory filbert) into the medium.
I then pull the paint from the side of the mixture and coat the end of the brush. The mixture is
thick enough to cover the underpainting, but still quite thin.
You are looking to cover the colour underneath with a solid tone, but still have a fluid mixture.
Gettingtheconsistencyrightcanbeanartinitself,sodontgetdiscouraged!
We just want a small amount of paint, notice how I pull the paint from the edge of the pile.
Youalsodontneedmuchpaint,justtrytogetthetipofthebristlescoated,Iworkthebrush
backandforthinthepaintsoithasacoverage,yetdoesntcomeupthebristlestoofar.
A beginners tendency is to overload your brush.
I then flick my eyes between the subject and my painting to judge the next tonal shift, I squeeze
any excess paint into a piece of kitchen roll untill the brush is dry,
Icanthengrabsomeofthenextvaluedownvalue3
Just to help my eye with the portrait I reinforce the white of the t-shirt with value 1.
This could have been put in first, there is no real hard and fast rule, I just scan the picture with
my eyes to look for any values that are in the first 3 light range.
Adding the midtones
I then move on to the mid-tones, again with a clean brush (I might dip it into pure mineral spirits
occasionally and scrub out the pigment into kitchen roll so I have a clean brush for the new
tone.
I then make my way down the tones using 4, 5, 6 . Notice how these are all still in the lights of
the subject.
Ihaventblendedanyofthetones,Iamjustsimplyblockingtheminwithaflattone.
Ithenblockinthetoneontheneck,againthiscouldhavebeendoneearlierbutyoullfindthe
more tones you add, the easier they are to judge in comparison.
All of the lights are now added, this has all been painting with values 1 through to 6.
We are now going to add the darks, working through 7 to 9
Adding the darks
As the light starts to drop off, I add the darks into the shadow side of the face, notice how the
tones have been dropping darker to the right and the bottom of the picture due to the light
source being from the top left.
I continue adding a darker value 8 into the shadow under the chin. Notice how blue the paint
appears next to the raw umber. The tones are still quite flat with limited blending, still just using
the size 4 ivory filbert.
I now mix a value between the 8 & 9, you could go straight in with the 9, but I wanted to leave
this for the final part of this stage.
I then soften the edge slightly using the filbert.
I swap to a sable filbert for blending the edges further, as I mentioned before, I often use the
Ivory filbert for this, but sometimes, if the paint is pulling too much the sable can just give you
that blend that you are after.
BecausetheunderpaintingisnowdryImrestingbylittlefingeronthecanvas,thiswayIcan
pivot, with a stronger support. For larger scale painting, or of the background is still damp I
would use a mahl stick.
This is now with the value 9, the pure black mix we have made. When this first goes on it will
feeltoodark.Itsnot.
Iblockinthisblackslightlythinnerthanthepreviouspaint,Imstillconcernedwithcreatingaflat
tonalvalue.NoticehowIveleftaslightegdebetweenthisdarkertoneandtheedgeofthe
face.ThiswaywhenIsoftentheedgeitwontgotoodark.
A tendency when your first starting is to add, then blend, add then blend, but it will work better if
you keep the blending to a minimum.
This is easier said than done.
Notice how light the first shadow now looks in comparison to the black.
This stage of the painting I now have a full tonal range of opaque colour. I can now assess the
referenceimageandflickmyeyesbetweenthetwo,lookingforanythingthatlooksout.
The Importance of edges
I now look to soften out most of the edges. As with the underpainting, it is easiest to keep the
edges soft at this stage as they can easily grab a viewers attention. Sharp edges come
forward, soft edges recede back.
Pro tip:Ifyouarehavingtroublepullingthepainttoomuchswaptothelargersize10filbert
and gentle blush over the edge.
Wevenowfinishedthefirststageofmodellingtheportrait.Ihaventworkedonthefeatures
much, still just keeping the focus on the main areas of the form. The larger areas first, then we
can add details in the next stage.
You might also like:
1. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart1
2. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart2
3. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart4
{ 20commentsreadthembeloworadd one }
Gunner Dave April 19, 2012
Hi Will,
I have a question about your image which shows the 9 tones of the grey colour string. Would
it be possible for you to give these 9 tones in terms of RGB (or H, S & B) values on
photoshop? This way I could make my own grey colour string swatch on the computer and
print it out.
Also, as a beginner who has limited resources, is it worth using oil painting paper instead of
canvas until I get the hang of the technique? Are there any issues with this type of surface
that I should be aware of?
Loving your work,
Dave.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 19, 2012
Hi Dave,
Glad you like the progress.
Yes, if you have access to Photoshop you can create your own value scale. Matthew
Innis (from Underpaintings blog) talks through how he makes a scale using the Munsell
system (this is another approach for mixing and matching colours and, confusingly, used
10stepsandthevaluesarelabelledtheotherway)usingPhotoshopSeebelow:
To make the scale, I began with a new image file in Photoshop, 1 inch high and 11
incheslong,andwithabackgroundcolorofwhite.ThisIthendividedinto11
squares using guides. I approached each tone square as if this were a screen
printingproject,choosingtothinkofeachsectionasapercentageofblack(ie.Value
9, which is 90% white, can also be thought of as 10% black. Value 8 would be 20%
blackvalue7,30%blackandsoon).One by one, each square was then
selected, and filled using the color black and the Paintbucket tool. This action,
however, was done each time on a separate layer, which was later merged with the
background. The separate layers were necessary, because each successive layer
had a different fill percentage in order to control the density of black in each square
(eg.The layer which represented value 8, had a fill percentage of only 20%).
This, however, is for straight black and white, our mix is slightly warmer so might need a
bit of tweaking.
If you, or any of the readers, have another way to make a value scale with photoshop
please add to the comments.
Yes,byallmeanspracticeonoilpaintingpaper,youmightfinditfeelslikeitsitsontop
of the surface more, but just use a thicker mix of paint.
Thanks,
Will
REPLY
David A. April 20, 2012
Hi Will,
I was wondering about brushes again, and would like to know what is the difference between
a Bright, Flat and Shader. My local art store in Chicago does not have the brands you talked
about. Only Princeton ( they artist there say that they are from the UK).
I would like to know if you think that if the painting/drawing is wrong if it does not represent
the model perfectly.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hey David,
The difference between them is shape, so all have different uses.
Flat:Flatsquareedge.Goodforbroadstrokesandcreatingstraightlines.Nottheideal
for portraits because we want soft edges.
Bright:BrightsTheshorter,sturdierversionoftheflatbrush,(sohaslessflexifyou
were working with thick oil paints a bright would be able move the paint around easier.)
Shader: I think this is just a brand name and not in general used in other brush
manufacturers. I had a look at the Princeton website and the Shader is very similar to a
flat.
I forgot to mention Rosemary & co are mail order, but in terms of the Princeton brushes,
tell me your budget and I can advise which ones would be best.
There is no such thing as perfect representation, capturing a models character is more
important than a photo realist drawing. This all comes with practice and developing your
own style as an artist.
Dontgethunguponitbeingperfect,Iveseensomanystudentsstartportraitsget
disheartened and not continue on, just out of interest Picasso produced 50,000 unique
pieces of art over his lifetime.
Not every piece has to be a masterpiece, the process is just as important as the end
result.
Thanks
Will
REPLY
David A. April 21, 2012
Hi Will,
My budget per month is $25-35. I use half for painting and half for drawing.
The Princeton brushes at Blick cost between $6.29-15.00.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hi David,
You might be interested to look at the Winsor & Newton Artist Quality oil Brushes
(availableatblick)thesearereallyexcellentbrushesandtheonesIuseifImnotusing
the Rosemary & Co Ivory Filberts. They are slightly more reasonable than the Princeton
brushes and I can feel confident in recommending them.
Acoupleofhandysizes(ifyourworkingquitesmallA4papersize)are:
Long Handle Filbert, Size #2 ($4.37)
Long Handle Filbert, Size #4 ($5.14) (this is the same size as the brush I use for 90% of
this demo)
Size #5 & #6 are also handy.
Also, a small round for details with slightly softer hair, so either one of the synthetic
sables from Princeton (series 4000) or Winsor & newton Monarch are nice. (between a
size0and3dependingonhowdetailedyouworkIuseasize3forthisdemo)
For blending the filbert princeton size 6 ($6.45) or 8 ($7.05) (series 4000) is closest to
what I have used.
You could just start with the oil brushes though and see how you get on.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Michelle April 23, 2012
Do you ever use a different mixture for your shadows such as mixing a red,
ultramarine blue, and yellow ochre? This would be used after the initial raw umber stage on
just the shadows. I am starting to learn to paint portraits and have been told using this
mixture allows the shadows to remain transparent later on, however it seems to make things
more complicated than your method. Thanksforthisseriesitsveryhelpful.Looking forward
tothenextpart
REPLY
Will Kemp April 24, 2012
Hi Michelle,
Pleased to hear you are enjoying this portrait painting series. As this techniques is
focusing on the importance of tone and making the step from drawing to oil painting
keeping it simple really is the way the to go. So I will be only be using the raw umber and
Ivory black.
Forfullcolourportraits,Iuseasimilar,simpleapproach.Andwouldntinitiallyusered,
ultramarine blue or yellow ochre. I would still use a earth pigment like raw umber or burnt
umber.
Different artists have different approaches, but I am a great believer in keeping your
materials simple, so you can have more time to concentrate on the tricky part, the
painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
rod hulme June 3, 2012
HiWilleverythingokayhere!Have started playing with Golden liquids, [10 half oz.
bottles for 40.00] and find them interesting! Must pick up a 40 series knife to do my mixing of
theheavy,asthespatulatypeIhaveisawkwardforme,butprogress,asIalsofoundpaper
pallets I used to use with oils. There is something about a clean WHITE mixing surface..that
colorblind moi finds more accurate somehow in delineation of shades. Anyway, makes sense
tometome,andthatsjustfine.
Manythanksforyourpatience.cheersrod
REPLY
Will Kemp June 4, 2012
Hey Rod, yes the fluid acrylics can be very effective, especially for glazing
effects.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Alice July 5, 2012
Hello,Idontreallyunderstandwhyyouneedtopaintfirstwithrawumberwhycant
youjustpaintwithblack/whitestraightontothecanvas?Sorryifthatsanobviousquestion.
ThanksAlice
REPLY
Will Kemp July 5, 2012
Hi Alice,
Thanks for the comment. The reason I paint onto a toned ground is because it makes it
easier when you are first starting to judge your tones.
You can quickly establish your darkest darks and lightest lights and this will make it
easier to judge the other tones in your painting. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is
working onto a white canvas. you can read more about it here: How a prepared canvas
can drastically improve your painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
David Smith July 2, 2013
Hello Will,
Enjoying working through these lessons so far. Your method produces a nice look to a
portraitsimilartoVelzquez.
Regarding a value strip, I had a go creating one using GIMP (the free photo-editing
software). I edited the brush colour and altered the HSV (hue, saturation, value) settings.
Changing V amount from zero (black), 50 (mid-grey), 100 (white) etc. and all the tone
gradations in between.
David
REPLY
Will Kemp July 3, 2013
Hi David,
Pleased to hear the portrait course is going well, and that you could create a value strip
using GIMP, good one!
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
I am passionate about painting the figure, but have only worked in watercolors. My
question. Do you think it best for me to begin to learn painting in oils or do you think I should
work in Acrylics first. I was in fine arts for 10 years before I became an art therapist. Now that
IamretiredIwanttofocusonpaintingthefigure..portrait.Can you help direct me to
make the most of the next 10 years. My concern is the time it will take me to master two
mediums (acrylic and then on to oils). IlikeyourdemosandthinkIcanstartwithgood
training.Butwhichtrainingtobeginwithismyquestion.
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
Hi Bernice,
You might find this article helpful that goes through the differences between the two,
many of my acrylic painting techniques stem from classical painting techniques, so you
are inadvertently learning skills for both mediums.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
Yes, thank you. I think you are saying it would be good practice and learning
in acrylics before starting oils, since most of your acrylic techniques are taken from
classical oil techniques? Correct?
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
HiBernice,yes,Ivefoundforlearningaboutcolourmixingandpaint
techniques acrylics are very forgiving because you can easily work over them, so
are a great medium to learn with, can be painted anywhere, on pretty much any
surface, so are like a quick start painting. Then, when you feel move confident in
colour mixing and brush techniques you can go into oils there and will be less
mudmixedandmoreahamoments,asmanyofthetechniquesIteachare
transferable.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
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1
HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart3
by WI LL KEMP
i n OI L PAI NTI NG, PORTRAI TS
Whenyoucomebacktoyourpaintingyoullnoticehowtheoilhasbecometranslucent
overnightandwonthavethesamecoveragethatyoufirstthought.
How to paint a portrait series. This is part 3 of a 5 part series of tutorials for beginners making
the transition from drawing to oil painting.
Hereisaquickreviewofwhatwehavecoveredsofarifyoudliketojoinin
Part1Establishingthedrawing,includingtheshadowline.
This can be done in pencil or charcoal (that you can fix with fixative) try to keep the drawing
lines angular to start with.
Try to establish the basic shapes if you could only use a straight line, then add the contours as
the drawing progresses. A classic beginner mistake when drawing a portrait is an over
exaggerationofthecurvesintheface.Everythinggetsroundedoffandtheportraitcanhave
acartoonlikequality.Becausewehaveastrongvisualmemorysystemthattellsusfacesare
roundthiscansubconsciouslyaffectyourdrawing.
We the started to scrub in the underpainting layer. To a beginner, this stage is often skipped,
deemed to be unimportant, but a good foundation is key to success with portraits.
We then have our 3 part tonal underpainting which allows you, and your eye, to become more
in-tune with the image, and become aware to the tones.
Part2Developingthetones,addinglights.
We then worked over the top of the initial underpainting still just with the raw umber to
strengthen the tones and get a better feeling of form. These layers are all painted thinly.
The medium for this stage being a simple mix of 1 part linseed oil to 4 parts mineral spirits
(artistturpentineorodourlessmineralspirits)thisestablishesthefatoverleanrule.Witheach
progressivelayerbeingslightlyfatterwithmoreoilcontent.
We also added some roughed in lights with a faster drying white.
Thisistohelpusjudgethetonesforthenextstagesowhenwepaintthemontheydontlook
tooutwhenweaddthelights.
The Allure of highlights
I forgot to emphasis at the end of part 2 that the roughed in lights are the light tonal mass, and
not the highlights.
The highlights and the very darkest parts of the painting should be the last brushstrokes to be
done,buttheytryanddrawyouin!Itshardtoresistputtingthemonattheearlystage.
Andevenifyouvereadthewarning,itsamazinghow,whenyougetengrossedinthepainting,
your hand will be drawn to that lightest white.
This can seem counterintuitive if you are coming to the painting from drawing as we often erase
out the lightest areas, or work on this areas that attract out attention. The white highlights on
the eye have a particular allure.
When the painting is finished these will be seen by the viewer to be painted with the most skill,
however, a single dot of white can be painted by anyone, but resisting adding them takes the
practice of an artist.
A note about grey
One of the students following this series let me know about Gambiln Torrit grey competition
(Thanks Mario!) Every spring, the paint manufacture collect all of the residue paint pigment that
havebeencollectedbytheairfiltrationsystemandrecyclethemintoGamblinTorritGrey.
You can learn more about the Torrit Grey painting competition from Gamblin website.
Pigmentdustshouldnotgointotheearth,waterorlandfill,butintopaint,
Robert Gamblin.
For our grey we are going to mix a neutral using the raw umber and Ivory black.
Part3FirstPainting
Mixing a new medium
We now create a new medium for the next layer of the painting. Different artists vary the
richness of the medium depending on their own personal preference but the next mix is a very
useful one.
1 part linseed oil to 3 parts mineral spirit
Youcanusethepipettetomeasureoutamounts,orifImmixingalargeramountIllusekitchen
measurement spoons.
Pro tip: If you are doing a lot of painting it can be worth premixing a larger amount of each
medium in resealable jars, label them up and then you can simple decant the medium each
stage of the painting.
Mixing our black
We are now going to mix a neutral black for developing this monotone study. You can still
create some lovely studies just using the raw umber and white, it is a warmer finish than the
black, but you will still learn the importance of contrast in your paintings.
To mix the neutral we use 3/4 ivory black to 1/4 raw umber. This helps take the blue out of the
black (black has a blue base, this is why you can mix lovely muted greens with black)
Ivory black
Ivory black is a slow drying pigment, by mixing in 1/4 of the raw umber (which is quick drying) it
will match nicely with the titanium white (slow drying) and at this stage of the painting the longer
opentimewehavewiththepaintsthebetter.Ivoryblackalsohasalovelyrichnesswhen
painted thinly which will help out in the later stages of the portrait.
This way you will have time to work through your painting and blend and fuse edges that you
need to. This is why we started with the raw umber, it dries overnight and has a cooler
undertone when working with portraits.
Materials
Winsor & Newton artist quality Ivory black
Micheal harding artist quality Raw Umber
Old Holland artist quality titanium white
Winsor & newton Sansador ( odourless mineral spirits)
Winsor & newton Refined linseed oil
ThereisntanyspecificreasonwhyIuseeachbrand,IoftenintermixbrandsasIliketo
experiment using different manufacturers colours. Whatever is available where you are. The
one key throughout them all is that they are artist quality (See: the 8 key differences
between artist quality & student grade paint)
Paint consistency
When you are just beginning with oils, the handling of the paint can vary greatly depending on
the consistency of the paint.
Oil paint (especially the titanium white) is often too thick and stiff to work with at this stage of the
paintingstraightfromthetube.
To make the paint more fluid, I slightly dilute it with the medium shown above. I use a pipette to
drop a few drops of the medium onto the paint mixture and mix it thoroughly with the palette
knife. Using the palette knife for mixing your paints is a very useful technique.
The video below shows a quick tutorial on how I dilute the oil paint.
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I often mix the colours on a separate, tear off palette and then transfer the mixture to the clean
glass/ perspex.
Ifyourejustbeginningwithoilsyoullnoticehoweasilyyoucancontaminatecolourswhen
using a full palette of colours, this can lead to muddy colours and frustrating painting.
This helps you to learn clean working methods. I am naturally more impatient so it is a discipline
to spend the time mixing the colours as you just want to get painting but it will pay dividends.
Step14Mixingour tonal colour strings
Thisnextstageoftheportraitiswherewereallygetpaintingasin,thicker,moreopaque
colours mixed together. If we look back at the last couple of weeks lessons you can see that we
haventactuallymixedanytonestogetheryet.
Wehavesimplybeenblockinginthebasictonalvalues,inwhatissometimescalledthedead
colouringstagethisisbecauseweareusingalimitedamountofoilinthemix,andmore
mineralspirits.Asthemineralspiritsevaporatethecolourcanappearflat,anddeadasit
doesnthavethelustrethattheoilgivesus.
Pro tip:Whenworkingwithcolour,thisisalsoreferedtoasaddingthelocalcolourofa
subject. For example a lemon would have a local colour of yellow.
So before we start the painting we are going to premix a range of 9 value tones.
White (1) is the lightest, black (9) is the darkest. This enables us to get a mid tone 5 and split
the tones into lights, half tones, and darks. These are called tonal strings, you can read more
about them on A beginners guide to tonal strings
Using a value strip
Print out, or paint out your own value strip.
When you are first starting, working from a print out it can be handy because the value strip will
be the same tones as your reference photograph compared to the hues of the black and white
paint if you were to paint your strip.
Just slide the value strip under the glass. This way when you are trying to match the tone you
can test it by dabbing a swatch ontop of the tone underneath to determine how close you are.
The first tone I match is a number 5. It will take you a few attempts to get it spot on, this is
normal.
BeawarethattheblackhasastrongertintingstrengththanthewhitesowhenIadditImjust
scraping a small amount with the palette knife.
I then match a light value 3
Then a value 7. With these 3 tones you can create some great value studies (which are
sometimescalledposterstudies)theseallowtoquicklypracticeandsketchouttonal
compositions for future paintings.
It is also handy if you want to experiment working with a compressed value range.
Waterseller of Seville -Diego Velazquez, 1619
IfwelookatVelasquezspaintingbelowwecanseehisuseoftheumberunderpainting,and
the range of tones used to direct the views gaze.
When we look at the painting in black and white it is even easier to see how the most focus on
the painting has been placed on the subject with the broadest tonal range and
the background figure has a very compressed tonal range.
9 value tones
I then remove the value strip and we are ready to begin.
Iveplacedthepaletteovertheimagesoyoucanseetheeffectoflightfallout.
Due to my light source being above the subject the light drops off as we get further down the
face. When you look at the colour strings you can start to see how there is a subtle shift in tone
as we go down the painting. This is a key point to remember because when you take the paint
swatches away it is harder to judge the light drop off, your mind just accepts it.
The light was set up so that it was stronger on the top half of the portrait, and the value drops
away. You need to be aware of this drop off as you progress through the tones.
This can help in getting the fall of light right, and creating a logical progression throughout the
painting.
So what you can do now is remove the value strip from underneath the paint and hold it next to
your reference photograph. Make sure you have trimmed the edge of the value strip so you
donthaveanywhiteontheedge.Thiswillmakeithardertojudgetones.
Now shut one eye, this helps to flatten your vision and makes it easier to see tone. Then flick
your eyes between the tone and the value strip and the tone on the reference photograph until
you have a match.
Pro tip: If you are finding it hard to isolate the colour the use a hole-punch to punch a hole in
each square, this way you can use them as a viewfinder.
Solid painting
Forpurposesofstudythereisnothingbetterthansimple,direct,solidpainting.Paintingwith
transparent colour, with a mixture of solid and transparent, glazing etc are all things that must
betriedlateronbutforsometimeconfineyourselftodirect,solidpainting.
Harold Speed
On my image I start with the lightest part on the forehead, it is about a value 2.
I dip just the edge of my brush (number# 4 Rosemary & co ivory filbert) into the medium.
I then pull the paint from the side of the mixture and coat the end of the brush. The mixture is
thick enough to cover the underpainting, but still quite thin.
You are looking to cover the colour underneath with a solid tone, but still have a fluid mixture.
Gettingtheconsistencyrightcanbeanartinitself,sodontgetdiscouraged!
We just want a small amount of paint, notice how I pull the paint from the edge of the pile.
Youalsodontneedmuchpaint,justtrytogetthetipofthebristlescoated,Iworkthebrush
backandforthinthepaintsoithasacoverage,yetdoesntcomeupthebristlestoofar.
A beginners tendency is to overload your brush.
I then flick my eyes between the subject and my painting to judge the next tonal shift, I squeeze
any excess paint into a piece of kitchen roll untill the brush is dry,
Icanthengrabsomeofthenextvaluedownvalue3
Just to help my eye with the portrait I reinforce the white of the t-shirt with value 1.
This could have been put in first, there is no real hard and fast rule, I just scan the picture with
my eyes to look for any values that are in the first 3 light range.
Adding the midtones
I then move on to the mid-tones, again with a clean brush (I might dip it into pure mineral spirits
occasionally and scrub out the pigment into kitchen roll so I have a clean brush for the new
tone.
I then make my way down the tones using 4, 5, 6 . Notice how these are all still in the lights of
the subject.
Ihaventblendedanyofthetones,Iamjustsimplyblockingtheminwithaflattone.
Ithenblockinthetoneontheneck,againthiscouldhavebeendoneearlierbutyoullfindthe
more tones you add, the easier they are to judge in comparison.
All of the lights are now added, this has all been painting with values 1 through to 6.
We are now going to add the darks, working through 7 to 9
Adding the darks
As the light starts to drop off, I add the darks into the shadow side of the face, notice how the
tones have been dropping darker to the right and the bottom of the picture due to the light
source being from the top left.
I continue adding a darker value 8 into the shadow under the chin. Notice how blue the paint
appears next to the raw umber. The tones are still quite flat with limited blending, still just using
the size 4 ivory filbert.
I now mix a value between the 8 & 9, you could go straight in with the 9, but I wanted to leave
this for the final part of this stage.
I then soften the edge slightly using the filbert.
I swap to a sable filbert for blending the edges further, as I mentioned before, I often use the
Ivory filbert for this, but sometimes, if the paint is pulling too much the sable can just give you
that blend that you are after.
BecausetheunderpaintingisnowdryImrestingbylittlefingeronthecanvas,thiswayIcan
pivot, with a stronger support. For larger scale painting, or of the background is still damp I
would use a mahl stick.
This is now with the value 9, the pure black mix we have made. When this first goes on it will
feeltoodark.Itsnot.
Iblockinthisblackslightlythinnerthanthepreviouspaint,Imstillconcernedwithcreatingaflat
tonalvalue.NoticehowIveleftaslightegdebetweenthisdarkertoneandtheedgeofthe
face.ThiswaywhenIsoftentheedgeitwontgotoodark.
A tendency when your first starting is to add, then blend, add then blend, but it will work better if
you keep the blending to a minimum.
This is easier said than done.
Notice how light the first shadow now looks in comparison to the black.
This stage of the painting I now have a full tonal range of opaque colour. I can now assess the
referenceimageandflickmyeyesbetweenthetwo,lookingforanythingthatlooksout.
The Importance of edges
I now look to soften out most of the edges. As with the underpainting, it is easiest to keep the
edges soft at this stage as they can easily grab a viewers attention. Sharp edges come
forward, soft edges recede back.
Pro tip:Ifyouarehavingtroublepullingthepainttoomuchswaptothelargersize10filbert
and gentle blush over the edge.
Wevenowfinishedthefirststageofmodellingtheportrait.Ihaventworkedonthefeatures
much, still just keeping the focus on the main areas of the form. The larger areas first, then we
can add details in the next stage.
You might also like:
1. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart1
2. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart2
3. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart4
{ 20commentsreadthembeloworadd one }
Gunner Dave April 19, 2012
Hi Will,
I have a question about your image which shows the 9 tones of the grey colour string. Would
it be possible for you to give these 9 tones in terms of RGB (or H, S & B) values on
photoshop? This way I could make my own grey colour string swatch on the computer and
print it out.
Also, as a beginner who has limited resources, is it worth using oil painting paper instead of
canvas until I get the hang of the technique? Are there any issues with this type of surface
that I should be aware of?
Loving your work,
Dave.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 19, 2012
Hi Dave,
Glad you like the progress.
Yes, if you have access to Photoshop you can create your own value scale. Matthew
Innis (from Underpaintings blog) talks through how he makes a scale using the Munsell
system (this is another approach for mixing and matching colours and, confusingly, used
10stepsandthevaluesarelabelledtheotherway)usingPhotoshopSeebelow:
To make the scale, I began with a new image file in Photoshop, 1 inch high and 11
incheslong,andwithabackgroundcolorofwhite.ThisIthendividedinto11
squares using guides. I approached each tone square as if this were a screen
printingproject,choosingtothinkofeachsectionasapercentageofblack(ie.Value
9, which is 90% white, can also be thought of as 10% black. Value 8 would be 20%
blackvalue7,30%blackandsoon).One by one, each square was then
selected, and filled using the color black and the Paintbucket tool. This action,
however, was done each time on a separate layer, which was later merged with the
background. The separate layers were necessary, because each successive layer
had a different fill percentage in order to control the density of black in each square
(eg.The layer which represented value 8, had a fill percentage of only 20%).
This, however, is for straight black and white, our mix is slightly warmer so might need a
bit of tweaking.
If you, or any of the readers, have another way to make a value scale with photoshop
please add to the comments.
Yes,byallmeanspracticeonoilpaintingpaper,youmightfinditfeelslikeitsitsontop
of the surface more, but just use a thicker mix of paint.
Thanks,
Will
REPLY
David A. April 20, 2012
Hi Will,
I was wondering about brushes again, and would like to know what is the difference between
a Bright, Flat and Shader. My local art store in Chicago does not have the brands you talked
about. Only Princeton ( they artist there say that they are from the UK).
I would like to know if you think that if the painting/drawing is wrong if it does not represent
the model perfectly.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hey David,
The difference between them is shape, so all have different uses.
Flat:Flatsquareedge.Goodforbroadstrokesandcreatingstraightlines.Nottheideal
for portraits because we want soft edges.
Bright:BrightsTheshorter,sturdierversionoftheflatbrush,(sohaslessflexifyou
were working with thick oil paints a bright would be able move the paint around easier.)
Shader: I think this is just a brand name and not in general used in other brush
manufacturers. I had a look at the Princeton website and the Shader is very similar to a
flat.
I forgot to mention Rosemary & co are mail order, but in terms of the Princeton brushes,
tell me your budget and I can advise which ones would be best.
There is no such thing as perfect representation, capturing a models character is more
important than a photo realist drawing. This all comes with practice and developing your
own style as an artist.
Dontgethunguponitbeingperfect,Iveseensomanystudentsstartportraitsget
disheartened and not continue on, just out of interest Picasso produced 50,000 unique
pieces of art over his lifetime.
Not every piece has to be a masterpiece, the process is just as important as the end
result.
Thanks
Will
REPLY
David A. April 21, 2012
Hi Will,
My budget per month is $25-35. I use half for painting and half for drawing.
The Princeton brushes at Blick cost between $6.29-15.00.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hi David,
You might be interested to look at the Winsor & Newton Artist Quality oil Brushes
(availableatblick)thesearereallyexcellentbrushesandtheonesIuseifImnotusing
the Rosemary & Co Ivory Filberts. They are slightly more reasonable than the Princeton
brushes and I can feel confident in recommending them.
Acoupleofhandysizes(ifyourworkingquitesmallA4papersize)are:
Long Handle Filbert, Size #2 ($4.37)
Long Handle Filbert, Size #4 ($5.14) (this is the same size as the brush I use for 90% of
this demo)
Size #5 & #6 are also handy.
Also, a small round for details with slightly softer hair, so either one of the synthetic
sables from Princeton (series 4000) or Winsor & newton Monarch are nice. (between a
size0and3dependingonhowdetailedyouworkIuseasize3forthisdemo)
For blending the filbert princeton size 6 ($6.45) or 8 ($7.05) (series 4000) is closest to
what I have used.
You could just start with the oil brushes though and see how you get on.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Michelle April 23, 2012
Do you ever use a different mixture for your shadows such as mixing a red,
ultramarine blue, and yellow ochre? This would be used after the initial raw umber stage on
just the shadows. I am starting to learn to paint portraits and have been told using this
mixture allows the shadows to remain transparent later on, however it seems to make things
more complicated than your method. Thanksforthisseriesitsveryhelpful.Looking forward
tothenextpart
REPLY
Will Kemp April 24, 2012
Hi Michelle,
Pleased to hear you are enjoying this portrait painting series. As this techniques is
focusing on the importance of tone and making the step from drawing to oil painting
keeping it simple really is the way the to go. So I will be only be using the raw umber and
Ivory black.
Forfullcolourportraits,Iuseasimilar,simpleapproach.Andwouldntinitiallyusered,
ultramarine blue or yellow ochre. I would still use a earth pigment like raw umber or burnt
umber.
Different artists have different approaches, but I am a great believer in keeping your
materials simple, so you can have more time to concentrate on the tricky part, the
painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
rod hulme June 3, 2012
HiWilleverythingokayhere!Have started playing with Golden liquids, [10 half oz.
bottles for 40.00] and find them interesting! Must pick up a 40 series knife to do my mixing of
theheavy,asthespatulatypeIhaveisawkwardforme,butprogress,asIalsofoundpaper
pallets I used to use with oils. There is something about a clean WHITE mixing surface..that
colorblind moi finds more accurate somehow in delineation of shades. Anyway, makes sense
tometome,andthatsjustfine.
Manythanksforyourpatience.cheersrod
REPLY
Will Kemp June 4, 2012
Hey Rod, yes the fluid acrylics can be very effective, especially for glazing
effects.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Alice July 5, 2012
Hello,Idontreallyunderstandwhyyouneedtopaintfirstwithrawumberwhycant
youjustpaintwithblack/whitestraightontothecanvas?Sorryifthatsanobviousquestion.
ThanksAlice
REPLY
Will Kemp July 5, 2012
Hi Alice,
Thanks for the comment. The reason I paint onto a toned ground is because it makes it
easier when you are first starting to judge your tones.
You can quickly establish your darkest darks and lightest lights and this will make it
easier to judge the other tones in your painting. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is
working onto a white canvas. you can read more about it here: How a prepared canvas
can drastically improve your painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
David Smith July 2, 2013
Hello Will,
Enjoying working through these lessons so far. Your method produces a nice look to a
portraitsimilartoVelzquez.
Regarding a value strip, I had a go creating one using GIMP (the free photo-editing
software). I edited the brush colour and altered the HSV (hue, saturation, value) settings.
Changing V amount from zero (black), 50 (mid-grey), 100 (white) etc. and all the tone
gradations in between.
David
REPLY
Will Kemp July 3, 2013
Hi David,
Pleased to hear the portrait course is going well, and that you could create a value strip
using GIMP, good one!
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
I am passionate about painting the figure, but have only worked in watercolors. My
question. Do you think it best for me to begin to learn painting in oils or do you think I should
work in Acrylics first. I was in fine arts for 10 years before I became an art therapist. Now that
IamretiredIwanttofocusonpaintingthefigure..portrait.Can you help direct me to
make the most of the next 10 years. My concern is the time it will take me to master two
mediums (acrylic and then on to oils). IlikeyourdemosandthinkIcanstartwithgood
training.Butwhichtrainingtobeginwithismyquestion.
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
Hi Bernice,
You might find this article helpful that goes through the differences between the two,
many of my acrylic painting techniques stem from classical painting techniques, so you
are inadvertently learning skills for both mediums.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
Yes, thank you. I think you are saying it would be good practice and learning
in acrylics before starting oils, since most of your acrylic techniques are taken from
classical oil techniques? Correct?
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
HiBernice,yes,Ivefoundforlearningaboutcolourmixingandpaint
techniques acrylics are very forgiving because you can easily work over them, so
are a great medium to learn with, can be painted anywhere, on pretty much any
surface, so are like a quick start painting. Then, when you feel move confident in
colour mixing and brush techniques you can go into oils there and will be less
mudmixedandmoreahamoments,asmanyofthetechniquesIteachare
transferable.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
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1
HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart3
by WI LL KEMP
i n OI L PAI NTI NG, PORTRAI TS
Whenyoucomebacktoyourpaintingyoullnoticehowtheoilhasbecometranslucent
overnightandwonthavethesamecoveragethatyoufirstthought.
How to paint a portrait series. This is part 3 of a 5 part series of tutorials for beginners making
the transition from drawing to oil painting.
Hereisaquickreviewofwhatwehavecoveredsofarifyoudliketojoinin
Part1Establishingthedrawing,includingtheshadowline.
This can be done in pencil or charcoal (that you can fix with fixative) try to keep the drawing
lines angular to start with.
Try to establish the basic shapes if you could only use a straight line, then add the contours as
the drawing progresses. A classic beginner mistake when drawing a portrait is an over
exaggerationofthecurvesintheface.Everythinggetsroundedoffandtheportraitcanhave
acartoonlikequality.Becausewehaveastrongvisualmemorysystemthattellsusfacesare
roundthiscansubconsciouslyaffectyourdrawing.
We the started to scrub in the underpainting layer. To a beginner, this stage is often skipped,
deemed to be unimportant, but a good foundation is key to success with portraits.
We then have our 3 part tonal underpainting which allows you, and your eye, to become more
in-tune with the image, and become aware to the tones.
Part2Developingthetones,addinglights.
We then worked over the top of the initial underpainting still just with the raw umber to
strengthen the tones and get a better feeling of form. These layers are all painted thinly.
The medium for this stage being a simple mix of 1 part linseed oil to 4 parts mineral spirits
(artistturpentineorodourlessmineralspirits)thisestablishesthefatoverleanrule.Witheach
progressivelayerbeingslightlyfatterwithmoreoilcontent.
We also added some roughed in lights with a faster drying white.
Thisistohelpusjudgethetonesforthenextstagesowhenwepaintthemontheydontlook
tooutwhenweaddthelights.
The Allure of highlights
I forgot to emphasis at the end of part 2 that the roughed in lights are the light tonal mass, and
not the highlights.
The highlights and the very darkest parts of the painting should be the last brushstrokes to be
done,buttheytryanddrawyouin!Itshardtoresistputtingthemonattheearlystage.
Andevenifyouvereadthewarning,itsamazinghow,whenyougetengrossedinthepainting,
your hand will be drawn to that lightest white.
This can seem counterintuitive if you are coming to the painting from drawing as we often erase
out the lightest areas, or work on this areas that attract out attention. The white highlights on
the eye have a particular allure.
When the painting is finished these will be seen by the viewer to be painted with the most skill,
however, a single dot of white can be painted by anyone, but resisting adding them takes the
practice of an artist.
A note about grey
One of the students following this series let me know about Gambiln Torrit grey competition
(Thanks Mario!) Every spring, the paint manufacture collect all of the residue paint pigment that
havebeencollectedbytheairfiltrationsystemandrecyclethemintoGamblinTorritGrey.
You can learn more about the Torrit Grey painting competition from Gamblin website.
Pigmentdustshouldnotgointotheearth,waterorlandfill,butintopaint,
Robert Gamblin.
For our grey we are going to mix a neutral using the raw umber and Ivory black.
Part3FirstPainting
Mixing a new medium
We now create a new medium for the next layer of the painting. Different artists vary the
richness of the medium depending on their own personal preference but the next mix is a very
useful one.
1 part linseed oil to 3 parts mineral spirit
Youcanusethepipettetomeasureoutamounts,orifImmixingalargeramountIllusekitchen
measurement spoons.
Pro tip: If you are doing a lot of painting it can be worth premixing a larger amount of each
medium in resealable jars, label them up and then you can simple decant the medium each
stage of the painting.
Mixing our black
We are now going to mix a neutral black for developing this monotone study. You can still
create some lovely studies just using the raw umber and white, it is a warmer finish than the
black, but you will still learn the importance of contrast in your paintings.
To mix the neutral we use 3/4 ivory black to 1/4 raw umber. This helps take the blue out of the
black (black has a blue base, this is why you can mix lovely muted greens with black)
Ivory black
Ivory black is a slow drying pigment, by mixing in 1/4 of the raw umber (which is quick drying) it
will match nicely with the titanium white (slow drying) and at this stage of the painting the longer
opentimewehavewiththepaintsthebetter.Ivoryblackalsohasalovelyrichnesswhen
painted thinly which will help out in the later stages of the portrait.
This way you will have time to work through your painting and blend and fuse edges that you
need to. This is why we started with the raw umber, it dries overnight and has a cooler
undertone when working with portraits.
Materials
Winsor & Newton artist quality Ivory black
Micheal harding artist quality Raw Umber
Old Holland artist quality titanium white
Winsor & newton Sansador ( odourless mineral spirits)
Winsor & newton Refined linseed oil
ThereisntanyspecificreasonwhyIuseeachbrand,IoftenintermixbrandsasIliketo
experiment using different manufacturers colours. Whatever is available where you are. The
one key throughout them all is that they are artist quality (See: the 8 key differences
between artist quality & student grade paint)
Paint consistency
When you are just beginning with oils, the handling of the paint can vary greatly depending on
the consistency of the paint.
Oil paint (especially the titanium white) is often too thick and stiff to work with at this stage of the
paintingstraightfromthetube.
To make the paint more fluid, I slightly dilute it with the medium shown above. I use a pipette to
drop a few drops of the medium onto the paint mixture and mix it thoroughly with the palette
knife. Using the palette knife for mixing your paints is a very useful technique.
The video below shows a quick tutorial on how I dilute the oil paint.
The Adobe Flash Player or an HTML5 supported browser is required for video
playback.
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I often mix the colours on a separate, tear off palette and then transfer the mixture to the clean
glass/ perspex.
Ifyourejustbeginningwithoilsyoullnoticehoweasilyyoucancontaminatecolourswhen
using a full palette of colours, this can lead to muddy colours and frustrating painting.
This helps you to learn clean working methods. I am naturally more impatient so it is a discipline
to spend the time mixing the colours as you just want to get painting but it will pay dividends.
Step14Mixingour tonal colour strings
Thisnextstageoftheportraitiswherewereallygetpaintingasin,thicker,moreopaque
colours mixed together. If we look back at the last couple of weeks lessons you can see that we
haventactuallymixedanytonestogetheryet.
Wehavesimplybeenblockinginthebasictonalvalues,inwhatissometimescalledthedead
colouringstagethisisbecauseweareusingalimitedamountofoilinthemix,andmore
mineralspirits.Asthemineralspiritsevaporatethecolourcanappearflat,anddeadasit
doesnthavethelustrethattheoilgivesus.
Pro tip:Whenworkingwithcolour,thisisalsoreferedtoasaddingthelocalcolourofa
subject. For example a lemon would have a local colour of yellow.
So before we start the painting we are going to premix a range of 9 value tones.
White (1) is the lightest, black (9) is the darkest. This enables us to get a mid tone 5 and split
the tones into lights, half tones, and darks. These are called tonal strings, you can read more
about them on A beginners guide to tonal strings
Using a value strip
Print out, or paint out your own value strip.
When you are first starting, working from a print out it can be handy because the value strip will
be the same tones as your reference photograph compared to the hues of the black and white
paint if you were to paint your strip.
Just slide the value strip under the glass. This way when you are trying to match the tone you
can test it by dabbing a swatch ontop of the tone underneath to determine how close you are.
The first tone I match is a number 5. It will take you a few attempts to get it spot on, this is
normal.
BeawarethattheblackhasastrongertintingstrengththanthewhitesowhenIadditImjust
scraping a small amount with the palette knife.
I then match a light value 3
Then a value 7. With these 3 tones you can create some great value studies (which are
sometimescalledposterstudies)theseallowtoquicklypracticeandsketchouttonal
compositions for future paintings.
It is also handy if you want to experiment working with a compressed value range.
Waterseller of Seville -Diego Velazquez, 1619
IfwelookatVelasquezspaintingbelowwecanseehisuseoftheumberunderpainting,and
the range of tones used to direct the views gaze.
When we look at the painting in black and white it is even easier to see how the most focus on
the painting has been placed on the subject with the broadest tonal range and
the background figure has a very compressed tonal range.
9 value tones
I then remove the value strip and we are ready to begin.
Iveplacedthepaletteovertheimagesoyoucanseetheeffectoflightfallout.
Due to my light source being above the subject the light drops off as we get further down the
face. When you look at the colour strings you can start to see how there is a subtle shift in tone
as we go down the painting. This is a key point to remember because when you take the paint
swatches away it is harder to judge the light drop off, your mind just accepts it.
The light was set up so that it was stronger on the top half of the portrait, and the value drops
away. You need to be aware of this drop off as you progress through the tones.
This can help in getting the fall of light right, and creating a logical progression throughout the
painting.
So what you can do now is remove the value strip from underneath the paint and hold it next to
your reference photograph. Make sure you have trimmed the edge of the value strip so you
donthaveanywhiteontheedge.Thiswillmakeithardertojudgetones.
Now shut one eye, this helps to flatten your vision and makes it easier to see tone. Then flick
your eyes between the tone and the value strip and the tone on the reference photograph until
you have a match.
Pro tip: If you are finding it hard to isolate the colour the use a hole-punch to punch a hole in
each square, this way you can use them as a viewfinder.
Solid painting
Forpurposesofstudythereisnothingbetterthansimple,direct,solidpainting.Paintingwith
transparent colour, with a mixture of solid and transparent, glazing etc are all things that must
betriedlateronbutforsometimeconfineyourselftodirect,solidpainting.
Harold Speed
On my image I start with the lightest part on the forehead, it is about a value 2.
I dip just the edge of my brush (number# 4 Rosemary & co ivory filbert) into the medium.
I then pull the paint from the side of the mixture and coat the end of the brush. The mixture is
thick enough to cover the underpainting, but still quite thin.
You are looking to cover the colour underneath with a solid tone, but still have a fluid mixture.
Gettingtheconsistencyrightcanbeanartinitself,sodontgetdiscouraged!
We just want a small amount of paint, notice how I pull the paint from the edge of the pile.
Youalsodontneedmuchpaint,justtrytogetthetipofthebristlescoated,Iworkthebrush
backandforthinthepaintsoithasacoverage,yetdoesntcomeupthebristlestoofar.
A beginners tendency is to overload your brush.
I then flick my eyes between the subject and my painting to judge the next tonal shift, I squeeze
any excess paint into a piece of kitchen roll untill the brush is dry,
Icanthengrabsomeofthenextvaluedownvalue3
Just to help my eye with the portrait I reinforce the white of the t-shirt with value 1.
This could have been put in first, there is no real hard and fast rule, I just scan the picture with
my eyes to look for any values that are in the first 3 light range.
Adding the midtones
I then move on to the mid-tones, again with a clean brush (I might dip it into pure mineral spirits
occasionally and scrub out the pigment into kitchen roll so I have a clean brush for the new
tone.
I then make my way down the tones using 4, 5, 6 . Notice how these are all still in the lights of
the subject.
Ihaventblendedanyofthetones,Iamjustsimplyblockingtheminwithaflattone.
Ithenblockinthetoneontheneck,againthiscouldhavebeendoneearlierbutyoullfindthe
more tones you add, the easier they are to judge in comparison.
All of the lights are now added, this has all been painting with values 1 through to 6.
We are now going to add the darks, working through 7 to 9
Adding the darks
As the light starts to drop off, I add the darks into the shadow side of the face, notice how the
tones have been dropping darker to the right and the bottom of the picture due to the light
source being from the top left.
I continue adding a darker value 8 into the shadow under the chin. Notice how blue the paint
appears next to the raw umber. The tones are still quite flat with limited blending, still just using
the size 4 ivory filbert.
I now mix a value between the 8 & 9, you could go straight in with the 9, but I wanted to leave
this for the final part of this stage.
I then soften the edge slightly using the filbert.
I swap to a sable filbert for blending the edges further, as I mentioned before, I often use the
Ivory filbert for this, but sometimes, if the paint is pulling too much the sable can just give you
that blend that you are after.
BecausetheunderpaintingisnowdryImrestingbylittlefingeronthecanvas,thiswayIcan
pivot, with a stronger support. For larger scale painting, or of the background is still damp I
would use a mahl stick.
This is now with the value 9, the pure black mix we have made. When this first goes on it will
feeltoodark.Itsnot.
Iblockinthisblackslightlythinnerthanthepreviouspaint,Imstillconcernedwithcreatingaflat
tonalvalue.NoticehowIveleftaslightegdebetweenthisdarkertoneandtheedgeofthe
face.ThiswaywhenIsoftentheedgeitwontgotoodark.
A tendency when your first starting is to add, then blend, add then blend, but it will work better if
you keep the blending to a minimum.
This is easier said than done.
Notice how light the first shadow now looks in comparison to the black.
This stage of the painting I now have a full tonal range of opaque colour. I can now assess the
referenceimageandflickmyeyesbetweenthetwo,lookingforanythingthatlooksout.
The Importance of edges
I now look to soften out most of the edges. As with the underpainting, it is easiest to keep the
edges soft at this stage as they can easily grab a viewers attention. Sharp edges come
forward, soft edges recede back.
Pro tip:Ifyouarehavingtroublepullingthepainttoomuchswaptothelargersize10filbert
and gentle blush over the edge.
Wevenowfinishedthefirststageofmodellingtheportrait.Ihaventworkedonthefeatures
much, still just keeping the focus on the main areas of the form. The larger areas first, then we
can add details in the next stage.
You might also like:
1. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart1
2. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart2
3. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart4
{ 20commentsreadthembeloworadd one }
Gunner Dave April 19, 2012
Hi Will,
I have a question about your image which shows the 9 tones of the grey colour string. Would
it be possible for you to give these 9 tones in terms of RGB (or H, S & B) values on
photoshop? This way I could make my own grey colour string swatch on the computer and
print it out.
Also, as a beginner who has limited resources, is it worth using oil painting paper instead of
canvas until I get the hang of the technique? Are there any issues with this type of surface
that I should be aware of?
Loving your work,
Dave.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 19, 2012
Hi Dave,
Glad you like the progress.
Yes, if you have access to Photoshop you can create your own value scale. Matthew
Innis (from Underpaintings blog) talks through how he makes a scale using the Munsell
system (this is another approach for mixing and matching colours and, confusingly, used
10stepsandthevaluesarelabelledtheotherway)usingPhotoshopSeebelow:
To make the scale, I began with a new image file in Photoshop, 1 inch high and 11
incheslong,andwithabackgroundcolorofwhite.ThisIthendividedinto11
squares using guides. I approached each tone square as if this were a screen
printingproject,choosingtothinkofeachsectionasapercentageofblack(ie.Value
9, which is 90% white, can also be thought of as 10% black. Value 8 would be 20%
blackvalue7,30%blackandsoon).One by one, each square was then
selected, and filled using the color black and the Paintbucket tool. This action,
however, was done each time on a separate layer, which was later merged with the
background. The separate layers were necessary, because each successive layer
had a different fill percentage in order to control the density of black in each square
(eg.The layer which represented value 8, had a fill percentage of only 20%).
This, however, is for straight black and white, our mix is slightly warmer so might need a
bit of tweaking.
If you, or any of the readers, have another way to make a value scale with photoshop
please add to the comments.
Yes,byallmeanspracticeonoilpaintingpaper,youmightfinditfeelslikeitsitsontop
of the surface more, but just use a thicker mix of paint.
Thanks,
Will
REPLY
David A. April 20, 2012
Hi Will,
I was wondering about brushes again, and would like to know what is the difference between
a Bright, Flat and Shader. My local art store in Chicago does not have the brands you talked
about. Only Princeton ( they artist there say that they are from the UK).
I would like to know if you think that if the painting/drawing is wrong if it does not represent
the model perfectly.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hey David,
The difference between them is shape, so all have different uses.
Flat:Flatsquareedge.Goodforbroadstrokesandcreatingstraightlines.Nottheideal
for portraits because we want soft edges.
Bright:BrightsTheshorter,sturdierversionoftheflatbrush,(sohaslessflexifyou
were working with thick oil paints a bright would be able move the paint around easier.)
Shader: I think this is just a brand name and not in general used in other brush
manufacturers. I had a look at the Princeton website and the Shader is very similar to a
flat.
I forgot to mention Rosemary & co are mail order, but in terms of the Princeton brushes,
tell me your budget and I can advise which ones would be best.
There is no such thing as perfect representation, capturing a models character is more
important than a photo realist drawing. This all comes with practice and developing your
own style as an artist.
Dontgethunguponitbeingperfect,Iveseensomanystudentsstartportraitsget
disheartened and not continue on, just out of interest Picasso produced 50,000 unique
pieces of art over his lifetime.
Not every piece has to be a masterpiece, the process is just as important as the end
result.
Thanks
Will
REPLY
David A. April 21, 2012
Hi Will,
My budget per month is $25-35. I use half for painting and half for drawing.
The Princeton brushes at Blick cost between $6.29-15.00.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hi David,
You might be interested to look at the Winsor & Newton Artist Quality oil Brushes
(availableatblick)thesearereallyexcellentbrushesandtheonesIuseifImnotusing
the Rosemary & Co Ivory Filberts. They are slightly more reasonable than the Princeton
brushes and I can feel confident in recommending them.
Acoupleofhandysizes(ifyourworkingquitesmallA4papersize)are:
Long Handle Filbert, Size #2 ($4.37)
Long Handle Filbert, Size #4 ($5.14) (this is the same size as the brush I use for 90% of
this demo)
Size #5 & #6 are also handy.
Also, a small round for details with slightly softer hair, so either one of the synthetic
sables from Princeton (series 4000) or Winsor & newton Monarch are nice. (between a
size0and3dependingonhowdetailedyouworkIuseasize3forthisdemo)
For blending the filbert princeton size 6 ($6.45) or 8 ($7.05) (series 4000) is closest to
what I have used.
You could just start with the oil brushes though and see how you get on.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Michelle April 23, 2012
Do you ever use a different mixture for your shadows such as mixing a red,
ultramarine blue, and yellow ochre? This would be used after the initial raw umber stage on
just the shadows. I am starting to learn to paint portraits and have been told using this
mixture allows the shadows to remain transparent later on, however it seems to make things
more complicated than your method. Thanksforthisseriesitsveryhelpful.Looking forward
tothenextpart
REPLY
Will Kemp April 24, 2012
Hi Michelle,
Pleased to hear you are enjoying this portrait painting series. As this techniques is
focusing on the importance of tone and making the step from drawing to oil painting
keeping it simple really is the way the to go. So I will be only be using the raw umber and
Ivory black.
Forfullcolourportraits,Iuseasimilar,simpleapproach.Andwouldntinitiallyusered,
ultramarine blue or yellow ochre. I would still use a earth pigment like raw umber or burnt
umber.
Different artists have different approaches, but I am a great believer in keeping your
materials simple, so you can have more time to concentrate on the tricky part, the
painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
rod hulme June 3, 2012
HiWilleverythingokayhere!Have started playing with Golden liquids, [10 half oz.
bottles for 40.00] and find them interesting! Must pick up a 40 series knife to do my mixing of
theheavy,asthespatulatypeIhaveisawkwardforme,butprogress,asIalsofoundpaper
pallets I used to use with oils. There is something about a clean WHITE mixing surface..that
colorblind moi finds more accurate somehow in delineation of shades. Anyway, makes sense
tometome,andthatsjustfine.
Manythanksforyourpatience.cheersrod
REPLY
Will Kemp June 4, 2012
Hey Rod, yes the fluid acrylics can be very effective, especially for glazing
effects.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Alice July 5, 2012
Hello,Idontreallyunderstandwhyyouneedtopaintfirstwithrawumberwhycant
youjustpaintwithblack/whitestraightontothecanvas?Sorryifthatsanobviousquestion.
ThanksAlice
REPLY
Will Kemp July 5, 2012
Hi Alice,
Thanks for the comment. The reason I paint onto a toned ground is because it makes it
easier when you are first starting to judge your tones.
You can quickly establish your darkest darks and lightest lights and this will make it
easier to judge the other tones in your painting. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is
working onto a white canvas. you can read more about it here: How a prepared canvas
can drastically improve your painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
David Smith July 2, 2013
Hello Will,
Enjoying working through these lessons so far. Your method produces a nice look to a
portraitsimilartoVelzquez.
Regarding a value strip, I had a go creating one using GIMP (the free photo-editing
software). I edited the brush colour and altered the HSV (hue, saturation, value) settings.
Changing V amount from zero (black), 50 (mid-grey), 100 (white) etc. and all the tone
gradations in between.
David
REPLY
Will Kemp July 3, 2013
Hi David,
Pleased to hear the portrait course is going well, and that you could create a value strip
using GIMP, good one!
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
I am passionate about painting the figure, but have only worked in watercolors. My
question. Do you think it best for me to begin to learn painting in oils or do you think I should
work in Acrylics first. I was in fine arts for 10 years before I became an art therapist. Now that
IamretiredIwanttofocusonpaintingthefigure..portrait.Can you help direct me to
make the most of the next 10 years. My concern is the time it will take me to master two
mediums (acrylic and then on to oils). IlikeyourdemosandthinkIcanstartwithgood
training.Butwhichtrainingtobeginwithismyquestion.
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
Hi Bernice,
You might find this article helpful that goes through the differences between the two,
many of my acrylic painting techniques stem from classical painting techniques, so you
are inadvertently learning skills for both mediums.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
Yes, thank you. I think you are saying it would be good practice and learning
in acrylics before starting oils, since most of your acrylic techniques are taken from
classical oil techniques? Correct?
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
HiBernice,yes,Ivefoundforlearningaboutcolourmixingandpaint
techniques acrylics are very forgiving because you can easily work over them, so
are a great medium to learn with, can be painted anywhere, on pretty much any
surface, so are like a quick start painting. Then, when you feel move confident in
colour mixing and brush techniques you can go into oils there and will be less
mudmixedandmoreahamoments,asmanyofthetechniquesIteachare
transferable.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
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1
HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart3
by WI LL KEMP
i n OI L PAI NTI NG, PORTRAI TS
Whenyoucomebacktoyourpaintingyoullnoticehowtheoilhasbecometranslucent
overnightandwonthavethesamecoveragethatyoufirstthought.
How to paint a portrait series. This is part 3 of a 5 part series of tutorials for beginners making
the transition from drawing to oil painting.
Hereisaquickreviewofwhatwehavecoveredsofarifyoudliketojoinin
Part1Establishingthedrawing,includingtheshadowline.
This can be done in pencil or charcoal (that you can fix with fixative) try to keep the drawing
lines angular to start with.
Try to establish the basic shapes if you could only use a straight line, then add the contours as
the drawing progresses. A classic beginner mistake when drawing a portrait is an over
exaggerationofthecurvesintheface.Everythinggetsroundedoffandtheportraitcanhave
acartoonlikequality.Becausewehaveastrongvisualmemorysystemthattellsusfacesare
roundthiscansubconsciouslyaffectyourdrawing.
We the started to scrub in the underpainting layer. To a beginner, this stage is often skipped,
deemed to be unimportant, but a good foundation is key to success with portraits.
We then have our 3 part tonal underpainting which allows you, and your eye, to become more
in-tune with the image, and become aware to the tones.
Part2Developingthetones,addinglights.
We then worked over the top of the initial underpainting still just with the raw umber to
strengthen the tones and get a better feeling of form. These layers are all painted thinly.
The medium for this stage being a simple mix of 1 part linseed oil to 4 parts mineral spirits
(artistturpentineorodourlessmineralspirits)thisestablishesthefatoverleanrule.Witheach
progressivelayerbeingslightlyfatterwithmoreoilcontent.
We also added some roughed in lights with a faster drying white.
Thisistohelpusjudgethetonesforthenextstagesowhenwepaintthemontheydontlook
tooutwhenweaddthelights.
The Allure of highlights
I forgot to emphasis at the end of part 2 that the roughed in lights are the light tonal mass, and
not the highlights.
The highlights and the very darkest parts of the painting should be the last brushstrokes to be
done,buttheytryanddrawyouin!Itshardtoresistputtingthemonattheearlystage.
Andevenifyouvereadthewarning,itsamazinghow,whenyougetengrossedinthepainting,
your hand will be drawn to that lightest white.
This can seem counterintuitive if you are coming to the painting from drawing as we often erase
out the lightest areas, or work on this areas that attract out attention. The white highlights on
the eye have a particular allure.
When the painting is finished these will be seen by the viewer to be painted with the most skill,
however, a single dot of white can be painted by anyone, but resisting adding them takes the
practice of an artist.
A note about grey
One of the students following this series let me know about Gambiln Torrit grey competition
(Thanks Mario!) Every spring, the paint manufacture collect all of the residue paint pigment that
havebeencollectedbytheairfiltrationsystemandrecyclethemintoGamblinTorritGrey.
You can learn more about the Torrit Grey painting competition from Gamblin website.
Pigmentdustshouldnotgointotheearth,waterorlandfill,butintopaint,
Robert Gamblin.
For our grey we are going to mix a neutral using the raw umber and Ivory black.
Part3FirstPainting
Mixing a new medium
We now create a new medium for the next layer of the painting. Different artists vary the
richness of the medium depending on their own personal preference but the next mix is a very
useful one.
1 part linseed oil to 3 parts mineral spirit
Youcanusethepipettetomeasureoutamounts,orifImmixingalargeramountIllusekitchen
measurement spoons.
Pro tip: If you are doing a lot of painting it can be worth premixing a larger amount of each
medium in resealable jars, label them up and then you can simple decant the medium each
stage of the painting.
Mixing our black
We are now going to mix a neutral black for developing this monotone study. You can still
create some lovely studies just using the raw umber and white, it is a warmer finish than the
black, but you will still learn the importance of contrast in your paintings.
To mix the neutral we use 3/4 ivory black to 1/4 raw umber. This helps take the blue out of the
black (black has a blue base, this is why you can mix lovely muted greens with black)
Ivory black
Ivory black is a slow drying pigment, by mixing in 1/4 of the raw umber (which is quick drying) it
will match nicely with the titanium white (slow drying) and at this stage of the painting the longer
opentimewehavewiththepaintsthebetter.Ivoryblackalsohasalovelyrichnesswhen
painted thinly which will help out in the later stages of the portrait.
This way you will have time to work through your painting and blend and fuse edges that you
need to. This is why we started with the raw umber, it dries overnight and has a cooler
undertone when working with portraits.
Materials
Winsor & Newton artist quality Ivory black
Micheal harding artist quality Raw Umber
Old Holland artist quality titanium white
Winsor & newton Sansador ( odourless mineral spirits)
Winsor & newton Refined linseed oil
ThereisntanyspecificreasonwhyIuseeachbrand,IoftenintermixbrandsasIliketo
experiment using different manufacturers colours. Whatever is available where you are. The
one key throughout them all is that they are artist quality (See: the 8 key differences
between artist quality & student grade paint)
Paint consistency
When you are just beginning with oils, the handling of the paint can vary greatly depending on
the consistency of the paint.
Oil paint (especially the titanium white) is often too thick and stiff to work with at this stage of the
paintingstraightfromthetube.
To make the paint more fluid, I slightly dilute it with the medium shown above. I use a pipette to
drop a few drops of the medium onto the paint mixture and mix it thoroughly with the palette
knife. Using the palette knife for mixing your paints is a very useful technique.
The video below shows a quick tutorial on how I dilute the oil paint.
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I often mix the colours on a separate, tear off palette and then transfer the mixture to the clean
glass/ perspex.
Ifyourejustbeginningwithoilsyoullnoticehoweasilyyoucancontaminatecolourswhen
using a full palette of colours, this can lead to muddy colours and frustrating painting.
This helps you to learn clean working methods. I am naturally more impatient so it is a discipline
to spend the time mixing the colours as you just want to get painting but it will pay dividends.
Step14Mixingour tonal colour strings
Thisnextstageoftheportraitiswherewereallygetpaintingasin,thicker,moreopaque
colours mixed together. If we look back at the last couple of weeks lessons you can see that we
haventactuallymixedanytonestogetheryet.
Wehavesimplybeenblockinginthebasictonalvalues,inwhatissometimescalledthedead
colouringstagethisisbecauseweareusingalimitedamountofoilinthemix,andmore
mineralspirits.Asthemineralspiritsevaporatethecolourcanappearflat,anddeadasit
doesnthavethelustrethattheoilgivesus.
Pro tip:Whenworkingwithcolour,thisisalsoreferedtoasaddingthelocalcolourofa
subject. For example a lemon would have a local colour of yellow.
So before we start the painting we are going to premix a range of 9 value tones.
White (1) is the lightest, black (9) is the darkest. This enables us to get a mid tone 5 and split
the tones into lights, half tones, and darks. These are called tonal strings, you can read more
about them on A beginners guide to tonal strings
Using a value strip
Print out, or paint out your own value strip.
When you are first starting, working from a print out it can be handy because the value strip will
be the same tones as your reference photograph compared to the hues of the black and white
paint if you were to paint your strip.
Just slide the value strip under the glass. This way when you are trying to match the tone you
can test it by dabbing a swatch ontop of the tone underneath to determine how close you are.
The first tone I match is a number 5. It will take you a few attempts to get it spot on, this is
normal.
BeawarethattheblackhasastrongertintingstrengththanthewhitesowhenIadditImjust
scraping a small amount with the palette knife.
I then match a light value 3
Then a value 7. With these 3 tones you can create some great value studies (which are
sometimescalledposterstudies)theseallowtoquicklypracticeandsketchouttonal
compositions for future paintings.
It is also handy if you want to experiment working with a compressed value range.
Waterseller of Seville -Diego Velazquez, 1619
IfwelookatVelasquezspaintingbelowwecanseehisuseoftheumberunderpainting,and
the range of tones used to direct the views gaze.
When we look at the painting in black and white it is even easier to see how the most focus on
the painting has been placed on the subject with the broadest tonal range and
the background figure has a very compressed tonal range.
9 value tones
I then remove the value strip and we are ready to begin.
Iveplacedthepaletteovertheimagesoyoucanseetheeffectoflightfallout.
Due to my light source being above the subject the light drops off as we get further down the
face. When you look at the colour strings you can start to see how there is a subtle shift in tone
as we go down the painting. This is a key point to remember because when you take the paint
swatches away it is harder to judge the light drop off, your mind just accepts it.
The light was set up so that it was stronger on the top half of the portrait, and the value drops
away. You need to be aware of this drop off as you progress through the tones.
This can help in getting the fall of light right, and creating a logical progression throughout the
painting.
So what you can do now is remove the value strip from underneath the paint and hold it next to
your reference photograph. Make sure you have trimmed the edge of the value strip so you
donthaveanywhiteontheedge.Thiswillmakeithardertojudgetones.
Now shut one eye, this helps to flatten your vision and makes it easier to see tone. Then flick
your eyes between the tone and the value strip and the tone on the reference photograph until
you have a match.
Pro tip: If you are finding it hard to isolate the colour the use a hole-punch to punch a hole in
each square, this way you can use them as a viewfinder.
Solid painting
Forpurposesofstudythereisnothingbetterthansimple,direct,solidpainting.Paintingwith
transparent colour, with a mixture of solid and transparent, glazing etc are all things that must
betriedlateronbutforsometimeconfineyourselftodirect,solidpainting.
Harold Speed
On my image I start with the lightest part on the forehead, it is about a value 2.
I dip just the edge of my brush (number# 4 Rosemary & co ivory filbert) into the medium.
I then pull the paint from the side of the mixture and coat the end of the brush. The mixture is
thick enough to cover the underpainting, but still quite thin.
You are looking to cover the colour underneath with a solid tone, but still have a fluid mixture.
Gettingtheconsistencyrightcanbeanartinitself,sodontgetdiscouraged!
We just want a small amount of paint, notice how I pull the paint from the edge of the pile.
Youalsodontneedmuchpaint,justtrytogetthetipofthebristlescoated,Iworkthebrush
backandforthinthepaintsoithasacoverage,yetdoesntcomeupthebristlestoofar.
A beginners tendency is to overload your brush.
I then flick my eyes between the subject and my painting to judge the next tonal shift, I squeeze
any excess paint into a piece of kitchen roll untill the brush is dry,
Icanthengrabsomeofthenextvaluedownvalue3
Just to help my eye with the portrait I reinforce the white of the t-shirt with value 1.
This could have been put in first, there is no real hard and fast rule, I just scan the picture with
my eyes to look for any values that are in the first 3 light range.
Adding the midtones
I then move on to the mid-tones, again with a clean brush (I might dip it into pure mineral spirits
occasionally and scrub out the pigment into kitchen roll so I have a clean brush for the new
tone.
I then make my way down the tones using 4, 5, 6 . Notice how these are all still in the lights of
the subject.
Ihaventblendedanyofthetones,Iamjustsimplyblockingtheminwithaflattone.
Ithenblockinthetoneontheneck,againthiscouldhavebeendoneearlierbutyoullfindthe
more tones you add, the easier they are to judge in comparison.
All of the lights are now added, this has all been painting with values 1 through to 6.
We are now going to add the darks, working through 7 to 9
Adding the darks
As the light starts to drop off, I add the darks into the shadow side of the face, notice how the
tones have been dropping darker to the right and the bottom of the picture due to the light
source being from the top left.
I continue adding a darker value 8 into the shadow under the chin. Notice how blue the paint
appears next to the raw umber. The tones are still quite flat with limited blending, still just using
the size 4 ivory filbert.
I now mix a value between the 8 & 9, you could go straight in with the 9, but I wanted to leave
this for the final part of this stage.
I then soften the edge slightly using the filbert.
I swap to a sable filbert for blending the edges further, as I mentioned before, I often use the
Ivory filbert for this, but sometimes, if the paint is pulling too much the sable can just give you
that blend that you are after.
BecausetheunderpaintingisnowdryImrestingbylittlefingeronthecanvas,thiswayIcan
pivot, with a stronger support. For larger scale painting, or of the background is still damp I
would use a mahl stick.
This is now with the value 9, the pure black mix we have made. When this first goes on it will
feeltoodark.Itsnot.
Iblockinthisblackslightlythinnerthanthepreviouspaint,Imstillconcernedwithcreatingaflat
tonalvalue.NoticehowIveleftaslightegdebetweenthisdarkertoneandtheedgeofthe
face.ThiswaywhenIsoftentheedgeitwontgotoodark.
A tendency when your first starting is to add, then blend, add then blend, but it will work better if
you keep the blending to a minimum.
This is easier said than done.
Notice how light the first shadow now looks in comparison to the black.
This stage of the painting I now have a full tonal range of opaque colour. I can now assess the
referenceimageandflickmyeyesbetweenthetwo,lookingforanythingthatlooksout.
The Importance of edges
I now look to soften out most of the edges. As with the underpainting, it is easiest to keep the
edges soft at this stage as they can easily grab a viewers attention. Sharp edges come
forward, soft edges recede back.
Pro tip:Ifyouarehavingtroublepullingthepainttoomuchswaptothelargersize10filbert
and gentle blush over the edge.
Wevenowfinishedthefirststageofmodellingtheportrait.Ihaventworkedonthefeatures
much, still just keeping the focus on the main areas of the form. The larger areas first, then we
can add details in the next stage.
You might also like:
1. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart1
2. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart2
3. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart4
{ 20commentsreadthembeloworadd one }
Gunner Dave April 19, 2012
Hi Will,
I have a question about your image which shows the 9 tones of the grey colour string. Would
it be possible for you to give these 9 tones in terms of RGB (or H, S & B) values on
photoshop? This way I could make my own grey colour string swatch on the computer and
print it out.
Also, as a beginner who has limited resources, is it worth using oil painting paper instead of
canvas until I get the hang of the technique? Are there any issues with this type of surface
that I should be aware of?
Loving your work,
Dave.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 19, 2012
Hi Dave,
Glad you like the progress.
Yes, if you have access to Photoshop you can create your own value scale. Matthew
Innis (from Underpaintings blog) talks through how he makes a scale using the Munsell
system (this is another approach for mixing and matching colours and, confusingly, used
10stepsandthevaluesarelabelledtheotherway)usingPhotoshopSeebelow:
To make the scale, I began with a new image file in Photoshop, 1 inch high and 11
incheslong,andwithabackgroundcolorofwhite.ThisIthendividedinto11
squares using guides. I approached each tone square as if this were a screen
printingproject,choosingtothinkofeachsectionasapercentageofblack(ie.Value
9, which is 90% white, can also be thought of as 10% black. Value 8 would be 20%
blackvalue7,30%blackandsoon).One by one, each square was then
selected, and filled using the color black and the Paintbucket tool. This action,
however, was done each time on a separate layer, which was later merged with the
background. The separate layers were necessary, because each successive layer
had a different fill percentage in order to control the density of black in each square
(eg.The layer which represented value 8, had a fill percentage of only 20%).
This, however, is for straight black and white, our mix is slightly warmer so might need a
bit of tweaking.
If you, or any of the readers, have another way to make a value scale with photoshop
please add to the comments.
Yes,byallmeanspracticeonoilpaintingpaper,youmightfinditfeelslikeitsitsontop
of the surface more, but just use a thicker mix of paint.
Thanks,
Will
REPLY
David A. April 20, 2012
Hi Will,
I was wondering about brushes again, and would like to know what is the difference between
a Bright, Flat and Shader. My local art store in Chicago does not have the brands you talked
about. Only Princeton ( they artist there say that they are from the UK).
I would like to know if you think that if the painting/drawing is wrong if it does not represent
the model perfectly.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hey David,
The difference between them is shape, so all have different uses.
Flat:Flatsquareedge.Goodforbroadstrokesandcreatingstraightlines.Nottheideal
for portraits because we want soft edges.
Bright:BrightsTheshorter,sturdierversionoftheflatbrush,(sohaslessflexifyou
were working with thick oil paints a bright would be able move the paint around easier.)
Shader: I think this is just a brand name and not in general used in other brush
manufacturers. I had a look at the Princeton website and the Shader is very similar to a
flat.
I forgot to mention Rosemary & co are mail order, but in terms of the Princeton brushes,
tell me your budget and I can advise which ones would be best.
There is no such thing as perfect representation, capturing a models character is more
important than a photo realist drawing. This all comes with practice and developing your
own style as an artist.
Dontgethunguponitbeingperfect,Iveseensomanystudentsstartportraitsget
disheartened and not continue on, just out of interest Picasso produced 50,000 unique
pieces of art over his lifetime.
Not every piece has to be a masterpiece, the process is just as important as the end
result.
Thanks
Will
REPLY
David A. April 21, 2012
Hi Will,
My budget per month is $25-35. I use half for painting and half for drawing.
The Princeton brushes at Blick cost between $6.29-15.00.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hi David,
You might be interested to look at the Winsor & Newton Artist Quality oil Brushes
(availableatblick)thesearereallyexcellentbrushesandtheonesIuseifImnotusing
the Rosemary & Co Ivory Filberts. They are slightly more reasonable than the Princeton
brushes and I can feel confident in recommending them.
Acoupleofhandysizes(ifyourworkingquitesmallA4papersize)are:
Long Handle Filbert, Size #2 ($4.37)
Long Handle Filbert, Size #4 ($5.14) (this is the same size as the brush I use for 90% of
this demo)
Size #5 & #6 are also handy.
Also, a small round for details with slightly softer hair, so either one of the synthetic
sables from Princeton (series 4000) or Winsor & newton Monarch are nice. (between a
size0and3dependingonhowdetailedyouworkIuseasize3forthisdemo)
For blending the filbert princeton size 6 ($6.45) or 8 ($7.05) (series 4000) is closest to
what I have used.
You could just start with the oil brushes though and see how you get on.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Michelle April 23, 2012
Do you ever use a different mixture for your shadows such as mixing a red,
ultramarine blue, and yellow ochre? This would be used after the initial raw umber stage on
just the shadows. I am starting to learn to paint portraits and have been told using this
mixture allows the shadows to remain transparent later on, however it seems to make things
more complicated than your method. Thanksforthisseriesitsveryhelpful.Looking forward
tothenextpart
REPLY
Will Kemp April 24, 2012
Hi Michelle,
Pleased to hear you are enjoying this portrait painting series. As this techniques is
focusing on the importance of tone and making the step from drawing to oil painting
keeping it simple really is the way the to go. So I will be only be using the raw umber and
Ivory black.
Forfullcolourportraits,Iuseasimilar,simpleapproach.Andwouldntinitiallyusered,
ultramarine blue or yellow ochre. I would still use a earth pigment like raw umber or burnt
umber.
Different artists have different approaches, but I am a great believer in keeping your
materials simple, so you can have more time to concentrate on the tricky part, the
painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
rod hulme June 3, 2012
HiWilleverythingokayhere!Have started playing with Golden liquids, [10 half oz.
bottles for 40.00] and find them interesting! Must pick up a 40 series knife to do my mixing of
theheavy,asthespatulatypeIhaveisawkwardforme,butprogress,asIalsofoundpaper
pallets I used to use with oils. There is something about a clean WHITE mixing surface..that
colorblind moi finds more accurate somehow in delineation of shades. Anyway, makes sense
tometome,andthatsjustfine.
Manythanksforyourpatience.cheersrod
REPLY
Will Kemp June 4, 2012
Hey Rod, yes the fluid acrylics can be very effective, especially for glazing
effects.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Alice July 5, 2012
Hello,Idontreallyunderstandwhyyouneedtopaintfirstwithrawumberwhycant
youjustpaintwithblack/whitestraightontothecanvas?Sorryifthatsanobviousquestion.
ThanksAlice
REPLY
Will Kemp July 5, 2012
Hi Alice,
Thanks for the comment. The reason I paint onto a toned ground is because it makes it
easier when you are first starting to judge your tones.
You can quickly establish your darkest darks and lightest lights and this will make it
easier to judge the other tones in your painting. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is
working onto a white canvas. you can read more about it here: How a prepared canvas
can drastically improve your painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
David Smith July 2, 2013
Hello Will,
Enjoying working through these lessons so far. Your method produces a nice look to a
portraitsimilartoVelzquez.
Regarding a value strip, I had a go creating one using GIMP (the free photo-editing
software). I edited the brush colour and altered the HSV (hue, saturation, value) settings.
Changing V amount from zero (black), 50 (mid-grey), 100 (white) etc. and all the tone
gradations in between.
David
REPLY
Will Kemp July 3, 2013
Hi David,
Pleased to hear the portrait course is going well, and that you could create a value strip
using GIMP, good one!
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
I am passionate about painting the figure, but have only worked in watercolors. My
question. Do you think it best for me to begin to learn painting in oils or do you think I should
work in Acrylics first. I was in fine arts for 10 years before I became an art therapist. Now that
IamretiredIwanttofocusonpaintingthefigure..portrait.Can you help direct me to
make the most of the next 10 years. My concern is the time it will take me to master two
mediums (acrylic and then on to oils). IlikeyourdemosandthinkIcanstartwithgood
training.Butwhichtrainingtobeginwithismyquestion.
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
Hi Bernice,
You might find this article helpful that goes through the differences between the two,
many of my acrylic painting techniques stem from classical painting techniques, so you
are inadvertently learning skills for both mediums.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
Yes, thank you. I think you are saying it would be good practice and learning
in acrylics before starting oils, since most of your acrylic techniques are taken from
classical oil techniques? Correct?
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
HiBernice,yes,Ivefoundforlearningaboutcolourmixingandpaint
techniques acrylics are very forgiving because you can easily work over them, so
are a great medium to learn with, can be painted anywhere, on pretty much any
surface, so are like a quick start painting. Then, when you feel move confident in
colour mixing and brush techniques you can go into oils there and will be less
mudmixedandmoreahamoments,asmanyofthetechniquesIteachare
transferable.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
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1
HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart3
by WI LL KEMP
i n OI L PAI NTI NG, PORTRAI TS
Whenyoucomebacktoyourpaintingyoullnoticehowtheoilhasbecometranslucent
overnightandwonthavethesamecoveragethatyoufirstthought.
How to paint a portrait series. This is part 3 of a 5 part series of tutorials for beginners making
the transition from drawing to oil painting.
Hereisaquickreviewofwhatwehavecoveredsofarifyoudliketojoinin
Part1Establishingthedrawing,includingtheshadowline.
This can be done in pencil or charcoal (that you can fix with fixative) try to keep the drawing
lines angular to start with.
Try to establish the basic shapes if you could only use a straight line, then add the contours as
the drawing progresses. A classic beginner mistake when drawing a portrait is an over
exaggerationofthecurvesintheface.Everythinggetsroundedoffandtheportraitcanhave
acartoonlikequality.Becausewehaveastrongvisualmemorysystemthattellsusfacesare
roundthiscansubconsciouslyaffectyourdrawing.
We the started to scrub in the underpainting layer. To a beginner, this stage is often skipped,
deemed to be unimportant, but a good foundation is key to success with portraits.
We then have our 3 part tonal underpainting which allows you, and your eye, to become more
in-tune with the image, and become aware to the tones.
Part2Developingthetones,addinglights.
We then worked over the top of the initial underpainting still just with the raw umber to
strengthen the tones and get a better feeling of form. These layers are all painted thinly.
The medium for this stage being a simple mix of 1 part linseed oil to 4 parts mineral spirits
(artistturpentineorodourlessmineralspirits)thisestablishesthefatoverleanrule.Witheach
progressivelayerbeingslightlyfatterwithmoreoilcontent.
We also added some roughed in lights with a faster drying white.
Thisistohelpusjudgethetonesforthenextstagesowhenwepaintthemontheydontlook
tooutwhenweaddthelights.
The Allure of highlights
I forgot to emphasis at the end of part 2 that the roughed in lights are the light tonal mass, and
not the highlights.
The highlights and the very darkest parts of the painting should be the last brushstrokes to be
done,buttheytryanddrawyouin!Itshardtoresistputtingthemonattheearlystage.
Andevenifyouvereadthewarning,itsamazinghow,whenyougetengrossedinthepainting,
your hand will be drawn to that lightest white.
This can seem counterintuitive if you are coming to the painting from drawing as we often erase
out the lightest areas, or work on this areas that attract out attention. The white highlights on
the eye have a particular allure.
When the painting is finished these will be seen by the viewer to be painted with the most skill,
however, a single dot of white can be painted by anyone, but resisting adding them takes the
practice of an artist.
A note about grey
One of the students following this series let me know about Gambiln Torrit grey competition
(Thanks Mario!) Every spring, the paint manufacture collect all of the residue paint pigment that
havebeencollectedbytheairfiltrationsystemandrecyclethemintoGamblinTorritGrey.
You can learn more about the Torrit Grey painting competition from Gamblin website.
Pigmentdustshouldnotgointotheearth,waterorlandfill,butintopaint,
Robert Gamblin.
For our grey we are going to mix a neutral using the raw umber and Ivory black.
Part3FirstPainting
Mixing a new medium
We now create a new medium for the next layer of the painting. Different artists vary the
richness of the medium depending on their own personal preference but the next mix is a very
useful one.
1 part linseed oil to 3 parts mineral spirit
Youcanusethepipettetomeasureoutamounts,orifImmixingalargeramountIllusekitchen
measurement spoons.
Pro tip: If you are doing a lot of painting it can be worth premixing a larger amount of each
medium in resealable jars, label them up and then you can simple decant the medium each
stage of the painting.
Mixing our black
We are now going to mix a neutral black for developing this monotone study. You can still
create some lovely studies just using the raw umber and white, it is a warmer finish than the
black, but you will still learn the importance of contrast in your paintings.
To mix the neutral we use 3/4 ivory black to 1/4 raw umber. This helps take the blue out of the
black (black has a blue base, this is why you can mix lovely muted greens with black)
Ivory black
Ivory black is a slow drying pigment, by mixing in 1/4 of the raw umber (which is quick drying) it
will match nicely with the titanium white (slow drying) and at this stage of the painting the longer
opentimewehavewiththepaintsthebetter.Ivoryblackalsohasalovelyrichnesswhen
painted thinly which will help out in the later stages of the portrait.
This way you will have time to work through your painting and blend and fuse edges that you
need to. This is why we started with the raw umber, it dries overnight and has a cooler
undertone when working with portraits.
Materials
Winsor & Newton artist quality Ivory black
Micheal harding artist quality Raw Umber
Old Holland artist quality titanium white
Winsor & newton Sansador ( odourless mineral spirits)
Winsor & newton Refined linseed oil
ThereisntanyspecificreasonwhyIuseeachbrand,IoftenintermixbrandsasIliketo
experiment using different manufacturers colours. Whatever is available where you are. The
one key throughout them all is that they are artist quality (See: the 8 key differences
between artist quality & student grade paint)
Paint consistency
When you are just beginning with oils, the handling of the paint can vary greatly depending on
the consistency of the paint.
Oil paint (especially the titanium white) is often too thick and stiff to work with at this stage of the
paintingstraightfromthetube.
To make the paint more fluid, I slightly dilute it with the medium shown above. I use a pipette to
drop a few drops of the medium onto the paint mixture and mix it thoroughly with the palette
knife. Using the palette knife for mixing your paints is a very useful technique.
The video below shows a quick tutorial on how I dilute the oil paint.
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I often mix the colours on a separate, tear off palette and then transfer the mixture to the clean
glass/ perspex.
Ifyourejustbeginningwithoilsyoullnoticehoweasilyyoucancontaminatecolourswhen
using a full palette of colours, this can lead to muddy colours and frustrating painting.
This helps you to learn clean working methods. I am naturally more impatient so it is a discipline
to spend the time mixing the colours as you just want to get painting but it will pay dividends.
Step14Mixingour tonal colour strings
Thisnextstageoftheportraitiswherewereallygetpaintingasin,thicker,moreopaque
colours mixed together. If we look back at the last couple of weeks lessons you can see that we
haventactuallymixedanytonestogetheryet.
Wehavesimplybeenblockinginthebasictonalvalues,inwhatissometimescalledthedead
colouringstagethisisbecauseweareusingalimitedamountofoilinthemix,andmore
mineralspirits.Asthemineralspiritsevaporatethecolourcanappearflat,anddeadasit
doesnthavethelustrethattheoilgivesus.
Pro tip:Whenworkingwithcolour,thisisalsoreferedtoasaddingthelocalcolourofa
subject. For example a lemon would have a local colour of yellow.
So before we start the painting we are going to premix a range of 9 value tones.
White (1) is the lightest, black (9) is the darkest. This enables us to get a mid tone 5 and split
the tones into lights, half tones, and darks. These are called tonal strings, you can read more
about them on A beginners guide to tonal strings
Using a value strip
Print out, or paint out your own value strip.
When you are first starting, working from a print out it can be handy because the value strip will
be the same tones as your reference photograph compared to the hues of the black and white
paint if you were to paint your strip.
Just slide the value strip under the glass. This way when you are trying to match the tone you
can test it by dabbing a swatch ontop of the tone underneath to determine how close you are.
The first tone I match is a number 5. It will take you a few attempts to get it spot on, this is
normal.
BeawarethattheblackhasastrongertintingstrengththanthewhitesowhenIadditImjust
scraping a small amount with the palette knife.
I then match a light value 3
Then a value 7. With these 3 tones you can create some great value studies (which are
sometimescalledposterstudies)theseallowtoquicklypracticeandsketchouttonal
compositions for future paintings.
It is also handy if you want to experiment working with a compressed value range.
Waterseller of Seville -Diego Velazquez, 1619
IfwelookatVelasquezspaintingbelowwecanseehisuseoftheumberunderpainting,and
the range of tones used to direct the views gaze.
When we look at the painting in black and white it is even easier to see how the most focus on
the painting has been placed on the subject with the broadest tonal range and
the background figure has a very compressed tonal range.
9 value tones
I then remove the value strip and we are ready to begin.
Iveplacedthepaletteovertheimagesoyoucanseetheeffectoflightfallout.
Due to my light source being above the subject the light drops off as we get further down the
face. When you look at the colour strings you can start to see how there is a subtle shift in tone
as we go down the painting. This is a key point to remember because when you take the paint
swatches away it is harder to judge the light drop off, your mind just accepts it.
The light was set up so that it was stronger on the top half of the portrait, and the value drops
away. You need to be aware of this drop off as you progress through the tones.
This can help in getting the fall of light right, and creating a logical progression throughout the
painting.
So what you can do now is remove the value strip from underneath the paint and hold it next to
your reference photograph. Make sure you have trimmed the edge of the value strip so you
donthaveanywhiteontheedge.Thiswillmakeithardertojudgetones.
Now shut one eye, this helps to flatten your vision and makes it easier to see tone. Then flick
your eyes between the tone and the value strip and the tone on the reference photograph until
you have a match.
Pro tip: If you are finding it hard to isolate the colour the use a hole-punch to punch a hole in
each square, this way you can use them as a viewfinder.
Solid painting
Forpurposesofstudythereisnothingbetterthansimple,direct,solidpainting.Paintingwith
transparent colour, with a mixture of solid and transparent, glazing etc are all things that must
betriedlateronbutforsometimeconfineyourselftodirect,solidpainting.
Harold Speed
On my image I start with the lightest part on the forehead, it is about a value 2.
I dip just the edge of my brush (number# 4 Rosemary & co ivory filbert) into the medium.
I then pull the paint from the side of the mixture and coat the end of the brush. The mixture is
thick enough to cover the underpainting, but still quite thin.
You are looking to cover the colour underneath with a solid tone, but still have a fluid mixture.
Gettingtheconsistencyrightcanbeanartinitself,sodontgetdiscouraged!
We just want a small amount of paint, notice how I pull the paint from the edge of the pile.
Youalsodontneedmuchpaint,justtrytogetthetipofthebristlescoated,Iworkthebrush
backandforthinthepaintsoithasacoverage,yetdoesntcomeupthebristlestoofar.
A beginners tendency is to overload your brush.
I then flick my eyes between the subject and my painting to judge the next tonal shift, I squeeze
any excess paint into a piece of kitchen roll untill the brush is dry,
Icanthengrabsomeofthenextvaluedownvalue3
Just to help my eye with the portrait I reinforce the white of the t-shirt with value 1.
This could have been put in first, there is no real hard and fast rule, I just scan the picture with
my eyes to look for any values that are in the first 3 light range.
Adding the midtones
I then move on to the mid-tones, again with a clean brush (I might dip it into pure mineral spirits
occasionally and scrub out the pigment into kitchen roll so I have a clean brush for the new
tone.
I then make my way down the tones using 4, 5, 6 . Notice how these are all still in the lights of
the subject.
Ihaventblendedanyofthetones,Iamjustsimplyblockingtheminwithaflattone.
Ithenblockinthetoneontheneck,againthiscouldhavebeendoneearlierbutyoullfindthe
more tones you add, the easier they are to judge in comparison.
All of the lights are now added, this has all been painting with values 1 through to 6.
We are now going to add the darks, working through 7 to 9
Adding the darks
As the light starts to drop off, I add the darks into the shadow side of the face, notice how the
tones have been dropping darker to the right and the bottom of the picture due to the light
source being from the top left.
I continue adding a darker value 8 into the shadow under the chin. Notice how blue the paint
appears next to the raw umber. The tones are still quite flat with limited blending, still just using
the size 4 ivory filbert.
I now mix a value between the 8 & 9, you could go straight in with the 9, but I wanted to leave
this for the final part of this stage.
I then soften the edge slightly using the filbert.
I swap to a sable filbert for blending the edges further, as I mentioned before, I often use the
Ivory filbert for this, but sometimes, if the paint is pulling too much the sable can just give you
that blend that you are after.
BecausetheunderpaintingisnowdryImrestingbylittlefingeronthecanvas,thiswayIcan
pivot, with a stronger support. For larger scale painting, or of the background is still damp I
would use a mahl stick.
This is now with the value 9, the pure black mix we have made. When this first goes on it will
feeltoodark.Itsnot.
Iblockinthisblackslightlythinnerthanthepreviouspaint,Imstillconcernedwithcreatingaflat
tonalvalue.NoticehowIveleftaslightegdebetweenthisdarkertoneandtheedgeofthe
face.ThiswaywhenIsoftentheedgeitwontgotoodark.
A tendency when your first starting is to add, then blend, add then blend, but it will work better if
you keep the blending to a minimum.
This is easier said than done.
Notice how light the first shadow now looks in comparison to the black.
This stage of the painting I now have a full tonal range of opaque colour. I can now assess the
referenceimageandflickmyeyesbetweenthetwo,lookingforanythingthatlooksout.
The Importance of edges
I now look to soften out most of the edges. As with the underpainting, it is easiest to keep the
edges soft at this stage as they can easily grab a viewers attention. Sharp edges come
forward, soft edges recede back.
Pro tip:Ifyouarehavingtroublepullingthepainttoomuchswaptothelargersize10filbert
and gentle blush over the edge.
Wevenowfinishedthefirststageofmodellingtheportrait.Ihaventworkedonthefeatures
much, still just keeping the focus on the main areas of the form. The larger areas first, then we
can add details in the next stage.
You might also like:
1. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart1
2. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart2
3. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart4
{ 20commentsreadthembeloworadd one }
Gunner Dave April 19, 2012
Hi Will,
I have a question about your image which shows the 9 tones of the grey colour string. Would
it be possible for you to give these 9 tones in terms of RGB (or H, S & B) values on
photoshop? This way I could make my own grey colour string swatch on the computer and
print it out.
Also, as a beginner who has limited resources, is it worth using oil painting paper instead of
canvas until I get the hang of the technique? Are there any issues with this type of surface
that I should be aware of?
Loving your work,
Dave.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 19, 2012
Hi Dave,
Glad you like the progress.
Yes, if you have access to Photoshop you can create your own value scale. Matthew
Innis (from Underpaintings blog) talks through how he makes a scale using the Munsell
system (this is another approach for mixing and matching colours and, confusingly, used
10stepsandthevaluesarelabelledtheotherway)usingPhotoshopSeebelow:
To make the scale, I began with a new image file in Photoshop, 1 inch high and 11
incheslong,andwithabackgroundcolorofwhite.ThisIthendividedinto11
squares using guides. I approached each tone square as if this were a screen
printingproject,choosingtothinkofeachsectionasapercentageofblack(ie.Value
9, which is 90% white, can also be thought of as 10% black. Value 8 would be 20%
blackvalue7,30%blackandsoon).One by one, each square was then
selected, and filled using the color black and the Paintbucket tool. This action,
however, was done each time on a separate layer, which was later merged with the
background. The separate layers were necessary, because each successive layer
had a different fill percentage in order to control the density of black in each square
(eg.The layer which represented value 8, had a fill percentage of only 20%).
This, however, is for straight black and white, our mix is slightly warmer so might need a
bit of tweaking.
If you, or any of the readers, have another way to make a value scale with photoshop
please add to the comments.
Yes,byallmeanspracticeonoilpaintingpaper,youmightfinditfeelslikeitsitsontop
of the surface more, but just use a thicker mix of paint.
Thanks,
Will
REPLY
David A. April 20, 2012
Hi Will,
I was wondering about brushes again, and would like to know what is the difference between
a Bright, Flat and Shader. My local art store in Chicago does not have the brands you talked
about. Only Princeton ( they artist there say that they are from the UK).
I would like to know if you think that if the painting/drawing is wrong if it does not represent
the model perfectly.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hey David,
The difference between them is shape, so all have different uses.
Flat:Flatsquareedge.Goodforbroadstrokesandcreatingstraightlines.Nottheideal
for portraits because we want soft edges.
Bright:BrightsTheshorter,sturdierversionoftheflatbrush,(sohaslessflexifyou
were working with thick oil paints a bright would be able move the paint around easier.)
Shader: I think this is just a brand name and not in general used in other brush
manufacturers. I had a look at the Princeton website and the Shader is very similar to a
flat.
I forgot to mention Rosemary & co are mail order, but in terms of the Princeton brushes,
tell me your budget and I can advise which ones would be best.
There is no such thing as perfect representation, capturing a models character is more
important than a photo realist drawing. This all comes with practice and developing your
own style as an artist.
Dontgethunguponitbeingperfect,Iveseensomanystudentsstartportraitsget
disheartened and not continue on, just out of interest Picasso produced 50,000 unique
pieces of art over his lifetime.
Not every piece has to be a masterpiece, the process is just as important as the end
result.
Thanks
Will
REPLY
David A. April 21, 2012
Hi Will,
My budget per month is $25-35. I use half for painting and half for drawing.
The Princeton brushes at Blick cost between $6.29-15.00.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hi David,
You might be interested to look at the Winsor & Newton Artist Quality oil Brushes
(availableatblick)thesearereallyexcellentbrushesandtheonesIuseifImnotusing
the Rosemary & Co Ivory Filberts. They are slightly more reasonable than the Princeton
brushes and I can feel confident in recommending them.
Acoupleofhandysizes(ifyourworkingquitesmallA4papersize)are:
Long Handle Filbert, Size #2 ($4.37)
Long Handle Filbert, Size #4 ($5.14) (this is the same size as the brush I use for 90% of
this demo)
Size #5 & #6 are also handy.
Also, a small round for details with slightly softer hair, so either one of the synthetic
sables from Princeton (series 4000) or Winsor & newton Monarch are nice. (between a
size0and3dependingonhowdetailedyouworkIuseasize3forthisdemo)
For blending the filbert princeton size 6 ($6.45) or 8 ($7.05) (series 4000) is closest to
what I have used.
You could just start with the oil brushes though and see how you get on.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Michelle April 23, 2012
Do you ever use a different mixture for your shadows such as mixing a red,
ultramarine blue, and yellow ochre? This would be used after the initial raw umber stage on
just the shadows. I am starting to learn to paint portraits and have been told using this
mixture allows the shadows to remain transparent later on, however it seems to make things
more complicated than your method. Thanksforthisseriesitsveryhelpful.Looking forward
tothenextpart
REPLY
Will Kemp April 24, 2012
Hi Michelle,
Pleased to hear you are enjoying this portrait painting series. As this techniques is
focusing on the importance of tone and making the step from drawing to oil painting
keeping it simple really is the way the to go. So I will be only be using the raw umber and
Ivory black.
Forfullcolourportraits,Iuseasimilar,simpleapproach.Andwouldntinitiallyusered,
ultramarine blue or yellow ochre. I would still use a earth pigment like raw umber or burnt
umber.
Different artists have different approaches, but I am a great believer in keeping your
materials simple, so you can have more time to concentrate on the tricky part, the
painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
rod hulme June 3, 2012
HiWilleverythingokayhere!Have started playing with Golden liquids, [10 half oz.
bottles for 40.00] and find them interesting! Must pick up a 40 series knife to do my mixing of
theheavy,asthespatulatypeIhaveisawkwardforme,butprogress,asIalsofoundpaper
pallets I used to use with oils. There is something about a clean WHITE mixing surface..that
colorblind moi finds more accurate somehow in delineation of shades. Anyway, makes sense
tometome,andthatsjustfine.
Manythanksforyourpatience.cheersrod
REPLY
Will Kemp June 4, 2012
Hey Rod, yes the fluid acrylics can be very effective, especially for glazing
effects.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Alice July 5, 2012
Hello,Idontreallyunderstandwhyyouneedtopaintfirstwithrawumberwhycant
youjustpaintwithblack/whitestraightontothecanvas?Sorryifthatsanobviousquestion.
ThanksAlice
REPLY
Will Kemp July 5, 2012
Hi Alice,
Thanks for the comment. The reason I paint onto a toned ground is because it makes it
easier when you are first starting to judge your tones.
You can quickly establish your darkest darks and lightest lights and this will make it
easier to judge the other tones in your painting. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is
working onto a white canvas. you can read more about it here: How a prepared canvas
can drastically improve your painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
David Smith July 2, 2013
Hello Will,
Enjoying working through these lessons so far. Your method produces a nice look to a
portraitsimilartoVelzquez.
Regarding a value strip, I had a go creating one using GIMP (the free photo-editing
software). I edited the brush colour and altered the HSV (hue, saturation, value) settings.
Changing V amount from zero (black), 50 (mid-grey), 100 (white) etc. and all the tone
gradations in between.
David
REPLY
Will Kemp July 3, 2013
Hi David,
Pleased to hear the portrait course is going well, and that you could create a value strip
using GIMP, good one!
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
I am passionate about painting the figure, but have only worked in watercolors. My
question. Do you think it best for me to begin to learn painting in oils or do you think I should
work in Acrylics first. I was in fine arts for 10 years before I became an art therapist. Now that
IamretiredIwanttofocusonpaintingthefigure..portrait.Can you help direct me to
make the most of the next 10 years. My concern is the time it will take me to master two
mediums (acrylic and then on to oils). IlikeyourdemosandthinkIcanstartwithgood
training.Butwhichtrainingtobeginwithismyquestion.
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
Hi Bernice,
You might find this article helpful that goes through the differences between the two,
many of my acrylic painting techniques stem from classical painting techniques, so you
are inadvertently learning skills for both mediums.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
Yes, thank you. I think you are saying it would be good practice and learning
in acrylics before starting oils, since most of your acrylic techniques are taken from
classical oil techniques? Correct?
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
HiBernice,yes,Ivefoundforlearningaboutcolourmixingandpaint
techniques acrylics are very forgiving because you can easily work over them, so
are a great medium to learn with, can be painted anywhere, on pretty much any
surface, so are like a quick start painting. Then, when you feel move confident in
colour mixing and brush techniques you can go into oils there and will be less
mudmixedandmoreahamoments,asmanyofthetechniquesIteachare
transferable.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
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1
HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart3
by WI LL KEMP
i n OI L PAI NTI NG, PORTRAI TS
Whenyoucomebacktoyourpaintingyoullnoticehowtheoilhasbecometranslucent
overnightandwonthavethesamecoveragethatyoufirstthought.
How to paint a portrait series. This is part 3 of a 5 part series of tutorials for beginners making
the transition from drawing to oil painting.
Hereisaquickreviewofwhatwehavecoveredsofarifyoudliketojoinin
Part1Establishingthedrawing,includingtheshadowline.
This can be done in pencil or charcoal (that you can fix with fixative) try to keep the drawing
lines angular to start with.
Try to establish the basic shapes if you could only use a straight line, then add the contours as
the drawing progresses. A classic beginner mistake when drawing a portrait is an over
exaggerationofthecurvesintheface.Everythinggetsroundedoffandtheportraitcanhave
acartoonlikequality.Becausewehaveastrongvisualmemorysystemthattellsusfacesare
roundthiscansubconsciouslyaffectyourdrawing.
We the started to scrub in the underpainting layer. To a beginner, this stage is often skipped,
deemed to be unimportant, but a good foundation is key to success with portraits.
We then have our 3 part tonal underpainting which allows you, and your eye, to become more
in-tune with the image, and become aware to the tones.
Part2Developingthetones,addinglights.
We then worked over the top of the initial underpainting still just with the raw umber to
strengthen the tones and get a better feeling of form. These layers are all painted thinly.
The medium for this stage being a simple mix of 1 part linseed oil to 4 parts mineral spirits
(artistturpentineorodourlessmineralspirits)thisestablishesthefatoverleanrule.Witheach
progressivelayerbeingslightlyfatterwithmoreoilcontent.
We also added some roughed in lights with a faster drying white.
Thisistohelpusjudgethetonesforthenextstagesowhenwepaintthemontheydontlook
tooutwhenweaddthelights.
The Allure of highlights
I forgot to emphasis at the end of part 2 that the roughed in lights are the light tonal mass, and
not the highlights.
The highlights and the very darkest parts of the painting should be the last brushstrokes to be
done,buttheytryanddrawyouin!Itshardtoresistputtingthemonattheearlystage.
Andevenifyouvereadthewarning,itsamazinghow,whenyougetengrossedinthepainting,
your hand will be drawn to that lightest white.
This can seem counterintuitive if you are coming to the painting from drawing as we often erase
out the lightest areas, or work on this areas that attract out attention. The white highlights on
the eye have a particular allure.
When the painting is finished these will be seen by the viewer to be painted with the most skill,
however, a single dot of white can be painted by anyone, but resisting adding them takes the
practice of an artist.
A note about grey
One of the students following this series let me know about Gambiln Torrit grey competition
(Thanks Mario!) Every spring, the paint manufacture collect all of the residue paint pigment that
havebeencollectedbytheairfiltrationsystemandrecyclethemintoGamblinTorritGrey.
You can learn more about the Torrit Grey painting competition from Gamblin website.
Pigmentdustshouldnotgointotheearth,waterorlandfill,butintopaint,
Robert Gamblin.
For our grey we are going to mix a neutral using the raw umber and Ivory black.
Part3FirstPainting
Mixing a new medium
We now create a new medium for the next layer of the painting. Different artists vary the
richness of the medium depending on their own personal preference but the next mix is a very
useful one.
1 part linseed oil to 3 parts mineral spirit
Youcanusethepipettetomeasureoutamounts,orifImmixingalargeramountIllusekitchen
measurement spoons.
Pro tip: If you are doing a lot of painting it can be worth premixing a larger amount of each
medium in resealable jars, label them up and then you can simple decant the medium each
stage of the painting.
Mixing our black
We are now going to mix a neutral black for developing this monotone study. You can still
create some lovely studies just using the raw umber and white, it is a warmer finish than the
black, but you will still learn the importance of contrast in your paintings.
To mix the neutral we use 3/4 ivory black to 1/4 raw umber. This helps take the blue out of the
black (black has a blue base, this is why you can mix lovely muted greens with black)
Ivory black
Ivory black is a slow drying pigment, by mixing in 1/4 of the raw umber (which is quick drying) it
will match nicely with the titanium white (slow drying) and at this stage of the painting the longer
opentimewehavewiththepaintsthebetter.Ivoryblackalsohasalovelyrichnesswhen
painted thinly which will help out in the later stages of the portrait.
This way you will have time to work through your painting and blend and fuse edges that you
need to. This is why we started with the raw umber, it dries overnight and has a cooler
undertone when working with portraits.
Materials
Winsor & Newton artist quality Ivory black
Micheal harding artist quality Raw Umber
Old Holland artist quality titanium white
Winsor & newton Sansador ( odourless mineral spirits)
Winsor & newton Refined linseed oil
ThereisntanyspecificreasonwhyIuseeachbrand,IoftenintermixbrandsasIliketo
experiment using different manufacturers colours. Whatever is available where you are. The
one key throughout them all is that they are artist quality (See: the 8 key differences
between artist quality & student grade paint)
Paint consistency
When you are just beginning with oils, the handling of the paint can vary greatly depending on
the consistency of the paint.
Oil paint (especially the titanium white) is often too thick and stiff to work with at this stage of the
paintingstraightfromthetube.
To make the paint more fluid, I slightly dilute it with the medium shown above. I use a pipette to
drop a few drops of the medium onto the paint mixture and mix it thoroughly with the palette
knife. Using the palette knife for mixing your paints is a very useful technique.
The video below shows a quick tutorial on how I dilute the oil paint.
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I often mix the colours on a separate, tear off palette and then transfer the mixture to the clean
glass/ perspex.
Ifyourejustbeginningwithoilsyoullnoticehoweasilyyoucancontaminatecolourswhen
using a full palette of colours, this can lead to muddy colours and frustrating painting.
This helps you to learn clean working methods. I am naturally more impatient so it is a discipline
to spend the time mixing the colours as you just want to get painting but it will pay dividends.
Step14Mixingour tonal colour strings
Thisnextstageoftheportraitiswherewereallygetpaintingasin,thicker,moreopaque
colours mixed together. If we look back at the last couple of weeks lessons you can see that we
haventactuallymixedanytonestogetheryet.
Wehavesimplybeenblockinginthebasictonalvalues,inwhatissometimescalledthedead
colouringstagethisisbecauseweareusingalimitedamountofoilinthemix,andmore
mineralspirits.Asthemineralspiritsevaporatethecolourcanappearflat,anddeadasit
doesnthavethelustrethattheoilgivesus.
Pro tip:Whenworkingwithcolour,thisisalsoreferedtoasaddingthelocalcolourofa
subject. For example a lemon would have a local colour of yellow.
So before we start the painting we are going to premix a range of 9 value tones.
White (1) is the lightest, black (9) is the darkest. This enables us to get a mid tone 5 and split
the tones into lights, half tones, and darks. These are called tonal strings, you can read more
about them on A beginners guide to tonal strings
Using a value strip
Print out, or paint out your own value strip.
When you are first starting, working from a print out it can be handy because the value strip will
be the same tones as your reference photograph compared to the hues of the black and white
paint if you were to paint your strip.
Just slide the value strip under the glass. This way when you are trying to match the tone you
can test it by dabbing a swatch ontop of the tone underneath to determine how close you are.
The first tone I match is a number 5. It will take you a few attempts to get it spot on, this is
normal.
BeawarethattheblackhasastrongertintingstrengththanthewhitesowhenIadditImjust
scraping a small amount with the palette knife.
I then match a light value 3
Then a value 7. With these 3 tones you can create some great value studies (which are
sometimescalledposterstudies)theseallowtoquicklypracticeandsketchouttonal
compositions for future paintings.
It is also handy if you want to experiment working with a compressed value range.
Waterseller of Seville -Diego Velazquez, 1619
IfwelookatVelasquezspaintingbelowwecanseehisuseoftheumberunderpainting,and
the range of tones used to direct the views gaze.
When we look at the painting in black and white it is even easier to see how the most focus on
the painting has been placed on the subject with the broadest tonal range and
the background figure has a very compressed tonal range.
9 value tones
I then remove the value strip and we are ready to begin.
Iveplacedthepaletteovertheimagesoyoucanseetheeffectoflightfallout.
Due to my light source being above the subject the light drops off as we get further down the
face. When you look at the colour strings you can start to see how there is a subtle shift in tone
as we go down the painting. This is a key point to remember because when you take the paint
swatches away it is harder to judge the light drop off, your mind just accepts it.
The light was set up so that it was stronger on the top half of the portrait, and the value drops
away. You need to be aware of this drop off as you progress through the tones.
This can help in getting the fall of light right, and creating a logical progression throughout the
painting.
So what you can do now is remove the value strip from underneath the paint and hold it next to
your reference photograph. Make sure you have trimmed the edge of the value strip so you
donthaveanywhiteontheedge.Thiswillmakeithardertojudgetones.
Now shut one eye, this helps to flatten your vision and makes it easier to see tone. Then flick
your eyes between the tone and the value strip and the tone on the reference photograph until
you have a match.
Pro tip: If you are finding it hard to isolate the colour the use a hole-punch to punch a hole in
each square, this way you can use them as a viewfinder.
Solid painting
Forpurposesofstudythereisnothingbetterthansimple,direct,solidpainting.Paintingwith
transparent colour, with a mixture of solid and transparent, glazing etc are all things that must
betriedlateronbutforsometimeconfineyourselftodirect,solidpainting.
Harold Speed
On my image I start with the lightest part on the forehead, it is about a value 2.
I dip just the edge of my brush (number# 4 Rosemary & co ivory filbert) into the medium.
I then pull the paint from the side of the mixture and coat the end of the brush. The mixture is
thick enough to cover the underpainting, but still quite thin.
You are looking to cover the colour underneath with a solid tone, but still have a fluid mixture.
Gettingtheconsistencyrightcanbeanartinitself,sodontgetdiscouraged!
We just want a small amount of paint, notice how I pull the paint from the edge of the pile.
Youalsodontneedmuchpaint,justtrytogetthetipofthebristlescoated,Iworkthebrush
backandforthinthepaintsoithasacoverage,yetdoesntcomeupthebristlestoofar.
A beginners tendency is to overload your brush.
I then flick my eyes between the subject and my painting to judge the next tonal shift, I squeeze
any excess paint into a piece of kitchen roll untill the brush is dry,
Icanthengrabsomeofthenextvaluedownvalue3
Just to help my eye with the portrait I reinforce the white of the t-shirt with value 1.
This could have been put in first, there is no real hard and fast rule, I just scan the picture with
my eyes to look for any values that are in the first 3 light range.
Adding the midtones
I then move on to the mid-tones, again with a clean brush (I might dip it into pure mineral spirits
occasionally and scrub out the pigment into kitchen roll so I have a clean brush for the new
tone.
I then make my way down the tones using 4, 5, 6 . Notice how these are all still in the lights of
the subject.
Ihaventblendedanyofthetones,Iamjustsimplyblockingtheminwithaflattone.
Ithenblockinthetoneontheneck,againthiscouldhavebeendoneearlierbutyoullfindthe
more tones you add, the easier they are to judge in comparison.
All of the lights are now added, this has all been painting with values 1 through to 6.
We are now going to add the darks, working through 7 to 9
Adding the darks
As the light starts to drop off, I add the darks into the shadow side of the face, notice how the
tones have been dropping darker to the right and the bottom of the picture due to the light
source being from the top left.
I continue adding a darker value 8 into the shadow under the chin. Notice how blue the paint
appears next to the raw umber. The tones are still quite flat with limited blending, still just using
the size 4 ivory filbert.
I now mix a value between the 8 & 9, you could go straight in with the 9, but I wanted to leave
this for the final part of this stage.
I then soften the edge slightly using the filbert.
I swap to a sable filbert for blending the edges further, as I mentioned before, I often use the
Ivory filbert for this, but sometimes, if the paint is pulling too much the sable can just give you
that blend that you are after.
BecausetheunderpaintingisnowdryImrestingbylittlefingeronthecanvas,thiswayIcan
pivot, with a stronger support. For larger scale painting, or of the background is still damp I
would use a mahl stick.
This is now with the value 9, the pure black mix we have made. When this first goes on it will
feeltoodark.Itsnot.
Iblockinthisblackslightlythinnerthanthepreviouspaint,Imstillconcernedwithcreatingaflat
tonalvalue.NoticehowIveleftaslightegdebetweenthisdarkertoneandtheedgeofthe
face.ThiswaywhenIsoftentheedgeitwontgotoodark.
A tendency when your first starting is to add, then blend, add then blend, but it will work better if
you keep the blending to a minimum.
This is easier said than done.
Notice how light the first shadow now looks in comparison to the black.
This stage of the painting I now have a full tonal range of opaque colour. I can now assess the
referenceimageandflickmyeyesbetweenthetwo,lookingforanythingthatlooksout.
The Importance of edges
I now look to soften out most of the edges. As with the underpainting, it is easiest to keep the
edges soft at this stage as they can easily grab a viewers attention. Sharp edges come
forward, soft edges recede back.
Pro tip:Ifyouarehavingtroublepullingthepainttoomuchswaptothelargersize10filbert
and gentle blush over the edge.
Wevenowfinishedthefirststageofmodellingtheportrait.Ihaventworkedonthefeatures
much, still just keeping the focus on the main areas of the form. The larger areas first, then we
can add details in the next stage.
You might also like:
1. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart1
2. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart2
3. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart4
{ 20commentsreadthembeloworadd one }
Gunner Dave April 19, 2012
Hi Will,
I have a question about your image which shows the 9 tones of the grey colour string. Would
it be possible for you to give these 9 tones in terms of RGB (or H, S & B) values on
photoshop? This way I could make my own grey colour string swatch on the computer and
print it out.
Also, as a beginner who has limited resources, is it worth using oil painting paper instead of
canvas until I get the hang of the technique? Are there any issues with this type of surface
that I should be aware of?
Loving your work,
Dave.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 19, 2012
Hi Dave,
Glad you like the progress.
Yes, if you have access to Photoshop you can create your own value scale. Matthew
Innis (from Underpaintings blog) talks through how he makes a scale using the Munsell
system (this is another approach for mixing and matching colours and, confusingly, used
10stepsandthevaluesarelabelledtheotherway)usingPhotoshopSeebelow:
To make the scale, I began with a new image file in Photoshop, 1 inch high and 11
incheslong,andwithabackgroundcolorofwhite.ThisIthendividedinto11
squares using guides. I approached each tone square as if this were a screen
printingproject,choosingtothinkofeachsectionasapercentageofblack(ie.Value
9, which is 90% white, can also be thought of as 10% black. Value 8 would be 20%
blackvalue7,30%blackandsoon).One by one, each square was then
selected, and filled using the color black and the Paintbucket tool. This action,
however, was done each time on a separate layer, which was later merged with the
background. The separate layers were necessary, because each successive layer
had a different fill percentage in order to control the density of black in each square
(eg.The layer which represented value 8, had a fill percentage of only 20%).
This, however, is for straight black and white, our mix is slightly warmer so might need a
bit of tweaking.
If you, or any of the readers, have another way to make a value scale with photoshop
please add to the comments.
Yes,byallmeanspracticeonoilpaintingpaper,youmightfinditfeelslikeitsitsontop
of the surface more, but just use a thicker mix of paint.
Thanks,
Will
REPLY
David A. April 20, 2012
Hi Will,
I was wondering about brushes again, and would like to know what is the difference between
a Bright, Flat and Shader. My local art store in Chicago does not have the brands you talked
about. Only Princeton ( they artist there say that they are from the UK).
I would like to know if you think that if the painting/drawing is wrong if it does not represent
the model perfectly.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hey David,
The difference between them is shape, so all have different uses.
Flat:Flatsquareedge.Goodforbroadstrokesandcreatingstraightlines.Nottheideal
for portraits because we want soft edges.
Bright:BrightsTheshorter,sturdierversionoftheflatbrush,(sohaslessflexifyou
were working with thick oil paints a bright would be able move the paint around easier.)
Shader: I think this is just a brand name and not in general used in other brush
manufacturers. I had a look at the Princeton website and the Shader is very similar to a
flat.
I forgot to mention Rosemary & co are mail order, but in terms of the Princeton brushes,
tell me your budget and I can advise which ones would be best.
There is no such thing as perfect representation, capturing a models character is more
important than a photo realist drawing. This all comes with practice and developing your
own style as an artist.
Dontgethunguponitbeingperfect,Iveseensomanystudentsstartportraitsget
disheartened and not continue on, just out of interest Picasso produced 50,000 unique
pieces of art over his lifetime.
Not every piece has to be a masterpiece, the process is just as important as the end
result.
Thanks
Will
REPLY
David A. April 21, 2012
Hi Will,
My budget per month is $25-35. I use half for painting and half for drawing.
The Princeton brushes at Blick cost between $6.29-15.00.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hi David,
You might be interested to look at the Winsor & Newton Artist Quality oil Brushes
(availableatblick)thesearereallyexcellentbrushesandtheonesIuseifImnotusing
the Rosemary & Co Ivory Filberts. They are slightly more reasonable than the Princeton
brushes and I can feel confident in recommending them.
Acoupleofhandysizes(ifyourworkingquitesmallA4papersize)are:
Long Handle Filbert, Size #2 ($4.37)
Long Handle Filbert, Size #4 ($5.14) (this is the same size as the brush I use for 90% of
this demo)
Size #5 & #6 are also handy.
Also, a small round for details with slightly softer hair, so either one of the synthetic
sables from Princeton (series 4000) or Winsor & newton Monarch are nice. (between a
size0and3dependingonhowdetailedyouworkIuseasize3forthisdemo)
For blending the filbert princeton size 6 ($6.45) or 8 ($7.05) (series 4000) is closest to
what I have used.
You could just start with the oil brushes though and see how you get on.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Michelle April 23, 2012
Do you ever use a different mixture for your shadows such as mixing a red,
ultramarine blue, and yellow ochre? This would be used after the initial raw umber stage on
just the shadows. I am starting to learn to paint portraits and have been told using this
mixture allows the shadows to remain transparent later on, however it seems to make things
more complicated than your method. Thanksforthisseriesitsveryhelpful.Looking forward
tothenextpart
REPLY
Will Kemp April 24, 2012
Hi Michelle,
Pleased to hear you are enjoying this portrait painting series. As this techniques is
focusing on the importance of tone and making the step from drawing to oil painting
keeping it simple really is the way the to go. So I will be only be using the raw umber and
Ivory black.
Forfullcolourportraits,Iuseasimilar,simpleapproach.Andwouldntinitiallyusered,
ultramarine blue or yellow ochre. I would still use a earth pigment like raw umber or burnt
umber.
Different artists have different approaches, but I am a great believer in keeping your
materials simple, so you can have more time to concentrate on the tricky part, the
painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
rod hulme June 3, 2012
HiWilleverythingokayhere!Have started playing with Golden liquids, [10 half oz.
bottles for 40.00] and find them interesting! Must pick up a 40 series knife to do my mixing of
theheavy,asthespatulatypeIhaveisawkwardforme,butprogress,asIalsofoundpaper
pallets I used to use with oils. There is something about a clean WHITE mixing surface..that
colorblind moi finds more accurate somehow in delineation of shades. Anyway, makes sense
tometome,andthatsjustfine.
Manythanksforyourpatience.cheersrod
REPLY
Will Kemp June 4, 2012
Hey Rod, yes the fluid acrylics can be very effective, especially for glazing
effects.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Alice July 5, 2012
Hello,Idontreallyunderstandwhyyouneedtopaintfirstwithrawumberwhycant
youjustpaintwithblack/whitestraightontothecanvas?Sorryifthatsanobviousquestion.
ThanksAlice
REPLY
Will Kemp July 5, 2012
Hi Alice,
Thanks for the comment. The reason I paint onto a toned ground is because it makes it
easier when you are first starting to judge your tones.
You can quickly establish your darkest darks and lightest lights and this will make it
easier to judge the other tones in your painting. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is
working onto a white canvas. you can read more about it here: How a prepared canvas
can drastically improve your painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
David Smith July 2, 2013
Hello Will,
Enjoying working through these lessons so far. Your method produces a nice look to a
portraitsimilartoVelzquez.
Regarding a value strip, I had a go creating one using GIMP (the free photo-editing
software). I edited the brush colour and altered the HSV (hue, saturation, value) settings.
Changing V amount from zero (black), 50 (mid-grey), 100 (white) etc. and all the tone
gradations in between.
David
REPLY
Will Kemp July 3, 2013
Hi David,
Pleased to hear the portrait course is going well, and that you could create a value strip
using GIMP, good one!
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
I am passionate about painting the figure, but have only worked in watercolors. My
question. Do you think it best for me to begin to learn painting in oils or do you think I should
work in Acrylics first. I was in fine arts for 10 years before I became an art therapist. Now that
IamretiredIwanttofocusonpaintingthefigure..portrait.Can you help direct me to
make the most of the next 10 years. My concern is the time it will take me to master two
mediums (acrylic and then on to oils). IlikeyourdemosandthinkIcanstartwithgood
training.Butwhichtrainingtobeginwithismyquestion.
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
Hi Bernice,
You might find this article helpful that goes through the differences between the two,
many of my acrylic painting techniques stem from classical painting techniques, so you
are inadvertently learning skills for both mediums.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
Yes, thank you. I think you are saying it would be good practice and learning
in acrylics before starting oils, since most of your acrylic techniques are taken from
classical oil techniques? Correct?
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
HiBernice,yes,Ivefoundforlearningaboutcolourmixingandpaint
techniques acrylics are very forgiving because you can easily work over them, so
are a great medium to learn with, can be painted anywhere, on pretty much any
surface, so are like a quick start painting. Then, when you feel move confident in
colour mixing and brush techniques you can go into oils there and will be less
mudmixedandmoreahamoments,asmanyofthetechniquesIteachare
transferable.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
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HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart3
by WI LL KEMP
i n OI L PAI NTI NG, PORTRAI TS
Whenyoucomebacktoyourpaintingyoullnoticehowtheoilhasbecometranslucent
overnightandwonthavethesamecoveragethatyoufirstthought.
How to paint a portrait series. This is part 3 of a 5 part series of tutorials for beginners making
the transition from drawing to oil painting.
Hereisaquickreviewofwhatwehavecoveredsofarifyoudliketojoinin
Part1Establishingthedrawing,includingtheshadowline.
This can be done in pencil or charcoal (that you can fix with fixative) try to keep the drawing
lines angular to start with.
Try to establish the basic shapes if you could only use a straight line, then add the contours as
the drawing progresses. A classic beginner mistake when drawing a portrait is an over
exaggerationofthecurvesintheface.Everythinggetsroundedoffandtheportraitcanhave
acartoonlikequality.Becausewehaveastrongvisualmemorysystemthattellsusfacesare
roundthiscansubconsciouslyaffectyourdrawing.
We the started to scrub in the underpainting layer. To a beginner, this stage is often skipped,
deemed to be unimportant, but a good foundation is key to success with portraits.
We then have our 3 part tonal underpainting which allows you, and your eye, to become more
in-tune with the image, and become aware to the tones.
Part2Developingthetones,addinglights.
We then worked over the top of the initial underpainting still just with the raw umber to
strengthen the tones and get a better feeling of form. These layers are all painted thinly.
The medium for this stage being a simple mix of 1 part linseed oil to 4 parts mineral spirits
(artistturpentineorodourlessmineralspirits)thisestablishesthefatoverleanrule.Witheach
progressivelayerbeingslightlyfatterwithmoreoilcontent.
We also added some roughed in lights with a faster drying white.
Thisistohelpusjudgethetonesforthenextstagesowhenwepaintthemontheydontlook
tooutwhenweaddthelights.
The Allure of highlights
I forgot to emphasis at the end of part 2 that the roughed in lights are the light tonal mass, and
not the highlights.
The highlights and the very darkest parts of the painting should be the last brushstrokes to be
done,buttheytryanddrawyouin!Itshardtoresistputtingthemonattheearlystage.
Andevenifyouvereadthewarning,itsamazinghow,whenyougetengrossedinthepainting,
your hand will be drawn to that lightest white.
This can seem counterintuitive if you are coming to the painting from drawing as we often erase
out the lightest areas, or work on this areas that attract out attention. The white highlights on
the eye have a particular allure.
When the painting is finished these will be seen by the viewer to be painted with the most skill,
however, a single dot of white can be painted by anyone, but resisting adding them takes the
practice of an artist.
A note about grey
One of the students following this series let me know about Gambiln Torrit grey competition
(Thanks Mario!) Every spring, the paint manufacture collect all of the residue paint pigment that
havebeencollectedbytheairfiltrationsystemandrecyclethemintoGamblinTorritGrey.
You can learn more about the Torrit Grey painting competition from Gamblin website.
Pigmentdustshouldnotgointotheearth,waterorlandfill,butintopaint,
Robert Gamblin.
For our grey we are going to mix a neutral using the raw umber and Ivory black.
Part3FirstPainting
Mixing a new medium
We now create a new medium for the next layer of the painting. Different artists vary the
richness of the medium depending on their own personal preference but the next mix is a very
useful one.
1 part linseed oil to 3 parts mineral spirit
Youcanusethepipettetomeasureoutamounts,orifImmixingalargeramountIllusekitchen
measurement spoons.
Pro tip: If you are doing a lot of painting it can be worth premixing a larger amount of each
medium in resealable jars, label them up and then you can simple decant the medium each
stage of the painting.
Mixing our black
We are now going to mix a neutral black for developing this monotone study. You can still
create some lovely studies just using the raw umber and white, it is a warmer finish than the
black, but you will still learn the importance of contrast in your paintings.
To mix the neutral we use 3/4 ivory black to 1/4 raw umber. This helps take the blue out of the
black (black has a blue base, this is why you can mix lovely muted greens with black)
Ivory black
Ivory black is a slow drying pigment, by mixing in 1/4 of the raw umber (which is quick drying) it
will match nicely with the titanium white (slow drying) and at this stage of the painting the longer
opentimewehavewiththepaintsthebetter.Ivoryblackalsohasalovelyrichnesswhen
painted thinly which will help out in the later stages of the portrait.
This way you will have time to work through your painting and blend and fuse edges that you
need to. This is why we started with the raw umber, it dries overnight and has a cooler
undertone when working with portraits.
Materials
Winsor & Newton artist quality Ivory black
Micheal harding artist quality Raw Umber
Old Holland artist quality titanium white
Winsor & newton Sansador ( odourless mineral spirits)
Winsor & newton Refined linseed oil
ThereisntanyspecificreasonwhyIuseeachbrand,IoftenintermixbrandsasIliketo
experiment using different manufacturers colours. Whatever is available where you are. The
one key throughout them all is that they are artist quality (See: the 8 key differences
between artist quality & student grade paint)
Paint consistency
When you are just beginning with oils, the handling of the paint can vary greatly depending on
the consistency of the paint.
Oil paint (especially the titanium white) is often too thick and stiff to work with at this stage of the
paintingstraightfromthetube.
To make the paint more fluid, I slightly dilute it with the medium shown above. I use a pipette to
drop a few drops of the medium onto the paint mixture and mix it thoroughly with the palette
knife. Using the palette knife for mixing your paints is a very useful technique.
The video below shows a quick tutorial on how I dilute the oil paint.
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I often mix the colours on a separate, tear off palette and then transfer the mixture to the clean
glass/ perspex.
Ifyourejustbeginningwithoilsyoullnoticehoweasilyyoucancontaminatecolourswhen
using a full palette of colours, this can lead to muddy colours and frustrating painting.
This helps you to learn clean working methods. I am naturally more impatient so it is a discipline
to spend the time mixing the colours as you just want to get painting but it will pay dividends.
Step14Mixingour tonal colour strings
Thisnextstageoftheportraitiswherewereallygetpaintingasin,thicker,moreopaque
colours mixed together. If we look back at the last couple of weeks lessons you can see that we
haventactuallymixedanytonestogetheryet.
Wehavesimplybeenblockinginthebasictonalvalues,inwhatissometimescalledthedead
colouringstagethisisbecauseweareusingalimitedamountofoilinthemix,andmore
mineralspirits.Asthemineralspiritsevaporatethecolourcanappearflat,anddeadasit
doesnthavethelustrethattheoilgivesus.
Pro tip:Whenworkingwithcolour,thisisalsoreferedtoasaddingthelocalcolourofa
subject. For example a lemon would have a local colour of yellow.
So before we start the painting we are going to premix a range of 9 value tones.
White (1) is the lightest, black (9) is the darkest. This enables us to get a mid tone 5 and split
the tones into lights, half tones, and darks. These are called tonal strings, you can read more
about them on A beginners guide to tonal strings
Using a value strip
Print out, or paint out your own value strip.
When you are first starting, working from a print out it can be handy because the value strip will
be the same tones as your reference photograph compared to the hues of the black and white
paint if you were to paint your strip.
Just slide the value strip under the glass. This way when you are trying to match the tone you
can test it by dabbing a swatch ontop of the tone underneath to determine how close you are.
The first tone I match is a number 5. It will take you a few attempts to get it spot on, this is
normal.
BeawarethattheblackhasastrongertintingstrengththanthewhitesowhenIadditImjust
scraping a small amount with the palette knife.
I then match a light value 3
Then a value 7. With these 3 tones you can create some great value studies (which are
sometimescalledposterstudies)theseallowtoquicklypracticeandsketchouttonal
compositions for future paintings.
It is also handy if you want to experiment working with a compressed value range.
Waterseller of Seville -Diego Velazquez, 1619
IfwelookatVelasquezspaintingbelowwecanseehisuseoftheumberunderpainting,and
the range of tones used to direct the views gaze.
When we look at the painting in black and white it is even easier to see how the most focus on
the painting has been placed on the subject with the broadest tonal range and
the background figure has a very compressed tonal range.
9 value tones
I then remove the value strip and we are ready to begin.
Iveplacedthepaletteovertheimagesoyoucanseetheeffectoflightfallout.
Due to my light source being above the subject the light drops off as we get further down the
face. When you look at the colour strings you can start to see how there is a subtle shift in tone
as we go down the painting. This is a key point to remember because when you take the paint
swatches away it is harder to judge the light drop off, your mind just accepts it.
The light was set up so that it was stronger on the top half of the portrait, and the value drops
away. You need to be aware of this drop off as you progress through the tones.
This can help in getting the fall of light right, and creating a logical progression throughout the
painting.
So what you can do now is remove the value strip from underneath the paint and hold it next to
your reference photograph. Make sure you have trimmed the edge of the value strip so you
donthaveanywhiteontheedge.Thiswillmakeithardertojudgetones.
Now shut one eye, this helps to flatten your vision and makes it easier to see tone. Then flick
your eyes between the tone and the value strip and the tone on the reference photograph until
you have a match.
Pro tip: If you are finding it hard to isolate the colour the use a hole-punch to punch a hole in
each square, this way you can use them as a viewfinder.
Solid painting
Forpurposesofstudythereisnothingbetterthansimple,direct,solidpainting.Paintingwith
transparent colour, with a mixture of solid and transparent, glazing etc are all things that must
betriedlateronbutforsometimeconfineyourselftodirect,solidpainting.
Harold Speed
On my image I start with the lightest part on the forehead, it is about a value 2.
I dip just the edge of my brush (number# 4 Rosemary & co ivory filbert) into the medium.
I then pull the paint from the side of the mixture and coat the end of the brush. The mixture is
thick enough to cover the underpainting, but still quite thin.
You are looking to cover the colour underneath with a solid tone, but still have a fluid mixture.
Gettingtheconsistencyrightcanbeanartinitself,sodontgetdiscouraged!
We just want a small amount of paint, notice how I pull the paint from the edge of the pile.
Youalsodontneedmuchpaint,justtrytogetthetipofthebristlescoated,Iworkthebrush
backandforthinthepaintsoithasacoverage,yetdoesntcomeupthebristlestoofar.
A beginners tendency is to overload your brush.
I then flick my eyes between the subject and my painting to judge the next tonal shift, I squeeze
any excess paint into a piece of kitchen roll untill the brush is dry,
Icanthengrabsomeofthenextvaluedownvalue3
Just to help my eye with the portrait I reinforce the white of the t-shirt with value 1.
This could have been put in first, there is no real hard and fast rule, I just scan the picture with
my eyes to look for any values that are in the first 3 light range.
Adding the midtones
I then move on to the mid-tones, again with a clean brush (I might dip it into pure mineral spirits
occasionally and scrub out the pigment into kitchen roll so I have a clean brush for the new
tone.
I then make my way down the tones using 4, 5, 6 . Notice how these are all still in the lights of
the subject.
Ihaventblendedanyofthetones,Iamjustsimplyblockingtheminwithaflattone.
Ithenblockinthetoneontheneck,againthiscouldhavebeendoneearlierbutyoullfindthe
more tones you add, the easier they are to judge in comparison.
All of the lights are now added, this has all been painting with values 1 through to 6.
We are now going to add the darks, working through 7 to 9
Adding the darks
As the light starts to drop off, I add the darks into the shadow side of the face, notice how the
tones have been dropping darker to the right and the bottom of the picture due to the light
source being from the top left.
I continue adding a darker value 8 into the shadow under the chin. Notice how blue the paint
appears next to the raw umber. The tones are still quite flat with limited blending, still just using
the size 4 ivory filbert.
I now mix a value between the 8 & 9, you could go straight in with the 9, but I wanted to leave
this for the final part of this stage.
I then soften the edge slightly using the filbert.
I swap to a sable filbert for blending the edges further, as I mentioned before, I often use the
Ivory filbert for this, but sometimes, if the paint is pulling too much the sable can just give you
that blend that you are after.
BecausetheunderpaintingisnowdryImrestingbylittlefingeronthecanvas,thiswayIcan
pivot, with a stronger support. For larger scale painting, or of the background is still damp I
would use a mahl stick.
This is now with the value 9, the pure black mix we have made. When this first goes on it will
feeltoodark.Itsnot.
Iblockinthisblackslightlythinnerthanthepreviouspaint,Imstillconcernedwithcreatingaflat
tonalvalue.NoticehowIveleftaslightegdebetweenthisdarkertoneandtheedgeofthe
face.ThiswaywhenIsoftentheedgeitwontgotoodark.
A tendency when your first starting is to add, then blend, add then blend, but it will work better if
you keep the blending to a minimum.
This is easier said than done.
Notice how light the first shadow now looks in comparison to the black.
This stage of the painting I now have a full tonal range of opaque colour. I can now assess the
referenceimageandflickmyeyesbetweenthetwo,lookingforanythingthatlooksout.
The Importance of edges
I now look to soften out most of the edges. As with the underpainting, it is easiest to keep the
edges soft at this stage as they can easily grab a viewers attention. Sharp edges come
forward, soft edges recede back.
Pro tip:Ifyouarehavingtroublepullingthepainttoomuchswaptothelargersize10filbert
and gentle blush over the edge.
Wevenowfinishedthefirststageofmodellingtheportrait.Ihaventworkedonthefeatures
much, still just keeping the focus on the main areas of the form. The larger areas first, then we
can add details in the next stage.
You might also like:
1. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart1
2. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart2
3. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart4
{ 20commentsreadthembeloworadd one }
Gunner Dave April 19, 2012
Hi Will,
I have a question about your image which shows the 9 tones of the grey colour string. Would
it be possible for you to give these 9 tones in terms of RGB (or H, S & B) values on
photoshop? This way I could make my own grey colour string swatch on the computer and
print it out.
Also, as a beginner who has limited resources, is it worth using oil painting paper instead of
canvas until I get the hang of the technique? Are there any issues with this type of surface
that I should be aware of?
Loving your work,
Dave.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 19, 2012
Hi Dave,
Glad you like the progress.
Yes, if you have access to Photoshop you can create your own value scale. Matthew
Innis (from Underpaintings blog) talks through how he makes a scale using the Munsell
system (this is another approach for mixing and matching colours and, confusingly, used
10stepsandthevaluesarelabelledtheotherway)usingPhotoshopSeebelow:
To make the scale, I began with a new image file in Photoshop, 1 inch high and 11
incheslong,andwithabackgroundcolorofwhite.ThisIthendividedinto11
squares using guides. I approached each tone square as if this were a screen
printingproject,choosingtothinkofeachsectionasapercentageofblack(ie.Value
9, which is 90% white, can also be thought of as 10% black. Value 8 would be 20%
blackvalue7,30%blackandsoon).One by one, each square was then
selected, and filled using the color black and the Paintbucket tool. This action,
however, was done each time on a separate layer, which was later merged with the
background. The separate layers were necessary, because each successive layer
had a different fill percentage in order to control the density of black in each square
(eg.The layer which represented value 8, had a fill percentage of only 20%).
This, however, is for straight black and white, our mix is slightly warmer so might need a
bit of tweaking.
If you, or any of the readers, have another way to make a value scale with photoshop
please add to the comments.
Yes,byallmeanspracticeonoilpaintingpaper,youmightfinditfeelslikeitsitsontop
of the surface more, but just use a thicker mix of paint.
Thanks,
Will
REPLY
David A. April 20, 2012
Hi Will,
I was wondering about brushes again, and would like to know what is the difference between
a Bright, Flat and Shader. My local art store in Chicago does not have the brands you talked
about. Only Princeton ( they artist there say that they are from the UK).
I would like to know if you think that if the painting/drawing is wrong if it does not represent
the model perfectly.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hey David,
The difference between them is shape, so all have different uses.
Flat:Flatsquareedge.Goodforbroadstrokesandcreatingstraightlines.Nottheideal
for portraits because we want soft edges.
Bright:BrightsTheshorter,sturdierversionoftheflatbrush,(sohaslessflexifyou
were working with thick oil paints a bright would be able move the paint around easier.)
Shader: I think this is just a brand name and not in general used in other brush
manufacturers. I had a look at the Princeton website and the Shader is very similar to a
flat.
I forgot to mention Rosemary & co are mail order, but in terms of the Princeton brushes,
tell me your budget and I can advise which ones would be best.
There is no such thing as perfect representation, capturing a models character is more
important than a photo realist drawing. This all comes with practice and developing your
own style as an artist.
Dontgethunguponitbeingperfect,Iveseensomanystudentsstartportraitsget
disheartened and not continue on, just out of interest Picasso produced 50,000 unique
pieces of art over his lifetime.
Not every piece has to be a masterpiece, the process is just as important as the end
result.
Thanks
Will
REPLY
David A. April 21, 2012
Hi Will,
My budget per month is $25-35. I use half for painting and half for drawing.
The Princeton brushes at Blick cost between $6.29-15.00.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hi David,
You might be interested to look at the Winsor & Newton Artist Quality oil Brushes
(availableatblick)thesearereallyexcellentbrushesandtheonesIuseifImnotusing
the Rosemary & Co Ivory Filberts. They are slightly more reasonable than the Princeton
brushes and I can feel confident in recommending them.
Acoupleofhandysizes(ifyourworkingquitesmallA4papersize)are:
Long Handle Filbert, Size #2 ($4.37)
Long Handle Filbert, Size #4 ($5.14) (this is the same size as the brush I use for 90% of
this demo)
Size #5 & #6 are also handy.
Also, a small round for details with slightly softer hair, so either one of the synthetic
sables from Princeton (series 4000) or Winsor & newton Monarch are nice. (between a
size0and3dependingonhowdetailedyouworkIuseasize3forthisdemo)
For blending the filbert princeton size 6 ($6.45) or 8 ($7.05) (series 4000) is closest to
what I have used.
You could just start with the oil brushes though and see how you get on.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Michelle April 23, 2012
Do you ever use a different mixture for your shadows such as mixing a red,
ultramarine blue, and yellow ochre? This would be used after the initial raw umber stage on
just the shadows. I am starting to learn to paint portraits and have been told using this
mixture allows the shadows to remain transparent later on, however it seems to make things
more complicated than your method. Thanksforthisseriesitsveryhelpful.Looking forward
tothenextpart
REPLY
Will Kemp April 24, 2012
Hi Michelle,
Pleased to hear you are enjoying this portrait painting series. As this techniques is
focusing on the importance of tone and making the step from drawing to oil painting
keeping it simple really is the way the to go. So I will be only be using the raw umber and
Ivory black.
Forfullcolourportraits,Iuseasimilar,simpleapproach.Andwouldntinitiallyusered,
ultramarine blue or yellow ochre. I would still use a earth pigment like raw umber or burnt
umber.
Different artists have different approaches, but I am a great believer in keeping your
materials simple, so you can have more time to concentrate on the tricky part, the
painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
rod hulme June 3, 2012
HiWilleverythingokayhere!Have started playing with Golden liquids, [10 half oz.
bottles for 40.00] and find them interesting! Must pick up a 40 series knife to do my mixing of
theheavy,asthespatulatypeIhaveisawkwardforme,butprogress,asIalsofoundpaper
pallets I used to use with oils. There is something about a clean WHITE mixing surface..that
colorblind moi finds more accurate somehow in delineation of shades. Anyway, makes sense
tometome,andthatsjustfine.
Manythanksforyourpatience.cheersrod
REPLY
Will Kemp June 4, 2012
Hey Rod, yes the fluid acrylics can be very effective, especially for glazing
effects.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Alice July 5, 2012
Hello,Idontreallyunderstandwhyyouneedtopaintfirstwithrawumberwhycant
youjustpaintwithblack/whitestraightontothecanvas?Sorryifthatsanobviousquestion.
ThanksAlice
REPLY
Will Kemp July 5, 2012
Hi Alice,
Thanks for the comment. The reason I paint onto a toned ground is because it makes it
easier when you are first starting to judge your tones.
You can quickly establish your darkest darks and lightest lights and this will make it
easier to judge the other tones in your painting. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is
working onto a white canvas. you can read more about it here: How a prepared canvas
can drastically improve your painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
David Smith July 2, 2013
Hello Will,
Enjoying working through these lessons so far. Your method produces a nice look to a
portraitsimilartoVelzquez.
Regarding a value strip, I had a go creating one using GIMP (the free photo-editing
software). I edited the brush colour and altered the HSV (hue, saturation, value) settings.
Changing V amount from zero (black), 50 (mid-grey), 100 (white) etc. and all the tone
gradations in between.
David
REPLY
Will Kemp July 3, 2013
Hi David,
Pleased to hear the portrait course is going well, and that you could create a value strip
using GIMP, good one!
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
I am passionate about painting the figure, but have only worked in watercolors. My
question. Do you think it best for me to begin to learn painting in oils or do you think I should
work in Acrylics first. I was in fine arts for 10 years before I became an art therapist. Now that
IamretiredIwanttofocusonpaintingthefigure..portrait.Can you help direct me to
make the most of the next 10 years. My concern is the time it will take me to master two
mediums (acrylic and then on to oils). IlikeyourdemosandthinkIcanstartwithgood
training.Butwhichtrainingtobeginwithismyquestion.
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
Hi Bernice,
You might find this article helpful that goes through the differences between the two,
many of my acrylic painting techniques stem from classical painting techniques, so you
are inadvertently learning skills for both mediums.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
Yes, thank you. I think you are saying it would be good practice and learning
in acrylics before starting oils, since most of your acrylic techniques are taken from
classical oil techniques? Correct?
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
HiBernice,yes,Ivefoundforlearningaboutcolourmixingandpaint
techniques acrylics are very forgiving because you can easily work over them, so
are a great medium to learn with, can be painted anywhere, on pretty much any
surface, so are like a quick start painting. Then, when you feel move confident in
colour mixing and brush techniques you can go into oils there and will be less
mudmixedandmoreahamoments,asmanyofthetechniquesIteachare
transferable.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
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HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart3
by WI LL KEMP
i n OI L PAI NTI NG, PORTRAI TS
Whenyoucomebacktoyourpaintingyoullnoticehowtheoilhasbecometranslucent
overnightandwonthavethesamecoveragethatyoufirstthought.
How to paint a portrait series. This is part 3 of a 5 part series of tutorials for beginners making
the transition from drawing to oil painting.
Hereisaquickreviewofwhatwehavecoveredsofarifyoudliketojoinin
Part1Establishingthedrawing,includingtheshadowline.
This can be done in pencil or charcoal (that you can fix with fixative) try to keep the drawing
lines angular to start with.
Try to establish the basic shapes if you could only use a straight line, then add the contours as
the drawing progresses. A classic beginner mistake when drawing a portrait is an over
exaggerationofthecurvesintheface.Everythinggetsroundedoffandtheportraitcanhave
acartoonlikequality.Becausewehaveastrongvisualmemorysystemthattellsusfacesare
roundthiscansubconsciouslyaffectyourdrawing.
We the started to scrub in the underpainting layer. To a beginner, this stage is often skipped,
deemed to be unimportant, but a good foundation is key to success with portraits.
We then have our 3 part tonal underpainting which allows you, and your eye, to become more
in-tune with the image, and become aware to the tones.
Part2Developingthetones,addinglights.
We then worked over the top of the initial underpainting still just with the raw umber to
strengthen the tones and get a better feeling of form. These layers are all painted thinly.
The medium for this stage being a simple mix of 1 part linseed oil to 4 parts mineral spirits
(artistturpentineorodourlessmineralspirits)thisestablishesthefatoverleanrule.Witheach
progressivelayerbeingslightlyfatterwithmoreoilcontent.
We also added some roughed in lights with a faster drying white.
Thisistohelpusjudgethetonesforthenextstagesowhenwepaintthemontheydontlook
tooutwhenweaddthelights.
The Allure of highlights
I forgot to emphasis at the end of part 2 that the roughed in lights are the light tonal mass, and
not the highlights.
The highlights and the very darkest parts of the painting should be the last brushstrokes to be
done,buttheytryanddrawyouin!Itshardtoresistputtingthemonattheearlystage.
Andevenifyouvereadthewarning,itsamazinghow,whenyougetengrossedinthepainting,
your hand will be drawn to that lightest white.
This can seem counterintuitive if you are coming to the painting from drawing as we often erase
out the lightest areas, or work on this areas that attract out attention. The white highlights on
the eye have a particular allure.
When the painting is finished these will be seen by the viewer to be painted with the most skill,
however, a single dot of white can be painted by anyone, but resisting adding them takes the
practice of an artist.
A note about grey
One of the students following this series let me know about Gambiln Torrit grey competition
(Thanks Mario!) Every spring, the paint manufacture collect all of the residue paint pigment that
havebeencollectedbytheairfiltrationsystemandrecyclethemintoGamblinTorritGrey.
You can learn more about the Torrit Grey painting competition from Gamblin website.
Pigmentdustshouldnotgointotheearth,waterorlandfill,butintopaint,
Robert Gamblin.
For our grey we are going to mix a neutral using the raw umber and Ivory black.
Part3FirstPainting
Mixing a new medium
We now create a new medium for the next layer of the painting. Different artists vary the
richness of the medium depending on their own personal preference but the next mix is a very
useful one.
1 part linseed oil to 3 parts mineral spirit
Youcanusethepipettetomeasureoutamounts,orifImmixingalargeramountIllusekitchen
measurement spoons.
Pro tip: If you are doing a lot of painting it can be worth premixing a larger amount of each
medium in resealable jars, label them up and then you can simple decant the medium each
stage of the painting.
Mixing our black
We are now going to mix a neutral black for developing this monotone study. You can still
create some lovely studies just using the raw umber and white, it is a warmer finish than the
black, but you will still learn the importance of contrast in your paintings.
To mix the neutral we use 3/4 ivory black to 1/4 raw umber. This helps take the blue out of the
black (black has a blue base, this is why you can mix lovely muted greens with black)
Ivory black
Ivory black is a slow drying pigment, by mixing in 1/4 of the raw umber (which is quick drying) it
will match nicely with the titanium white (slow drying) and at this stage of the painting the longer
opentimewehavewiththepaintsthebetter.Ivoryblackalsohasalovelyrichnesswhen
painted thinly which will help out in the later stages of the portrait.
This way you will have time to work through your painting and blend and fuse edges that you
need to. This is why we started with the raw umber, it dries overnight and has a cooler
undertone when working with portraits.
Materials
Winsor & Newton artist quality Ivory black
Micheal harding artist quality Raw Umber
Old Holland artist quality titanium white
Winsor & newton Sansador ( odourless mineral spirits)
Winsor & newton Refined linseed oil
ThereisntanyspecificreasonwhyIuseeachbrand,IoftenintermixbrandsasIliketo
experiment using different manufacturers colours. Whatever is available where you are. The
one key throughout them all is that they are artist quality (See: the 8 key differences
between artist quality & student grade paint)
Paint consistency
When you are just beginning with oils, the handling of the paint can vary greatly depending on
the consistency of the paint.
Oil paint (especially the titanium white) is often too thick and stiff to work with at this stage of the
paintingstraightfromthetube.
To make the paint more fluid, I slightly dilute it with the medium shown above. I use a pipette to
drop a few drops of the medium onto the paint mixture and mix it thoroughly with the palette
knife. Using the palette knife for mixing your paints is a very useful technique.
The video below shows a quick tutorial on how I dilute the oil paint.
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I often mix the colours on a separate, tear off palette and then transfer the mixture to the clean
glass/ perspex.
Ifyourejustbeginningwithoilsyoullnoticehoweasilyyoucancontaminatecolourswhen
using a full palette of colours, this can lead to muddy colours and frustrating painting.
This helps you to learn clean working methods. I am naturally more impatient so it is a discipline
to spend the time mixing the colours as you just want to get painting but it will pay dividends.
Step14Mixingour tonal colour strings
Thisnextstageoftheportraitiswherewereallygetpaintingasin,thicker,moreopaque
colours mixed together. If we look back at the last couple of weeks lessons you can see that we
haventactuallymixedanytonestogetheryet.
Wehavesimplybeenblockinginthebasictonalvalues,inwhatissometimescalledthedead
colouringstagethisisbecauseweareusingalimitedamountofoilinthemix,andmore
mineralspirits.Asthemineralspiritsevaporatethecolourcanappearflat,anddeadasit
doesnthavethelustrethattheoilgivesus.
Pro tip:Whenworkingwithcolour,thisisalsoreferedtoasaddingthelocalcolourofa
subject. For example a lemon would have a local colour of yellow.
So before we start the painting we are going to premix a range of 9 value tones.
White (1) is the lightest, black (9) is the darkest. This enables us to get a mid tone 5 and split
the tones into lights, half tones, and darks. These are called tonal strings, you can read more
about them on A beginners guide to tonal strings
Using a value strip
Print out, or paint out your own value strip.
When you are first starting, working from a print out it can be handy because the value strip will
be the same tones as your reference photograph compared to the hues of the black and white
paint if you were to paint your strip.
Just slide the value strip under the glass. This way when you are trying to match the tone you
can test it by dabbing a swatch ontop of the tone underneath to determine how close you are.
The first tone I match is a number 5. It will take you a few attempts to get it spot on, this is
normal.
BeawarethattheblackhasastrongertintingstrengththanthewhitesowhenIadditImjust
scraping a small amount with the palette knife.
I then match a light value 3
Then a value 7. With these 3 tones you can create some great value studies (which are
sometimescalledposterstudies)theseallowtoquicklypracticeandsketchouttonal
compositions for future paintings.
It is also handy if you want to experiment working with a compressed value range.
Waterseller of Seville -Diego Velazquez, 1619
IfwelookatVelasquezspaintingbelowwecanseehisuseoftheumberunderpainting,and
the range of tones used to direct the views gaze.
When we look at the painting in black and white it is even easier to see how the most focus on
the painting has been placed on the subject with the broadest tonal range and
the background figure has a very compressed tonal range.
9 value tones
I then remove the value strip and we are ready to begin.
Iveplacedthepaletteovertheimagesoyoucanseetheeffectoflightfallout.
Due to my light source being above the subject the light drops off as we get further down the
face. When you look at the colour strings you can start to see how there is a subtle shift in tone
as we go down the painting. This is a key point to remember because when you take the paint
swatches away it is harder to judge the light drop off, your mind just accepts it.
The light was set up so that it was stronger on the top half of the portrait, and the value drops
away. You need to be aware of this drop off as you progress through the tones.
This can help in getting the fall of light right, and creating a logical progression throughout the
painting.
So what you can do now is remove the value strip from underneath the paint and hold it next to
your reference photograph. Make sure you have trimmed the edge of the value strip so you
donthaveanywhiteontheedge.Thiswillmakeithardertojudgetones.
Now shut one eye, this helps to flatten your vision and makes it easier to see tone. Then flick
your eyes between the tone and the value strip and the tone on the reference photograph until
you have a match.
Pro tip: If you are finding it hard to isolate the colour the use a hole-punch to punch a hole in
each square, this way you can use them as a viewfinder.
Solid painting
Forpurposesofstudythereisnothingbetterthansimple,direct,solidpainting.Paintingwith
transparent colour, with a mixture of solid and transparent, glazing etc are all things that must
betriedlateronbutforsometimeconfineyourselftodirect,solidpainting.
Harold Speed
On my image I start with the lightest part on the forehead, it is about a value 2.
I dip just the edge of my brush (number# 4 Rosemary & co ivory filbert) into the medium.
I then pull the paint from the side of the mixture and coat the end of the brush. The mixture is
thick enough to cover the underpainting, but still quite thin.
You are looking to cover the colour underneath with a solid tone, but still have a fluid mixture.
Gettingtheconsistencyrightcanbeanartinitself,sodontgetdiscouraged!
We just want a small amount of paint, notice how I pull the paint from the edge of the pile.
Youalsodontneedmuchpaint,justtrytogetthetipofthebristlescoated,Iworkthebrush
backandforthinthepaintsoithasacoverage,yetdoesntcomeupthebristlestoofar.
A beginners tendency is to overload your brush.
I then flick my eyes between the subject and my painting to judge the next tonal shift, I squeeze
any excess paint into a piece of kitchen roll untill the brush is dry,
Icanthengrabsomeofthenextvaluedownvalue3
Just to help my eye with the portrait I reinforce the white of the t-shirt with value 1.
This could have been put in first, there is no real hard and fast rule, I just scan the picture with
my eyes to look for any values that are in the first 3 light range.
Adding the midtones
I then move on to the mid-tones, again with a clean brush (I might dip it into pure mineral spirits
occasionally and scrub out the pigment into kitchen roll so I have a clean brush for the new
tone.
I then make my way down the tones using 4, 5, 6 . Notice how these are all still in the lights of
the subject.
Ihaventblendedanyofthetones,Iamjustsimplyblockingtheminwithaflattone.
Ithenblockinthetoneontheneck,againthiscouldhavebeendoneearlierbutyoullfindthe
more tones you add, the easier they are to judge in comparison.
All of the lights are now added, this has all been painting with values 1 through to 6.
We are now going to add the darks, working through 7 to 9
Adding the darks
As the light starts to drop off, I add the darks into the shadow side of the face, notice how the
tones have been dropping darker to the right and the bottom of the picture due to the light
source being from the top left.
I continue adding a darker value 8 into the shadow under the chin. Notice how blue the paint
appears next to the raw umber. The tones are still quite flat with limited blending, still just using
the size 4 ivory filbert.
I now mix a value between the 8 & 9, you could go straight in with the 9, but I wanted to leave
this for the final part of this stage.
I then soften the edge slightly using the filbert.
I swap to a sable filbert for blending the edges further, as I mentioned before, I often use the
Ivory filbert for this, but sometimes, if the paint is pulling too much the sable can just give you
that blend that you are after.
BecausetheunderpaintingisnowdryImrestingbylittlefingeronthecanvas,thiswayIcan
pivot, with a stronger support. For larger scale painting, or of the background is still damp I
would use a mahl stick.
This is now with the value 9, the pure black mix we have made. When this first goes on it will
feeltoodark.Itsnot.
Iblockinthisblackslightlythinnerthanthepreviouspaint,Imstillconcernedwithcreatingaflat
tonalvalue.NoticehowIveleftaslightegdebetweenthisdarkertoneandtheedgeofthe
face.ThiswaywhenIsoftentheedgeitwontgotoodark.
A tendency when your first starting is to add, then blend, add then blend, but it will work better if
you keep the blending to a minimum.
This is easier said than done.
Notice how light the first shadow now looks in comparison to the black.
This stage of the painting I now have a full tonal range of opaque colour. I can now assess the
referenceimageandflickmyeyesbetweenthetwo,lookingforanythingthatlooksout.
The Importance of edges
I now look to soften out most of the edges. As with the underpainting, it is easiest to keep the
edges soft at this stage as they can easily grab a viewers attention. Sharp edges come
forward, soft edges recede back.
Pro tip:Ifyouarehavingtroublepullingthepainttoomuchswaptothelargersize10filbert
and gentle blush over the edge.
Wevenowfinishedthefirststageofmodellingtheportrait.Ihaventworkedonthefeatures
much, still just keeping the focus on the main areas of the form. The larger areas first, then we
can add details in the next stage.
You might also like:
1. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart1
2. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart2
3. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart4
{ 20commentsreadthembeloworadd one }
Gunner Dave April 19, 2012
Hi Will,
I have a question about your image which shows the 9 tones of the grey colour string. Would
it be possible for you to give these 9 tones in terms of RGB (or H, S & B) values on
photoshop? This way I could make my own grey colour string swatch on the computer and
print it out.
Also, as a beginner who has limited resources, is it worth using oil painting paper instead of
canvas until I get the hang of the technique? Are there any issues with this type of surface
that I should be aware of?
Loving your work,
Dave.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 19, 2012
Hi Dave,
Glad you like the progress.
Yes, if you have access to Photoshop you can create your own value scale. Matthew
Innis (from Underpaintings blog) talks through how he makes a scale using the Munsell
system (this is another approach for mixing and matching colours and, confusingly, used
10stepsandthevaluesarelabelledtheotherway)usingPhotoshopSeebelow:
To make the scale, I began with a new image file in Photoshop, 1 inch high and 11
incheslong,andwithabackgroundcolorofwhite.ThisIthendividedinto11
squares using guides. I approached each tone square as if this were a screen
printingproject,choosingtothinkofeachsectionasapercentageofblack(ie.Value
9, which is 90% white, can also be thought of as 10% black. Value 8 would be 20%
blackvalue7,30%blackandsoon).One by one, each square was then
selected, and filled using the color black and the Paintbucket tool. This action,
however, was done each time on a separate layer, which was later merged with the
background. The separate layers were necessary, because each successive layer
had a different fill percentage in order to control the density of black in each square
(eg.The layer which represented value 8, had a fill percentage of only 20%).
This, however, is for straight black and white, our mix is slightly warmer so might need a
bit of tweaking.
If you, or any of the readers, have another way to make a value scale with photoshop
please add to the comments.
Yes,byallmeanspracticeonoilpaintingpaper,youmightfinditfeelslikeitsitsontop
of the surface more, but just use a thicker mix of paint.
Thanks,
Will
REPLY
David A. April 20, 2012
Hi Will,
I was wondering about brushes again, and would like to know what is the difference between
a Bright, Flat and Shader. My local art store in Chicago does not have the brands you talked
about. Only Princeton ( they artist there say that they are from the UK).
I would like to know if you think that if the painting/drawing is wrong if it does not represent
the model perfectly.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hey David,
The difference between them is shape, so all have different uses.
Flat:Flatsquareedge.Goodforbroadstrokesandcreatingstraightlines.Nottheideal
for portraits because we want soft edges.
Bright:BrightsTheshorter,sturdierversionoftheflatbrush,(sohaslessflexifyou
were working with thick oil paints a bright would be able move the paint around easier.)
Shader: I think this is just a brand name and not in general used in other brush
manufacturers. I had a look at the Princeton website and the Shader is very similar to a
flat.
I forgot to mention Rosemary & co are mail order, but in terms of the Princeton brushes,
tell me your budget and I can advise which ones would be best.
There is no such thing as perfect representation, capturing a models character is more
important than a photo realist drawing. This all comes with practice and developing your
own style as an artist.
Dontgethunguponitbeingperfect,Iveseensomanystudentsstartportraitsget
disheartened and not continue on, just out of interest Picasso produced 50,000 unique
pieces of art over his lifetime.
Not every piece has to be a masterpiece, the process is just as important as the end
result.
Thanks
Will
REPLY
David A. April 21, 2012
Hi Will,
My budget per month is $25-35. I use half for painting and half for drawing.
The Princeton brushes at Blick cost between $6.29-15.00.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hi David,
You might be interested to look at the Winsor & Newton Artist Quality oil Brushes
(availableatblick)thesearereallyexcellentbrushesandtheonesIuseifImnotusing
the Rosemary & Co Ivory Filberts. They are slightly more reasonable than the Princeton
brushes and I can feel confident in recommending them.
Acoupleofhandysizes(ifyourworkingquitesmallA4papersize)are:
Long Handle Filbert, Size #2 ($4.37)
Long Handle Filbert, Size #4 ($5.14) (this is the same size as the brush I use for 90% of
this demo)
Size #5 & #6 are also handy.
Also, a small round for details with slightly softer hair, so either one of the synthetic
sables from Princeton (series 4000) or Winsor & newton Monarch are nice. (between a
size0and3dependingonhowdetailedyouworkIuseasize3forthisdemo)
For blending the filbert princeton size 6 ($6.45) or 8 ($7.05) (series 4000) is closest to
what I have used.
You could just start with the oil brushes though and see how you get on.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Michelle April 23, 2012
Do you ever use a different mixture for your shadows such as mixing a red,
ultramarine blue, and yellow ochre? This would be used after the initial raw umber stage on
just the shadows. I am starting to learn to paint portraits and have been told using this
mixture allows the shadows to remain transparent later on, however it seems to make things
more complicated than your method. Thanksforthisseriesitsveryhelpful.Looking forward
tothenextpart
REPLY
Will Kemp April 24, 2012
Hi Michelle,
Pleased to hear you are enjoying this portrait painting series. As this techniques is
focusing on the importance of tone and making the step from drawing to oil painting
keeping it simple really is the way the to go. So I will be only be using the raw umber and
Ivory black.
Forfullcolourportraits,Iuseasimilar,simpleapproach.Andwouldntinitiallyusered,
ultramarine blue or yellow ochre. I would still use a earth pigment like raw umber or burnt
umber.
Different artists have different approaches, but I am a great believer in keeping your
materials simple, so you can have more time to concentrate on the tricky part, the
painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
rod hulme June 3, 2012
HiWilleverythingokayhere!Have started playing with Golden liquids, [10 half oz.
bottles for 40.00] and find them interesting! Must pick up a 40 series knife to do my mixing of
theheavy,asthespatulatypeIhaveisawkwardforme,butprogress,asIalsofoundpaper
pallets I used to use with oils. There is something about a clean WHITE mixing surface..that
colorblind moi finds more accurate somehow in delineation of shades. Anyway, makes sense
tometome,andthatsjustfine.
Manythanksforyourpatience.cheersrod
REPLY
Will Kemp June 4, 2012
Hey Rod, yes the fluid acrylics can be very effective, especially for glazing
effects.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Alice July 5, 2012
Hello,Idontreallyunderstandwhyyouneedtopaintfirstwithrawumberwhycant
youjustpaintwithblack/whitestraightontothecanvas?Sorryifthatsanobviousquestion.
ThanksAlice
REPLY
Will Kemp July 5, 2012
Hi Alice,
Thanks for the comment. The reason I paint onto a toned ground is because it makes it
easier when you are first starting to judge your tones.
You can quickly establish your darkest darks and lightest lights and this will make it
easier to judge the other tones in your painting. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is
working onto a white canvas. you can read more about it here: How a prepared canvas
can drastically improve your painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
David Smith July 2, 2013
Hello Will,
Enjoying working through these lessons so far. Your method produces a nice look to a
portraitsimilartoVelzquez.
Regarding a value strip, I had a go creating one using GIMP (the free photo-editing
software). I edited the brush colour and altered the HSV (hue, saturation, value) settings.
Changing V amount from zero (black), 50 (mid-grey), 100 (white) etc. and all the tone
gradations in between.
David
REPLY
Will Kemp July 3, 2013
Hi David,
Pleased to hear the portrait course is going well, and that you could create a value strip
using GIMP, good one!
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
I am passionate about painting the figure, but have only worked in watercolors. My
question. Do you think it best for me to begin to learn painting in oils or do you think I should
work in Acrylics first. I was in fine arts for 10 years before I became an art therapist. Now that
IamretiredIwanttofocusonpaintingthefigure..portrait.Can you help direct me to
make the most of the next 10 years. My concern is the time it will take me to master two
mediums (acrylic and then on to oils). IlikeyourdemosandthinkIcanstartwithgood
training.Butwhichtrainingtobeginwithismyquestion.
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
Hi Bernice,
You might find this article helpful that goes through the differences between the two,
many of my acrylic painting techniques stem from classical painting techniques, so you
are inadvertently learning skills for both mediums.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
Yes, thank you. I think you are saying it would be good practice and learning
in acrylics before starting oils, since most of your acrylic techniques are taken from
classical oil techniques? Correct?
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
HiBernice,yes,Ivefoundforlearningaboutcolourmixingandpaint
techniques acrylics are very forgiving because you can easily work over them, so
are a great medium to learn with, can be painted anywhere, on pretty much any
surface, so are like a quick start painting. Then, when you feel move confident in
colour mixing and brush techniques you can go into oils there and will be less
mudmixedandmoreahamoments,asmanyofthetechniquesIteachare
transferable.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
I'm Will Kemp, I'm an award-winning
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HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart3
by WI LL KEMP
i n OI L PAI NTI NG, PORTRAI TS
Whenyoucomebacktoyourpaintingyoullnoticehowtheoilhasbecometranslucent
overnightandwonthavethesamecoveragethatyoufirstthought.
How to paint a portrait series. This is part 3 of a 5 part series of tutorials for beginners making
the transition from drawing to oil painting.
Hereisaquickreviewofwhatwehavecoveredsofarifyoudliketojoinin
Part1Establishingthedrawing,includingtheshadowline.
This can be done in pencil or charcoal (that you can fix with fixative) try to keep the drawing
lines angular to start with.
Try to establish the basic shapes if you could only use a straight line, then add the contours as
the drawing progresses. A classic beginner mistake when drawing a portrait is an over
exaggerationofthecurvesintheface.Everythinggetsroundedoffandtheportraitcanhave
acartoonlikequality.Becausewehaveastrongvisualmemorysystemthattellsusfacesare
roundthiscansubconsciouslyaffectyourdrawing.
We the started to scrub in the underpainting layer. To a beginner, this stage is often skipped,
deemed to be unimportant, but a good foundation is key to success with portraits.
We then have our 3 part tonal underpainting which allows you, and your eye, to become more
in-tune with the image, and become aware to the tones.
Part2Developingthetones,addinglights.
We then worked over the top of the initial underpainting still just with the raw umber to
strengthen the tones and get a better feeling of form. These layers are all painted thinly.
The medium for this stage being a simple mix of 1 part linseed oil to 4 parts mineral spirits
(artistturpentineorodourlessmineralspirits)thisestablishesthefatoverleanrule.Witheach
progressivelayerbeingslightlyfatterwithmoreoilcontent.
We also added some roughed in lights with a faster drying white.
Thisistohelpusjudgethetonesforthenextstagesowhenwepaintthemontheydontlook
tooutwhenweaddthelights.
The Allure of highlights
I forgot to emphasis at the end of part 2 that the roughed in lights are the light tonal mass, and
not the highlights.
The highlights and the very darkest parts of the painting should be the last brushstrokes to be
done,buttheytryanddrawyouin!Itshardtoresistputtingthemonattheearlystage.
Andevenifyouvereadthewarning,itsamazinghow,whenyougetengrossedinthepainting,
your hand will be drawn to that lightest white.
This can seem counterintuitive if you are coming to the painting from drawing as we often erase
out the lightest areas, or work on this areas that attract out attention. The white highlights on
the eye have a particular allure.
When the painting is finished these will be seen by the viewer to be painted with the most skill,
however, a single dot of white can be painted by anyone, but resisting adding them takes the
practice of an artist.
A note about grey
One of the students following this series let me know about Gambiln Torrit grey competition
(Thanks Mario!) Every spring, the paint manufacture collect all of the residue paint pigment that
havebeencollectedbytheairfiltrationsystemandrecyclethemintoGamblinTorritGrey.
You can learn more about the Torrit Grey painting competition from Gamblin website.
Pigmentdustshouldnotgointotheearth,waterorlandfill,butintopaint,
Robert Gamblin.
For our grey we are going to mix a neutral using the raw umber and Ivory black.
Part3FirstPainting
Mixing a new medium
We now create a new medium for the next layer of the painting. Different artists vary the
richness of the medium depending on their own personal preference but the next mix is a very
useful one.
1 part linseed oil to 3 parts mineral spirit
Youcanusethepipettetomeasureoutamounts,orifImmixingalargeramountIllusekitchen
measurement spoons.
Pro tip: If you are doing a lot of painting it can be worth premixing a larger amount of each
medium in resealable jars, label them up and then you can simple decant the medium each
stage of the painting.
Mixing our black
We are now going to mix a neutral black for developing this monotone study. You can still
create some lovely studies just using the raw umber and white, it is a warmer finish than the
black, but you will still learn the importance of contrast in your paintings.
To mix the neutral we use 3/4 ivory black to 1/4 raw umber. This helps take the blue out of the
black (black has a blue base, this is why you can mix lovely muted greens with black)
Ivory black
Ivory black is a slow drying pigment, by mixing in 1/4 of the raw umber (which is quick drying) it
will match nicely with the titanium white (slow drying) and at this stage of the painting the longer
opentimewehavewiththepaintsthebetter.Ivoryblackalsohasalovelyrichnesswhen
painted thinly which will help out in the later stages of the portrait.
This way you will have time to work through your painting and blend and fuse edges that you
need to. This is why we started with the raw umber, it dries overnight and has a cooler
undertone when working with portraits.
Materials
Winsor & Newton artist quality Ivory black
Micheal harding artist quality Raw Umber
Old Holland artist quality titanium white
Winsor & newton Sansador ( odourless mineral spirits)
Winsor & newton Refined linseed oil
ThereisntanyspecificreasonwhyIuseeachbrand,IoftenintermixbrandsasIliketo
experiment using different manufacturers colours. Whatever is available where you are. The
one key throughout them all is that they are artist quality (See: the 8 key differences
between artist quality & student grade paint)
Paint consistency
When you are just beginning with oils, the handling of the paint can vary greatly depending on
the consistency of the paint.
Oil paint (especially the titanium white) is often too thick and stiff to work with at this stage of the
paintingstraightfromthetube.
To make the paint more fluid, I slightly dilute it with the medium shown above. I use a pipette to
drop a few drops of the medium onto the paint mixture and mix it thoroughly with the palette
knife. Using the palette knife for mixing your paints is a very useful technique.
The video below shows a quick tutorial on how I dilute the oil paint.
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I often mix the colours on a separate, tear off palette and then transfer the mixture to the clean
glass/ perspex.
Ifyourejustbeginningwithoilsyoullnoticehoweasilyyoucancontaminatecolourswhen
using a full palette of colours, this can lead to muddy colours and frustrating painting.
This helps you to learn clean working methods. I am naturally more impatient so it is a discipline
to spend the time mixing the colours as you just want to get painting but it will pay dividends.
Step14Mixingour tonal colour strings
Thisnextstageoftheportraitiswherewereallygetpaintingasin,thicker,moreopaque
colours mixed together. If we look back at the last couple of weeks lessons you can see that we
haventactuallymixedanytonestogetheryet.
Wehavesimplybeenblockinginthebasictonalvalues,inwhatissometimescalledthedead
colouringstagethisisbecauseweareusingalimitedamountofoilinthemix,andmore
mineralspirits.Asthemineralspiritsevaporatethecolourcanappearflat,anddeadasit
doesnthavethelustrethattheoilgivesus.
Pro tip:Whenworkingwithcolour,thisisalsoreferedtoasaddingthelocalcolourofa
subject. For example a lemon would have a local colour of yellow.
So before we start the painting we are going to premix a range of 9 value tones.
White (1) is the lightest, black (9) is the darkest. This enables us to get a mid tone 5 and split
the tones into lights, half tones, and darks. These are called tonal strings, you can read more
about them on A beginners guide to tonal strings
Using a value strip
Print out, or paint out your own value strip.
When you are first starting, working from a print out it can be handy because the value strip will
be the same tones as your reference photograph compared to the hues of the black and white
paint if you were to paint your strip.
Just slide the value strip under the glass. This way when you are trying to match the tone you
can test it by dabbing a swatch ontop of the tone underneath to determine how close you are.
The first tone I match is a number 5. It will take you a few attempts to get it spot on, this is
normal.
BeawarethattheblackhasastrongertintingstrengththanthewhitesowhenIadditImjust
scraping a small amount with the palette knife.
I then match a light value 3
Then a value 7. With these 3 tones you can create some great value studies (which are
sometimescalledposterstudies)theseallowtoquicklypracticeandsketchouttonal
compositions for future paintings.
It is also handy if you want to experiment working with a compressed value range.
Waterseller of Seville -Diego Velazquez, 1619
IfwelookatVelasquezspaintingbelowwecanseehisuseoftheumberunderpainting,and
the range of tones used to direct the views gaze.
When we look at the painting in black and white it is even easier to see how the most focus on
the painting has been placed on the subject with the broadest tonal range and
the background figure has a very compressed tonal range.
9 value tones
I then remove the value strip and we are ready to begin.
Iveplacedthepaletteovertheimagesoyoucanseetheeffectoflightfallout.
Due to my light source being above the subject the light drops off as we get further down the
face. When you look at the colour strings you can start to see how there is a subtle shift in tone
as we go down the painting. This is a key point to remember because when you take the paint
swatches away it is harder to judge the light drop off, your mind just accepts it.
The light was set up so that it was stronger on the top half of the portrait, and the value drops
away. You need to be aware of this drop off as you progress through the tones.
This can help in getting the fall of light right, and creating a logical progression throughout the
painting.
So what you can do now is remove the value strip from underneath the paint and hold it next to
your reference photograph. Make sure you have trimmed the edge of the value strip so you
donthaveanywhiteontheedge.Thiswillmakeithardertojudgetones.
Now shut one eye, this helps to flatten your vision and makes it easier to see tone. Then flick
your eyes between the tone and the value strip and the tone on the reference photograph until
you have a match.
Pro tip: If you are finding it hard to isolate the colour the use a hole-punch to punch a hole in
each square, this way you can use them as a viewfinder.
Solid painting
Forpurposesofstudythereisnothingbetterthansimple,direct,solidpainting.Paintingwith
transparent colour, with a mixture of solid and transparent, glazing etc are all things that must
betriedlateronbutforsometimeconfineyourselftodirect,solidpainting.
Harold Speed
On my image I start with the lightest part on the forehead, it is about a value 2.
I dip just the edge of my brush (number# 4 Rosemary & co ivory filbert) into the medium.
I then pull the paint from the side of the mixture and coat the end of the brush. The mixture is
thick enough to cover the underpainting, but still quite thin.
You are looking to cover the colour underneath with a solid tone, but still have a fluid mixture.
Gettingtheconsistencyrightcanbeanartinitself,sodontgetdiscouraged!
We just want a small amount of paint, notice how I pull the paint from the edge of the pile.
Youalsodontneedmuchpaint,justtrytogetthetipofthebristlescoated,Iworkthebrush
backandforthinthepaintsoithasacoverage,yetdoesntcomeupthebristlestoofar.
A beginners tendency is to overload your brush.
I then flick my eyes between the subject and my painting to judge the next tonal shift, I squeeze
any excess paint into a piece of kitchen roll untill the brush is dry,
Icanthengrabsomeofthenextvaluedownvalue3
Just to help my eye with the portrait I reinforce the white of the t-shirt with value 1.
This could have been put in first, there is no real hard and fast rule, I just scan the picture with
my eyes to look for any values that are in the first 3 light range.
Adding the midtones
I then move on to the mid-tones, again with a clean brush (I might dip it into pure mineral spirits
occasionally and scrub out the pigment into kitchen roll so I have a clean brush for the new
tone.
I then make my way down the tones using 4, 5, 6 . Notice how these are all still in the lights of
the subject.
Ihaventblendedanyofthetones,Iamjustsimplyblockingtheminwithaflattone.
Ithenblockinthetoneontheneck,againthiscouldhavebeendoneearlierbutyoullfindthe
more tones you add, the easier they are to judge in comparison.
All of the lights are now added, this has all been painting with values 1 through to 6.
We are now going to add the darks, working through 7 to 9
Adding the darks
As the light starts to drop off, I add the darks into the shadow side of the face, notice how the
tones have been dropping darker to the right and the bottom of the picture due to the light
source being from the top left.
I continue adding a darker value 8 into the shadow under the chin. Notice how blue the paint
appears next to the raw umber. The tones are still quite flat with limited blending, still just using
the size 4 ivory filbert.
I now mix a value between the 8 & 9, you could go straight in with the 9, but I wanted to leave
this for the final part of this stage.
I then soften the edge slightly using the filbert.
I swap to a sable filbert for blending the edges further, as I mentioned before, I often use the
Ivory filbert for this, but sometimes, if the paint is pulling too much the sable can just give you
that blend that you are after.
BecausetheunderpaintingisnowdryImrestingbylittlefingeronthecanvas,thiswayIcan
pivot, with a stronger support. For larger scale painting, or of the background is still damp I
would use a mahl stick.
This is now with the value 9, the pure black mix we have made. When this first goes on it will
feeltoodark.Itsnot.
Iblockinthisblackslightlythinnerthanthepreviouspaint,Imstillconcernedwithcreatingaflat
tonalvalue.NoticehowIveleftaslightegdebetweenthisdarkertoneandtheedgeofthe
face.ThiswaywhenIsoftentheedgeitwontgotoodark.
A tendency when your first starting is to add, then blend, add then blend, but it will work better if
you keep the blending to a minimum.
This is easier said than done.
Notice how light the first shadow now looks in comparison to the black.
This stage of the painting I now have a full tonal range of opaque colour. I can now assess the
referenceimageandflickmyeyesbetweenthetwo,lookingforanythingthatlooksout.
The Importance of edges
I now look to soften out most of the edges. As with the underpainting, it is easiest to keep the
edges soft at this stage as they can easily grab a viewers attention. Sharp edges come
forward, soft edges recede back.
Pro tip:Ifyouarehavingtroublepullingthepainttoomuchswaptothelargersize10filbert
and gentle blush over the edge.
Wevenowfinishedthefirststageofmodellingtheportrait.Ihaventworkedonthefeatures
much, still just keeping the focus on the main areas of the form. The larger areas first, then we
can add details in the next stage.
You might also like:
1. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart1
2. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart2
3. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart4
{ 20commentsreadthembeloworadd one }
Gunner Dave April 19, 2012
Hi Will,
I have a question about your image which shows the 9 tones of the grey colour string. Would
it be possible for you to give these 9 tones in terms of RGB (or H, S & B) values on
photoshop? This way I could make my own grey colour string swatch on the computer and
print it out.
Also, as a beginner who has limited resources, is it worth using oil painting paper instead of
canvas until I get the hang of the technique? Are there any issues with this type of surface
that I should be aware of?
Loving your work,
Dave.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 19, 2012
Hi Dave,
Glad you like the progress.
Yes, if you have access to Photoshop you can create your own value scale. Matthew
Innis (from Underpaintings blog) talks through how he makes a scale using the Munsell
system (this is another approach for mixing and matching colours and, confusingly, used
10stepsandthevaluesarelabelledtheotherway)usingPhotoshopSeebelow:
To make the scale, I began with a new image file in Photoshop, 1 inch high and 11
incheslong,andwithabackgroundcolorofwhite.ThisIthendividedinto11
squares using guides. I approached each tone square as if this were a screen
printingproject,choosingtothinkofeachsectionasapercentageofblack(ie.Value
9, which is 90% white, can also be thought of as 10% black. Value 8 would be 20%
blackvalue7,30%blackandsoon).One by one, each square was then
selected, and filled using the color black and the Paintbucket tool. This action,
however, was done each time on a separate layer, which was later merged with the
background. The separate layers were necessary, because each successive layer
had a different fill percentage in order to control the density of black in each square
(eg.The layer which represented value 8, had a fill percentage of only 20%).
This, however, is for straight black and white, our mix is slightly warmer so might need a
bit of tweaking.
If you, or any of the readers, have another way to make a value scale with photoshop
please add to the comments.
Yes,byallmeanspracticeonoilpaintingpaper,youmightfinditfeelslikeitsitsontop
of the surface more, but just use a thicker mix of paint.
Thanks,
Will
REPLY
David A. April 20, 2012
Hi Will,
I was wondering about brushes again, and would like to know what is the difference between
a Bright, Flat and Shader. My local art store in Chicago does not have the brands you talked
about. Only Princeton ( they artist there say that they are from the UK).
I would like to know if you think that if the painting/drawing is wrong if it does not represent
the model perfectly.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hey David,
The difference between them is shape, so all have different uses.
Flat:Flatsquareedge.Goodforbroadstrokesandcreatingstraightlines.Nottheideal
for portraits because we want soft edges.
Bright:BrightsTheshorter,sturdierversionoftheflatbrush,(sohaslessflexifyou
were working with thick oil paints a bright would be able move the paint around easier.)
Shader: I think this is just a brand name and not in general used in other brush
manufacturers. I had a look at the Princeton website and the Shader is very similar to a
flat.
I forgot to mention Rosemary & co are mail order, but in terms of the Princeton brushes,
tell me your budget and I can advise which ones would be best.
There is no such thing as perfect representation, capturing a models character is more
important than a photo realist drawing. This all comes with practice and developing your
own style as an artist.
Dontgethunguponitbeingperfect,Iveseensomanystudentsstartportraitsget
disheartened and not continue on, just out of interest Picasso produced 50,000 unique
pieces of art over his lifetime.
Not every piece has to be a masterpiece, the process is just as important as the end
result.
Thanks
Will
REPLY
David A. April 21, 2012
Hi Will,
My budget per month is $25-35. I use half for painting and half for drawing.
The Princeton brushes at Blick cost between $6.29-15.00.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hi David,
You might be interested to look at the Winsor & Newton Artist Quality oil Brushes
(availableatblick)thesearereallyexcellentbrushesandtheonesIuseifImnotusing
the Rosemary & Co Ivory Filberts. They are slightly more reasonable than the Princeton
brushes and I can feel confident in recommending them.
Acoupleofhandysizes(ifyourworkingquitesmallA4papersize)are:
Long Handle Filbert, Size #2 ($4.37)
Long Handle Filbert, Size #4 ($5.14) (this is the same size as the brush I use for 90% of
this demo)
Size #5 & #6 are also handy.
Also, a small round for details with slightly softer hair, so either one of the synthetic
sables from Princeton (series 4000) or Winsor & newton Monarch are nice. (between a
size0and3dependingonhowdetailedyouworkIuseasize3forthisdemo)
For blending the filbert princeton size 6 ($6.45) or 8 ($7.05) (series 4000) is closest to
what I have used.
You could just start with the oil brushes though and see how you get on.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Michelle April 23, 2012
Do you ever use a different mixture for your shadows such as mixing a red,
ultramarine blue, and yellow ochre? This would be used after the initial raw umber stage on
just the shadows. I am starting to learn to paint portraits and have been told using this
mixture allows the shadows to remain transparent later on, however it seems to make things
more complicated than your method. Thanksforthisseriesitsveryhelpful.Looking forward
tothenextpart
REPLY
Will Kemp April 24, 2012
Hi Michelle,
Pleased to hear you are enjoying this portrait painting series. As this techniques is
focusing on the importance of tone and making the step from drawing to oil painting
keeping it simple really is the way the to go. So I will be only be using the raw umber and
Ivory black.
Forfullcolourportraits,Iuseasimilar,simpleapproach.Andwouldntinitiallyusered,
ultramarine blue or yellow ochre. I would still use a earth pigment like raw umber or burnt
umber.
Different artists have different approaches, but I am a great believer in keeping your
materials simple, so you can have more time to concentrate on the tricky part, the
painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
rod hulme June 3, 2012
HiWilleverythingokayhere!Have started playing with Golden liquids, [10 half oz.
bottles for 40.00] and find them interesting! Must pick up a 40 series knife to do my mixing of
theheavy,asthespatulatypeIhaveisawkwardforme,butprogress,asIalsofoundpaper
pallets I used to use with oils. There is something about a clean WHITE mixing surface..that
colorblind moi finds more accurate somehow in delineation of shades. Anyway, makes sense
tometome,andthatsjustfine.
Manythanksforyourpatience.cheersrod
REPLY
Will Kemp June 4, 2012
Hey Rod, yes the fluid acrylics can be very effective, especially for glazing
effects.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Alice July 5, 2012
Hello,Idontreallyunderstandwhyyouneedtopaintfirstwithrawumberwhycant
youjustpaintwithblack/whitestraightontothecanvas?Sorryifthatsanobviousquestion.
ThanksAlice
REPLY
Will Kemp July 5, 2012
Hi Alice,
Thanks for the comment. The reason I paint onto a toned ground is because it makes it
easier when you are first starting to judge your tones.
You can quickly establish your darkest darks and lightest lights and this will make it
easier to judge the other tones in your painting. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is
working onto a white canvas. you can read more about it here: How a prepared canvas
can drastically improve your painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
David Smith July 2, 2013
Hello Will,
Enjoying working through these lessons so far. Your method produces a nice look to a
portraitsimilartoVelzquez.
Regarding a value strip, I had a go creating one using GIMP (the free photo-editing
software). I edited the brush colour and altered the HSV (hue, saturation, value) settings.
Changing V amount from zero (black), 50 (mid-grey), 100 (white) etc. and all the tone
gradations in between.
David
REPLY
Will Kemp July 3, 2013
Hi David,
Pleased to hear the portrait course is going well, and that you could create a value strip
using GIMP, good one!
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
I am passionate about painting the figure, but have only worked in watercolors. My
question. Do you think it best for me to begin to learn painting in oils or do you think I should
work in Acrylics first. I was in fine arts for 10 years before I became an art therapist. Now that
IamretiredIwanttofocusonpaintingthefigure..portrait.Can you help direct me to
make the most of the next 10 years. My concern is the time it will take me to master two
mediums (acrylic and then on to oils). IlikeyourdemosandthinkIcanstartwithgood
training.Butwhichtrainingtobeginwithismyquestion.
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
Hi Bernice,
You might find this article helpful that goes through the differences between the two,
many of my acrylic painting techniques stem from classical painting techniques, so you
are inadvertently learning skills for both mediums.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
Yes, thank you. I think you are saying it would be good practice and learning
in acrylics before starting oils, since most of your acrylic techniques are taken from
classical oil techniques? Correct?
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
HiBernice,yes,Ivefoundforlearningaboutcolourmixingandpaint
techniques acrylics are very forgiving because you can easily work over them, so
are a great medium to learn with, can be painted anywhere, on pretty much any
surface, so are like a quick start painting. Then, when you feel move confident in
colour mixing and brush techniques you can go into oils there and will be less
mudmixedandmoreahamoments,asmanyofthetechniquesIteachare
transferable.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
I'm Will Kemp, I'm an award-winning
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taught in museums & schools and I'm going to
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1
HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart3
by WI LL KEMP
i n OI L PAI NTI NG, PORTRAI TS
Whenyoucomebacktoyourpaintingyoullnoticehowtheoilhasbecometranslucent
overnightandwonthavethesamecoveragethatyoufirstthought.
How to paint a portrait series. This is part 3 of a 5 part series of tutorials for beginners making
the transition from drawing to oil painting.
Hereisaquickreviewofwhatwehavecoveredsofarifyoudliketojoinin
Part1Establishingthedrawing,includingtheshadowline.
This can be done in pencil or charcoal (that you can fix with fixative) try to keep the drawing
lines angular to start with.
Try to establish the basic shapes if you could only use a straight line, then add the contours as
the drawing progresses. A classic beginner mistake when drawing a portrait is an over
exaggerationofthecurvesintheface.Everythinggetsroundedoffandtheportraitcanhave
acartoonlikequality.Becausewehaveastrongvisualmemorysystemthattellsusfacesare
roundthiscansubconsciouslyaffectyourdrawing.
We the started to scrub in the underpainting layer. To a beginner, this stage is often skipped,
deemed to be unimportant, but a good foundation is key to success with portraits.
We then have our 3 part tonal underpainting which allows you, and your eye, to become more
in-tune with the image, and become aware to the tones.
Part2Developingthetones,addinglights.
We then worked over the top of the initial underpainting still just with the raw umber to
strengthen the tones and get a better feeling of form. These layers are all painted thinly.
The medium for this stage being a simple mix of 1 part linseed oil to 4 parts mineral spirits
(artistturpentineorodourlessmineralspirits)thisestablishesthefatoverleanrule.Witheach
progressivelayerbeingslightlyfatterwithmoreoilcontent.
We also added some roughed in lights with a faster drying white.
Thisistohelpusjudgethetonesforthenextstagesowhenwepaintthemontheydontlook
tooutwhenweaddthelights.
The Allure of highlights
I forgot to emphasis at the end of part 2 that the roughed in lights are the light tonal mass, and
not the highlights.
The highlights and the very darkest parts of the painting should be the last brushstrokes to be
done,buttheytryanddrawyouin!Itshardtoresistputtingthemonattheearlystage.
Andevenifyouvereadthewarning,itsamazinghow,whenyougetengrossedinthepainting,
your hand will be drawn to that lightest white.
This can seem counterintuitive if you are coming to the painting from drawing as we often erase
out the lightest areas, or work on this areas that attract out attention. The white highlights on
the eye have a particular allure.
When the painting is finished these will be seen by the viewer to be painted with the most skill,
however, a single dot of white can be painted by anyone, but resisting adding them takes the
practice of an artist.
A note about grey
One of the students following this series let me know about Gambiln Torrit grey competition
(Thanks Mario!) Every spring, the paint manufacture collect all of the residue paint pigment that
havebeencollectedbytheairfiltrationsystemandrecyclethemintoGamblinTorritGrey.
You can learn more about the Torrit Grey painting competition from Gamblin website.
Pigmentdustshouldnotgointotheearth,waterorlandfill,butintopaint,
Robert Gamblin.
For our grey we are going to mix a neutral using the raw umber and Ivory black.
Part3FirstPainting
Mixing a new medium
We now create a new medium for the next layer of the painting. Different artists vary the
richness of the medium depending on their own personal preference but the next mix is a very
useful one.
1 part linseed oil to 3 parts mineral spirit
Youcanusethepipettetomeasureoutamounts,orifImmixingalargeramountIllusekitchen
measurement spoons.
Pro tip: If you are doing a lot of painting it can be worth premixing a larger amount of each
medium in resealable jars, label them up and then you can simple decant the medium each
stage of the painting.
Mixing our black
We are now going to mix a neutral black for developing this monotone study. You can still
create some lovely studies just using the raw umber and white, it is a warmer finish than the
black, but you will still learn the importance of contrast in your paintings.
To mix the neutral we use 3/4 ivory black to 1/4 raw umber. This helps take the blue out of the
black (black has a blue base, this is why you can mix lovely muted greens with black)
Ivory black
Ivory black is a slow drying pigment, by mixing in 1/4 of the raw umber (which is quick drying) it
will match nicely with the titanium white (slow drying) and at this stage of the painting the longer
opentimewehavewiththepaintsthebetter.Ivoryblackalsohasalovelyrichnesswhen
painted thinly which will help out in the later stages of the portrait.
This way you will have time to work through your painting and blend and fuse edges that you
need to. This is why we started with the raw umber, it dries overnight and has a cooler
undertone when working with portraits.
Materials
Winsor & Newton artist quality Ivory black
Micheal harding artist quality Raw Umber
Old Holland artist quality titanium white
Winsor & newton Sansador ( odourless mineral spirits)
Winsor & newton Refined linseed oil
ThereisntanyspecificreasonwhyIuseeachbrand,IoftenintermixbrandsasIliketo
experiment using different manufacturers colours. Whatever is available where you are. The
one key throughout them all is that they are artist quality (See: the 8 key differences
between artist quality & student grade paint)
Paint consistency
When you are just beginning with oils, the handling of the paint can vary greatly depending on
the consistency of the paint.
Oil paint (especially the titanium white) is often too thick and stiff to work with at this stage of the
paintingstraightfromthetube.
To make the paint more fluid, I slightly dilute it with the medium shown above. I use a pipette to
drop a few drops of the medium onto the paint mixture and mix it thoroughly with the palette
knife. Using the palette knife for mixing your paints is a very useful technique.
The video below shows a quick tutorial on how I dilute the oil paint.
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I often mix the colours on a separate, tear off palette and then transfer the mixture to the clean
glass/ perspex.
Ifyourejustbeginningwithoilsyoullnoticehoweasilyyoucancontaminatecolourswhen
using a full palette of colours, this can lead to muddy colours and frustrating painting.
This helps you to learn clean working methods. I am naturally more impatient so it is a discipline
to spend the time mixing the colours as you just want to get painting but it will pay dividends.
Step14Mixingour tonal colour strings
Thisnextstageoftheportraitiswherewereallygetpaintingasin,thicker,moreopaque
colours mixed together. If we look back at the last couple of weeks lessons you can see that we
haventactuallymixedanytonestogetheryet.
Wehavesimplybeenblockinginthebasictonalvalues,inwhatissometimescalledthedead
colouringstagethisisbecauseweareusingalimitedamountofoilinthemix,andmore
mineralspirits.Asthemineralspiritsevaporatethecolourcanappearflat,anddeadasit
doesnthavethelustrethattheoilgivesus.
Pro tip:Whenworkingwithcolour,thisisalsoreferedtoasaddingthelocalcolourofa
subject. For example a lemon would have a local colour of yellow.
So before we start the painting we are going to premix a range of 9 value tones.
White (1) is the lightest, black (9) is the darkest. This enables us to get a mid tone 5 and split
the tones into lights, half tones, and darks. These are called tonal strings, you can read more
about them on A beginners guide to tonal strings
Using a value strip
Print out, or paint out your own value strip.
When you are first starting, working from a print out it can be handy because the value strip will
be the same tones as your reference photograph compared to the hues of the black and white
paint if you were to paint your strip.
Just slide the value strip under the glass. This way when you are trying to match the tone you
can test it by dabbing a swatch ontop of the tone underneath to determine how close you are.
The first tone I match is a number 5. It will take you a few attempts to get it spot on, this is
normal.
BeawarethattheblackhasastrongertintingstrengththanthewhitesowhenIadditImjust
scraping a small amount with the palette knife.
I then match a light value 3
Then a value 7. With these 3 tones you can create some great value studies (which are
sometimescalledposterstudies)theseallowtoquicklypracticeandsketchouttonal
compositions for future paintings.
It is also handy if you want to experiment working with a compressed value range.
Waterseller of Seville -Diego Velazquez, 1619
IfwelookatVelasquezspaintingbelowwecanseehisuseoftheumberunderpainting,and
the range of tones used to direct the views gaze.
When we look at the painting in black and white it is even easier to see how the most focus on
the painting has been placed on the subject with the broadest tonal range and
the background figure has a very compressed tonal range.
9 value tones
I then remove the value strip and we are ready to begin.
Iveplacedthepaletteovertheimagesoyoucanseetheeffectoflightfallout.
Due to my light source being above the subject the light drops off as we get further down the
face. When you look at the colour strings you can start to see how there is a subtle shift in tone
as we go down the painting. This is a key point to remember because when you take the paint
swatches away it is harder to judge the light drop off, your mind just accepts it.
The light was set up so that it was stronger on the top half of the portrait, and the value drops
away. You need to be aware of this drop off as you progress through the tones.
This can help in getting the fall of light right, and creating a logical progression throughout the
painting.
So what you can do now is remove the value strip from underneath the paint and hold it next to
your reference photograph. Make sure you have trimmed the edge of the value strip so you
donthaveanywhiteontheedge.Thiswillmakeithardertojudgetones.
Now shut one eye, this helps to flatten your vision and makes it easier to see tone. Then flick
your eyes between the tone and the value strip and the tone on the reference photograph until
you have a match.
Pro tip: If you are finding it hard to isolate the colour the use a hole-punch to punch a hole in
each square, this way you can use them as a viewfinder.
Solid painting
Forpurposesofstudythereisnothingbetterthansimple,direct,solidpainting.Paintingwith
transparent colour, with a mixture of solid and transparent, glazing etc are all things that must
betriedlateronbutforsometimeconfineyourselftodirect,solidpainting.
Harold Speed
On my image I start with the lightest part on the forehead, it is about a value 2.
I dip just the edge of my brush (number# 4 Rosemary & co ivory filbert) into the medium.
I then pull the paint from the side of the mixture and coat the end of the brush. The mixture is
thick enough to cover the underpainting, but still quite thin.
You are looking to cover the colour underneath with a solid tone, but still have a fluid mixture.
Gettingtheconsistencyrightcanbeanartinitself,sodontgetdiscouraged!
We just want a small amount of paint, notice how I pull the paint from the edge of the pile.
Youalsodontneedmuchpaint,justtrytogetthetipofthebristlescoated,Iworkthebrush
backandforthinthepaintsoithasacoverage,yetdoesntcomeupthebristlestoofar.
A beginners tendency is to overload your brush.
I then flick my eyes between the subject and my painting to judge the next tonal shift, I squeeze
any excess paint into a piece of kitchen roll untill the brush is dry,
Icanthengrabsomeofthenextvaluedownvalue3
Just to help my eye with the portrait I reinforce the white of the t-shirt with value 1.
This could have been put in first, there is no real hard and fast rule, I just scan the picture with
my eyes to look for any values that are in the first 3 light range.
Adding the midtones
I then move on to the mid-tones, again with a clean brush (I might dip it into pure mineral spirits
occasionally and scrub out the pigment into kitchen roll so I have a clean brush for the new
tone.
I then make my way down the tones using 4, 5, 6 . Notice how these are all still in the lights of
the subject.
Ihaventblendedanyofthetones,Iamjustsimplyblockingtheminwithaflattone.
Ithenblockinthetoneontheneck,againthiscouldhavebeendoneearlierbutyoullfindthe
more tones you add, the easier they are to judge in comparison.
All of the lights are now added, this has all been painting with values 1 through to 6.
We are now going to add the darks, working through 7 to 9
Adding the darks
As the light starts to drop off, I add the darks into the shadow side of the face, notice how the
tones have been dropping darker to the right and the bottom of the picture due to the light
source being from the top left.
I continue adding a darker value 8 into the shadow under the chin. Notice how blue the paint
appears next to the raw umber. The tones are still quite flat with limited blending, still just using
the size 4 ivory filbert.
I now mix a value between the 8 & 9, you could go straight in with the 9, but I wanted to leave
this for the final part of this stage.
I then soften the edge slightly using the filbert.
I swap to a sable filbert for blending the edges further, as I mentioned before, I often use the
Ivory filbert for this, but sometimes, if the paint is pulling too much the sable can just give you
that blend that you are after.
BecausetheunderpaintingisnowdryImrestingbylittlefingeronthecanvas,thiswayIcan
pivot, with a stronger support. For larger scale painting, or of the background is still damp I
would use a mahl stick.
This is now with the value 9, the pure black mix we have made. When this first goes on it will
feeltoodark.Itsnot.
Iblockinthisblackslightlythinnerthanthepreviouspaint,Imstillconcernedwithcreatingaflat
tonalvalue.NoticehowIveleftaslightegdebetweenthisdarkertoneandtheedgeofthe
face.ThiswaywhenIsoftentheedgeitwontgotoodark.
A tendency when your first starting is to add, then blend, add then blend, but it will work better if
you keep the blending to a minimum.
This is easier said than done.
Notice how light the first shadow now looks in comparison to the black.
This stage of the painting I now have a full tonal range of opaque colour. I can now assess the
referenceimageandflickmyeyesbetweenthetwo,lookingforanythingthatlooksout.
The Importance of edges
I now look to soften out most of the edges. As with the underpainting, it is easiest to keep the
edges soft at this stage as they can easily grab a viewers attention. Sharp edges come
forward, soft edges recede back.
Pro tip:Ifyouarehavingtroublepullingthepainttoomuchswaptothelargersize10filbert
and gentle blush over the edge.
Wevenowfinishedthefirststageofmodellingtheportrait.Ihaventworkedonthefeatures
much, still just keeping the focus on the main areas of the form. The larger areas first, then we
can add details in the next stage.
You might also like:
1. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart1
2. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart2
3. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart4
{ 20commentsreadthembeloworadd one }
Gunner Dave April 19, 2012
Hi Will,
I have a question about your image which shows the 9 tones of the grey colour string. Would
it be possible for you to give these 9 tones in terms of RGB (or H, S & B) values on
photoshop? This way I could make my own grey colour string swatch on the computer and
print it out.
Also, as a beginner who has limited resources, is it worth using oil painting paper instead of
canvas until I get the hang of the technique? Are there any issues with this type of surface
that I should be aware of?
Loving your work,
Dave.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 19, 2012
Hi Dave,
Glad you like the progress.
Yes, if you have access to Photoshop you can create your own value scale. Matthew
Innis (from Underpaintings blog) talks through how he makes a scale using the Munsell
system (this is another approach for mixing and matching colours and, confusingly, used
10stepsandthevaluesarelabelledtheotherway)usingPhotoshopSeebelow:
To make the scale, I began with a new image file in Photoshop, 1 inch high and 11
incheslong,andwithabackgroundcolorofwhite.ThisIthendividedinto11
squares using guides. I approached each tone square as if this were a screen
printingproject,choosingtothinkofeachsectionasapercentageofblack(ie.Value
9, which is 90% white, can also be thought of as 10% black. Value 8 would be 20%
blackvalue7,30%blackandsoon).One by one, each square was then
selected, and filled using the color black and the Paintbucket tool. This action,
however, was done each time on a separate layer, which was later merged with the
background. The separate layers were necessary, because each successive layer
had a different fill percentage in order to control the density of black in each square
(eg.The layer which represented value 8, had a fill percentage of only 20%).
This, however, is for straight black and white, our mix is slightly warmer so might need a
bit of tweaking.
If you, or any of the readers, have another way to make a value scale with photoshop
please add to the comments.
Yes,byallmeanspracticeonoilpaintingpaper,youmightfinditfeelslikeitsitsontop
of the surface more, but just use a thicker mix of paint.
Thanks,
Will
REPLY
David A. April 20, 2012
Hi Will,
I was wondering about brushes again, and would like to know what is the difference between
a Bright, Flat and Shader. My local art store in Chicago does not have the brands you talked
about. Only Princeton ( they artist there say that they are from the UK).
I would like to know if you think that if the painting/drawing is wrong if it does not represent
the model perfectly.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hey David,
The difference between them is shape, so all have different uses.
Flat:Flatsquareedge.Goodforbroadstrokesandcreatingstraightlines.Nottheideal
for portraits because we want soft edges.
Bright:BrightsTheshorter,sturdierversionoftheflatbrush,(sohaslessflexifyou
were working with thick oil paints a bright would be able move the paint around easier.)
Shader: I think this is just a brand name and not in general used in other brush
manufacturers. I had a look at the Princeton website and the Shader is very similar to a
flat.
I forgot to mention Rosemary & co are mail order, but in terms of the Princeton brushes,
tell me your budget and I can advise which ones would be best.
There is no such thing as perfect representation, capturing a models character is more
important than a photo realist drawing. This all comes with practice and developing your
own style as an artist.
Dontgethunguponitbeingperfect,Iveseensomanystudentsstartportraitsget
disheartened and not continue on, just out of interest Picasso produced 50,000 unique
pieces of art over his lifetime.
Not every piece has to be a masterpiece, the process is just as important as the end
result.
Thanks
Will
REPLY
David A. April 21, 2012
Hi Will,
My budget per month is $25-35. I use half for painting and half for drawing.
The Princeton brushes at Blick cost between $6.29-15.00.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hi David,
You might be interested to look at the Winsor & Newton Artist Quality oil Brushes
(availableatblick)thesearereallyexcellentbrushesandtheonesIuseifImnotusing
the Rosemary & Co Ivory Filberts. They are slightly more reasonable than the Princeton
brushes and I can feel confident in recommending them.
Acoupleofhandysizes(ifyourworkingquitesmallA4papersize)are:
Long Handle Filbert, Size #2 ($4.37)
Long Handle Filbert, Size #4 ($5.14) (this is the same size as the brush I use for 90% of
this demo)
Size #5 & #6 are also handy.
Also, a small round for details with slightly softer hair, so either one of the synthetic
sables from Princeton (series 4000) or Winsor & newton Monarch are nice. (between a
size0and3dependingonhowdetailedyouworkIuseasize3forthisdemo)
For blending the filbert princeton size 6 ($6.45) or 8 ($7.05) (series 4000) is closest to
what I have used.
You could just start with the oil brushes though and see how you get on.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Michelle April 23, 2012
Do you ever use a different mixture for your shadows such as mixing a red,
ultramarine blue, and yellow ochre? This would be used after the initial raw umber stage on
just the shadows. I am starting to learn to paint portraits and have been told using this
mixture allows the shadows to remain transparent later on, however it seems to make things
more complicated than your method. Thanksforthisseriesitsveryhelpful.Looking forward
tothenextpart
REPLY
Will Kemp April 24, 2012
Hi Michelle,
Pleased to hear you are enjoying this portrait painting series. As this techniques is
focusing on the importance of tone and making the step from drawing to oil painting
keeping it simple really is the way the to go. So I will be only be using the raw umber and
Ivory black.
Forfullcolourportraits,Iuseasimilar,simpleapproach.Andwouldntinitiallyusered,
ultramarine blue or yellow ochre. I would still use a earth pigment like raw umber or burnt
umber.
Different artists have different approaches, but I am a great believer in keeping your
materials simple, so you can have more time to concentrate on the tricky part, the
painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
rod hulme June 3, 2012
HiWilleverythingokayhere!Have started playing with Golden liquids, [10 half oz.
bottles for 40.00] and find them interesting! Must pick up a 40 series knife to do my mixing of
theheavy,asthespatulatypeIhaveisawkwardforme,butprogress,asIalsofoundpaper
pallets I used to use with oils. There is something about a clean WHITE mixing surface..that
colorblind moi finds more accurate somehow in delineation of shades. Anyway, makes sense
tometome,andthatsjustfine.
Manythanksforyourpatience.cheersrod
REPLY
Will Kemp June 4, 2012
Hey Rod, yes the fluid acrylics can be very effective, especially for glazing
effects.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Alice July 5, 2012
Hello,Idontreallyunderstandwhyyouneedtopaintfirstwithrawumberwhycant
youjustpaintwithblack/whitestraightontothecanvas?Sorryifthatsanobviousquestion.
ThanksAlice
REPLY
Will Kemp July 5, 2012
Hi Alice,
Thanks for the comment. The reason I paint onto a toned ground is because it makes it
easier when you are first starting to judge your tones.
You can quickly establish your darkest darks and lightest lights and this will make it
easier to judge the other tones in your painting. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is
working onto a white canvas. you can read more about it here: How a prepared canvas
can drastically improve your painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
David Smith July 2, 2013
Hello Will,
Enjoying working through these lessons so far. Your method produces a nice look to a
portraitsimilartoVelzquez.
Regarding a value strip, I had a go creating one using GIMP (the free photo-editing
software). I edited the brush colour and altered the HSV (hue, saturation, value) settings.
Changing V amount from zero (black), 50 (mid-grey), 100 (white) etc. and all the tone
gradations in between.
David
REPLY
Will Kemp July 3, 2013
Hi David,
Pleased to hear the portrait course is going well, and that you could create a value strip
using GIMP, good one!
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
I am passionate about painting the figure, but have only worked in watercolors. My
question. Do you think it best for me to begin to learn painting in oils or do you think I should
work in Acrylics first. I was in fine arts for 10 years before I became an art therapist. Now that
IamretiredIwanttofocusonpaintingthefigure..portrait.Can you help direct me to
make the most of the next 10 years. My concern is the time it will take me to master two
mediums (acrylic and then on to oils). IlikeyourdemosandthinkIcanstartwithgood
training.Butwhichtrainingtobeginwithismyquestion.
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
Hi Bernice,
You might find this article helpful that goes through the differences between the two,
many of my acrylic painting techniques stem from classical painting techniques, so you
are inadvertently learning skills for both mediums.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
Yes, thank you. I think you are saying it would be good practice and learning
in acrylics before starting oils, since most of your acrylic techniques are taken from
classical oil techniques? Correct?
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
HiBernice,yes,Ivefoundforlearningaboutcolourmixingandpaint
techniques acrylics are very forgiving because you can easily work over them, so
are a great medium to learn with, can be painted anywhere, on pretty much any
surface, so are like a quick start painting. Then, when you feel move confident in
colour mixing and brush techniques you can go into oils there and will be less
mudmixedandmoreahamoments,asmanyofthetechniquesIteachare
transferable.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
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1
HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart3
by WI LL KEMP
i n OI L PAI NTI NG, PORTRAI TS
Whenyoucomebacktoyourpaintingyoullnoticehowtheoilhasbecometranslucent
overnightandwonthavethesamecoveragethatyoufirstthought.
How to paint a portrait series. This is part 3 of a 5 part series of tutorials for beginners making
the transition from drawing to oil painting.
Hereisaquickreviewofwhatwehavecoveredsofarifyoudliketojoinin
Part1Establishingthedrawing,includingtheshadowline.
This can be done in pencil or charcoal (that you can fix with fixative) try to keep the drawing
lines angular to start with.
Try to establish the basic shapes if you could only use a straight line, then add the contours as
the drawing progresses. A classic beginner mistake when drawing a portrait is an over
exaggerationofthecurvesintheface.Everythinggetsroundedoffandtheportraitcanhave
acartoonlikequality.Becausewehaveastrongvisualmemorysystemthattellsusfacesare
roundthiscansubconsciouslyaffectyourdrawing.
We the started to scrub in the underpainting layer. To a beginner, this stage is often skipped,
deemed to be unimportant, but a good foundation is key to success with portraits.
We then have our 3 part tonal underpainting which allows you, and your eye, to become more
in-tune with the image, and become aware to the tones.
Part2Developingthetones,addinglights.
We then worked over the top of the initial underpainting still just with the raw umber to
strengthen the tones and get a better feeling of form. These layers are all painted thinly.
The medium for this stage being a simple mix of 1 part linseed oil to 4 parts mineral spirits
(artistturpentineorodourlessmineralspirits)thisestablishesthefatoverleanrule.Witheach
progressivelayerbeingslightlyfatterwithmoreoilcontent.
We also added some roughed in lights with a faster drying white.
Thisistohelpusjudgethetonesforthenextstagesowhenwepaintthemontheydontlook
tooutwhenweaddthelights.
The Allure of highlights
I forgot to emphasis at the end of part 2 that the roughed in lights are the light tonal mass, and
not the highlights.
The highlights and the very darkest parts of the painting should be the last brushstrokes to be
done,buttheytryanddrawyouin!Itshardtoresistputtingthemonattheearlystage.
Andevenifyouvereadthewarning,itsamazinghow,whenyougetengrossedinthepainting,
your hand will be drawn to that lightest white.
This can seem counterintuitive if you are coming to the painting from drawing as we often erase
out the lightest areas, or work on this areas that attract out attention. The white highlights on
the eye have a particular allure.
When the painting is finished these will be seen by the viewer to be painted with the most skill,
however, a single dot of white can be painted by anyone, but resisting adding them takes the
practice of an artist.
A note about grey
One of the students following this series let me know about Gambiln Torrit grey competition
(Thanks Mario!) Every spring, the paint manufacture collect all of the residue paint pigment that
havebeencollectedbytheairfiltrationsystemandrecyclethemintoGamblinTorritGrey.
You can learn more about the Torrit Grey painting competition from Gamblin website.
Pigmentdustshouldnotgointotheearth,waterorlandfill,butintopaint,
Robert Gamblin.
For our grey we are going to mix a neutral using the raw umber and Ivory black.
Part3FirstPainting
Mixing a new medium
We now create a new medium for the next layer of the painting. Different artists vary the
richness of the medium depending on their own personal preference but the next mix is a very
useful one.
1 part linseed oil to 3 parts mineral spirit
Youcanusethepipettetomeasureoutamounts,orifImmixingalargeramountIllusekitchen
measurement spoons.
Pro tip: If you are doing a lot of painting it can be worth premixing a larger amount of each
medium in resealable jars, label them up and then you can simple decant the medium each
stage of the painting.
Mixing our black
We are now going to mix a neutral black for developing this monotone study. You can still
create some lovely studies just using the raw umber and white, it is a warmer finish than the
black, but you will still learn the importance of contrast in your paintings.
To mix the neutral we use 3/4 ivory black to 1/4 raw umber. This helps take the blue out of the
black (black has a blue base, this is why you can mix lovely muted greens with black)
Ivory black
Ivory black is a slow drying pigment, by mixing in 1/4 of the raw umber (which is quick drying) it
will match nicely with the titanium white (slow drying) and at this stage of the painting the longer
opentimewehavewiththepaintsthebetter.Ivoryblackalsohasalovelyrichnesswhen
painted thinly which will help out in the later stages of the portrait.
This way you will have time to work through your painting and blend and fuse edges that you
need to. This is why we started with the raw umber, it dries overnight and has a cooler
undertone when working with portraits.
Materials
Winsor & Newton artist quality Ivory black
Micheal harding artist quality Raw Umber
Old Holland artist quality titanium white
Winsor & newton Sansador ( odourless mineral spirits)
Winsor & newton Refined linseed oil
ThereisntanyspecificreasonwhyIuseeachbrand,IoftenintermixbrandsasIliketo
experiment using different manufacturers colours. Whatever is available where you are. The
one key throughout them all is that they are artist quality (See: the 8 key differences
between artist quality & student grade paint)
Paint consistency
When you are just beginning with oils, the handling of the paint can vary greatly depending on
the consistency of the paint.
Oil paint (especially the titanium white) is often too thick and stiff to work with at this stage of the
paintingstraightfromthetube.
To make the paint more fluid, I slightly dilute it with the medium shown above. I use a pipette to
drop a few drops of the medium onto the paint mixture and mix it thoroughly with the palette
knife. Using the palette knife for mixing your paints is a very useful technique.
The video below shows a quick tutorial on how I dilute the oil paint.
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I often mix the colours on a separate, tear off palette and then transfer the mixture to the clean
glass/ perspex.
Ifyourejustbeginningwithoilsyoullnoticehoweasilyyoucancontaminatecolourswhen
using a full palette of colours, this can lead to muddy colours and frustrating painting.
This helps you to learn clean working methods. I am naturally more impatient so it is a discipline
to spend the time mixing the colours as you just want to get painting but it will pay dividends.
Step14Mixingour tonal colour strings
Thisnextstageoftheportraitiswherewereallygetpaintingasin,thicker,moreopaque
colours mixed together. If we look back at the last couple of weeks lessons you can see that we
haventactuallymixedanytonestogetheryet.
Wehavesimplybeenblockinginthebasictonalvalues,inwhatissometimescalledthedead
colouringstagethisisbecauseweareusingalimitedamountofoilinthemix,andmore
mineralspirits.Asthemineralspiritsevaporatethecolourcanappearflat,anddeadasit
doesnthavethelustrethattheoilgivesus.
Pro tip:Whenworkingwithcolour,thisisalsoreferedtoasaddingthelocalcolourofa
subject. For example a lemon would have a local colour of yellow.
So before we start the painting we are going to premix a range of 9 value tones.
White (1) is the lightest, black (9) is the darkest. This enables us to get a mid tone 5 and split
the tones into lights, half tones, and darks. These are called tonal strings, you can read more
about them on A beginners guide to tonal strings
Using a value strip
Print out, or paint out your own value strip.
When you are first starting, working from a print out it can be handy because the value strip will
be the same tones as your reference photograph compared to the hues of the black and white
paint if you were to paint your strip.
Just slide the value strip under the glass. This way when you are trying to match the tone you
can test it by dabbing a swatch ontop of the tone underneath to determine how close you are.
The first tone I match is a number 5. It will take you a few attempts to get it spot on, this is
normal.
BeawarethattheblackhasastrongertintingstrengththanthewhitesowhenIadditImjust
scraping a small amount with the palette knife.
I then match a light value 3
Then a value 7. With these 3 tones you can create some great value studies (which are
sometimescalledposterstudies)theseallowtoquicklypracticeandsketchouttonal
compositions for future paintings.
It is also handy if you want to experiment working with a compressed value range.
Waterseller of Seville -Diego Velazquez, 1619
IfwelookatVelasquezspaintingbelowwecanseehisuseoftheumberunderpainting,and
the range of tones used to direct the views gaze.
When we look at the painting in black and white it is even easier to see how the most focus on
the painting has been placed on the subject with the broadest tonal range and
the background figure has a very compressed tonal range.
9 value tones
I then remove the value strip and we are ready to begin.
Iveplacedthepaletteovertheimagesoyoucanseetheeffectoflightfallout.
Due to my light source being above the subject the light drops off as we get further down the
face. When you look at the colour strings you can start to see how there is a subtle shift in tone
as we go down the painting. This is a key point to remember because when you take the paint
swatches away it is harder to judge the light drop off, your mind just accepts it.
The light was set up so that it was stronger on the top half of the portrait, and the value drops
away. You need to be aware of this drop off as you progress through the tones.
This can help in getting the fall of light right, and creating a logical progression throughout the
painting.
So what you can do now is remove the value strip from underneath the paint and hold it next to
your reference photograph. Make sure you have trimmed the edge of the value strip so you
donthaveanywhiteontheedge.Thiswillmakeithardertojudgetones.
Now shut one eye, this helps to flatten your vision and makes it easier to see tone. Then flick
your eyes between the tone and the value strip and the tone on the reference photograph until
you have a match.
Pro tip: If you are finding it hard to isolate the colour the use a hole-punch to punch a hole in
each square, this way you can use them as a viewfinder.
Solid painting
Forpurposesofstudythereisnothingbetterthansimple,direct,solidpainting.Paintingwith
transparent colour, with a mixture of solid and transparent, glazing etc are all things that must
betriedlateronbutforsometimeconfineyourselftodirect,solidpainting.
Harold Speed
On my image I start with the lightest part on the forehead, it is about a value 2.
I dip just the edge of my brush (number# 4 Rosemary & co ivory filbert) into the medium.
I then pull the paint from the side of the mixture and coat the end of the brush. The mixture is
thick enough to cover the underpainting, but still quite thin.
You are looking to cover the colour underneath with a solid tone, but still have a fluid mixture.
Gettingtheconsistencyrightcanbeanartinitself,sodontgetdiscouraged!
We just want a small amount of paint, notice how I pull the paint from the edge of the pile.
Youalsodontneedmuchpaint,justtrytogetthetipofthebristlescoated,Iworkthebrush
backandforthinthepaintsoithasacoverage,yetdoesntcomeupthebristlestoofar.
A beginners tendency is to overload your brush.
I then flick my eyes between the subject and my painting to judge the next tonal shift, I squeeze
any excess paint into a piece of kitchen roll untill the brush is dry,
Icanthengrabsomeofthenextvaluedownvalue3
Just to help my eye with the portrait I reinforce the white of the t-shirt with value 1.
This could have been put in first, there is no real hard and fast rule, I just scan the picture with
my eyes to look for any values that are in the first 3 light range.
Adding the midtones
I then move on to the mid-tones, again with a clean brush (I might dip it into pure mineral spirits
occasionally and scrub out the pigment into kitchen roll so I have a clean brush for the new
tone.
I then make my way down the tones using 4, 5, 6 . Notice how these are all still in the lights of
the subject.
Ihaventblendedanyofthetones,Iamjustsimplyblockingtheminwithaflattone.
Ithenblockinthetoneontheneck,againthiscouldhavebeendoneearlierbutyoullfindthe
more tones you add, the easier they are to judge in comparison.
All of the lights are now added, this has all been painting with values 1 through to 6.
We are now going to add the darks, working through 7 to 9
Adding the darks
As the light starts to drop off, I add the darks into the shadow side of the face, notice how the
tones have been dropping darker to the right and the bottom of the picture due to the light
source being from the top left.
I continue adding a darker value 8 into the shadow under the chin. Notice how blue the paint
appears next to the raw umber. The tones are still quite flat with limited blending, still just using
the size 4 ivory filbert.
I now mix a value between the 8 & 9, you could go straight in with the 9, but I wanted to leave
this for the final part of this stage.
I then soften the edge slightly using the filbert.
I swap to a sable filbert for blending the edges further, as I mentioned before, I often use the
Ivory filbert for this, but sometimes, if the paint is pulling too much the sable can just give you
that blend that you are after.
BecausetheunderpaintingisnowdryImrestingbylittlefingeronthecanvas,thiswayIcan
pivot, with a stronger support. For larger scale painting, or of the background is still damp I
would use a mahl stick.
This is now with the value 9, the pure black mix we have made. When this first goes on it will
feeltoodark.Itsnot.
Iblockinthisblackslightlythinnerthanthepreviouspaint,Imstillconcernedwithcreatingaflat
tonalvalue.NoticehowIveleftaslightegdebetweenthisdarkertoneandtheedgeofthe
face.ThiswaywhenIsoftentheedgeitwontgotoodark.
A tendency when your first starting is to add, then blend, add then blend, but it will work better if
you keep the blending to a minimum.
This is easier said than done.
Notice how light the first shadow now looks in comparison to the black.
This stage of the painting I now have a full tonal range of opaque colour. I can now assess the
referenceimageandflickmyeyesbetweenthetwo,lookingforanythingthatlooksout.
The Importance of edges
I now look to soften out most of the edges. As with the underpainting, it is easiest to keep the
edges soft at this stage as they can easily grab a viewers attention. Sharp edges come
forward, soft edges recede back.
Pro tip:Ifyouarehavingtroublepullingthepainttoomuchswaptothelargersize10filbert
and gentle blush over the edge.
Wevenowfinishedthefirststageofmodellingtheportrait.Ihaventworkedonthefeatures
much, still just keeping the focus on the main areas of the form. The larger areas first, then we
can add details in the next stage.
You might also like:
1. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart1
2. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart2
3. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart4
{ 20commentsreadthembeloworadd one }
Gunner Dave April 19, 2012
Hi Will,
I have a question about your image which shows the 9 tones of the grey colour string. Would
it be possible for you to give these 9 tones in terms of RGB (or H, S & B) values on
photoshop? This way I could make my own grey colour string swatch on the computer and
print it out.
Also, as a beginner who has limited resources, is it worth using oil painting paper instead of
canvas until I get the hang of the technique? Are there any issues with this type of surface
that I should be aware of?
Loving your work,
Dave.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 19, 2012
Hi Dave,
Glad you like the progress.
Yes, if you have access to Photoshop you can create your own value scale. Matthew
Innis (from Underpaintings blog) talks through how he makes a scale using the Munsell
system (this is another approach for mixing and matching colours and, confusingly, used
10stepsandthevaluesarelabelledtheotherway)usingPhotoshopSeebelow:
To make the scale, I began with a new image file in Photoshop, 1 inch high and 11
incheslong,andwithabackgroundcolorofwhite.ThisIthendividedinto11
squares using guides. I approached each tone square as if this were a screen
printingproject,choosingtothinkofeachsectionasapercentageofblack(ie.Value
9, which is 90% white, can also be thought of as 10% black. Value 8 would be 20%
blackvalue7,30%blackandsoon).One by one, each square was then
selected, and filled using the color black and the Paintbucket tool. This action,
however, was done each time on a separate layer, which was later merged with the
background. The separate layers were necessary, because each successive layer
had a different fill percentage in order to control the density of black in each square
(eg.The layer which represented value 8, had a fill percentage of only 20%).
This, however, is for straight black and white, our mix is slightly warmer so might need a
bit of tweaking.
If you, or any of the readers, have another way to make a value scale with photoshop
please add to the comments.
Yes,byallmeanspracticeonoilpaintingpaper,youmightfinditfeelslikeitsitsontop
of the surface more, but just use a thicker mix of paint.
Thanks,
Will
REPLY
David A. April 20, 2012
Hi Will,
I was wondering about brushes again, and would like to know what is the difference between
a Bright, Flat and Shader. My local art store in Chicago does not have the brands you talked
about. Only Princeton ( they artist there say that they are from the UK).
I would like to know if you think that if the painting/drawing is wrong if it does not represent
the model perfectly.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hey David,
The difference between them is shape, so all have different uses.
Flat:Flatsquareedge.Goodforbroadstrokesandcreatingstraightlines.Nottheideal
for portraits because we want soft edges.
Bright:BrightsTheshorter,sturdierversionoftheflatbrush,(sohaslessflexifyou
were working with thick oil paints a bright would be able move the paint around easier.)
Shader: I think this is just a brand name and not in general used in other brush
manufacturers. I had a look at the Princeton website and the Shader is very similar to a
flat.
I forgot to mention Rosemary & co are mail order, but in terms of the Princeton brushes,
tell me your budget and I can advise which ones would be best.
There is no such thing as perfect representation, capturing a models character is more
important than a photo realist drawing. This all comes with practice and developing your
own style as an artist.
Dontgethunguponitbeingperfect,Iveseensomanystudentsstartportraitsget
disheartened and not continue on, just out of interest Picasso produced 50,000 unique
pieces of art over his lifetime.
Not every piece has to be a masterpiece, the process is just as important as the end
result.
Thanks
Will
REPLY
David A. April 21, 2012
Hi Will,
My budget per month is $25-35. I use half for painting and half for drawing.
The Princeton brushes at Blick cost between $6.29-15.00.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hi David,
You might be interested to look at the Winsor & Newton Artist Quality oil Brushes
(availableatblick)thesearereallyexcellentbrushesandtheonesIuseifImnotusing
the Rosemary & Co Ivory Filberts. They are slightly more reasonable than the Princeton
brushes and I can feel confident in recommending them.
Acoupleofhandysizes(ifyourworkingquitesmallA4papersize)are:
Long Handle Filbert, Size #2 ($4.37)
Long Handle Filbert, Size #4 ($5.14) (this is the same size as the brush I use for 90% of
this demo)
Size #5 & #6 are also handy.
Also, a small round for details with slightly softer hair, so either one of the synthetic
sables from Princeton (series 4000) or Winsor & newton Monarch are nice. (between a
size0and3dependingonhowdetailedyouworkIuseasize3forthisdemo)
For blending the filbert princeton size 6 ($6.45) or 8 ($7.05) (series 4000) is closest to
what I have used.
You could just start with the oil brushes though and see how you get on.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Michelle April 23, 2012
Do you ever use a different mixture for your shadows such as mixing a red,
ultramarine blue, and yellow ochre? This would be used after the initial raw umber stage on
just the shadows. I am starting to learn to paint portraits and have been told using this
mixture allows the shadows to remain transparent later on, however it seems to make things
more complicated than your method. Thanksforthisseriesitsveryhelpful.Looking forward
tothenextpart
REPLY
Will Kemp April 24, 2012
Hi Michelle,
Pleased to hear you are enjoying this portrait painting series. As this techniques is
focusing on the importance of tone and making the step from drawing to oil painting
keeping it simple really is the way the to go. So I will be only be using the raw umber and
Ivory black.
Forfullcolourportraits,Iuseasimilar,simpleapproach.Andwouldntinitiallyusered,
ultramarine blue or yellow ochre. I would still use a earth pigment like raw umber or burnt
umber.
Different artists have different approaches, but I am a great believer in keeping your
materials simple, so you can have more time to concentrate on the tricky part, the
painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
rod hulme June 3, 2012
HiWilleverythingokayhere!Have started playing with Golden liquids, [10 half oz.
bottles for 40.00] and find them interesting! Must pick up a 40 series knife to do my mixing of
theheavy,asthespatulatypeIhaveisawkwardforme,butprogress,asIalsofoundpaper
pallets I used to use with oils. There is something about a clean WHITE mixing surface..that
colorblind moi finds more accurate somehow in delineation of shades. Anyway, makes sense
tometome,andthatsjustfine.
Manythanksforyourpatience.cheersrod
REPLY
Will Kemp June 4, 2012
Hey Rod, yes the fluid acrylics can be very effective, especially for glazing
effects.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Alice July 5, 2012
Hello,Idontreallyunderstandwhyyouneedtopaintfirstwithrawumberwhycant
youjustpaintwithblack/whitestraightontothecanvas?Sorryifthatsanobviousquestion.
ThanksAlice
REPLY
Will Kemp July 5, 2012
Hi Alice,
Thanks for the comment. The reason I paint onto a toned ground is because it makes it
easier when you are first starting to judge your tones.
You can quickly establish your darkest darks and lightest lights and this will make it
easier to judge the other tones in your painting. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is
working onto a white canvas. you can read more about it here: How a prepared canvas
can drastically improve your painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
David Smith July 2, 2013
Hello Will,
Enjoying working through these lessons so far. Your method produces a nice look to a
portraitsimilartoVelzquez.
Regarding a value strip, I had a go creating one using GIMP (the free photo-editing
software). I edited the brush colour and altered the HSV (hue, saturation, value) settings.
Changing V amount from zero (black), 50 (mid-grey), 100 (white) etc. and all the tone
gradations in between.
David
REPLY
Will Kemp July 3, 2013
Hi David,
Pleased to hear the portrait course is going well, and that you could create a value strip
using GIMP, good one!
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
I am passionate about painting the figure, but have only worked in watercolors. My
question. Do you think it best for me to begin to learn painting in oils or do you think I should
work in Acrylics first. I was in fine arts for 10 years before I became an art therapist. Now that
IamretiredIwanttofocusonpaintingthefigure..portrait.Can you help direct me to
make the most of the next 10 years. My concern is the time it will take me to master two
mediums (acrylic and then on to oils). IlikeyourdemosandthinkIcanstartwithgood
training.Butwhichtrainingtobeginwithismyquestion.
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
Hi Bernice,
You might find this article helpful that goes through the differences between the two,
many of my acrylic painting techniques stem from classical painting techniques, so you
are inadvertently learning skills for both mediums.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
Yes, thank you. I think you are saying it would be good practice and learning
in acrylics before starting oils, since most of your acrylic techniques are taken from
classical oil techniques? Correct?
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
HiBernice,yes,Ivefoundforlearningaboutcolourmixingandpaint
techniques acrylics are very forgiving because you can easily work over them, so
are a great medium to learn with, can be painted anywhere, on pretty much any
surface, so are like a quick start painting. Then, when you feel move confident in
colour mixing and brush techniques you can go into oils there and will be less
mudmixedandmoreahamoments,asmanyofthetechniquesIteachare
transferable.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
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1
HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart3
by WI LL KEMP
i n OI L PAI NTI NG, PORTRAI TS
Whenyoucomebacktoyourpaintingyoullnoticehowtheoilhasbecometranslucent
overnightandwonthavethesamecoveragethatyoufirstthought.
How to paint a portrait series. This is part 3 of a 5 part series of tutorials for beginners making
the transition from drawing to oil painting.
Hereisaquickreviewofwhatwehavecoveredsofarifyoudliketojoinin
Part1Establishingthedrawing,includingtheshadowline.
This can be done in pencil or charcoal (that you can fix with fixative) try to keep the drawing
lines angular to start with.
Try to establish the basic shapes if you could only use a straight line, then add the contours as
the drawing progresses. A classic beginner mistake when drawing a portrait is an over
exaggerationofthecurvesintheface.Everythinggetsroundedoffandtheportraitcanhave
acartoonlikequality.Becausewehaveastrongvisualmemorysystemthattellsusfacesare
roundthiscansubconsciouslyaffectyourdrawing.
We the started to scrub in the underpainting layer. To a beginner, this stage is often skipped,
deemed to be unimportant, but a good foundation is key to success with portraits.
We then have our 3 part tonal underpainting which allows you, and your eye, to become more
in-tune with the image, and become aware to the tones.
Part2Developingthetones,addinglights.
We then worked over the top of the initial underpainting still just with the raw umber to
strengthen the tones and get a better feeling of form. These layers are all painted thinly.
The medium for this stage being a simple mix of 1 part linseed oil to 4 parts mineral spirits
(artistturpentineorodourlessmineralspirits)thisestablishesthefatoverleanrule.Witheach
progressivelayerbeingslightlyfatterwithmoreoilcontent.
We also added some roughed in lights with a faster drying white.
Thisistohelpusjudgethetonesforthenextstagesowhenwepaintthemontheydontlook
tooutwhenweaddthelights.
The Allure of highlights
I forgot to emphasis at the end of part 2 that the roughed in lights are the light tonal mass, and
not the highlights.
The highlights and the very darkest parts of the painting should be the last brushstrokes to be
done,buttheytryanddrawyouin!Itshardtoresistputtingthemonattheearlystage.
Andevenifyouvereadthewarning,itsamazinghow,whenyougetengrossedinthepainting,
your hand will be drawn to that lightest white.
This can seem counterintuitive if you are coming to the painting from drawing as we often erase
out the lightest areas, or work on this areas that attract out attention. The white highlights on
the eye have a particular allure.
When the painting is finished these will be seen by the viewer to be painted with the most skill,
however, a single dot of white can be painted by anyone, but resisting adding them takes the
practice of an artist.
A note about grey
One of the students following this series let me know about Gambiln Torrit grey competition
(Thanks Mario!) Every spring, the paint manufacture collect all of the residue paint pigment that
havebeencollectedbytheairfiltrationsystemandrecyclethemintoGamblinTorritGrey.
You can learn more about the Torrit Grey painting competition from Gamblin website.
Pigmentdustshouldnotgointotheearth,waterorlandfill,butintopaint,
Robert Gamblin.
For our grey we are going to mix a neutral using the raw umber and Ivory black.
Part3FirstPainting
Mixing a new medium
We now create a new medium for the next layer of the painting. Different artists vary the
richness of the medium depending on their own personal preference but the next mix is a very
useful one.
1 part linseed oil to 3 parts mineral spirit
Youcanusethepipettetomeasureoutamounts,orifImmixingalargeramountIllusekitchen
measurement spoons.
Pro tip: If you are doing a lot of painting it can be worth premixing a larger amount of each
medium in resealable jars, label them up and then you can simple decant the medium each
stage of the painting.
Mixing our black
We are now going to mix a neutral black for developing this monotone study. You can still
create some lovely studies just using the raw umber and white, it is a warmer finish than the
black, but you will still learn the importance of contrast in your paintings.
To mix the neutral we use 3/4 ivory black to 1/4 raw umber. This helps take the blue out of the
black (black has a blue base, this is why you can mix lovely muted greens with black)
Ivory black
Ivory black is a slow drying pigment, by mixing in 1/4 of the raw umber (which is quick drying) it
will match nicely with the titanium white (slow drying) and at this stage of the painting the longer
opentimewehavewiththepaintsthebetter.Ivoryblackalsohasalovelyrichnesswhen
painted thinly which will help out in the later stages of the portrait.
This way you will have time to work through your painting and blend and fuse edges that you
need to. This is why we started with the raw umber, it dries overnight and has a cooler
undertone when working with portraits.
Materials
Winsor & Newton artist quality Ivory black
Micheal harding artist quality Raw Umber
Old Holland artist quality titanium white
Winsor & newton Sansador ( odourless mineral spirits)
Winsor & newton Refined linseed oil
ThereisntanyspecificreasonwhyIuseeachbrand,IoftenintermixbrandsasIliketo
experiment using different manufacturers colours. Whatever is available where you are. The
one key throughout them all is that they are artist quality (See: the 8 key differences
between artist quality & student grade paint)
Paint consistency
When you are just beginning with oils, the handling of the paint can vary greatly depending on
the consistency of the paint.
Oil paint (especially the titanium white) is often too thick and stiff to work with at this stage of the
paintingstraightfromthetube.
To make the paint more fluid, I slightly dilute it with the medium shown above. I use a pipette to
drop a few drops of the medium onto the paint mixture and mix it thoroughly with the palette
knife. Using the palette knife for mixing your paints is a very useful technique.
The video below shows a quick tutorial on how I dilute the oil paint.
The Adobe Flash Player or an HTML5 supported browser is required for video
playback.
Get the latest Flash Player
Learn more about upgrading to an HTML5 browser
I often mix the colours on a separate, tear off palette and then transfer the mixture to the clean
glass/ perspex.
Ifyourejustbeginningwithoilsyoullnoticehoweasilyyoucancontaminatecolourswhen
using a full palette of colours, this can lead to muddy colours and frustrating painting.
This helps you to learn clean working methods. I am naturally more impatient so it is a discipline
to spend the time mixing the colours as you just want to get painting but it will pay dividends.
Step14Mixingour tonal colour strings
Thisnextstageoftheportraitiswherewereallygetpaintingasin,thicker,moreopaque
colours mixed together. If we look back at the last couple of weeks lessons you can see that we
haventactuallymixedanytonestogetheryet.
Wehavesimplybeenblockinginthebasictonalvalues,inwhatissometimescalledthedead
colouringstagethisisbecauseweareusingalimitedamountofoilinthemix,andmore
mineralspirits.Asthemineralspiritsevaporatethecolourcanappearflat,anddeadasit
doesnthavethelustrethattheoilgivesus.
Pro tip:Whenworkingwithcolour,thisisalsoreferedtoasaddingthelocalcolourofa
subject. For example a lemon would have a local colour of yellow.
So before we start the painting we are going to premix a range of 9 value tones.
White (1) is the lightest, black (9) is the darkest. This enables us to get a mid tone 5 and split
the tones into lights, half tones, and darks. These are called tonal strings, you can read more
about them on A beginners guide to tonal strings
Using a value strip
Print out, or paint out your own value strip.
When you are first starting, working from a print out it can be handy because the value strip will
be the same tones as your reference photograph compared to the hues of the black and white
paint if you were to paint your strip.
Just slide the value strip under the glass. This way when you are trying to match the tone you
can test it by dabbing a swatch ontop of the tone underneath to determine how close you are.
The first tone I match is a number 5. It will take you a few attempts to get it spot on, this is
normal.
BeawarethattheblackhasastrongertintingstrengththanthewhitesowhenIadditImjust
scraping a small amount with the palette knife.
I then match a light value 3
Then a value 7. With these 3 tones you can create some great value studies (which are
sometimescalledposterstudies)theseallowtoquicklypracticeandsketchouttonal
compositions for future paintings.
It is also handy if you want to experiment working with a compressed value range.
Waterseller of Seville -Diego Velazquez, 1619
IfwelookatVelasquezspaintingbelowwecanseehisuseoftheumberunderpainting,and
the range of tones used to direct the views gaze.
When we look at the painting in black and white it is even easier to see how the most focus on
the painting has been placed on the subject with the broadest tonal range and
the background figure has a very compressed tonal range.
9 value tones
I then remove the value strip and we are ready to begin.
Iveplacedthepaletteovertheimagesoyoucanseetheeffectoflightfallout.
Due to my light source being above the subject the light drops off as we get further down the
face. When you look at the colour strings you can start to see how there is a subtle shift in tone
as we go down the painting. This is a key point to remember because when you take the paint
swatches away it is harder to judge the light drop off, your mind just accepts it.
The light was set up so that it was stronger on the top half of the portrait, and the value drops
away. You need to be aware of this drop off as you progress through the tones.
This can help in getting the fall of light right, and creating a logical progression throughout the
painting.
So what you can do now is remove the value strip from underneath the paint and hold it next to
your reference photograph. Make sure you have trimmed the edge of the value strip so you
donthaveanywhiteontheedge.Thiswillmakeithardertojudgetones.
Now shut one eye, this helps to flatten your vision and makes it easier to see tone. Then flick
your eyes between the tone and the value strip and the tone on the reference photograph until
you have a match.
Pro tip: If you are finding it hard to isolate the colour the use a hole-punch to punch a hole in
each square, this way you can use them as a viewfinder.
Solid painting
Forpurposesofstudythereisnothingbetterthansimple,direct,solidpainting.Paintingwith
transparent colour, with a mixture of solid and transparent, glazing etc are all things that must
betriedlateronbutforsometimeconfineyourselftodirect,solidpainting.
Harold Speed
On my image I start with the lightest part on the forehead, it is about a value 2.
I dip just the edge of my brush (number# 4 Rosemary & co ivory filbert) into the medium.
I then pull the paint from the side of the mixture and coat the end of the brush. The mixture is
thick enough to cover the underpainting, but still quite thin.
You are looking to cover the colour underneath with a solid tone, but still have a fluid mixture.
Gettingtheconsistencyrightcanbeanartinitself,sodontgetdiscouraged!
We just want a small amount of paint, notice how I pull the paint from the edge of the pile.
Youalsodontneedmuchpaint,justtrytogetthetipofthebristlescoated,Iworkthebrush
backandforthinthepaintsoithasacoverage,yetdoesntcomeupthebristlestoofar.
A beginners tendency is to overload your brush.
I then flick my eyes between the subject and my painting to judge the next tonal shift, I squeeze
any excess paint into a piece of kitchen roll untill the brush is dry,
Icanthengrabsomeofthenextvaluedownvalue3
Just to help my eye with the portrait I reinforce the white of the t-shirt with value 1.
This could have been put in first, there is no real hard and fast rule, I just scan the picture with
my eyes to look for any values that are in the first 3 light range.
Adding the midtones
I then move on to the mid-tones, again with a clean brush (I might dip it into pure mineral spirits
occasionally and scrub out the pigment into kitchen roll so I have a clean brush for the new
tone.
I then make my way down the tones using 4, 5, 6 . Notice how these are all still in the lights of
the subject.
Ihaventblendedanyofthetones,Iamjustsimplyblockingtheminwithaflattone.
Ithenblockinthetoneontheneck,againthiscouldhavebeendoneearlierbutyoullfindthe
more tones you add, the easier they are to judge in comparison.
All of the lights are now added, this has all been painting with values 1 through to 6.
We are now going to add the darks, working through 7 to 9
Adding the darks
As the light starts to drop off, I add the darks into the shadow side of the face, notice how the
tones have been dropping darker to the right and the bottom of the picture due to the light
source being from the top left.
I continue adding a darker value 8 into the shadow under the chin. Notice how blue the paint
appears next to the raw umber. The tones are still quite flat with limited blending, still just using
the size 4 ivory filbert.
I now mix a value between the 8 & 9, you could go straight in with the 9, but I wanted to leave
this for the final part of this stage.
I then soften the edge slightly using the filbert.
I swap to a sable filbert for blending the edges further, as I mentioned before, I often use the
Ivory filbert for this, but sometimes, if the paint is pulling too much the sable can just give you
that blend that you are after.
BecausetheunderpaintingisnowdryImrestingbylittlefingeronthecanvas,thiswayIcan
pivot, with a stronger support. For larger scale painting, or of the background is still damp I
would use a mahl stick.
This is now with the value 9, the pure black mix we have made. When this first goes on it will
feeltoodark.Itsnot.
Iblockinthisblackslightlythinnerthanthepreviouspaint,Imstillconcernedwithcreatingaflat
tonalvalue.NoticehowIveleftaslightegdebetweenthisdarkertoneandtheedgeofthe
face.ThiswaywhenIsoftentheedgeitwontgotoodark.
A tendency when your first starting is to add, then blend, add then blend, but it will work better if
you keep the blending to a minimum.
This is easier said than done.
Notice how light the first shadow now looks in comparison to the black.
This stage of the painting I now have a full tonal range of opaque colour. I can now assess the
referenceimageandflickmyeyesbetweenthetwo,lookingforanythingthatlooksout.
The Importance of edges
I now look to soften out most of the edges. As with the underpainting, it is easiest to keep the
edges soft at this stage as they can easily grab a viewers attention. Sharp edges come
forward, soft edges recede back.
Pro tip:Ifyouarehavingtroublepullingthepainttoomuchswaptothelargersize10filbert
and gentle blush over the edge.
Wevenowfinishedthefirststageofmodellingtheportrait.Ihaventworkedonthefeatures
much, still just keeping the focus on the main areas of the form. The larger areas first, then we
can add details in the next stage.
You might also like:
1. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart1
2. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart2
3. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart4
{ 20commentsreadthembeloworadd one }
Gunner Dave April 19, 2012
Hi Will,
I have a question about your image which shows the 9 tones of the grey colour string. Would
it be possible for you to give these 9 tones in terms of RGB (or H, S & B) values on
photoshop? This way I could make my own grey colour string swatch on the computer and
print it out.
Also, as a beginner who has limited resources, is it worth using oil painting paper instead of
canvas until I get the hang of the technique? Are there any issues with this type of surface
that I should be aware of?
Loving your work,
Dave.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 19, 2012
Hi Dave,
Glad you like the progress.
Yes, if you have access to Photoshop you can create your own value scale. Matthew
Innis (from Underpaintings blog) talks through how he makes a scale using the Munsell
system (this is another approach for mixing and matching colours and, confusingly, used
10stepsandthevaluesarelabelledtheotherway)usingPhotoshopSeebelow:
To make the scale, I began with a new image file in Photoshop, 1 inch high and 11
incheslong,andwithabackgroundcolorofwhite.ThisIthendividedinto11
squares using guides. I approached each tone square as if this were a screen
printingproject,choosingtothinkofeachsectionasapercentageofblack(ie.Value
9, which is 90% white, can also be thought of as 10% black. Value 8 would be 20%
blackvalue7,30%blackandsoon).One by one, each square was then
selected, and filled using the color black and the Paintbucket tool. This action,
however, was done each time on a separate layer, which was later merged with the
background. The separate layers were necessary, because each successive layer
had a different fill percentage in order to control the density of black in each square
(eg.The layer which represented value 8, had a fill percentage of only 20%).
This, however, is for straight black and white, our mix is slightly warmer so might need a
bit of tweaking.
If you, or any of the readers, have another way to make a value scale with photoshop
please add to the comments.
Yes,byallmeanspracticeonoilpaintingpaper,youmightfinditfeelslikeitsitsontop
of the surface more, but just use a thicker mix of paint.
Thanks,
Will
REPLY
David A. April 20, 2012
Hi Will,
I was wondering about brushes again, and would like to know what is the difference between
a Bright, Flat and Shader. My local art store in Chicago does not have the brands you talked
about. Only Princeton ( they artist there say that they are from the UK).
I would like to know if you think that if the painting/drawing is wrong if it does not represent
the model perfectly.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hey David,
The difference between them is shape, so all have different uses.
Flat:Flatsquareedge.Goodforbroadstrokesandcreatingstraightlines.Nottheideal
for portraits because we want soft edges.
Bright:BrightsTheshorter,sturdierversionoftheflatbrush,(sohaslessflexifyou
were working with thick oil paints a bright would be able move the paint around easier.)
Shader: I think this is just a brand name and not in general used in other brush
manufacturers. I had a look at the Princeton website and the Shader is very similar to a
flat.
I forgot to mention Rosemary & co are mail order, but in terms of the Princeton brushes,
tell me your budget and I can advise which ones would be best.
There is no such thing as perfect representation, capturing a models character is more
important than a photo realist drawing. This all comes with practice and developing your
own style as an artist.
Dontgethunguponitbeingperfect,Iveseensomanystudentsstartportraitsget
disheartened and not continue on, just out of interest Picasso produced 50,000 unique
pieces of art over his lifetime.
Not every piece has to be a masterpiece, the process is just as important as the end
result.
Thanks
Will
REPLY
David A. April 21, 2012
Hi Will,
My budget per month is $25-35. I use half for painting and half for drawing.
The Princeton brushes at Blick cost between $6.29-15.00.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hi David,
You might be interested to look at the Winsor & Newton Artist Quality oil Brushes
(availableatblick)thesearereallyexcellentbrushesandtheonesIuseifImnotusing
the Rosemary & Co Ivory Filberts. They are slightly more reasonable than the Princeton
brushes and I can feel confident in recommending them.
Acoupleofhandysizes(ifyourworkingquitesmallA4papersize)are:
Long Handle Filbert, Size #2 ($4.37)
Long Handle Filbert, Size #4 ($5.14) (this is the same size as the brush I use for 90% of
this demo)
Size #5 & #6 are also handy.
Also, a small round for details with slightly softer hair, so either one of the synthetic
sables from Princeton (series 4000) or Winsor & newton Monarch are nice. (between a
size0and3dependingonhowdetailedyouworkIuseasize3forthisdemo)
For blending the filbert princeton size 6 ($6.45) or 8 ($7.05) (series 4000) is closest to
what I have used.
You could just start with the oil brushes though and see how you get on.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Michelle April 23, 2012
Do you ever use a different mixture for your shadows such as mixing a red,
ultramarine blue, and yellow ochre? This would be used after the initial raw umber stage on
just the shadows. I am starting to learn to paint portraits and have been told using this
mixture allows the shadows to remain transparent later on, however it seems to make things
more complicated than your method. Thanksforthisseriesitsveryhelpful.Looking forward
tothenextpart
REPLY
Will Kemp April 24, 2012
Hi Michelle,
Pleased to hear you are enjoying this portrait painting series. As this techniques is
focusing on the importance of tone and making the step from drawing to oil painting
keeping it simple really is the way the to go. So I will be only be using the raw umber and
Ivory black.
Forfullcolourportraits,Iuseasimilar,simpleapproach.Andwouldntinitiallyusered,
ultramarine blue or yellow ochre. I would still use a earth pigment like raw umber or burnt
umber.
Different artists have different approaches, but I am a great believer in keeping your
materials simple, so you can have more time to concentrate on the tricky part, the
painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
rod hulme June 3, 2012
HiWilleverythingokayhere!Have started playing with Golden liquids, [10 half oz.
bottles for 40.00] and find them interesting! Must pick up a 40 series knife to do my mixing of
theheavy,asthespatulatypeIhaveisawkwardforme,butprogress,asIalsofoundpaper
pallets I used to use with oils. There is something about a clean WHITE mixing surface..that
colorblind moi finds more accurate somehow in delineation of shades. Anyway, makes sense
tometome,andthatsjustfine.
Manythanksforyourpatience.cheersrod
REPLY
Will Kemp June 4, 2012
Hey Rod, yes the fluid acrylics can be very effective, especially for glazing
effects.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Alice July 5, 2012
Hello,Idontreallyunderstandwhyyouneedtopaintfirstwithrawumberwhycant
youjustpaintwithblack/whitestraightontothecanvas?Sorryifthatsanobviousquestion.
ThanksAlice
REPLY
Will Kemp July 5, 2012
Hi Alice,
Thanks for the comment. The reason I paint onto a toned ground is because it makes it
easier when you are first starting to judge your tones.
You can quickly establish your darkest darks and lightest lights and this will make it
easier to judge the other tones in your painting. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is
working onto a white canvas. you can read more about it here: How a prepared canvas
can drastically improve your painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
David Smith July 2, 2013
Hello Will,
Enjoying working through these lessons so far. Your method produces a nice look to a
portraitsimilartoVelzquez.
Regarding a value strip, I had a go creating one using GIMP (the free photo-editing
software). I edited the brush colour and altered the HSV (hue, saturation, value) settings.
Changing V amount from zero (black), 50 (mid-grey), 100 (white) etc. and all the tone
gradations in between.
David
REPLY
Will Kemp July 3, 2013
Hi David,
Pleased to hear the portrait course is going well, and that you could create a value strip
using GIMP, good one!
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
I am passionate about painting the figure, but have only worked in watercolors. My
question. Do you think it best for me to begin to learn painting in oils or do you think I should
work in Acrylics first. I was in fine arts for 10 years before I became an art therapist. Now that
IamretiredIwanttofocusonpaintingthefigure..portrait.Can you help direct me to
make the most of the next 10 years. My concern is the time it will take me to master two
mediums (acrylic and then on to oils). IlikeyourdemosandthinkIcanstartwithgood
training.Butwhichtrainingtobeginwithismyquestion.
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
Hi Bernice,
You might find this article helpful that goes through the differences between the two,
many of my acrylic painting techniques stem from classical painting techniques, so you
are inadvertently learning skills for both mediums.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
Yes, thank you. I think you are saying it would be good practice and learning
in acrylics before starting oils, since most of your acrylic techniques are taken from
classical oil techniques? Correct?
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
HiBernice,yes,Ivefoundforlearningaboutcolourmixingandpaint
techniques acrylics are very forgiving because you can easily work over them, so
are a great medium to learn with, can be painted anywhere, on pretty much any
surface, so are like a quick start painting. Then, when you feel move confident in
colour mixing and brush techniques you can go into oils there and will be less
mudmixedandmoreahamoments,asmanyofthetechniquesIteachare
transferable.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
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1
HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart3
by WI LL KEMP
i n OI L PAI NTI NG, PORTRAI TS
Whenyoucomebacktoyourpaintingyoullnoticehowtheoilhasbecometranslucent
overnightandwonthavethesamecoveragethatyoufirstthought.
How to paint a portrait series. This is part 3 of a 5 part series of tutorials for beginners making
the transition from drawing to oil painting.
Hereisaquickreviewofwhatwehavecoveredsofarifyoudliketojoinin
Part1Establishingthedrawing,includingtheshadowline.
This can be done in pencil or charcoal (that you can fix with fixative) try to keep the drawing
lines angular to start with.
Try to establish the basic shapes if you could only use a straight line, then add the contours as
the drawing progresses. A classic beginner mistake when drawing a portrait is an over
exaggerationofthecurvesintheface.Everythinggetsroundedoffandtheportraitcanhave
acartoonlikequality.Becausewehaveastrongvisualmemorysystemthattellsusfacesare
roundthiscansubconsciouslyaffectyourdrawing.
We the started to scrub in the underpainting layer. To a beginner, this stage is often skipped,
deemed to be unimportant, but a good foundation is key to success with portraits.
We then have our 3 part tonal underpainting which allows you, and your eye, to become more
in-tune with the image, and become aware to the tones.
Part2Developingthetones,addinglights.
We then worked over the top of the initial underpainting still just with the raw umber to
strengthen the tones and get a better feeling of form. These layers are all painted thinly.
The medium for this stage being a simple mix of 1 part linseed oil to 4 parts mineral spirits
(artistturpentineorodourlessmineralspirits)thisestablishesthefatoverleanrule.Witheach
progressivelayerbeingslightlyfatterwithmoreoilcontent.
We also added some roughed in lights with a faster drying white.
Thisistohelpusjudgethetonesforthenextstagesowhenwepaintthemontheydontlook
tooutwhenweaddthelights.
The Allure of highlights
I forgot to emphasis at the end of part 2 that the roughed in lights are the light tonal mass, and
not the highlights.
The highlights and the very darkest parts of the painting should be the last brushstrokes to be
done,buttheytryanddrawyouin!Itshardtoresistputtingthemonattheearlystage.
Andevenifyouvereadthewarning,itsamazinghow,whenyougetengrossedinthepainting,
your hand will be drawn to that lightest white.
This can seem counterintuitive if you are coming to the painting from drawing as we often erase
out the lightest areas, or work on this areas that attract out attention. The white highlights on
the eye have a particular allure.
When the painting is finished these will be seen by the viewer to be painted with the most skill,
however, a single dot of white can be painted by anyone, but resisting adding them takes the
practice of an artist.
A note about grey
One of the students following this series let me know about Gambiln Torrit grey competition
(Thanks Mario!) Every spring, the paint manufacture collect all of the residue paint pigment that
havebeencollectedbytheairfiltrationsystemandrecyclethemintoGamblinTorritGrey.
You can learn more about the Torrit Grey painting competition from Gamblin website.
Pigmentdustshouldnotgointotheearth,waterorlandfill,butintopaint,
Robert Gamblin.
For our grey we are going to mix a neutral using the raw umber and Ivory black.
Part3FirstPainting
Mixing a new medium
We now create a new medium for the next layer of the painting. Different artists vary the
richness of the medium depending on their own personal preference but the next mix is a very
useful one.
1 part linseed oil to 3 parts mineral spirit
Youcanusethepipettetomeasureoutamounts,orifImmixingalargeramountIllusekitchen
measurement spoons.
Pro tip: If you are doing a lot of painting it can be worth premixing a larger amount of each
medium in resealable jars, label them up and then you can simple decant the medium each
stage of the painting.
Mixing our black
We are now going to mix a neutral black for developing this monotone study. You can still
create some lovely studies just using the raw umber and white, it is a warmer finish than the
black, but you will still learn the importance of contrast in your paintings.
To mix the neutral we use 3/4 ivory black to 1/4 raw umber. This helps take the blue out of the
black (black has a blue base, this is why you can mix lovely muted greens with black)
Ivory black
Ivory black is a slow drying pigment, by mixing in 1/4 of the raw umber (which is quick drying) it
will match nicely with the titanium white (slow drying) and at this stage of the painting the longer
opentimewehavewiththepaintsthebetter.Ivoryblackalsohasalovelyrichnesswhen
painted thinly which will help out in the later stages of the portrait.
This way you will have time to work through your painting and blend and fuse edges that you
need to. This is why we started with the raw umber, it dries overnight and has a cooler
undertone when working with portraits.
Materials
Winsor & Newton artist quality Ivory black
Micheal harding artist quality Raw Umber
Old Holland artist quality titanium white
Winsor & newton Sansador ( odourless mineral spirits)
Winsor & newton Refined linseed oil
ThereisntanyspecificreasonwhyIuseeachbrand,IoftenintermixbrandsasIliketo
experiment using different manufacturers colours. Whatever is available where you are. The
one key throughout them all is that they are artist quality (See: the 8 key differences
between artist quality & student grade paint)
Paint consistency
When you are just beginning with oils, the handling of the paint can vary greatly depending on
the consistency of the paint.
Oil paint (especially the titanium white) is often too thick and stiff to work with at this stage of the
paintingstraightfromthetube.
To make the paint more fluid, I slightly dilute it with the medium shown above. I use a pipette to
drop a few drops of the medium onto the paint mixture and mix it thoroughly with the palette
knife. Using the palette knife for mixing your paints is a very useful technique.
The video below shows a quick tutorial on how I dilute the oil paint.
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playback.
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I often mix the colours on a separate, tear off palette and then transfer the mixture to the clean
glass/ perspex.
Ifyourejustbeginningwithoilsyoullnoticehoweasilyyoucancontaminatecolourswhen
using a full palette of colours, this can lead to muddy colours and frustrating painting.
This helps you to learn clean working methods. I am naturally more impatient so it is a discipline
to spend the time mixing the colours as you just want to get painting but it will pay dividends.
Step14Mixingour tonal colour strings
Thisnextstageoftheportraitiswherewereallygetpaintingasin,thicker,moreopaque
colours mixed together. If we look back at the last couple of weeks lessons you can see that we
haventactuallymixedanytonestogetheryet.
Wehavesimplybeenblockinginthebasictonalvalues,inwhatissometimescalledthedead
colouringstagethisisbecauseweareusingalimitedamountofoilinthemix,andmore
mineralspirits.Asthemineralspiritsevaporatethecolourcanappearflat,anddeadasit
doesnthavethelustrethattheoilgivesus.
Pro tip:Whenworkingwithcolour,thisisalsoreferedtoasaddingthelocalcolourofa
subject. For example a lemon would have a local colour of yellow.
So before we start the painting we are going to premix a range of 9 value tones.
White (1) is the lightest, black (9) is the darkest. This enables us to get a mid tone 5 and split
the tones into lights, half tones, and darks. These are called tonal strings, you can read more
about them on A beginners guide to tonal strings
Using a value strip
Print out, or paint out your own value strip.
When you are first starting, working from a print out it can be handy because the value strip will
be the same tones as your reference photograph compared to the hues of the black and white
paint if you were to paint your strip.
Just slide the value strip under the glass. This way when you are trying to match the tone you
can test it by dabbing a swatch ontop of the tone underneath to determine how close you are.
The first tone I match is a number 5. It will take you a few attempts to get it spot on, this is
normal.
BeawarethattheblackhasastrongertintingstrengththanthewhitesowhenIadditImjust
scraping a small amount with the palette knife.
I then match a light value 3
Then a value 7. With these 3 tones you can create some great value studies (which are
sometimescalledposterstudies)theseallowtoquicklypracticeandsketchouttonal
compositions for future paintings.
It is also handy if you want to experiment working with a compressed value range.
Waterseller of Seville -Diego Velazquez, 1619
IfwelookatVelasquezspaintingbelowwecanseehisuseoftheumberunderpainting,and
the range of tones used to direct the views gaze.
When we look at the painting in black and white it is even easier to see how the most focus on
the painting has been placed on the subject with the broadest tonal range and
the background figure has a very compressed tonal range.
9 value tones
I then remove the value strip and we are ready to begin.
Iveplacedthepaletteovertheimagesoyoucanseetheeffectoflightfallout.
Due to my light source being above the subject the light drops off as we get further down the
face. When you look at the colour strings you can start to see how there is a subtle shift in tone
as we go down the painting. This is a key point to remember because when you take the paint
swatches away it is harder to judge the light drop off, your mind just accepts it.
The light was set up so that it was stronger on the top half of the portrait, and the value drops
away. You need to be aware of this drop off as you progress through the tones.
This can help in getting the fall of light right, and creating a logical progression throughout the
painting.
So what you can do now is remove the value strip from underneath the paint and hold it next to
your reference photograph. Make sure you have trimmed the edge of the value strip so you
donthaveanywhiteontheedge.Thiswillmakeithardertojudgetones.
Now shut one eye, this helps to flatten your vision and makes it easier to see tone. Then flick
your eyes between the tone and the value strip and the tone on the reference photograph until
you have a match.
Pro tip: If you are finding it hard to isolate the colour the use a hole-punch to punch a hole in
each square, this way you can use them as a viewfinder.
Solid painting
Forpurposesofstudythereisnothingbetterthansimple,direct,solidpainting.Paintingwith
transparent colour, with a mixture of solid and transparent, glazing etc are all things that must
betriedlateronbutforsometimeconfineyourselftodirect,solidpainting.
Harold Speed
On my image I start with the lightest part on the forehead, it is about a value 2.
I dip just the edge of my brush (number# 4 Rosemary & co ivory filbert) into the medium.
I then pull the paint from the side of the mixture and coat the end of the brush. The mixture is
thick enough to cover the underpainting, but still quite thin.
You are looking to cover the colour underneath with a solid tone, but still have a fluid mixture.
Gettingtheconsistencyrightcanbeanartinitself,sodontgetdiscouraged!
We just want a small amount of paint, notice how I pull the paint from the edge of the pile.
Youalsodontneedmuchpaint,justtrytogetthetipofthebristlescoated,Iworkthebrush
backandforthinthepaintsoithasacoverage,yetdoesntcomeupthebristlestoofar.
A beginners tendency is to overload your brush.
I then flick my eyes between the subject and my painting to judge the next tonal shift, I squeeze
any excess paint into a piece of kitchen roll untill the brush is dry,
Icanthengrabsomeofthenextvaluedownvalue3
Just to help my eye with the portrait I reinforce the white of the t-shirt with value 1.
This could have been put in first, there is no real hard and fast rule, I just scan the picture with
my eyes to look for any values that are in the first 3 light range.
Adding the midtones
I then move on to the mid-tones, again with a clean brush (I might dip it into pure mineral spirits
occasionally and scrub out the pigment into kitchen roll so I have a clean brush for the new
tone.
I then make my way down the tones using 4, 5, 6 . Notice how these are all still in the lights of
the subject.
Ihaventblendedanyofthetones,Iamjustsimplyblockingtheminwithaflattone.
Ithenblockinthetoneontheneck,againthiscouldhavebeendoneearlierbutyoullfindthe
more tones you add, the easier they are to judge in comparison.
All of the lights are now added, this has all been painting with values 1 through to 6.
We are now going to add the darks, working through 7 to 9
Adding the darks
As the light starts to drop off, I add the darks into the shadow side of the face, notice how the
tones have been dropping darker to the right and the bottom of the picture due to the light
source being from the top left.
I continue adding a darker value 8 into the shadow under the chin. Notice how blue the paint
appears next to the raw umber. The tones are still quite flat with limited blending, still just using
the size 4 ivory filbert.
I now mix a value between the 8 & 9, you could go straight in with the 9, but I wanted to leave
this for the final part of this stage.
I then soften the edge slightly using the filbert.
I swap to a sable filbert for blending the edges further, as I mentioned before, I often use the
Ivory filbert for this, but sometimes, if the paint is pulling too much the sable can just give you
that blend that you are after.
BecausetheunderpaintingisnowdryImrestingbylittlefingeronthecanvas,thiswayIcan
pivot, with a stronger support. For larger scale painting, or of the background is still damp I
would use a mahl stick.
This is now with the value 9, the pure black mix we have made. When this first goes on it will
feeltoodark.Itsnot.
Iblockinthisblackslightlythinnerthanthepreviouspaint,Imstillconcernedwithcreatingaflat
tonalvalue.NoticehowIveleftaslightegdebetweenthisdarkertoneandtheedgeofthe
face.ThiswaywhenIsoftentheedgeitwontgotoodark.
A tendency when your first starting is to add, then blend, add then blend, but it will work better if
you keep the blending to a minimum.
This is easier said than done.
Notice how light the first shadow now looks in comparison to the black.
This stage of the painting I now have a full tonal range of opaque colour. I can now assess the
referenceimageandflickmyeyesbetweenthetwo,lookingforanythingthatlooksout.
The Importance of edges
I now look to soften out most of the edges. As with the underpainting, it is easiest to keep the
edges soft at this stage as they can easily grab a viewers attention. Sharp edges come
forward, soft edges recede back.
Pro tip:Ifyouarehavingtroublepullingthepainttoomuchswaptothelargersize10filbert
and gentle blush over the edge.
Wevenowfinishedthefirststageofmodellingtheportrait.Ihaventworkedonthefeatures
much, still just keeping the focus on the main areas of the form. The larger areas first, then we
can add details in the next stage.
You might also like:
1. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart1
2. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart2
3. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart4
{ 20commentsreadthembeloworadd one }
Gunner Dave April 19, 2012
Hi Will,
I have a question about your image which shows the 9 tones of the grey colour string. Would
it be possible for you to give these 9 tones in terms of RGB (or H, S & B) values on
photoshop? This way I could make my own grey colour string swatch on the computer and
print it out.
Also, as a beginner who has limited resources, is it worth using oil painting paper instead of
canvas until I get the hang of the technique? Are there any issues with this type of surface
that I should be aware of?
Loving your work,
Dave.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 19, 2012
Hi Dave,
Glad you like the progress.
Yes, if you have access to Photoshop you can create your own value scale. Matthew
Innis (from Underpaintings blog) talks through how he makes a scale using the Munsell
system (this is another approach for mixing and matching colours and, confusingly, used
10stepsandthevaluesarelabelledtheotherway)usingPhotoshopSeebelow:
To make the scale, I began with a new image file in Photoshop, 1 inch high and 11
incheslong,andwithabackgroundcolorofwhite.ThisIthendividedinto11
squares using guides. I approached each tone square as if this were a screen
printingproject,choosingtothinkofeachsectionasapercentageofblack(ie.Value
9, which is 90% white, can also be thought of as 10% black. Value 8 would be 20%
blackvalue7,30%blackandsoon).One by one, each square was then
selected, and filled using the color black and the Paintbucket tool. This action,
however, was done each time on a separate layer, which was later merged with the
background. The separate layers were necessary, because each successive layer
had a different fill percentage in order to control the density of black in each square
(eg.The layer which represented value 8, had a fill percentage of only 20%).
This, however, is for straight black and white, our mix is slightly warmer so might need a
bit of tweaking.
If you, or any of the readers, have another way to make a value scale with photoshop
please add to the comments.
Yes,byallmeanspracticeonoilpaintingpaper,youmightfinditfeelslikeitsitsontop
of the surface more, but just use a thicker mix of paint.
Thanks,
Will
REPLY
David A. April 20, 2012
Hi Will,
I was wondering about brushes again, and would like to know what is the difference between
a Bright, Flat and Shader. My local art store in Chicago does not have the brands you talked
about. Only Princeton ( they artist there say that they are from the UK).
I would like to know if you think that if the painting/drawing is wrong if it does not represent
the model perfectly.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hey David,
The difference between them is shape, so all have different uses.
Flat:Flatsquareedge.Goodforbroadstrokesandcreatingstraightlines.Nottheideal
for portraits because we want soft edges.
Bright:BrightsTheshorter,sturdierversionoftheflatbrush,(sohaslessflexifyou
were working with thick oil paints a bright would be able move the paint around easier.)
Shader: I think this is just a brand name and not in general used in other brush
manufacturers. I had a look at the Princeton website and the Shader is very similar to a
flat.
I forgot to mention Rosemary & co are mail order, but in terms of the Princeton brushes,
tell me your budget and I can advise which ones would be best.
There is no such thing as perfect representation, capturing a models character is more
important than a photo realist drawing. This all comes with practice and developing your
own style as an artist.
Dontgethunguponitbeingperfect,Iveseensomanystudentsstartportraitsget
disheartened and not continue on, just out of interest Picasso produced 50,000 unique
pieces of art over his lifetime.
Not every piece has to be a masterpiece, the process is just as important as the end
result.
Thanks
Will
REPLY
David A. April 21, 2012
Hi Will,
My budget per month is $25-35. I use half for painting and half for drawing.
The Princeton brushes at Blick cost between $6.29-15.00.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hi David,
You might be interested to look at the Winsor & Newton Artist Quality oil Brushes
(availableatblick)thesearereallyexcellentbrushesandtheonesIuseifImnotusing
the Rosemary & Co Ivory Filberts. They are slightly more reasonable than the Princeton
brushes and I can feel confident in recommending them.
Acoupleofhandysizes(ifyourworkingquitesmallA4papersize)are:
Long Handle Filbert, Size #2 ($4.37)
Long Handle Filbert, Size #4 ($5.14) (this is the same size as the brush I use for 90% of
this demo)
Size #5 & #6 are also handy.
Also, a small round for details with slightly softer hair, so either one of the synthetic
sables from Princeton (series 4000) or Winsor & newton Monarch are nice. (between a
size0and3dependingonhowdetailedyouworkIuseasize3forthisdemo)
For blending the filbert princeton size 6 ($6.45) or 8 ($7.05) (series 4000) is closest to
what I have used.
You could just start with the oil brushes though and see how you get on.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Michelle April 23, 2012
Do you ever use a different mixture for your shadows such as mixing a red,
ultramarine blue, and yellow ochre? This would be used after the initial raw umber stage on
just the shadows. I am starting to learn to paint portraits and have been told using this
mixture allows the shadows to remain transparent later on, however it seems to make things
more complicated than your method. Thanksforthisseriesitsveryhelpful.Looking forward
tothenextpart
REPLY
Will Kemp April 24, 2012
Hi Michelle,
Pleased to hear you are enjoying this portrait painting series. As this techniques is
focusing on the importance of tone and making the step from drawing to oil painting
keeping it simple really is the way the to go. So I will be only be using the raw umber and
Ivory black.
Forfullcolourportraits,Iuseasimilar,simpleapproach.Andwouldntinitiallyusered,
ultramarine blue or yellow ochre. I would still use a earth pigment like raw umber or burnt
umber.
Different artists have different approaches, but I am a great believer in keeping your
materials simple, so you can have more time to concentrate on the tricky part, the
painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
rod hulme June 3, 2012
HiWilleverythingokayhere!Have started playing with Golden liquids, [10 half oz.
bottles for 40.00] and find them interesting! Must pick up a 40 series knife to do my mixing of
theheavy,asthespatulatypeIhaveisawkwardforme,butprogress,asIalsofoundpaper
pallets I used to use with oils. There is something about a clean WHITE mixing surface..that
colorblind moi finds more accurate somehow in delineation of shades. Anyway, makes sense
tometome,andthatsjustfine.
Manythanksforyourpatience.cheersrod
REPLY
Will Kemp June 4, 2012
Hey Rod, yes the fluid acrylics can be very effective, especially for glazing
effects.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Alice July 5, 2012
Hello,Idontreallyunderstandwhyyouneedtopaintfirstwithrawumberwhycant
youjustpaintwithblack/whitestraightontothecanvas?Sorryifthatsanobviousquestion.
ThanksAlice
REPLY
Will Kemp July 5, 2012
Hi Alice,
Thanks for the comment. The reason I paint onto a toned ground is because it makes it
easier when you are first starting to judge your tones.
You can quickly establish your darkest darks and lightest lights and this will make it
easier to judge the other tones in your painting. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is
working onto a white canvas. you can read more about it here: How a prepared canvas
can drastically improve your painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
David Smith July 2, 2013
Hello Will,
Enjoying working through these lessons so far. Your method produces a nice look to a
portraitsimilartoVelzquez.
Regarding a value strip, I had a go creating one using GIMP (the free photo-editing
software). I edited the brush colour and altered the HSV (hue, saturation, value) settings.
Changing V amount from zero (black), 50 (mid-grey), 100 (white) etc. and all the tone
gradations in between.
David
REPLY
Will Kemp July 3, 2013
Hi David,
Pleased to hear the portrait course is going well, and that you could create a value strip
using GIMP, good one!
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
I am passionate about painting the figure, but have only worked in watercolors. My
question. Do you think it best for me to begin to learn painting in oils or do you think I should
work in Acrylics first. I was in fine arts for 10 years before I became an art therapist. Now that
IamretiredIwanttofocusonpaintingthefigure..portrait.Can you help direct me to
make the most of the next 10 years. My concern is the time it will take me to master two
mediums (acrylic and then on to oils). IlikeyourdemosandthinkIcanstartwithgood
training.Butwhichtrainingtobeginwithismyquestion.
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
Hi Bernice,
You might find this article helpful that goes through the differences between the two,
many of my acrylic painting techniques stem from classical painting techniques, so you
are inadvertently learning skills for both mediums.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
Yes, thank you. I think you are saying it would be good practice and learning
in acrylics before starting oils, since most of your acrylic techniques are taken from
classical oil techniques? Correct?
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
HiBernice,yes,Ivefoundforlearningaboutcolourmixingandpaint
techniques acrylics are very forgiving because you can easily work over them, so
are a great medium to learn with, can be painted anywhere, on pretty much any
surface, so are like a quick start painting. Then, when you feel move confident in
colour mixing and brush techniques you can go into oils there and will be less
mudmixedandmoreahamoments,asmanyofthetechniquesIteachare
transferable.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
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1
HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart3
by WI LL KEMP
i n OI L PAI NTI NG, PORTRAI TS
Whenyoucomebacktoyourpaintingyoullnoticehowtheoilhasbecometranslucent
overnightandwonthavethesamecoveragethatyoufirstthought.
How to paint a portrait series. This is part 3 of a 5 part series of tutorials for beginners making
the transition from drawing to oil painting.
Hereisaquickreviewofwhatwehavecoveredsofarifyoudliketojoinin
Part1Establishingthedrawing,includingtheshadowline.
This can be done in pencil or charcoal (that you can fix with fixative) try to keep the drawing
lines angular to start with.
Try to establish the basic shapes if you could only use a straight line, then add the contours as
the drawing progresses. A classic beginner mistake when drawing a portrait is an over
exaggerationofthecurvesintheface.Everythinggetsroundedoffandtheportraitcanhave
acartoonlikequality.Becausewehaveastrongvisualmemorysystemthattellsusfacesare
roundthiscansubconsciouslyaffectyourdrawing.
We the started to scrub in the underpainting layer. To a beginner, this stage is often skipped,
deemed to be unimportant, but a good foundation is key to success with portraits.
We then have our 3 part tonal underpainting which allows you, and your eye, to become more
in-tune with the image, and become aware to the tones.
Part2Developingthetones,addinglights.
We then worked over the top of the initial underpainting still just with the raw umber to
strengthen the tones and get a better feeling of form. These layers are all painted thinly.
The medium for this stage being a simple mix of 1 part linseed oil to 4 parts mineral spirits
(artistturpentineorodourlessmineralspirits)thisestablishesthefatoverleanrule.Witheach
progressivelayerbeingslightlyfatterwithmoreoilcontent.
We also added some roughed in lights with a faster drying white.
Thisistohelpusjudgethetonesforthenextstagesowhenwepaintthemontheydontlook
tooutwhenweaddthelights.
The Allure of highlights
I forgot to emphasis at the end of part 2 that the roughed in lights are the light tonal mass, and
not the highlights.
The highlights and the very darkest parts of the painting should be the last brushstrokes to be
done,buttheytryanddrawyouin!Itshardtoresistputtingthemonattheearlystage.
Andevenifyouvereadthewarning,itsamazinghow,whenyougetengrossedinthepainting,
your hand will be drawn to that lightest white.
This can seem counterintuitive if you are coming to the painting from drawing as we often erase
out the lightest areas, or work on this areas that attract out attention. The white highlights on
the eye have a particular allure.
When the painting is finished these will be seen by the viewer to be painted with the most skill,
however, a single dot of white can be painted by anyone, but resisting adding them takes the
practice of an artist.
A note about grey
One of the students following this series let me know about Gambiln Torrit grey competition
(Thanks Mario!) Every spring, the paint manufacture collect all of the residue paint pigment that
havebeencollectedbytheairfiltrationsystemandrecyclethemintoGamblinTorritGrey.
You can learn more about the Torrit Grey painting competition from Gamblin website.
Pigmentdustshouldnotgointotheearth,waterorlandfill,butintopaint,
Robert Gamblin.
For our grey we are going to mix a neutral using the raw umber and Ivory black.
Part3FirstPainting
Mixing a new medium
We now create a new medium for the next layer of the painting. Different artists vary the
richness of the medium depending on their own personal preference but the next mix is a very
useful one.
1 part linseed oil to 3 parts mineral spirit
Youcanusethepipettetomeasureoutamounts,orifImmixingalargeramountIllusekitchen
measurement spoons.
Pro tip: If you are doing a lot of painting it can be worth premixing a larger amount of each
medium in resealable jars, label them up and then you can simple decant the medium each
stage of the painting.
Mixing our black
We are now going to mix a neutral black for developing this monotone study. You can still
create some lovely studies just using the raw umber and white, it is a warmer finish than the
black, but you will still learn the importance of contrast in your paintings.
To mix the neutral we use 3/4 ivory black to 1/4 raw umber. This helps take the blue out of the
black (black has a blue base, this is why you can mix lovely muted greens with black)
Ivory black
Ivory black is a slow drying pigment, by mixing in 1/4 of the raw umber (which is quick drying) it
will match nicely with the titanium white (slow drying) and at this stage of the painting the longer
opentimewehavewiththepaintsthebetter.Ivoryblackalsohasalovelyrichnesswhen
painted thinly which will help out in the later stages of the portrait.
This way you will have time to work through your painting and blend and fuse edges that you
need to. This is why we started with the raw umber, it dries overnight and has a cooler
undertone when working with portraits.
Materials
Winsor & Newton artist quality Ivory black
Micheal harding artist quality Raw Umber
Old Holland artist quality titanium white
Winsor & newton Sansador ( odourless mineral spirits)
Winsor & newton Refined linseed oil
ThereisntanyspecificreasonwhyIuseeachbrand,IoftenintermixbrandsasIliketo
experiment using different manufacturers colours. Whatever is available where you are. The
one key throughout them all is that they are artist quality (See: the 8 key differences
between artist quality & student grade paint)
Paint consistency
When you are just beginning with oils, the handling of the paint can vary greatly depending on
the consistency of the paint.
Oil paint (especially the titanium white) is often too thick and stiff to work with at this stage of the
paintingstraightfromthetube.
To make the paint more fluid, I slightly dilute it with the medium shown above. I use a pipette to
drop a few drops of the medium onto the paint mixture and mix it thoroughly with the palette
knife. Using the palette knife for mixing your paints is a very useful technique.
The video below shows a quick tutorial on how I dilute the oil paint.
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I often mix the colours on a separate, tear off palette and then transfer the mixture to the clean
glass/ perspex.
Ifyourejustbeginningwithoilsyoullnoticehoweasilyyoucancontaminatecolourswhen
using a full palette of colours, this can lead to muddy colours and frustrating painting.
This helps you to learn clean working methods. I am naturally more impatient so it is a discipline
to spend the time mixing the colours as you just want to get painting but it will pay dividends.
Step14Mixingour tonal colour strings
Thisnextstageoftheportraitiswherewereallygetpaintingasin,thicker,moreopaque
colours mixed together. If we look back at the last couple of weeks lessons you can see that we
haventactuallymixedanytonestogetheryet.
Wehavesimplybeenblockinginthebasictonalvalues,inwhatissometimescalledthedead
colouringstagethisisbecauseweareusingalimitedamountofoilinthemix,andmore
mineralspirits.Asthemineralspiritsevaporatethecolourcanappearflat,anddeadasit
doesnthavethelustrethattheoilgivesus.
Pro tip:Whenworkingwithcolour,thisisalsoreferedtoasaddingthelocalcolourofa
subject. For example a lemon would have a local colour of yellow.
So before we start the painting we are going to premix a range of 9 value tones.
White (1) is the lightest, black (9) is the darkest. This enables us to get a mid tone 5 and split
the tones into lights, half tones, and darks. These are called tonal strings, you can read more
about them on A beginners guide to tonal strings
Using a value strip
Print out, or paint out your own value strip.
When you are first starting, working from a print out it can be handy because the value strip will
be the same tones as your reference photograph compared to the hues of the black and white
paint if you were to paint your strip.
Just slide the value strip under the glass. This way when you are trying to match the tone you
can test it by dabbing a swatch ontop of the tone underneath to determine how close you are.
The first tone I match is a number 5. It will take you a few attempts to get it spot on, this is
normal.
BeawarethattheblackhasastrongertintingstrengththanthewhitesowhenIadditImjust
scraping a small amount with the palette knife.
I then match a light value 3
Then a value 7. With these 3 tones you can create some great value studies (which are
sometimescalledposterstudies)theseallowtoquicklypracticeandsketchouttonal
compositions for future paintings.
It is also handy if you want to experiment working with a compressed value range.
Waterseller of Seville -Diego Velazquez, 1619
IfwelookatVelasquezspaintingbelowwecanseehisuseoftheumberunderpainting,and
the range of tones used to direct the views gaze.
When we look at the painting in black and white it is even easier to see how the most focus on
the painting has been placed on the subject with the broadest tonal range and
the background figure has a very compressed tonal range.
9 value tones
I then remove the value strip and we are ready to begin.
Iveplacedthepaletteovertheimagesoyoucanseetheeffectoflightfallout.
Due to my light source being above the subject the light drops off as we get further down the
face. When you look at the colour strings you can start to see how there is a subtle shift in tone
as we go down the painting. This is a key point to remember because when you take the paint
swatches away it is harder to judge the light drop off, your mind just accepts it.
The light was set up so that it was stronger on the top half of the portrait, and the value drops
away. You need to be aware of this drop off as you progress through the tones.
This can help in getting the fall of light right, and creating a logical progression throughout the
painting.
So what you can do now is remove the value strip from underneath the paint and hold it next to
your reference photograph. Make sure you have trimmed the edge of the value strip so you
donthaveanywhiteontheedge.Thiswillmakeithardertojudgetones.
Now shut one eye, this helps to flatten your vision and makes it easier to see tone. Then flick
your eyes between the tone and the value strip and the tone on the reference photograph until
you have a match.
Pro tip: If you are finding it hard to isolate the colour the use a hole-punch to punch a hole in
each square, this way you can use them as a viewfinder.
Solid painting
Forpurposesofstudythereisnothingbetterthansimple,direct,solidpainting.Paintingwith
transparent colour, with a mixture of solid and transparent, glazing etc are all things that must
betriedlateronbutforsometimeconfineyourselftodirect,solidpainting.
Harold Speed
On my image I start with the lightest part on the forehead, it is about a value 2.
I dip just the edge of my brush (number# 4 Rosemary & co ivory filbert) into the medium.
I then pull the paint from the side of the mixture and coat the end of the brush. The mixture is
thick enough to cover the underpainting, but still quite thin.
You are looking to cover the colour underneath with a solid tone, but still have a fluid mixture.
Gettingtheconsistencyrightcanbeanartinitself,sodontgetdiscouraged!
We just want a small amount of paint, notice how I pull the paint from the edge of the pile.
Youalsodontneedmuchpaint,justtrytogetthetipofthebristlescoated,Iworkthebrush
backandforthinthepaintsoithasacoverage,yetdoesntcomeupthebristlestoofar.
A beginners tendency is to overload your brush.
I then flick my eyes between the subject and my painting to judge the next tonal shift, I squeeze
any excess paint into a piece of kitchen roll untill the brush is dry,
Icanthengrabsomeofthenextvaluedownvalue3
Just to help my eye with the portrait I reinforce the white of the t-shirt with value 1.
This could have been put in first, there is no real hard and fast rule, I just scan the picture with
my eyes to look for any values that are in the first 3 light range.
Adding the midtones
I then move on to the mid-tones, again with a clean brush (I might dip it into pure mineral spirits
occasionally and scrub out the pigment into kitchen roll so I have a clean brush for the new
tone.
I then make my way down the tones using 4, 5, 6 . Notice how these are all still in the lights of
the subject.
Ihaventblendedanyofthetones,Iamjustsimplyblockingtheminwithaflattone.
Ithenblockinthetoneontheneck,againthiscouldhavebeendoneearlierbutyoullfindthe
more tones you add, the easier they are to judge in comparison.
All of the lights are now added, this has all been painting with values 1 through to 6.
We are now going to add the darks, working through 7 to 9
Adding the darks
As the light starts to drop off, I add the darks into the shadow side of the face, notice how the
tones have been dropping darker to the right and the bottom of the picture due to the light
source being from the top left.
I continue adding a darker value 8 into the shadow under the chin. Notice how blue the paint
appears next to the raw umber. The tones are still quite flat with limited blending, still just using
the size 4 ivory filbert.
I now mix a value between the 8 & 9, you could go straight in with the 9, but I wanted to leave
this for the final part of this stage.
I then soften the edge slightly using the filbert.
I swap to a sable filbert for blending the edges further, as I mentioned before, I often use the
Ivory filbert for this, but sometimes, if the paint is pulling too much the sable can just give you
that blend that you are after.
BecausetheunderpaintingisnowdryImrestingbylittlefingeronthecanvas,thiswayIcan
pivot, with a stronger support. For larger scale painting, or of the background is still damp I
would use a mahl stick.
This is now with the value 9, the pure black mix we have made. When this first goes on it will
feeltoodark.Itsnot.
Iblockinthisblackslightlythinnerthanthepreviouspaint,Imstillconcernedwithcreatingaflat
tonalvalue.NoticehowIveleftaslightegdebetweenthisdarkertoneandtheedgeofthe
face.ThiswaywhenIsoftentheedgeitwontgotoodark.
A tendency when your first starting is to add, then blend, add then blend, but it will work better if
you keep the blending to a minimum.
This is easier said than done.
Notice how light the first shadow now looks in comparison to the black.
This stage of the painting I now have a full tonal range of opaque colour. I can now assess the
referenceimageandflickmyeyesbetweenthetwo,lookingforanythingthatlooksout.
The Importance of edges
I now look to soften out most of the edges. As with the underpainting, it is easiest to keep the
edges soft at this stage as they can easily grab a viewers attention. Sharp edges come
forward, soft edges recede back.
Pro tip:Ifyouarehavingtroublepullingthepainttoomuchswaptothelargersize10filbert
and gentle blush over the edge.
Wevenowfinishedthefirststageofmodellingtheportrait.Ihaventworkedonthefeatures
much, still just keeping the focus on the main areas of the form. The larger areas first, then we
can add details in the next stage.
You might also like:
1. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart1
2. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart2
3. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart4
{ 20commentsreadthembeloworadd one }
Gunner Dave April 19, 2012
Hi Will,
I have a question about your image which shows the 9 tones of the grey colour string. Would
it be possible for you to give these 9 tones in terms of RGB (or H, S & B) values on
photoshop? This way I could make my own grey colour string swatch on the computer and
print it out.
Also, as a beginner who has limited resources, is it worth using oil painting paper instead of
canvas until I get the hang of the technique? Are there any issues with this type of surface
that I should be aware of?
Loving your work,
Dave.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 19, 2012
Hi Dave,
Glad you like the progress.
Yes, if you have access to Photoshop you can create your own value scale. Matthew
Innis (from Underpaintings blog) talks through how he makes a scale using the Munsell
system (this is another approach for mixing and matching colours and, confusingly, used
10stepsandthevaluesarelabelledtheotherway)usingPhotoshopSeebelow:
To make the scale, I began with a new image file in Photoshop, 1 inch high and 11
incheslong,andwithabackgroundcolorofwhite.ThisIthendividedinto11
squares using guides. I approached each tone square as if this were a screen
printingproject,choosingtothinkofeachsectionasapercentageofblack(ie.Value
9, which is 90% white, can also be thought of as 10% black. Value 8 would be 20%
blackvalue7,30%blackandsoon).One by one, each square was then
selected, and filled using the color black and the Paintbucket tool. This action,
however, was done each time on a separate layer, which was later merged with the
background. The separate layers were necessary, because each successive layer
had a different fill percentage in order to control the density of black in each square
(eg.The layer which represented value 8, had a fill percentage of only 20%).
This, however, is for straight black and white, our mix is slightly warmer so might need a
bit of tweaking.
If you, or any of the readers, have another way to make a value scale with photoshop
please add to the comments.
Yes,byallmeanspracticeonoilpaintingpaper,youmightfinditfeelslikeitsitsontop
of the surface more, but just use a thicker mix of paint.
Thanks,
Will
REPLY
David A. April 20, 2012
Hi Will,
I was wondering about brushes again, and would like to know what is the difference between
a Bright, Flat and Shader. My local art store in Chicago does not have the brands you talked
about. Only Princeton ( they artist there say that they are from the UK).
I would like to know if you think that if the painting/drawing is wrong if it does not represent
the model perfectly.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hey David,
The difference between them is shape, so all have different uses.
Flat:Flatsquareedge.Goodforbroadstrokesandcreatingstraightlines.Nottheideal
for portraits because we want soft edges.
Bright:BrightsTheshorter,sturdierversionoftheflatbrush,(sohaslessflexifyou
were working with thick oil paints a bright would be able move the paint around easier.)
Shader: I think this is just a brand name and not in general used in other brush
manufacturers. I had a look at the Princeton website and the Shader is very similar to a
flat.
I forgot to mention Rosemary & co are mail order, but in terms of the Princeton brushes,
tell me your budget and I can advise which ones would be best.
There is no such thing as perfect representation, capturing a models character is more
important than a photo realist drawing. This all comes with practice and developing your
own style as an artist.
Dontgethunguponitbeingperfect,Iveseensomanystudentsstartportraitsget
disheartened and not continue on, just out of interest Picasso produced 50,000 unique
pieces of art over his lifetime.
Not every piece has to be a masterpiece, the process is just as important as the end
result.
Thanks
Will
REPLY
David A. April 21, 2012
Hi Will,
My budget per month is $25-35. I use half for painting and half for drawing.
The Princeton brushes at Blick cost between $6.29-15.00.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hi David,
You might be interested to look at the Winsor & Newton Artist Quality oil Brushes
(availableatblick)thesearereallyexcellentbrushesandtheonesIuseifImnotusing
the Rosemary & Co Ivory Filberts. They are slightly more reasonable than the Princeton
brushes and I can feel confident in recommending them.
Acoupleofhandysizes(ifyourworkingquitesmallA4papersize)are:
Long Handle Filbert, Size #2 ($4.37)
Long Handle Filbert, Size #4 ($5.14) (this is the same size as the brush I use for 90% of
this demo)
Size #5 & #6 are also handy.
Also, a small round for details with slightly softer hair, so either one of the synthetic
sables from Princeton (series 4000) or Winsor & newton Monarch are nice. (between a
size0and3dependingonhowdetailedyouworkIuseasize3forthisdemo)
For blending the filbert princeton size 6 ($6.45) or 8 ($7.05) (series 4000) is closest to
what I have used.
You could just start with the oil brushes though and see how you get on.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Michelle April 23, 2012
Do you ever use a different mixture for your shadows such as mixing a red,
ultramarine blue, and yellow ochre? This would be used after the initial raw umber stage on
just the shadows. I am starting to learn to paint portraits and have been told using this
mixture allows the shadows to remain transparent later on, however it seems to make things
more complicated than your method. Thanksforthisseriesitsveryhelpful.Looking forward
tothenextpart
REPLY
Will Kemp April 24, 2012
Hi Michelle,
Pleased to hear you are enjoying this portrait painting series. As this techniques is
focusing on the importance of tone and making the step from drawing to oil painting
keeping it simple really is the way the to go. So I will be only be using the raw umber and
Ivory black.
Forfullcolourportraits,Iuseasimilar,simpleapproach.Andwouldntinitiallyusered,
ultramarine blue or yellow ochre. I would still use a earth pigment like raw umber or burnt
umber.
Different artists have different approaches, but I am a great believer in keeping your
materials simple, so you can have more time to concentrate on the tricky part, the
painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
rod hulme June 3, 2012
HiWilleverythingokayhere!Have started playing with Golden liquids, [10 half oz.
bottles for 40.00] and find them interesting! Must pick up a 40 series knife to do my mixing of
theheavy,asthespatulatypeIhaveisawkwardforme,butprogress,asIalsofoundpaper
pallets I used to use with oils. There is something about a clean WHITE mixing surface..that
colorblind moi finds more accurate somehow in delineation of shades. Anyway, makes sense
tometome,andthatsjustfine.
Manythanksforyourpatience.cheersrod
REPLY
Will Kemp June 4, 2012
Hey Rod, yes the fluid acrylics can be very effective, especially for glazing
effects.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Alice July 5, 2012
Hello,Idontreallyunderstandwhyyouneedtopaintfirstwithrawumberwhycant
youjustpaintwithblack/whitestraightontothecanvas?Sorryifthatsanobviousquestion.
ThanksAlice
REPLY
Will Kemp July 5, 2012
Hi Alice,
Thanks for the comment. The reason I paint onto a toned ground is because it makes it
easier when you are first starting to judge your tones.
You can quickly establish your darkest darks and lightest lights and this will make it
easier to judge the other tones in your painting. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is
working onto a white canvas. you can read more about it here: How a prepared canvas
can drastically improve your painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
David Smith July 2, 2013
Hello Will,
Enjoying working through these lessons so far. Your method produces a nice look to a
portraitsimilartoVelzquez.
Regarding a value strip, I had a go creating one using GIMP (the free photo-editing
software). I edited the brush colour and altered the HSV (hue, saturation, value) settings.
Changing V amount from zero (black), 50 (mid-grey), 100 (white) etc. and all the tone
gradations in between.
David
REPLY
Will Kemp July 3, 2013
Hi David,
Pleased to hear the portrait course is going well, and that you could create a value strip
using GIMP, good one!
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
I am passionate about painting the figure, but have only worked in watercolors. My
question. Do you think it best for me to begin to learn painting in oils or do you think I should
work in Acrylics first. I was in fine arts for 10 years before I became an art therapist. Now that
IamretiredIwanttofocusonpaintingthefigure..portrait.Can you help direct me to
make the most of the next 10 years. My concern is the time it will take me to master two
mediums (acrylic and then on to oils). IlikeyourdemosandthinkIcanstartwithgood
training.Butwhichtrainingtobeginwithismyquestion.
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
Hi Bernice,
You might find this article helpful that goes through the differences between the two,
many of my acrylic painting techniques stem from classical painting techniques, so you
are inadvertently learning skills for both mediums.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
Yes, thank you. I think you are saying it would be good practice and learning
in acrylics before starting oils, since most of your acrylic techniques are taken from
classical oil techniques? Correct?
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
HiBernice,yes,Ivefoundforlearningaboutcolourmixingandpaint
techniques acrylics are very forgiving because you can easily work over them, so
are a great medium to learn with, can be painted anywhere, on pretty much any
surface, so are like a quick start painting. Then, when you feel move confident in
colour mixing and brush techniques you can go into oils there and will be less
mudmixedandmoreahamoments,asmanyofthetechniquesIteachare
transferable.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
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1
HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart3
by WI LL KEMP
i n OI L PAI NTI NG, PORTRAI TS
Whenyoucomebacktoyourpaintingyoullnoticehowtheoilhasbecometranslucent
overnightandwonthavethesamecoveragethatyoufirstthought.
How to paint a portrait series. This is part 3 of a 5 part series of tutorials for beginners making
the transition from drawing to oil painting.
Hereisaquickreviewofwhatwehavecoveredsofarifyoudliketojoinin
Part1Establishingthedrawing,includingtheshadowline.
This can be done in pencil or charcoal (that you can fix with fixative) try to keep the drawing
lines angular to start with.
Try to establish the basic shapes if you could only use a straight line, then add the contours as
the drawing progresses. A classic beginner mistake when drawing a portrait is an over
exaggerationofthecurvesintheface.Everythinggetsroundedoffandtheportraitcanhave
acartoonlikequality.Becausewehaveastrongvisualmemorysystemthattellsusfacesare
roundthiscansubconsciouslyaffectyourdrawing.
We the started to scrub in the underpainting layer. To a beginner, this stage is often skipped,
deemed to be unimportant, but a good foundation is key to success with portraits.
We then have our 3 part tonal underpainting which allows you, and your eye, to become more
in-tune with the image, and become aware to the tones.
Part2Developingthetones,addinglights.
We then worked over the top of the initial underpainting still just with the raw umber to
strengthen the tones and get a better feeling of form. These layers are all painted thinly.
The medium for this stage being a simple mix of 1 part linseed oil to 4 parts mineral spirits
(artistturpentineorodourlessmineralspirits)thisestablishesthefatoverleanrule.Witheach
progressivelayerbeingslightlyfatterwithmoreoilcontent.
We also added some roughed in lights with a faster drying white.
Thisistohelpusjudgethetonesforthenextstagesowhenwepaintthemontheydontlook
tooutwhenweaddthelights.
The Allure of highlights
I forgot to emphasis at the end of part 2 that the roughed in lights are the light tonal mass, and
not the highlights.
The highlights and the very darkest parts of the painting should be the last brushstrokes to be
done,buttheytryanddrawyouin!Itshardtoresistputtingthemonattheearlystage.
Andevenifyouvereadthewarning,itsamazinghow,whenyougetengrossedinthepainting,
your hand will be drawn to that lightest white.
This can seem counterintuitive if you are coming to the painting from drawing as we often erase
out the lightest areas, or work on this areas that attract out attention. The white highlights on
the eye have a particular allure.
When the painting is finished these will be seen by the viewer to be painted with the most skill,
however, a single dot of white can be painted by anyone, but resisting adding them takes the
practice of an artist.
A note about grey
One of the students following this series let me know about Gambiln Torrit grey competition
(Thanks Mario!) Every spring, the paint manufacture collect all of the residue paint pigment that
havebeencollectedbytheairfiltrationsystemandrecyclethemintoGamblinTorritGrey.
You can learn more about the Torrit Grey painting competition from Gamblin website.
Pigmentdustshouldnotgointotheearth,waterorlandfill,butintopaint,
Robert Gamblin.
For our grey we are going to mix a neutral using the raw umber and Ivory black.
Part3FirstPainting
Mixing a new medium
We now create a new medium for the next layer of the painting. Different artists vary the
richness of the medium depending on their own personal preference but the next mix is a very
useful one.
1 part linseed oil to 3 parts mineral spirit
Youcanusethepipettetomeasureoutamounts,orifImmixingalargeramountIllusekitchen
measurement spoons.
Pro tip: If you are doing a lot of painting it can be worth premixing a larger amount of each
medium in resealable jars, label them up and then you can simple decant the medium each
stage of the painting.
Mixing our black
We are now going to mix a neutral black for developing this monotone study. You can still
create some lovely studies just using the raw umber and white, it is a warmer finish than the
black, but you will still learn the importance of contrast in your paintings.
To mix the neutral we use 3/4 ivory black to 1/4 raw umber. This helps take the blue out of the
black (black has a blue base, this is why you can mix lovely muted greens with black)
Ivory black
Ivory black is a slow drying pigment, by mixing in 1/4 of the raw umber (which is quick drying) it
will match nicely with the titanium white (slow drying) and at this stage of the painting the longer
opentimewehavewiththepaintsthebetter.Ivoryblackalsohasalovelyrichnesswhen
painted thinly which will help out in the later stages of the portrait.
This way you will have time to work through your painting and blend and fuse edges that you
need to. This is why we started with the raw umber, it dries overnight and has a cooler
undertone when working with portraits.
Materials
Winsor & Newton artist quality Ivory black
Micheal harding artist quality Raw Umber
Old Holland artist quality titanium white
Winsor & newton Sansador ( odourless mineral spirits)
Winsor & newton Refined linseed oil
ThereisntanyspecificreasonwhyIuseeachbrand,IoftenintermixbrandsasIliketo
experiment using different manufacturers colours. Whatever is available where you are. The
one key throughout them all is that they are artist quality (See: the 8 key differences
between artist quality & student grade paint)
Paint consistency
When you are just beginning with oils, the handling of the paint can vary greatly depending on
the consistency of the paint.
Oil paint (especially the titanium white) is often too thick and stiff to work with at this stage of the
paintingstraightfromthetube.
To make the paint more fluid, I slightly dilute it with the medium shown above. I use a pipette to
drop a few drops of the medium onto the paint mixture and mix it thoroughly with the palette
knife. Using the palette knife for mixing your paints is a very useful technique.
The video below shows a quick tutorial on how I dilute the oil paint.
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I often mix the colours on a separate, tear off palette and then transfer the mixture to the clean
glass/ perspex.
Ifyourejustbeginningwithoilsyoullnoticehoweasilyyoucancontaminatecolourswhen
using a full palette of colours, this can lead to muddy colours and frustrating painting.
This helps you to learn clean working methods. I am naturally more impatient so it is a discipline
to spend the time mixing the colours as you just want to get painting but it will pay dividends.
Step14Mixingour tonal colour strings
Thisnextstageoftheportraitiswherewereallygetpaintingasin,thicker,moreopaque
colours mixed together. If we look back at the last couple of weeks lessons you can see that we
haventactuallymixedanytonestogetheryet.
Wehavesimplybeenblockinginthebasictonalvalues,inwhatissometimescalledthedead
colouringstagethisisbecauseweareusingalimitedamountofoilinthemix,andmore
mineralspirits.Asthemineralspiritsevaporatethecolourcanappearflat,anddeadasit
doesnthavethelustrethattheoilgivesus.
Pro tip:Whenworkingwithcolour,thisisalsoreferedtoasaddingthelocalcolourofa
subject. For example a lemon would have a local colour of yellow.
So before we start the painting we are going to premix a range of 9 value tones.
White (1) is the lightest, black (9) is the darkest. This enables us to get a mid tone 5 and split
the tones into lights, half tones, and darks. These are called tonal strings, you can read more
about them on A beginners guide to tonal strings
Using a value strip
Print out, or paint out your own value strip.
When you are first starting, working from a print out it can be handy because the value strip will
be the same tones as your reference photograph compared to the hues of the black and white
paint if you were to paint your strip.
Just slide the value strip under the glass. This way when you are trying to match the tone you
can test it by dabbing a swatch ontop of the tone underneath to determine how close you are.
The first tone I match is a number 5. It will take you a few attempts to get it spot on, this is
normal.
BeawarethattheblackhasastrongertintingstrengththanthewhitesowhenIadditImjust
scraping a small amount with the palette knife.
I then match a light value 3
Then a value 7. With these 3 tones you can create some great value studies (which are
sometimescalledposterstudies)theseallowtoquicklypracticeandsketchouttonal
compositions for future paintings.
It is also handy if you want to experiment working with a compressed value range.
Waterseller of Seville -Diego Velazquez, 1619
IfwelookatVelasquezspaintingbelowwecanseehisuseoftheumberunderpainting,and
the range of tones used to direct the views gaze.
When we look at the painting in black and white it is even easier to see how the most focus on
the painting has been placed on the subject with the broadest tonal range and
the background figure has a very compressed tonal range.
9 value tones
I then remove the value strip and we are ready to begin.
Iveplacedthepaletteovertheimagesoyoucanseetheeffectoflightfallout.
Due to my light source being above the subject the light drops off as we get further down the
face. When you look at the colour strings you can start to see how there is a subtle shift in tone
as we go down the painting. This is a key point to remember because when you take the paint
swatches away it is harder to judge the light drop off, your mind just accepts it.
The light was set up so that it was stronger on the top half of the portrait, and the value drops
away. You need to be aware of this drop off as you progress through the tones.
This can help in getting the fall of light right, and creating a logical progression throughout the
painting.
So what you can do now is remove the value strip from underneath the paint and hold it next to
your reference photograph. Make sure you have trimmed the edge of the value strip so you
donthaveanywhiteontheedge.Thiswillmakeithardertojudgetones.
Now shut one eye, this helps to flatten your vision and makes it easier to see tone. Then flick
your eyes between the tone and the value strip and the tone on the reference photograph until
you have a match.
Pro tip: If you are finding it hard to isolate the colour the use a hole-punch to punch a hole in
each square, this way you can use them as a viewfinder.
Solid painting
Forpurposesofstudythereisnothingbetterthansimple,direct,solidpainting.Paintingwith
transparent colour, with a mixture of solid and transparent, glazing etc are all things that must
betriedlateronbutforsometimeconfineyourselftodirect,solidpainting.
Harold Speed
On my image I start with the lightest part on the forehead, it is about a value 2.
I dip just the edge of my brush (number# 4 Rosemary & co ivory filbert) into the medium.
I then pull the paint from the side of the mixture and coat the end of the brush. The mixture is
thick enough to cover the underpainting, but still quite thin.
You are looking to cover the colour underneath with a solid tone, but still have a fluid mixture.
Gettingtheconsistencyrightcanbeanartinitself,sodontgetdiscouraged!
We just want a small amount of paint, notice how I pull the paint from the edge of the pile.
Youalsodontneedmuchpaint,justtrytogetthetipofthebristlescoated,Iworkthebrush
backandforthinthepaintsoithasacoverage,yetdoesntcomeupthebristlestoofar.
A beginners tendency is to overload your brush.
I then flick my eyes between the subject and my painting to judge the next tonal shift, I squeeze
any excess paint into a piece of kitchen roll untill the brush is dry,
Icanthengrabsomeofthenextvaluedownvalue3
Just to help my eye with the portrait I reinforce the white of the t-shirt with value 1.
This could have been put in first, there is no real hard and fast rule, I just scan the picture with
my eyes to look for any values that are in the first 3 light range.
Adding the midtones
I then move on to the mid-tones, again with a clean brush (I might dip it into pure mineral spirits
occasionally and scrub out the pigment into kitchen roll so I have a clean brush for the new
tone.
I then make my way down the tones using 4, 5, 6 . Notice how these are all still in the lights of
the subject.
Ihaventblendedanyofthetones,Iamjustsimplyblockingtheminwithaflattone.
Ithenblockinthetoneontheneck,againthiscouldhavebeendoneearlierbutyoullfindthe
more tones you add, the easier they are to judge in comparison.
All of the lights are now added, this has all been painting with values 1 through to 6.
We are now going to add the darks, working through 7 to 9
Adding the darks
As the light starts to drop off, I add the darks into the shadow side of the face, notice how the
tones have been dropping darker to the right and the bottom of the picture due to the light
source being from the top left.
I continue adding a darker value 8 into the shadow under the chin. Notice how blue the paint
appears next to the raw umber. The tones are still quite flat with limited blending, still just using
the size 4 ivory filbert.
I now mix a value between the 8 & 9, you could go straight in with the 9, but I wanted to leave
this for the final part of this stage.
I then soften the edge slightly using the filbert.
I swap to a sable filbert for blending the edges further, as I mentioned before, I often use the
Ivory filbert for this, but sometimes, if the paint is pulling too much the sable can just give you
that blend that you are after.
BecausetheunderpaintingisnowdryImrestingbylittlefingeronthecanvas,thiswayIcan
pivot, with a stronger support. For larger scale painting, or of the background is still damp I
would use a mahl stick.
This is now with the value 9, the pure black mix we have made. When this first goes on it will
feeltoodark.Itsnot.
Iblockinthisblackslightlythinnerthanthepreviouspaint,Imstillconcernedwithcreatingaflat
tonalvalue.NoticehowIveleftaslightegdebetweenthisdarkertoneandtheedgeofthe
face.ThiswaywhenIsoftentheedgeitwontgotoodark.
A tendency when your first starting is to add, then blend, add then blend, but it will work better if
you keep the blending to a minimum.
This is easier said than done.
Notice how light the first shadow now looks in comparison to the black.
This stage of the painting I now have a full tonal range of opaque colour. I can now assess the
referenceimageandflickmyeyesbetweenthetwo,lookingforanythingthatlooksout.
The Importance of edges
I now look to soften out most of the edges. As with the underpainting, it is easiest to keep the
edges soft at this stage as they can easily grab a viewers attention. Sharp edges come
forward, soft edges recede back.
Pro tip:Ifyouarehavingtroublepullingthepainttoomuchswaptothelargersize10filbert
and gentle blush over the edge.
Wevenowfinishedthefirststageofmodellingtheportrait.Ihaventworkedonthefeatures
much, still just keeping the focus on the main areas of the form. The larger areas first, then we
can add details in the next stage.
You might also like:
1. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart1
2. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart2
3. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart4
{ 20commentsreadthembeloworadd one }
Gunner Dave April 19, 2012
Hi Will,
I have a question about your image which shows the 9 tones of the grey colour string. Would
it be possible for you to give these 9 tones in terms of RGB (or H, S & B) values on
photoshop? This way I could make my own grey colour string swatch on the computer and
print it out.
Also, as a beginner who has limited resources, is it worth using oil painting paper instead of
canvas until I get the hang of the technique? Are there any issues with this type of surface
that I should be aware of?
Loving your work,
Dave.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 19, 2012
Hi Dave,
Glad you like the progress.
Yes, if you have access to Photoshop you can create your own value scale. Matthew
Innis (from Underpaintings blog) talks through how he makes a scale using the Munsell
system (this is another approach for mixing and matching colours and, confusingly, used
10stepsandthevaluesarelabelledtheotherway)usingPhotoshopSeebelow:
To make the scale, I began with a new image file in Photoshop, 1 inch high and 11
incheslong,andwithabackgroundcolorofwhite.ThisIthendividedinto11
squares using guides. I approached each tone square as if this were a screen
printingproject,choosingtothinkofeachsectionasapercentageofblack(ie.Value
9, which is 90% white, can also be thought of as 10% black. Value 8 would be 20%
blackvalue7,30%blackandsoon).One by one, each square was then
selected, and filled using the color black and the Paintbucket tool. This action,
however, was done each time on a separate layer, which was later merged with the
background. The separate layers were necessary, because each successive layer
had a different fill percentage in order to control the density of black in each square
(eg.The layer which represented value 8, had a fill percentage of only 20%).
This, however, is for straight black and white, our mix is slightly warmer so might need a
bit of tweaking.
If you, or any of the readers, have another way to make a value scale with photoshop
please add to the comments.
Yes,byallmeanspracticeonoilpaintingpaper,youmightfinditfeelslikeitsitsontop
of the surface more, but just use a thicker mix of paint.
Thanks,
Will
REPLY
David A. April 20, 2012
Hi Will,
I was wondering about brushes again, and would like to know what is the difference between
a Bright, Flat and Shader. My local art store in Chicago does not have the brands you talked
about. Only Princeton ( they artist there say that they are from the UK).
I would like to know if you think that if the painting/drawing is wrong if it does not represent
the model perfectly.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hey David,
The difference between them is shape, so all have different uses.
Flat:Flatsquareedge.Goodforbroadstrokesandcreatingstraightlines.Nottheideal
for portraits because we want soft edges.
Bright:BrightsTheshorter,sturdierversionoftheflatbrush,(sohaslessflexifyou
were working with thick oil paints a bright would be able move the paint around easier.)
Shader: I think this is just a brand name and not in general used in other brush
manufacturers. I had a look at the Princeton website and the Shader is very similar to a
flat.
I forgot to mention Rosemary & co are mail order, but in terms of the Princeton brushes,
tell me your budget and I can advise which ones would be best.
There is no such thing as perfect representation, capturing a models character is more
important than a photo realist drawing. This all comes with practice and developing your
own style as an artist.
Dontgethunguponitbeingperfect,Iveseensomanystudentsstartportraitsget
disheartened and not continue on, just out of interest Picasso produced 50,000 unique
pieces of art over his lifetime.
Not every piece has to be a masterpiece, the process is just as important as the end
result.
Thanks
Will
REPLY
David A. April 21, 2012
Hi Will,
My budget per month is $25-35. I use half for painting and half for drawing.
The Princeton brushes at Blick cost between $6.29-15.00.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hi David,
You might be interested to look at the Winsor & Newton Artist Quality oil Brushes
(availableatblick)thesearereallyexcellentbrushesandtheonesIuseifImnotusing
the Rosemary & Co Ivory Filberts. They are slightly more reasonable than the Princeton
brushes and I can feel confident in recommending them.
Acoupleofhandysizes(ifyourworkingquitesmallA4papersize)are:
Long Handle Filbert, Size #2 ($4.37)
Long Handle Filbert, Size #4 ($5.14) (this is the same size as the brush I use for 90% of
this demo)
Size #5 & #6 are also handy.
Also, a small round for details with slightly softer hair, so either one of the synthetic
sables from Princeton (series 4000) or Winsor & newton Monarch are nice. (between a
size0and3dependingonhowdetailedyouworkIuseasize3forthisdemo)
For blending the filbert princeton size 6 ($6.45) or 8 ($7.05) (series 4000) is closest to
what I have used.
You could just start with the oil brushes though and see how you get on.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Michelle April 23, 2012
Do you ever use a different mixture for your shadows such as mixing a red,
ultramarine blue, and yellow ochre? This would be used after the initial raw umber stage on
just the shadows. I am starting to learn to paint portraits and have been told using this
mixture allows the shadows to remain transparent later on, however it seems to make things
more complicated than your method. Thanksforthisseriesitsveryhelpful.Looking forward
tothenextpart
REPLY
Will Kemp April 24, 2012
Hi Michelle,
Pleased to hear you are enjoying this portrait painting series. As this techniques is
focusing on the importance of tone and making the step from drawing to oil painting
keeping it simple really is the way the to go. So I will be only be using the raw umber and
Ivory black.
Forfullcolourportraits,Iuseasimilar,simpleapproach.Andwouldntinitiallyusered,
ultramarine blue or yellow ochre. I would still use a earth pigment like raw umber or burnt
umber.
Different artists have different approaches, but I am a great believer in keeping your
materials simple, so you can have more time to concentrate on the tricky part, the
painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
rod hulme June 3, 2012
HiWilleverythingokayhere!Have started playing with Golden liquids, [10 half oz.
bottles for 40.00] and find them interesting! Must pick up a 40 series knife to do my mixing of
theheavy,asthespatulatypeIhaveisawkwardforme,butprogress,asIalsofoundpaper
pallets I used to use with oils. There is something about a clean WHITE mixing surface..that
colorblind moi finds more accurate somehow in delineation of shades. Anyway, makes sense
tometome,andthatsjustfine.
Manythanksforyourpatience.cheersrod
REPLY
Will Kemp June 4, 2012
Hey Rod, yes the fluid acrylics can be very effective, especially for glazing
effects.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Alice July 5, 2012
Hello,Idontreallyunderstandwhyyouneedtopaintfirstwithrawumberwhycant
youjustpaintwithblack/whitestraightontothecanvas?Sorryifthatsanobviousquestion.
ThanksAlice
REPLY
Will Kemp July 5, 2012
Hi Alice,
Thanks for the comment. The reason I paint onto a toned ground is because it makes it
easier when you are first starting to judge your tones.
You can quickly establish your darkest darks and lightest lights and this will make it
easier to judge the other tones in your painting. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is
working onto a white canvas. you can read more about it here: How a prepared canvas
can drastically improve your painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
David Smith July 2, 2013
Hello Will,
Enjoying working through these lessons so far. Your method produces a nice look to a
portraitsimilartoVelzquez.
Regarding a value strip, I had a go creating one using GIMP (the free photo-editing
software). I edited the brush colour and altered the HSV (hue, saturation, value) settings.
Changing V amount from zero (black), 50 (mid-grey), 100 (white) etc. and all the tone
gradations in between.
David
REPLY
Will Kemp July 3, 2013
Hi David,
Pleased to hear the portrait course is going well, and that you could create a value strip
using GIMP, good one!
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
I am passionate about painting the figure, but have only worked in watercolors. My
question. Do you think it best for me to begin to learn painting in oils or do you think I should
work in Acrylics first. I was in fine arts for 10 years before I became an art therapist. Now that
IamretiredIwanttofocusonpaintingthefigure..portrait.Can you help direct me to
make the most of the next 10 years. My concern is the time it will take me to master two
mediums (acrylic and then on to oils). IlikeyourdemosandthinkIcanstartwithgood
training.Butwhichtrainingtobeginwithismyquestion.
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
Hi Bernice,
You might find this article helpful that goes through the differences between the two,
many of my acrylic painting techniques stem from classical painting techniques, so you
are inadvertently learning skills for both mediums.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
Yes, thank you. I think you are saying it would be good practice and learning
in acrylics before starting oils, since most of your acrylic techniques are taken from
classical oil techniques? Correct?
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
HiBernice,yes,Ivefoundforlearningaboutcolourmixingandpaint
techniques acrylics are very forgiving because you can easily work over them, so
are a great medium to learn with, can be painted anywhere, on pretty much any
surface, so are like a quick start painting. Then, when you feel move confident in
colour mixing and brush techniques you can go into oils there and will be less
mudmixedandmoreahamoments,asmanyofthetechniquesIteachare
transferable.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
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HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart3
by WI LL KEMP
i n OI L PAI NTI NG, PORTRAI TS
Whenyoucomebacktoyourpaintingyoullnoticehowtheoilhasbecometranslucent
overnightandwonthavethesamecoveragethatyoufirstthought.
How to paint a portrait series. This is part 3 of a 5 part series of tutorials for beginners making
the transition from drawing to oil painting.
Hereisaquickreviewofwhatwehavecoveredsofarifyoudliketojoinin
Part1Establishingthedrawing,includingtheshadowline.
This can be done in pencil or charcoal (that you can fix with fixative) try to keep the drawing
lines angular to start with.
Try to establish the basic shapes if you could only use a straight line, then add the contours as
the drawing progresses. A classic beginner mistake when drawing a portrait is an over
exaggerationofthecurvesintheface.Everythinggetsroundedoffandtheportraitcanhave
acartoonlikequality.Becausewehaveastrongvisualmemorysystemthattellsusfacesare
roundthiscansubconsciouslyaffectyourdrawing.
We the started to scrub in the underpainting layer. To a beginner, this stage is often skipped,
deemed to be unimportant, but a good foundation is key to success with portraits.
We then have our 3 part tonal underpainting which allows you, and your eye, to become more
in-tune with the image, and become aware to the tones.
Part2Developingthetones,addinglights.
We then worked over the top of the initial underpainting still just with the raw umber to
strengthen the tones and get a better feeling of form. These layers are all painted thinly.
The medium for this stage being a simple mix of 1 part linseed oil to 4 parts mineral spirits
(artistturpentineorodourlessmineralspirits)thisestablishesthefatoverleanrule.Witheach
progressivelayerbeingslightlyfatterwithmoreoilcontent.
We also added some roughed in lights with a faster drying white.
Thisistohelpusjudgethetonesforthenextstagesowhenwepaintthemontheydontlook
tooutwhenweaddthelights.
The Allure of highlights
I forgot to emphasis at the end of part 2 that the roughed in lights are the light tonal mass, and
not the highlights.
The highlights and the very darkest parts of the painting should be the last brushstrokes to be
done,buttheytryanddrawyouin!Itshardtoresistputtingthemonattheearlystage.
Andevenifyouvereadthewarning,itsamazinghow,whenyougetengrossedinthepainting,
your hand will be drawn to that lightest white.
This can seem counterintuitive if you are coming to the painting from drawing as we often erase
out the lightest areas, or work on this areas that attract out attention. The white highlights on
the eye have a particular allure.
When the painting is finished these will be seen by the viewer to be painted with the most skill,
however, a single dot of white can be painted by anyone, but resisting adding them takes the
practice of an artist.
A note about grey
One of the students following this series let me know about Gambiln Torrit grey competition
(Thanks Mario!) Every spring, the paint manufacture collect all of the residue paint pigment that
havebeencollectedbytheairfiltrationsystemandrecyclethemintoGamblinTorritGrey.
You can learn more about the Torrit Grey painting competition from Gamblin website.
Pigmentdustshouldnotgointotheearth,waterorlandfill,butintopaint,
Robert Gamblin.
For our grey we are going to mix a neutral using the raw umber and Ivory black.
Part3FirstPainting
Mixing a new medium
We now create a new medium for the next layer of the painting. Different artists vary the
richness of the medium depending on their own personal preference but the next mix is a very
useful one.
1 part linseed oil to 3 parts mineral spirit
Youcanusethepipettetomeasureoutamounts,orifImmixingalargeramountIllusekitchen
measurement spoons.
Pro tip: If you are doing a lot of painting it can be worth premixing a larger amount of each
medium in resealable jars, label them up and then you can simple decant the medium each
stage of the painting.
Mixing our black
We are now going to mix a neutral black for developing this monotone study. You can still
create some lovely studies just using the raw umber and white, it is a warmer finish than the
black, but you will still learn the importance of contrast in your paintings.
To mix the neutral we use 3/4 ivory black to 1/4 raw umber. This helps take the blue out of the
black (black has a blue base, this is why you can mix lovely muted greens with black)
Ivory black
Ivory black is a slow drying pigment, by mixing in 1/4 of the raw umber (which is quick drying) it
will match nicely with the titanium white (slow drying) and at this stage of the painting the longer
opentimewehavewiththepaintsthebetter.Ivoryblackalsohasalovelyrichnesswhen
painted thinly which will help out in the later stages of the portrait.
This way you will have time to work through your painting and blend and fuse edges that you
need to. This is why we started with the raw umber, it dries overnight and has a cooler
undertone when working with portraits.
Materials
Winsor & Newton artist quality Ivory black
Micheal harding artist quality Raw Umber
Old Holland artist quality titanium white
Winsor & newton Sansador ( odourless mineral spirits)
Winsor & newton Refined linseed oil
ThereisntanyspecificreasonwhyIuseeachbrand,IoftenintermixbrandsasIliketo
experiment using different manufacturers colours. Whatever is available where you are. The
one key throughout them all is that they are artist quality (See: the 8 key differences
between artist quality & student grade paint)
Paint consistency
When you are just beginning with oils, the handling of the paint can vary greatly depending on
the consistency of the paint.
Oil paint (especially the titanium white) is often too thick and stiff to work with at this stage of the
paintingstraightfromthetube.
To make the paint more fluid, I slightly dilute it with the medium shown above. I use a pipette to
drop a few drops of the medium onto the paint mixture and mix it thoroughly with the palette
knife. Using the palette knife for mixing your paints is a very useful technique.
The video below shows a quick tutorial on how I dilute the oil paint.
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I often mix the colours on a separate, tear off palette and then transfer the mixture to the clean
glass/ perspex.
Ifyourejustbeginningwithoilsyoullnoticehoweasilyyoucancontaminatecolourswhen
using a full palette of colours, this can lead to muddy colours and frustrating painting.
This helps you to learn clean working methods. I am naturally more impatient so it is a discipline
to spend the time mixing the colours as you just want to get painting but it will pay dividends.
Step14Mixingour tonal colour strings
Thisnextstageoftheportraitiswherewereallygetpaintingasin,thicker,moreopaque
colours mixed together. If we look back at the last couple of weeks lessons you can see that we
haventactuallymixedanytonestogetheryet.
Wehavesimplybeenblockinginthebasictonalvalues,inwhatissometimescalledthedead
colouringstagethisisbecauseweareusingalimitedamountofoilinthemix,andmore
mineralspirits.Asthemineralspiritsevaporatethecolourcanappearflat,anddeadasit
doesnthavethelustrethattheoilgivesus.
Pro tip:Whenworkingwithcolour,thisisalsoreferedtoasaddingthelocalcolourofa
subject. For example a lemon would have a local colour of yellow.
So before we start the painting we are going to premix a range of 9 value tones.
White (1) is the lightest, black (9) is the darkest. This enables us to get a mid tone 5 and split
the tones into lights, half tones, and darks. These are called tonal strings, you can read more
about them on A beginners guide to tonal strings
Using a value strip
Print out, or paint out your own value strip.
When you are first starting, working from a print out it can be handy because the value strip will
be the same tones as your reference photograph compared to the hues of the black and white
paint if you were to paint your strip.
Just slide the value strip under the glass. This way when you are trying to match the tone you
can test it by dabbing a swatch ontop of the tone underneath to determine how close you are.
The first tone I match is a number 5. It will take you a few attempts to get it spot on, this is
normal.
BeawarethattheblackhasastrongertintingstrengththanthewhitesowhenIadditImjust
scraping a small amount with the palette knife.
I then match a light value 3
Then a value 7. With these 3 tones you can create some great value studies (which are
sometimescalledposterstudies)theseallowtoquicklypracticeandsketchouttonal
compositions for future paintings.
It is also handy if you want to experiment working with a compressed value range.
Waterseller of Seville -Diego Velazquez, 1619
IfwelookatVelasquezspaintingbelowwecanseehisuseoftheumberunderpainting,and
the range of tones used to direct the views gaze.
When we look at the painting in black and white it is even easier to see how the most focus on
the painting has been placed on the subject with the broadest tonal range and
the background figure has a very compressed tonal range.
9 value tones
I then remove the value strip and we are ready to begin.
Iveplacedthepaletteovertheimagesoyoucanseetheeffectoflightfallout.
Due to my light source being above the subject the light drops off as we get further down the
face. When you look at the colour strings you can start to see how there is a subtle shift in tone
as we go down the painting. This is a key point to remember because when you take the paint
swatches away it is harder to judge the light drop off, your mind just accepts it.
The light was set up so that it was stronger on the top half of the portrait, and the value drops
away. You need to be aware of this drop off as you progress through the tones.
This can help in getting the fall of light right, and creating a logical progression throughout the
painting.
So what you can do now is remove the value strip from underneath the paint and hold it next to
your reference photograph. Make sure you have trimmed the edge of the value strip so you
donthaveanywhiteontheedge.Thiswillmakeithardertojudgetones.
Now shut one eye, this helps to flatten your vision and makes it easier to see tone. Then flick
your eyes between the tone and the value strip and the tone on the reference photograph until
you have a match.
Pro tip: If you are finding it hard to isolate the colour the use a hole-punch to punch a hole in
each square, this way you can use them as a viewfinder.
Solid painting
Forpurposesofstudythereisnothingbetterthansimple,direct,solidpainting.Paintingwith
transparent colour, with a mixture of solid and transparent, glazing etc are all things that must
betriedlateronbutforsometimeconfineyourselftodirect,solidpainting.
Harold Speed
On my image I start with the lightest part on the forehead, it is about a value 2.
I dip just the edge of my brush (number# 4 Rosemary & co ivory filbert) into the medium.
I then pull the paint from the side of the mixture and coat the end of the brush. The mixture is
thick enough to cover the underpainting, but still quite thin.
You are looking to cover the colour underneath with a solid tone, but still have a fluid mixture.
Gettingtheconsistencyrightcanbeanartinitself,sodontgetdiscouraged!
We just want a small amount of paint, notice how I pull the paint from the edge of the pile.
Youalsodontneedmuchpaint,justtrytogetthetipofthebristlescoated,Iworkthebrush
backandforthinthepaintsoithasacoverage,yetdoesntcomeupthebristlestoofar.
A beginners tendency is to overload your brush.
I then flick my eyes between the subject and my painting to judge the next tonal shift, I squeeze
any excess paint into a piece of kitchen roll untill the brush is dry,
Icanthengrabsomeofthenextvaluedownvalue3
Just to help my eye with the portrait I reinforce the white of the t-shirt with value 1.
This could have been put in first, there is no real hard and fast rule, I just scan the picture with
my eyes to look for any values that are in the first 3 light range.
Adding the midtones
I then move on to the mid-tones, again with a clean brush (I might dip it into pure mineral spirits
occasionally and scrub out the pigment into kitchen roll so I have a clean brush for the new
tone.
I then make my way down the tones using 4, 5, 6 . Notice how these are all still in the lights of
the subject.
Ihaventblendedanyofthetones,Iamjustsimplyblockingtheminwithaflattone.
Ithenblockinthetoneontheneck,againthiscouldhavebeendoneearlierbutyoullfindthe
more tones you add, the easier they are to judge in comparison.
All of the lights are now added, this has all been painting with values 1 through to 6.
We are now going to add the darks, working through 7 to 9
Adding the darks
As the light starts to drop off, I add the darks into the shadow side of the face, notice how the
tones have been dropping darker to the right and the bottom of the picture due to the light
source being from the top left.
I continue adding a darker value 8 into the shadow under the chin. Notice how blue the paint
appears next to the raw umber. The tones are still quite flat with limited blending, still just using
the size 4 ivory filbert.
I now mix a value between the 8 & 9, you could go straight in with the 9, but I wanted to leave
this for the final part of this stage.
I then soften the edge slightly using the filbert.
I swap to a sable filbert for blending the edges further, as I mentioned before, I often use the
Ivory filbert for this, but sometimes, if the paint is pulling too much the sable can just give you
that blend that you are after.
BecausetheunderpaintingisnowdryImrestingbylittlefingeronthecanvas,thiswayIcan
pivot, with a stronger support. For larger scale painting, or of the background is still damp I
would use a mahl stick.
This is now with the value 9, the pure black mix we have made. When this first goes on it will
feeltoodark.Itsnot.
Iblockinthisblackslightlythinnerthanthepreviouspaint,Imstillconcernedwithcreatingaflat
tonalvalue.NoticehowIveleftaslightegdebetweenthisdarkertoneandtheedgeofthe
face.ThiswaywhenIsoftentheedgeitwontgotoodark.
A tendency when your first starting is to add, then blend, add then blend, but it will work better if
you keep the blending to a minimum.
This is easier said than done.
Notice how light the first shadow now looks in comparison to the black.
This stage of the painting I now have a full tonal range of opaque colour. I can now assess the
referenceimageandflickmyeyesbetweenthetwo,lookingforanythingthatlooksout.
The Importance of edges
I now look to soften out most of the edges. As with the underpainting, it is easiest to keep the
edges soft at this stage as they can easily grab a viewers attention. Sharp edges come
forward, soft edges recede back.
Pro tip:Ifyouarehavingtroublepullingthepainttoomuchswaptothelargersize10filbert
and gentle blush over the edge.
Wevenowfinishedthefirststageofmodellingtheportrait.Ihaventworkedonthefeatures
much, still just keeping the focus on the main areas of the form. The larger areas first, then we
can add details in the next stage.
You might also like:
1. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart1
2. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart2
3. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart4
{ 20commentsreadthembeloworadd one }
Gunner Dave April 19, 2012
Hi Will,
I have a question about your image which shows the 9 tones of the grey colour string. Would
it be possible for you to give these 9 tones in terms of RGB (or H, S & B) values on
photoshop? This way I could make my own grey colour string swatch on the computer and
print it out.
Also, as a beginner who has limited resources, is it worth using oil painting paper instead of
canvas until I get the hang of the technique? Are there any issues with this type of surface
that I should be aware of?
Loving your work,
Dave.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 19, 2012
Hi Dave,
Glad you like the progress.
Yes, if you have access to Photoshop you can create your own value scale. Matthew
Innis (from Underpaintings blog) talks through how he makes a scale using the Munsell
system (this is another approach for mixing and matching colours and, confusingly, used
10stepsandthevaluesarelabelledtheotherway)usingPhotoshopSeebelow:
To make the scale, I began with a new image file in Photoshop, 1 inch high and 11
incheslong,andwithabackgroundcolorofwhite.ThisIthendividedinto11
squares using guides. I approached each tone square as if this were a screen
printingproject,choosingtothinkofeachsectionasapercentageofblack(ie.Value
9, which is 90% white, can also be thought of as 10% black. Value 8 would be 20%
blackvalue7,30%blackandsoon).One by one, each square was then
selected, and filled using the color black and the Paintbucket tool. This action,
however, was done each time on a separate layer, which was later merged with the
background. The separate layers were necessary, because each successive layer
had a different fill percentage in order to control the density of black in each square
(eg.The layer which represented value 8, had a fill percentage of only 20%).
This, however, is for straight black and white, our mix is slightly warmer so might need a
bit of tweaking.
If you, or any of the readers, have another way to make a value scale with photoshop
please add to the comments.
Yes,byallmeanspracticeonoilpaintingpaper,youmightfinditfeelslikeitsitsontop
of the surface more, but just use a thicker mix of paint.
Thanks,
Will
REPLY
David A. April 20, 2012
Hi Will,
I was wondering about brushes again, and would like to know what is the difference between
a Bright, Flat and Shader. My local art store in Chicago does not have the brands you talked
about. Only Princeton ( they artist there say that they are from the UK).
I would like to know if you think that if the painting/drawing is wrong if it does not represent
the model perfectly.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hey David,
The difference between them is shape, so all have different uses.
Flat:Flatsquareedge.Goodforbroadstrokesandcreatingstraightlines.Nottheideal
for portraits because we want soft edges.
Bright:BrightsTheshorter,sturdierversionoftheflatbrush,(sohaslessflexifyou
were working with thick oil paints a bright would be able move the paint around easier.)
Shader: I think this is just a brand name and not in general used in other brush
manufacturers. I had a look at the Princeton website and the Shader is very similar to a
flat.
I forgot to mention Rosemary & co are mail order, but in terms of the Princeton brushes,
tell me your budget and I can advise which ones would be best.
There is no such thing as perfect representation, capturing a models character is more
important than a photo realist drawing. This all comes with practice and developing your
own style as an artist.
Dontgethunguponitbeingperfect,Iveseensomanystudentsstartportraitsget
disheartened and not continue on, just out of interest Picasso produced 50,000 unique
pieces of art over his lifetime.
Not every piece has to be a masterpiece, the process is just as important as the end
result.
Thanks
Will
REPLY
David A. April 21, 2012
Hi Will,
My budget per month is $25-35. I use half for painting and half for drawing.
The Princeton brushes at Blick cost between $6.29-15.00.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hi David,
You might be interested to look at the Winsor & Newton Artist Quality oil Brushes
(availableatblick)thesearereallyexcellentbrushesandtheonesIuseifImnotusing
the Rosemary & Co Ivory Filberts. They are slightly more reasonable than the Princeton
brushes and I can feel confident in recommending them.
Acoupleofhandysizes(ifyourworkingquitesmallA4papersize)are:
Long Handle Filbert, Size #2 ($4.37)
Long Handle Filbert, Size #4 ($5.14) (this is the same size as the brush I use for 90% of
this demo)
Size #5 & #6 are also handy.
Also, a small round for details with slightly softer hair, so either one of the synthetic
sables from Princeton (series 4000) or Winsor & newton Monarch are nice. (between a
size0and3dependingonhowdetailedyouworkIuseasize3forthisdemo)
For blending the filbert princeton size 6 ($6.45) or 8 ($7.05) (series 4000) is closest to
what I have used.
You could just start with the oil brushes though and see how you get on.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Michelle April 23, 2012
Do you ever use a different mixture for your shadows such as mixing a red,
ultramarine blue, and yellow ochre? This would be used after the initial raw umber stage on
just the shadows. I am starting to learn to paint portraits and have been told using this
mixture allows the shadows to remain transparent later on, however it seems to make things
more complicated than your method. Thanksforthisseriesitsveryhelpful.Looking forward
tothenextpart
REPLY
Will Kemp April 24, 2012
Hi Michelle,
Pleased to hear you are enjoying this portrait painting series. As this techniques is
focusing on the importance of tone and making the step from drawing to oil painting
keeping it simple really is the way the to go. So I will be only be using the raw umber and
Ivory black.
Forfullcolourportraits,Iuseasimilar,simpleapproach.Andwouldntinitiallyusered,
ultramarine blue or yellow ochre. I would still use a earth pigment like raw umber or burnt
umber.
Different artists have different approaches, but I am a great believer in keeping your
materials simple, so you can have more time to concentrate on the tricky part, the
painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
rod hulme June 3, 2012
HiWilleverythingokayhere!Have started playing with Golden liquids, [10 half oz.
bottles for 40.00] and find them interesting! Must pick up a 40 series knife to do my mixing of
theheavy,asthespatulatypeIhaveisawkwardforme,butprogress,asIalsofoundpaper
pallets I used to use with oils. There is something about a clean WHITE mixing surface..that
colorblind moi finds more accurate somehow in delineation of shades. Anyway, makes sense
tometome,andthatsjustfine.
Manythanksforyourpatience.cheersrod
REPLY
Will Kemp June 4, 2012
Hey Rod, yes the fluid acrylics can be very effective, especially for glazing
effects.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Alice July 5, 2012
Hello,Idontreallyunderstandwhyyouneedtopaintfirstwithrawumberwhycant
youjustpaintwithblack/whitestraightontothecanvas?Sorryifthatsanobviousquestion.
ThanksAlice
REPLY
Will Kemp July 5, 2012
Hi Alice,
Thanks for the comment. The reason I paint onto a toned ground is because it makes it
easier when you are first starting to judge your tones.
You can quickly establish your darkest darks and lightest lights and this will make it
easier to judge the other tones in your painting. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is
working onto a white canvas. you can read more about it here: How a prepared canvas
can drastically improve your painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
David Smith July 2, 2013
Hello Will,
Enjoying working through these lessons so far. Your method produces a nice look to a
portraitsimilartoVelzquez.
Regarding a value strip, I had a go creating one using GIMP (the free photo-editing
software). I edited the brush colour and altered the HSV (hue, saturation, value) settings.
Changing V amount from zero (black), 50 (mid-grey), 100 (white) etc. and all the tone
gradations in between.
David
REPLY
Will Kemp July 3, 2013
Hi David,
Pleased to hear the portrait course is going well, and that you could create a value strip
using GIMP, good one!
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
I am passionate about painting the figure, but have only worked in watercolors. My
question. Do you think it best for me to begin to learn painting in oils or do you think I should
work in Acrylics first. I was in fine arts for 10 years before I became an art therapist. Now that
IamretiredIwanttofocusonpaintingthefigure..portrait.Can you help direct me to
make the most of the next 10 years. My concern is the time it will take me to master two
mediums (acrylic and then on to oils). IlikeyourdemosandthinkIcanstartwithgood
training.Butwhichtrainingtobeginwithismyquestion.
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
Hi Bernice,
You might find this article helpful that goes through the differences between the two,
many of my acrylic painting techniques stem from classical painting techniques, so you
are inadvertently learning skills for both mediums.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
Yes, thank you. I think you are saying it would be good practice and learning
in acrylics before starting oils, since most of your acrylic techniques are taken from
classical oil techniques? Correct?
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
HiBernice,yes,Ivefoundforlearningaboutcolourmixingandpaint
techniques acrylics are very forgiving because you can easily work over them, so
are a great medium to learn with, can be painted anywhere, on pretty much any
surface, so are like a quick start painting. Then, when you feel move confident in
colour mixing and brush techniques you can go into oils there and will be less
mudmixedandmoreahamoments,asmanyofthetechniquesIteachare
transferable.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
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HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart3
by WI LL KEMP
i n OI L PAI NTI NG, PORTRAI TS
Whenyoucomebacktoyourpaintingyoullnoticehowtheoilhasbecometranslucent
overnightandwonthavethesamecoveragethatyoufirstthought.
How to paint a portrait series. This is part 3 of a 5 part series of tutorials for beginners making
the transition from drawing to oil painting.
Hereisaquickreviewofwhatwehavecoveredsofarifyoudliketojoinin
Part1Establishingthedrawing,includingtheshadowline.
This can be done in pencil or charcoal (that you can fix with fixative) try to keep the drawing
lines angular to start with.
Try to establish the basic shapes if you could only use a straight line, then add the contours as
the drawing progresses. A classic beginner mistake when drawing a portrait is an over
exaggerationofthecurvesintheface.Everythinggetsroundedoffandtheportraitcanhave
acartoonlikequality.Becausewehaveastrongvisualmemorysystemthattellsusfacesare
roundthiscansubconsciouslyaffectyourdrawing.
We the started to scrub in the underpainting layer. To a beginner, this stage is often skipped,
deemed to be unimportant, but a good foundation is key to success with portraits.
We then have our 3 part tonal underpainting which allows you, and your eye, to become more
in-tune with the image, and become aware to the tones.
Part2Developingthetones,addinglights.
We then worked over the top of the initial underpainting still just with the raw umber to
strengthen the tones and get a better feeling of form. These layers are all painted thinly.
The medium for this stage being a simple mix of 1 part linseed oil to 4 parts mineral spirits
(artistturpentineorodourlessmineralspirits)thisestablishesthefatoverleanrule.Witheach
progressivelayerbeingslightlyfatterwithmoreoilcontent.
We also added some roughed in lights with a faster drying white.
Thisistohelpusjudgethetonesforthenextstagesowhenwepaintthemontheydontlook
tooutwhenweaddthelights.
The Allure of highlights
I forgot to emphasis at the end of part 2 that the roughed in lights are the light tonal mass, and
not the highlights.
The highlights and the very darkest parts of the painting should be the last brushstrokes to be
done,buttheytryanddrawyouin!Itshardtoresistputtingthemonattheearlystage.
Andevenifyouvereadthewarning,itsamazinghow,whenyougetengrossedinthepainting,
your hand will be drawn to that lightest white.
This can seem counterintuitive if you are coming to the painting from drawing as we often erase
out the lightest areas, or work on this areas that attract out attention. The white highlights on
the eye have a particular allure.
When the painting is finished these will be seen by the viewer to be painted with the most skill,
however, a single dot of white can be painted by anyone, but resisting adding them takes the
practice of an artist.
A note about grey
One of the students following this series let me know about Gambiln Torrit grey competition
(Thanks Mario!) Every spring, the paint manufacture collect all of the residue paint pigment that
havebeencollectedbytheairfiltrationsystemandrecyclethemintoGamblinTorritGrey.
You can learn more about the Torrit Grey painting competition from Gamblin website.
Pigmentdustshouldnotgointotheearth,waterorlandfill,butintopaint,
Robert Gamblin.
For our grey we are going to mix a neutral using the raw umber and Ivory black.
Part3FirstPainting
Mixing a new medium
We now create a new medium for the next layer of the painting. Different artists vary the
richness of the medium depending on their own personal preference but the next mix is a very
useful one.
1 part linseed oil to 3 parts mineral spirit
Youcanusethepipettetomeasureoutamounts,orifImmixingalargeramountIllusekitchen
measurement spoons.
Pro tip: If you are doing a lot of painting it can be worth premixing a larger amount of each
medium in resealable jars, label them up and then you can simple decant the medium each
stage of the painting.
Mixing our black
We are now going to mix a neutral black for developing this monotone study. You can still
create some lovely studies just using the raw umber and white, it is a warmer finish than the
black, but you will still learn the importance of contrast in your paintings.
To mix the neutral we use 3/4 ivory black to 1/4 raw umber. This helps take the blue out of the
black (black has a blue base, this is why you can mix lovely muted greens with black)
Ivory black
Ivory black is a slow drying pigment, by mixing in 1/4 of the raw umber (which is quick drying) it
will match nicely with the titanium white (slow drying) and at this stage of the painting the longer
opentimewehavewiththepaintsthebetter.Ivoryblackalsohasalovelyrichnesswhen
painted thinly which will help out in the later stages of the portrait.
This way you will have time to work through your painting and blend and fuse edges that you
need to. This is why we started with the raw umber, it dries overnight and has a cooler
undertone when working with portraits.
Materials
Winsor & Newton artist quality Ivory black
Micheal harding artist quality Raw Umber
Old Holland artist quality titanium white
Winsor & newton Sansador ( odourless mineral spirits)
Winsor & newton Refined linseed oil
ThereisntanyspecificreasonwhyIuseeachbrand,IoftenintermixbrandsasIliketo
experiment using different manufacturers colours. Whatever is available where you are. The
one key throughout them all is that they are artist quality (See: the 8 key differences
between artist quality & student grade paint)
Paint consistency
When you are just beginning with oils, the handling of the paint can vary greatly depending on
the consistency of the paint.
Oil paint (especially the titanium white) is often too thick and stiff to work with at this stage of the
paintingstraightfromthetube.
To make the paint more fluid, I slightly dilute it with the medium shown above. I use a pipette to
drop a few drops of the medium onto the paint mixture and mix it thoroughly with the palette
knife. Using the palette knife for mixing your paints is a very useful technique.
The video below shows a quick tutorial on how I dilute the oil paint.
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I often mix the colours on a separate, tear off palette and then transfer the mixture to the clean
glass/ perspex.
Ifyourejustbeginningwithoilsyoullnoticehoweasilyyoucancontaminatecolourswhen
using a full palette of colours, this can lead to muddy colours and frustrating painting.
This helps you to learn clean working methods. I am naturally more impatient so it is a discipline
to spend the time mixing the colours as you just want to get painting but it will pay dividends.
Step14Mixingour tonal colour strings
Thisnextstageoftheportraitiswherewereallygetpaintingasin,thicker,moreopaque
colours mixed together. If we look back at the last couple of weeks lessons you can see that we
haventactuallymixedanytonestogetheryet.
Wehavesimplybeenblockinginthebasictonalvalues,inwhatissometimescalledthedead
colouringstagethisisbecauseweareusingalimitedamountofoilinthemix,andmore
mineralspirits.Asthemineralspiritsevaporatethecolourcanappearflat,anddeadasit
doesnthavethelustrethattheoilgivesus.
Pro tip:Whenworkingwithcolour,thisisalsoreferedtoasaddingthelocalcolourofa
subject. For example a lemon would have a local colour of yellow.
So before we start the painting we are going to premix a range of 9 value tones.
White (1) is the lightest, black (9) is the darkest. This enables us to get a mid tone 5 and split
the tones into lights, half tones, and darks. These are called tonal strings, you can read more
about them on A beginners guide to tonal strings
Using a value strip
Print out, or paint out your own value strip.
When you are first starting, working from a print out it can be handy because the value strip will
be the same tones as your reference photograph compared to the hues of the black and white
paint if you were to paint your strip.
Just slide the value strip under the glass. This way when you are trying to match the tone you
can test it by dabbing a swatch ontop of the tone underneath to determine how close you are.
The first tone I match is a number 5. It will take you a few attempts to get it spot on, this is
normal.
BeawarethattheblackhasastrongertintingstrengththanthewhitesowhenIadditImjust
scraping a small amount with the palette knife.
I then match a light value 3
Then a value 7. With these 3 tones you can create some great value studies (which are
sometimescalledposterstudies)theseallowtoquicklypracticeandsketchouttonal
compositions for future paintings.
It is also handy if you want to experiment working with a compressed value range.
Waterseller of Seville -Diego Velazquez, 1619
IfwelookatVelasquezspaintingbelowwecanseehisuseoftheumberunderpainting,and
the range of tones used to direct the views gaze.
When we look at the painting in black and white it is even easier to see how the most focus on
the painting has been placed on the subject with the broadest tonal range and
the background figure has a very compressed tonal range.
9 value tones
I then remove the value strip and we are ready to begin.
Iveplacedthepaletteovertheimagesoyoucanseetheeffectoflightfallout.
Due to my light source being above the subject the light drops off as we get further down the
face. When you look at the colour strings you can start to see how there is a subtle shift in tone
as we go down the painting. This is a key point to remember because when you take the paint
swatches away it is harder to judge the light drop off, your mind just accepts it.
The light was set up so that it was stronger on the top half of the portrait, and the value drops
away. You need to be aware of this drop off as you progress through the tones.
This can help in getting the fall of light right, and creating a logical progression throughout the
painting.
So what you can do now is remove the value strip from underneath the paint and hold it next to
your reference photograph. Make sure you have trimmed the edge of the value strip so you
donthaveanywhiteontheedge.Thiswillmakeithardertojudgetones.
Now shut one eye, this helps to flatten your vision and makes it easier to see tone. Then flick
your eyes between the tone and the value strip and the tone on the reference photograph until
you have a match.
Pro tip: If you are finding it hard to isolate the colour the use a hole-punch to punch a hole in
each square, this way you can use them as a viewfinder.
Solid painting
Forpurposesofstudythereisnothingbetterthansimple,direct,solidpainting.Paintingwith
transparent colour, with a mixture of solid and transparent, glazing etc are all things that must
betriedlateronbutforsometimeconfineyourselftodirect,solidpainting.
Harold Speed
On my image I start with the lightest part on the forehead, it is about a value 2.
I dip just the edge of my brush (number# 4 Rosemary & co ivory filbert) into the medium.
I then pull the paint from the side of the mixture and coat the end of the brush. The mixture is
thick enough to cover the underpainting, but still quite thin.
You are looking to cover the colour underneath with a solid tone, but still have a fluid mixture.
Gettingtheconsistencyrightcanbeanartinitself,sodontgetdiscouraged!
We just want a small amount of paint, notice how I pull the paint from the edge of the pile.
Youalsodontneedmuchpaint,justtrytogetthetipofthebristlescoated,Iworkthebrush
backandforthinthepaintsoithasacoverage,yetdoesntcomeupthebristlestoofar.
A beginners tendency is to overload your brush.
I then flick my eyes between the subject and my painting to judge the next tonal shift, I squeeze
any excess paint into a piece of kitchen roll untill the brush is dry,
Icanthengrabsomeofthenextvaluedownvalue3
Just to help my eye with the portrait I reinforce the white of the t-shirt with value 1.
This could have been put in first, there is no real hard and fast rule, I just scan the picture with
my eyes to look for any values that are in the first 3 light range.
Adding the midtones
I then move on to the mid-tones, again with a clean brush (I might dip it into pure mineral spirits
occasionally and scrub out the pigment into kitchen roll so I have a clean brush for the new
tone.
I then make my way down the tones using 4, 5, 6 . Notice how these are all still in the lights of
the subject.
Ihaventblendedanyofthetones,Iamjustsimplyblockingtheminwithaflattone.
Ithenblockinthetoneontheneck,againthiscouldhavebeendoneearlierbutyoullfindthe
more tones you add, the easier they are to judge in comparison.
All of the lights are now added, this has all been painting with values 1 through to 6.
We are now going to add the darks, working through 7 to 9
Adding the darks
As the light starts to drop off, I add the darks into the shadow side of the face, notice how the
tones have been dropping darker to the right and the bottom of the picture due to the light
source being from the top left.
I continue adding a darker value 8 into the shadow under the chin. Notice how blue the paint
appears next to the raw umber. The tones are still quite flat with limited blending, still just using
the size 4 ivory filbert.
I now mix a value between the 8 & 9, you could go straight in with the 9, but I wanted to leave
this for the final part of this stage.
I then soften the edge slightly using the filbert.
I swap to a sable filbert for blending the edges further, as I mentioned before, I often use the
Ivory filbert for this, but sometimes, if the paint is pulling too much the sable can just give you
that blend that you are after.
BecausetheunderpaintingisnowdryImrestingbylittlefingeronthecanvas,thiswayIcan
pivot, with a stronger support. For larger scale painting, or of the background is still damp I
would use a mahl stick.
This is now with the value 9, the pure black mix we have made. When this first goes on it will
feeltoodark.Itsnot.
Iblockinthisblackslightlythinnerthanthepreviouspaint,Imstillconcernedwithcreatingaflat
tonalvalue.NoticehowIveleftaslightegdebetweenthisdarkertoneandtheedgeofthe
face.ThiswaywhenIsoftentheedgeitwontgotoodark.
A tendency when your first starting is to add, then blend, add then blend, but it will work better if
you keep the blending to a minimum.
This is easier said than done.
Notice how light the first shadow now looks in comparison to the black.
This stage of the painting I now have a full tonal range of opaque colour. I can now assess the
referenceimageandflickmyeyesbetweenthetwo,lookingforanythingthatlooksout.
The Importance of edges
I now look to soften out most of the edges. As with the underpainting, it is easiest to keep the
edges soft at this stage as they can easily grab a viewers attention. Sharp edges come
forward, soft edges recede back.
Pro tip:Ifyouarehavingtroublepullingthepainttoomuchswaptothelargersize10filbert
and gentle blush over the edge.
Wevenowfinishedthefirststageofmodellingtheportrait.Ihaventworkedonthefeatures
much, still just keeping the focus on the main areas of the form. The larger areas first, then we
can add details in the next stage.
You might also like:
1. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart1
2. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart2
3. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart4
{ 20commentsreadthembeloworadd one }
Gunner Dave April 19, 2012
Hi Will,
I have a question about your image which shows the 9 tones of the grey colour string. Would
it be possible for you to give these 9 tones in terms of RGB (or H, S & B) values on
photoshop? This way I could make my own grey colour string swatch on the computer and
print it out.
Also, as a beginner who has limited resources, is it worth using oil painting paper instead of
canvas until I get the hang of the technique? Are there any issues with this type of surface
that I should be aware of?
Loving your work,
Dave.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 19, 2012
Hi Dave,
Glad you like the progress.
Yes, if you have access to Photoshop you can create your own value scale. Matthew
Innis (from Underpaintings blog) talks through how he makes a scale using the Munsell
system (this is another approach for mixing and matching colours and, confusingly, used
10stepsandthevaluesarelabelledtheotherway)usingPhotoshopSeebelow:
To make the scale, I began with a new image file in Photoshop, 1 inch high and 11
incheslong,andwithabackgroundcolorofwhite.ThisIthendividedinto11
squares using guides. I approached each tone square as if this were a screen
printingproject,choosingtothinkofeachsectionasapercentageofblack(ie.Value
9, which is 90% white, can also be thought of as 10% black. Value 8 would be 20%
blackvalue7,30%blackandsoon).One by one, each square was then
selected, and filled using the color black and the Paintbucket tool. This action,
however, was done each time on a separate layer, which was later merged with the
background. The separate layers were necessary, because each successive layer
had a different fill percentage in order to control the density of black in each square
(eg.The layer which represented value 8, had a fill percentage of only 20%).
This, however, is for straight black and white, our mix is slightly warmer so might need a
bit of tweaking.
If you, or any of the readers, have another way to make a value scale with photoshop
please add to the comments.
Yes,byallmeanspracticeonoilpaintingpaper,youmightfinditfeelslikeitsitsontop
of the surface more, but just use a thicker mix of paint.
Thanks,
Will
REPLY
David A. April 20, 2012
Hi Will,
I was wondering about brushes again, and would like to know what is the difference between
a Bright, Flat and Shader. My local art store in Chicago does not have the brands you talked
about. Only Princeton ( they artist there say that they are from the UK).
I would like to know if you think that if the painting/drawing is wrong if it does not represent
the model perfectly.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hey David,
The difference between them is shape, so all have different uses.
Flat:Flatsquareedge.Goodforbroadstrokesandcreatingstraightlines.Nottheideal
for portraits because we want soft edges.
Bright:BrightsTheshorter,sturdierversionoftheflatbrush,(sohaslessflexifyou
were working with thick oil paints a bright would be able move the paint around easier.)
Shader: I think this is just a brand name and not in general used in other brush
manufacturers. I had a look at the Princeton website and the Shader is very similar to a
flat.
I forgot to mention Rosemary & co are mail order, but in terms of the Princeton brushes,
tell me your budget and I can advise which ones would be best.
There is no such thing as perfect representation, capturing a models character is more
important than a photo realist drawing. This all comes with practice and developing your
own style as an artist.
Dontgethunguponitbeingperfect,Iveseensomanystudentsstartportraitsget
disheartened and not continue on, just out of interest Picasso produced 50,000 unique
pieces of art over his lifetime.
Not every piece has to be a masterpiece, the process is just as important as the end
result.
Thanks
Will
REPLY
David A. April 21, 2012
Hi Will,
My budget per month is $25-35. I use half for painting and half for drawing.
The Princeton brushes at Blick cost between $6.29-15.00.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hi David,
You might be interested to look at the Winsor & Newton Artist Quality oil Brushes
(availableatblick)thesearereallyexcellentbrushesandtheonesIuseifImnotusing
the Rosemary & Co Ivory Filberts. They are slightly more reasonable than the Princeton
brushes and I can feel confident in recommending them.
Acoupleofhandysizes(ifyourworkingquitesmallA4papersize)are:
Long Handle Filbert, Size #2 ($4.37)
Long Handle Filbert, Size #4 ($5.14) (this is the same size as the brush I use for 90% of
this demo)
Size #5 & #6 are also handy.
Also, a small round for details with slightly softer hair, so either one of the synthetic
sables from Princeton (series 4000) or Winsor & newton Monarch are nice. (between a
size0and3dependingonhowdetailedyouworkIuseasize3forthisdemo)
For blending the filbert princeton size 6 ($6.45) or 8 ($7.05) (series 4000) is closest to
what I have used.
You could just start with the oil brushes though and see how you get on.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Michelle April 23, 2012
Do you ever use a different mixture for your shadows such as mixing a red,
ultramarine blue, and yellow ochre? This would be used after the initial raw umber stage on
just the shadows. I am starting to learn to paint portraits and have been told using this
mixture allows the shadows to remain transparent later on, however it seems to make things
more complicated than your method. Thanksforthisseriesitsveryhelpful.Looking forward
tothenextpart
REPLY
Will Kemp April 24, 2012
Hi Michelle,
Pleased to hear you are enjoying this portrait painting series. As this techniques is
focusing on the importance of tone and making the step from drawing to oil painting
keeping it simple really is the way the to go. So I will be only be using the raw umber and
Ivory black.
Forfullcolourportraits,Iuseasimilar,simpleapproach.Andwouldntinitiallyusered,
ultramarine blue or yellow ochre. I would still use a earth pigment like raw umber or burnt
umber.
Different artists have different approaches, but I am a great believer in keeping your
materials simple, so you can have more time to concentrate on the tricky part, the
painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
rod hulme June 3, 2012
HiWilleverythingokayhere!Have started playing with Golden liquids, [10 half oz.
bottles for 40.00] and find them interesting! Must pick up a 40 series knife to do my mixing of
theheavy,asthespatulatypeIhaveisawkwardforme,butprogress,asIalsofoundpaper
pallets I used to use with oils. There is something about a clean WHITE mixing surface..that
colorblind moi finds more accurate somehow in delineation of shades. Anyway, makes sense
tometome,andthatsjustfine.
Manythanksforyourpatience.cheersrod
REPLY
Will Kemp June 4, 2012
Hey Rod, yes the fluid acrylics can be very effective, especially for glazing
effects.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Alice July 5, 2012
Hello,Idontreallyunderstandwhyyouneedtopaintfirstwithrawumberwhycant
youjustpaintwithblack/whitestraightontothecanvas?Sorryifthatsanobviousquestion.
ThanksAlice
REPLY
Will Kemp July 5, 2012
Hi Alice,
Thanks for the comment. The reason I paint onto a toned ground is because it makes it
easier when you are first starting to judge your tones.
You can quickly establish your darkest darks and lightest lights and this will make it
easier to judge the other tones in your painting. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is
working onto a white canvas. you can read more about it here: How a prepared canvas
can drastically improve your painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
David Smith July 2, 2013
Hello Will,
Enjoying working through these lessons so far. Your method produces a nice look to a
portraitsimilartoVelzquez.
Regarding a value strip, I had a go creating one using GIMP (the free photo-editing
software). I edited the brush colour and altered the HSV (hue, saturation, value) settings.
Changing V amount from zero (black), 50 (mid-grey), 100 (white) etc. and all the tone
gradations in between.
David
REPLY
Will Kemp July 3, 2013
Hi David,
Pleased to hear the portrait course is going well, and that you could create a value strip
using GIMP, good one!
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
I am passionate about painting the figure, but have only worked in watercolors. My
question. Do you think it best for me to begin to learn painting in oils or do you think I should
work in Acrylics first. I was in fine arts for 10 years before I became an art therapist. Now that
IamretiredIwanttofocusonpaintingthefigure..portrait.Can you help direct me to
make the most of the next 10 years. My concern is the time it will take me to master two
mediums (acrylic and then on to oils). IlikeyourdemosandthinkIcanstartwithgood
training.Butwhichtrainingtobeginwithismyquestion.
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
Hi Bernice,
You might find this article helpful that goes through the differences between the two,
many of my acrylic painting techniques stem from classical painting techniques, so you
are inadvertently learning skills for both mediums.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
Yes, thank you. I think you are saying it would be good practice and learning
in acrylics before starting oils, since most of your acrylic techniques are taken from
classical oil techniques? Correct?
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
HiBernice,yes,Ivefoundforlearningaboutcolourmixingandpaint
techniques acrylics are very forgiving because you can easily work over them, so
are a great medium to learn with, can be painted anywhere, on pretty much any
surface, so are like a quick start painting. Then, when you feel move confident in
colour mixing and brush techniques you can go into oils there and will be less
mudmixedandmoreahamoments,asmanyofthetechniquesIteachare
transferable.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
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HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart3
by WI LL KEMP
i n OI L PAI NTI NG, PORTRAI TS
Whenyoucomebacktoyourpaintingyoullnoticehowtheoilhasbecometranslucent
overnightandwonthavethesamecoveragethatyoufirstthought.
How to paint a portrait series. This is part 3 of a 5 part series of tutorials for beginners making
the transition from drawing to oil painting.
Hereisaquickreviewofwhatwehavecoveredsofarifyoudliketojoinin
Part1Establishingthedrawing,includingtheshadowline.
This can be done in pencil or charcoal (that you can fix with fixative) try to keep the drawing
lines angular to start with.
Try to establish the basic shapes if you could only use a straight line, then add the contours as
the drawing progresses. A classic beginner mistake when drawing a portrait is an over
exaggerationofthecurvesintheface.Everythinggetsroundedoffandtheportraitcanhave
acartoonlikequality.Becausewehaveastrongvisualmemorysystemthattellsusfacesare
roundthiscansubconsciouslyaffectyourdrawing.
We the started to scrub in the underpainting layer. To a beginner, this stage is often skipped,
deemed to be unimportant, but a good foundation is key to success with portraits.
We then have our 3 part tonal underpainting which allows you, and your eye, to become more
in-tune with the image, and become aware to the tones.
Part2Developingthetones,addinglights.
We then worked over the top of the initial underpainting still just with the raw umber to
strengthen the tones and get a better feeling of form. These layers are all painted thinly.
The medium for this stage being a simple mix of 1 part linseed oil to 4 parts mineral spirits
(artistturpentineorodourlessmineralspirits)thisestablishesthefatoverleanrule.Witheach
progressivelayerbeingslightlyfatterwithmoreoilcontent.
We also added some roughed in lights with a faster drying white.
Thisistohelpusjudgethetonesforthenextstagesowhenwepaintthemontheydontlook
tooutwhenweaddthelights.
The Allure of highlights
I forgot to emphasis at the end of part 2 that the roughed in lights are the light tonal mass, and
not the highlights.
The highlights and the very darkest parts of the painting should be the last brushstrokes to be
done,buttheytryanddrawyouin!Itshardtoresistputtingthemonattheearlystage.
Andevenifyouvereadthewarning,itsamazinghow,whenyougetengrossedinthepainting,
your hand will be drawn to that lightest white.
This can seem counterintuitive if you are coming to the painting from drawing as we often erase
out the lightest areas, or work on this areas that attract out attention. The white highlights on
the eye have a particular allure.
When the painting is finished these will be seen by the viewer to be painted with the most skill,
however, a single dot of white can be painted by anyone, but resisting adding them takes the
practice of an artist.
A note about grey
One of the students following this series let me know about Gambiln Torrit grey competition
(Thanks Mario!) Every spring, the paint manufacture collect all of the residue paint pigment that
havebeencollectedbytheairfiltrationsystemandrecyclethemintoGamblinTorritGrey.
You can learn more about the Torrit Grey painting competition from Gamblin website.
Pigmentdustshouldnotgointotheearth,waterorlandfill,butintopaint,
Robert Gamblin.
For our grey we are going to mix a neutral using the raw umber and Ivory black.
Part3FirstPainting
Mixing a new medium
We now create a new medium for the next layer of the painting. Different artists vary the
richness of the medium depending on their own personal preference but the next mix is a very
useful one.
1 part linseed oil to 3 parts mineral spirit
Youcanusethepipettetomeasureoutamounts,orifImmixingalargeramountIllusekitchen
measurement spoons.
Pro tip: If you are doing a lot of painting it can be worth premixing a larger amount of each
medium in resealable jars, label them up and then you can simple decant the medium each
stage of the painting.
Mixing our black
We are now going to mix a neutral black for developing this monotone study. You can still
create some lovely studies just using the raw umber and white, it is a warmer finish than the
black, but you will still learn the importance of contrast in your paintings.
To mix the neutral we use 3/4 ivory black to 1/4 raw umber. This helps take the blue out of the
black (black has a blue base, this is why you can mix lovely muted greens with black)
Ivory black
Ivory black is a slow drying pigment, by mixing in 1/4 of the raw umber (which is quick drying) it
will match nicely with the titanium white (slow drying) and at this stage of the painting the longer
opentimewehavewiththepaintsthebetter.Ivoryblackalsohasalovelyrichnesswhen
painted thinly which will help out in the later stages of the portrait.
This way you will have time to work through your painting and blend and fuse edges that you
need to. This is why we started with the raw umber, it dries overnight and has a cooler
undertone when working with portraits.
Materials
Winsor & Newton artist quality Ivory black
Micheal harding artist quality Raw Umber
Old Holland artist quality titanium white
Winsor & newton Sansador ( odourless mineral spirits)
Winsor & newton Refined linseed oil
ThereisntanyspecificreasonwhyIuseeachbrand,IoftenintermixbrandsasIliketo
experiment using different manufacturers colours. Whatever is available where you are. The
one key throughout them all is that they are artist quality (See: the 8 key differences
between artist quality & student grade paint)
Paint consistency
When you are just beginning with oils, the handling of the paint can vary greatly depending on
the consistency of the paint.
Oil paint (especially the titanium white) is often too thick and stiff to work with at this stage of the
paintingstraightfromthetube.
To make the paint more fluid, I slightly dilute it with the medium shown above. I use a pipette to
drop a few drops of the medium onto the paint mixture and mix it thoroughly with the palette
knife. Using the palette knife for mixing your paints is a very useful technique.
The video below shows a quick tutorial on how I dilute the oil paint.
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I often mix the colours on a separate, tear off palette and then transfer the mixture to the clean
glass/ perspex.
Ifyourejustbeginningwithoilsyoullnoticehoweasilyyoucancontaminatecolourswhen
using a full palette of colours, this can lead to muddy colours and frustrating painting.
This helps you to learn clean working methods. I am naturally more impatient so it is a discipline
to spend the time mixing the colours as you just want to get painting but it will pay dividends.
Step14Mixingour tonal colour strings
Thisnextstageoftheportraitiswherewereallygetpaintingasin,thicker,moreopaque
colours mixed together. If we look back at the last couple of weeks lessons you can see that we
haventactuallymixedanytonestogetheryet.
Wehavesimplybeenblockinginthebasictonalvalues,inwhatissometimescalledthedead
colouringstagethisisbecauseweareusingalimitedamountofoilinthemix,andmore
mineralspirits.Asthemineralspiritsevaporatethecolourcanappearflat,anddeadasit
doesnthavethelustrethattheoilgivesus.
Pro tip:Whenworkingwithcolour,thisisalsoreferedtoasaddingthelocalcolourofa
subject. For example a lemon would have a local colour of yellow.
So before we start the painting we are going to premix a range of 9 value tones.
White (1) is the lightest, black (9) is the darkest. This enables us to get a mid tone 5 and split
the tones into lights, half tones, and darks. These are called tonal strings, you can read more
about them on A beginners guide to tonal strings
Using a value strip
Print out, or paint out your own value strip.
When you are first starting, working from a print out it can be handy because the value strip will
be the same tones as your reference photograph compared to the hues of the black and white
paint if you were to paint your strip.
Just slide the value strip under the glass. This way when you are trying to match the tone you
can test it by dabbing a swatch ontop of the tone underneath to determine how close you are.
The first tone I match is a number 5. It will take you a few attempts to get it spot on, this is
normal.
BeawarethattheblackhasastrongertintingstrengththanthewhitesowhenIadditImjust
scraping a small amount with the palette knife.
I then match a light value 3
Then a value 7. With these 3 tones you can create some great value studies (which are
sometimescalledposterstudies)theseallowtoquicklypracticeandsketchouttonal
compositions for future paintings.
It is also handy if you want to experiment working with a compressed value range.
Waterseller of Seville -Diego Velazquez, 1619
IfwelookatVelasquezspaintingbelowwecanseehisuseoftheumberunderpainting,and
the range of tones used to direct the views gaze.
When we look at the painting in black and white it is even easier to see how the most focus on
the painting has been placed on the subject with the broadest tonal range and
the background figure has a very compressed tonal range.
9 value tones
I then remove the value strip and we are ready to begin.
Iveplacedthepaletteovertheimagesoyoucanseetheeffectoflightfallout.
Due to my light source being above the subject the light drops off as we get further down the
face. When you look at the colour strings you can start to see how there is a subtle shift in tone
as we go down the painting. This is a key point to remember because when you take the paint
swatches away it is harder to judge the light drop off, your mind just accepts it.
The light was set up so that it was stronger on the top half of the portrait, and the value drops
away. You need to be aware of this drop off as you progress through the tones.
This can help in getting the fall of light right, and creating a logical progression throughout the
painting.
So what you can do now is remove the value strip from underneath the paint and hold it next to
your reference photograph. Make sure you have trimmed the edge of the value strip so you
donthaveanywhiteontheedge.Thiswillmakeithardertojudgetones.
Now shut one eye, this helps to flatten your vision and makes it easier to see tone. Then flick
your eyes between the tone and the value strip and the tone on the reference photograph until
you have a match.
Pro tip: If you are finding it hard to isolate the colour the use a hole-punch to punch a hole in
each square, this way you can use them as a viewfinder.
Solid painting
Forpurposesofstudythereisnothingbetterthansimple,direct,solidpainting.Paintingwith
transparent colour, with a mixture of solid and transparent, glazing etc are all things that must
betriedlateronbutforsometimeconfineyourselftodirect,solidpainting.
Harold Speed
On my image I start with the lightest part on the forehead, it is about a value 2.
I dip just the edge of my brush (number# 4 Rosemary & co ivory filbert) into the medium.
I then pull the paint from the side of the mixture and coat the end of the brush. The mixture is
thick enough to cover the underpainting, but still quite thin.
You are looking to cover the colour underneath with a solid tone, but still have a fluid mixture.
Gettingtheconsistencyrightcanbeanartinitself,sodontgetdiscouraged!
We just want a small amount of paint, notice how I pull the paint from the edge of the pile.
Youalsodontneedmuchpaint,justtrytogetthetipofthebristlescoated,Iworkthebrush
backandforthinthepaintsoithasacoverage,yetdoesntcomeupthebristlestoofar.
A beginners tendency is to overload your brush.
I then flick my eyes between the subject and my painting to judge the next tonal shift, I squeeze
any excess paint into a piece of kitchen roll untill the brush is dry,
Icanthengrabsomeofthenextvaluedownvalue3
Just to help my eye with the portrait I reinforce the white of the t-shirt with value 1.
This could have been put in first, there is no real hard and fast rule, I just scan the picture with
my eyes to look for any values that are in the first 3 light range.
Adding the midtones
I then move on to the mid-tones, again with a clean brush (I might dip it into pure mineral spirits
occasionally and scrub out the pigment into kitchen roll so I have a clean brush for the new
tone.
I then make my way down the tones using 4, 5, 6 . Notice how these are all still in the lights of
the subject.
Ihaventblendedanyofthetones,Iamjustsimplyblockingtheminwithaflattone.
Ithenblockinthetoneontheneck,againthiscouldhavebeendoneearlierbutyoullfindthe
more tones you add, the easier they are to judge in comparison.
All of the lights are now added, this has all been painting with values 1 through to 6.
We are now going to add the darks, working through 7 to 9
Adding the darks
As the light starts to drop off, I add the darks into the shadow side of the face, notice how the
tones have been dropping darker to the right and the bottom of the picture due to the light
source being from the top left.
I continue adding a darker value 8 into the shadow under the chin. Notice how blue the paint
appears next to the raw umber. The tones are still quite flat with limited blending, still just using
the size 4 ivory filbert.
I now mix a value between the 8 & 9, you could go straight in with the 9, but I wanted to leave
this for the final part of this stage.
I then soften the edge slightly using the filbert.
I swap to a sable filbert for blending the edges further, as I mentioned before, I often use the
Ivory filbert for this, but sometimes, if the paint is pulling too much the sable can just give you
that blend that you are after.
BecausetheunderpaintingisnowdryImrestingbylittlefingeronthecanvas,thiswayIcan
pivot, with a stronger support. For larger scale painting, or of the background is still damp I
would use a mahl stick.
This is now with the value 9, the pure black mix we have made. When this first goes on it will
feeltoodark.Itsnot.
Iblockinthisblackslightlythinnerthanthepreviouspaint,Imstillconcernedwithcreatingaflat
tonalvalue.NoticehowIveleftaslightegdebetweenthisdarkertoneandtheedgeofthe
face.ThiswaywhenIsoftentheedgeitwontgotoodark.
A tendency when your first starting is to add, then blend, add then blend, but it will work better if
you keep the blending to a minimum.
This is easier said than done.
Notice how light the first shadow now looks in comparison to the black.
This stage of the painting I now have a full tonal range of opaque colour. I can now assess the
referenceimageandflickmyeyesbetweenthetwo,lookingforanythingthatlooksout.
The Importance of edges
I now look to soften out most of the edges. As with the underpainting, it is easiest to keep the
edges soft at this stage as they can easily grab a viewers attention. Sharp edges come
forward, soft edges recede back.
Pro tip:Ifyouarehavingtroublepullingthepainttoomuchswaptothelargersize10filbert
and gentle blush over the edge.
Wevenowfinishedthefirststageofmodellingtheportrait.Ihaventworkedonthefeatures
much, still just keeping the focus on the main areas of the form. The larger areas first, then we
can add details in the next stage.
You might also like:
1. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart1
2. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart2
3. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart4
{ 20commentsreadthembeloworadd one }
Gunner Dave April 19, 2012
Hi Will,
I have a question about your image which shows the 9 tones of the grey colour string. Would
it be possible for you to give these 9 tones in terms of RGB (or H, S & B) values on
photoshop? This way I could make my own grey colour string swatch on the computer and
print it out.
Also, as a beginner who has limited resources, is it worth using oil painting paper instead of
canvas until I get the hang of the technique? Are there any issues with this type of surface
that I should be aware of?
Loving your work,
Dave.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 19, 2012
Hi Dave,
Glad you like the progress.
Yes, if you have access to Photoshop you can create your own value scale. Matthew
Innis (from Underpaintings blog) talks through how he makes a scale using the Munsell
system (this is another approach for mixing and matching colours and, confusingly, used
10stepsandthevaluesarelabelledtheotherway)usingPhotoshopSeebelow:
To make the scale, I began with a new image file in Photoshop, 1 inch high and 11
incheslong,andwithabackgroundcolorofwhite.ThisIthendividedinto11
squares using guides. I approached each tone square as if this were a screen
printingproject,choosingtothinkofeachsectionasapercentageofblack(ie.Value
9, which is 90% white, can also be thought of as 10% black. Value 8 would be 20%
blackvalue7,30%blackandsoon).One by one, each square was then
selected, and filled using the color black and the Paintbucket tool. This action,
however, was done each time on a separate layer, which was later merged with the
background. The separate layers were necessary, because each successive layer
had a different fill percentage in order to control the density of black in each square
(eg.The layer which represented value 8, had a fill percentage of only 20%).
This, however, is for straight black and white, our mix is slightly warmer so might need a
bit of tweaking.
If you, or any of the readers, have another way to make a value scale with photoshop
please add to the comments.
Yes,byallmeanspracticeonoilpaintingpaper,youmightfinditfeelslikeitsitsontop
of the surface more, but just use a thicker mix of paint.
Thanks,
Will
REPLY
David A. April 20, 2012
Hi Will,
I was wondering about brushes again, and would like to know what is the difference between
a Bright, Flat and Shader. My local art store in Chicago does not have the brands you talked
about. Only Princeton ( they artist there say that they are from the UK).
I would like to know if you think that if the painting/drawing is wrong if it does not represent
the model perfectly.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hey David,
The difference between them is shape, so all have different uses.
Flat:Flatsquareedge.Goodforbroadstrokesandcreatingstraightlines.Nottheideal
for portraits because we want soft edges.
Bright:BrightsTheshorter,sturdierversionoftheflatbrush,(sohaslessflexifyou
were working with thick oil paints a bright would be able move the paint around easier.)
Shader: I think this is just a brand name and not in general used in other brush
manufacturers. I had a look at the Princeton website and the Shader is very similar to a
flat.
I forgot to mention Rosemary & co are mail order, but in terms of the Princeton brushes,
tell me your budget and I can advise which ones would be best.
There is no such thing as perfect representation, capturing a models character is more
important than a photo realist drawing. This all comes with practice and developing your
own style as an artist.
Dontgethunguponitbeingperfect,Iveseensomanystudentsstartportraitsget
disheartened and not continue on, just out of interest Picasso produced 50,000 unique
pieces of art over his lifetime.
Not every piece has to be a masterpiece, the process is just as important as the end
result.
Thanks
Will
REPLY
David A. April 21, 2012
Hi Will,
My budget per month is $25-35. I use half for painting and half for drawing.
The Princeton brushes at Blick cost between $6.29-15.00.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hi David,
You might be interested to look at the Winsor & Newton Artist Quality oil Brushes
(availableatblick)thesearereallyexcellentbrushesandtheonesIuseifImnotusing
the Rosemary & Co Ivory Filberts. They are slightly more reasonable than the Princeton
brushes and I can feel confident in recommending them.
Acoupleofhandysizes(ifyourworkingquitesmallA4papersize)are:
Long Handle Filbert, Size #2 ($4.37)
Long Handle Filbert, Size #4 ($5.14) (this is the same size as the brush I use for 90% of
this demo)
Size #5 & #6 are also handy.
Also, a small round for details with slightly softer hair, so either one of the synthetic
sables from Princeton (series 4000) or Winsor & newton Monarch are nice. (between a
size0and3dependingonhowdetailedyouworkIuseasize3forthisdemo)
For blending the filbert princeton size 6 ($6.45) or 8 ($7.05) (series 4000) is closest to
what I have used.
You could just start with the oil brushes though and see how you get on.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Michelle April 23, 2012
Do you ever use a different mixture for your shadows such as mixing a red,
ultramarine blue, and yellow ochre? This would be used after the initial raw umber stage on
just the shadows. I am starting to learn to paint portraits and have been told using this
mixture allows the shadows to remain transparent later on, however it seems to make things
more complicated than your method. Thanksforthisseriesitsveryhelpful.Looking forward
tothenextpart
REPLY
Will Kemp April 24, 2012
Hi Michelle,
Pleased to hear you are enjoying this portrait painting series. As this techniques is
focusing on the importance of tone and making the step from drawing to oil painting
keeping it simple really is the way the to go. So I will be only be using the raw umber and
Ivory black.
Forfullcolourportraits,Iuseasimilar,simpleapproach.Andwouldntinitiallyusered,
ultramarine blue or yellow ochre. I would still use a earth pigment like raw umber or burnt
umber.
Different artists have different approaches, but I am a great believer in keeping your
materials simple, so you can have more time to concentrate on the tricky part, the
painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
rod hulme June 3, 2012
HiWilleverythingokayhere!Have started playing with Golden liquids, [10 half oz.
bottles for 40.00] and find them interesting! Must pick up a 40 series knife to do my mixing of
theheavy,asthespatulatypeIhaveisawkwardforme,butprogress,asIalsofoundpaper
pallets I used to use with oils. There is something about a clean WHITE mixing surface..that
colorblind moi finds more accurate somehow in delineation of shades. Anyway, makes sense
tometome,andthatsjustfine.
Manythanksforyourpatience.cheersrod
REPLY
Will Kemp June 4, 2012
Hey Rod, yes the fluid acrylics can be very effective, especially for glazing
effects.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Alice July 5, 2012
Hello,Idontreallyunderstandwhyyouneedtopaintfirstwithrawumberwhycant
youjustpaintwithblack/whitestraightontothecanvas?Sorryifthatsanobviousquestion.
ThanksAlice
REPLY
Will Kemp July 5, 2012
Hi Alice,
Thanks for the comment. The reason I paint onto a toned ground is because it makes it
easier when you are first starting to judge your tones.
You can quickly establish your darkest darks and lightest lights and this will make it
easier to judge the other tones in your painting. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is
working onto a white canvas. you can read more about it here: How a prepared canvas
can drastically improve your painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
David Smith July 2, 2013
Hello Will,
Enjoying working through these lessons so far. Your method produces a nice look to a
portraitsimilartoVelzquez.
Regarding a value strip, I had a go creating one using GIMP (the free photo-editing
software). I edited the brush colour and altered the HSV (hue, saturation, value) settings.
Changing V amount from zero (black), 50 (mid-grey), 100 (white) etc. and all the tone
gradations in between.
David
REPLY
Will Kemp July 3, 2013
Hi David,
Pleased to hear the portrait course is going well, and that you could create a value strip
using GIMP, good one!
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
I am passionate about painting the figure, but have only worked in watercolors. My
question. Do you think it best for me to begin to learn painting in oils or do you think I should
work in Acrylics first. I was in fine arts for 10 years before I became an art therapist. Now that
IamretiredIwanttofocusonpaintingthefigure..portrait.Can you help direct me to
make the most of the next 10 years. My concern is the time it will take me to master two
mediums (acrylic and then on to oils). IlikeyourdemosandthinkIcanstartwithgood
training.Butwhichtrainingtobeginwithismyquestion.
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
Hi Bernice,
You might find this article helpful that goes through the differences between the two,
many of my acrylic painting techniques stem from classical painting techniques, so you
are inadvertently learning skills for both mediums.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
Yes, thank you. I think you are saying it would be good practice and learning
in acrylics before starting oils, since most of your acrylic techniques are taken from
classical oil techniques? Correct?
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
HiBernice,yes,Ivefoundforlearningaboutcolourmixingandpaint
techniques acrylics are very forgiving because you can easily work over them, so
are a great medium to learn with, can be painted anywhere, on pretty much any
surface, so are like a quick start painting. Then, when you feel move confident in
colour mixing and brush techniques you can go into oils there and will be less
mudmixedandmoreahamoments,asmanyofthetechniquesIteachare
transferable.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
I'm Will Kemp, I'm an award-winning
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HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart3
by WI LL KEMP
i n OI L PAI NTI NG, PORTRAI TS
Whenyoucomebacktoyourpaintingyoullnoticehowtheoilhasbecometranslucent
overnightandwonthavethesamecoveragethatyoufirstthought.
How to paint a portrait series. This is part 3 of a 5 part series of tutorials for beginners making
the transition from drawing to oil painting.
Hereisaquickreviewofwhatwehavecoveredsofarifyoudliketojoinin
Part1Establishingthedrawing,includingtheshadowline.
This can be done in pencil or charcoal (that you can fix with fixative) try to keep the drawing
lines angular to start with.
Try to establish the basic shapes if you could only use a straight line, then add the contours as
the drawing progresses. A classic beginner mistake when drawing a portrait is an over
exaggerationofthecurvesintheface.Everythinggetsroundedoffandtheportraitcanhave
acartoonlikequality.Becausewehaveastrongvisualmemorysystemthattellsusfacesare
roundthiscansubconsciouslyaffectyourdrawing.
We the started to scrub in the underpainting layer. To a beginner, this stage is often skipped,
deemed to be unimportant, but a good foundation is key to success with portraits.
We then have our 3 part tonal underpainting which allows you, and your eye, to become more
in-tune with the image, and become aware to the tones.
Part2Developingthetones,addinglights.
We then worked over the top of the initial underpainting still just with the raw umber to
strengthen the tones and get a better feeling of form. These layers are all painted thinly.
The medium for this stage being a simple mix of 1 part linseed oil to 4 parts mineral spirits
(artistturpentineorodourlessmineralspirits)thisestablishesthefatoverleanrule.Witheach
progressivelayerbeingslightlyfatterwithmoreoilcontent.
We also added some roughed in lights with a faster drying white.
Thisistohelpusjudgethetonesforthenextstagesowhenwepaintthemontheydontlook
tooutwhenweaddthelights.
The Allure of highlights
I forgot to emphasis at the end of part 2 that the roughed in lights are the light tonal mass, and
not the highlights.
The highlights and the very darkest parts of the painting should be the last brushstrokes to be
done,buttheytryanddrawyouin!Itshardtoresistputtingthemonattheearlystage.
Andevenifyouvereadthewarning,itsamazinghow,whenyougetengrossedinthepainting,
your hand will be drawn to that lightest white.
This can seem counterintuitive if you are coming to the painting from drawing as we often erase
out the lightest areas, or work on this areas that attract out attention. The white highlights on
the eye have a particular allure.
When the painting is finished these will be seen by the viewer to be painted with the most skill,
however, a single dot of white can be painted by anyone, but resisting adding them takes the
practice of an artist.
A note about grey
One of the students following this series let me know about Gambiln Torrit grey competition
(Thanks Mario!) Every spring, the paint manufacture collect all of the residue paint pigment that
havebeencollectedbytheairfiltrationsystemandrecyclethemintoGamblinTorritGrey.
You can learn more about the Torrit Grey painting competition from Gamblin website.
Pigmentdustshouldnotgointotheearth,waterorlandfill,butintopaint,
Robert Gamblin.
For our grey we are going to mix a neutral using the raw umber and Ivory black.
Part3FirstPainting
Mixing a new medium
We now create a new medium for the next layer of the painting. Different artists vary the
richness of the medium depending on their own personal preference but the next mix is a very
useful one.
1 part linseed oil to 3 parts mineral spirit
Youcanusethepipettetomeasureoutamounts,orifImmixingalargeramountIllusekitchen
measurement spoons.
Pro tip: If you are doing a lot of painting it can be worth premixing a larger amount of each
medium in resealable jars, label them up and then you can simple decant the medium each
stage of the painting.
Mixing our black
We are now going to mix a neutral black for developing this monotone study. You can still
create some lovely studies just using the raw umber and white, it is a warmer finish than the
black, but you will still learn the importance of contrast in your paintings.
To mix the neutral we use 3/4 ivory black to 1/4 raw umber. This helps take the blue out of the
black (black has a blue base, this is why you can mix lovely muted greens with black)
Ivory black
Ivory black is a slow drying pigment, by mixing in 1/4 of the raw umber (which is quick drying) it
will match nicely with the titanium white (slow drying) and at this stage of the painting the longer
opentimewehavewiththepaintsthebetter.Ivoryblackalsohasalovelyrichnesswhen
painted thinly which will help out in the later stages of the portrait.
This way you will have time to work through your painting and blend and fuse edges that you
need to. This is why we started with the raw umber, it dries overnight and has a cooler
undertone when working with portraits.
Materials
Winsor & Newton artist quality Ivory black
Micheal harding artist quality Raw Umber
Old Holland artist quality titanium white
Winsor & newton Sansador ( odourless mineral spirits)
Winsor & newton Refined linseed oil
ThereisntanyspecificreasonwhyIuseeachbrand,IoftenintermixbrandsasIliketo
experiment using different manufacturers colours. Whatever is available where you are. The
one key throughout them all is that they are artist quality (See: the 8 key differences
between artist quality & student grade paint)
Paint consistency
When you are just beginning with oils, the handling of the paint can vary greatly depending on
the consistency of the paint.
Oil paint (especially the titanium white) is often too thick and stiff to work with at this stage of the
paintingstraightfromthetube.
To make the paint more fluid, I slightly dilute it with the medium shown above. I use a pipette to
drop a few drops of the medium onto the paint mixture and mix it thoroughly with the palette
knife. Using the palette knife for mixing your paints is a very useful technique.
The video below shows a quick tutorial on how I dilute the oil paint.
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I often mix the colours on a separate, tear off palette and then transfer the mixture to the clean
glass/ perspex.
Ifyourejustbeginningwithoilsyoullnoticehoweasilyyoucancontaminatecolourswhen
using a full palette of colours, this can lead to muddy colours and frustrating painting.
This helps you to learn clean working methods. I am naturally more impatient so it is a discipline
to spend the time mixing the colours as you just want to get painting but it will pay dividends.
Step14Mixingour tonal colour strings
Thisnextstageoftheportraitiswherewereallygetpaintingasin,thicker,moreopaque
colours mixed together. If we look back at the last couple of weeks lessons you can see that we
haventactuallymixedanytonestogetheryet.
Wehavesimplybeenblockinginthebasictonalvalues,inwhatissometimescalledthedead
colouringstagethisisbecauseweareusingalimitedamountofoilinthemix,andmore
mineralspirits.Asthemineralspiritsevaporatethecolourcanappearflat,anddeadasit
doesnthavethelustrethattheoilgivesus.
Pro tip:Whenworkingwithcolour,thisisalsoreferedtoasaddingthelocalcolourofa
subject. For example a lemon would have a local colour of yellow.
So before we start the painting we are going to premix a range of 9 value tones.
White (1) is the lightest, black (9) is the darkest. This enables us to get a mid tone 5 and split
the tones into lights, half tones, and darks. These are called tonal strings, you can read more
about them on A beginners guide to tonal strings
Using a value strip
Print out, or paint out your own value strip.
When you are first starting, working from a print out it can be handy because the value strip will
be the same tones as your reference photograph compared to the hues of the black and white
paint if you were to paint your strip.
Just slide the value strip under the glass. This way when you are trying to match the tone you
can test it by dabbing a swatch ontop of the tone underneath to determine how close you are.
The first tone I match is a number 5. It will take you a few attempts to get it spot on, this is
normal.
BeawarethattheblackhasastrongertintingstrengththanthewhitesowhenIadditImjust
scraping a small amount with the palette knife.
I then match a light value 3
Then a value 7. With these 3 tones you can create some great value studies (which are
sometimescalledposterstudies)theseallowtoquicklypracticeandsketchouttonal
compositions for future paintings.
It is also handy if you want to experiment working with a compressed value range.
Waterseller of Seville -Diego Velazquez, 1619
IfwelookatVelasquezspaintingbelowwecanseehisuseoftheumberunderpainting,and
the range of tones used to direct the views gaze.
When we look at the painting in black and white it is even easier to see how the most focus on
the painting has been placed on the subject with the broadest tonal range and
the background figure has a very compressed tonal range.
9 value tones
I then remove the value strip and we are ready to begin.
Iveplacedthepaletteovertheimagesoyoucanseetheeffectoflightfallout.
Due to my light source being above the subject the light drops off as we get further down the
face. When you look at the colour strings you can start to see how there is a subtle shift in tone
as we go down the painting. This is a key point to remember because when you take the paint
swatches away it is harder to judge the light drop off, your mind just accepts it.
The light was set up so that it was stronger on the top half of the portrait, and the value drops
away. You need to be aware of this drop off as you progress through the tones.
This can help in getting the fall of light right, and creating a logical progression throughout the
painting.
So what you can do now is remove the value strip from underneath the paint and hold it next to
your reference photograph. Make sure you have trimmed the edge of the value strip so you
donthaveanywhiteontheedge.Thiswillmakeithardertojudgetones.
Now shut one eye, this helps to flatten your vision and makes it easier to see tone. Then flick
your eyes between the tone and the value strip and the tone on the reference photograph until
you have a match.
Pro tip: If you are finding it hard to isolate the colour the use a hole-punch to punch a hole in
each square, this way you can use them as a viewfinder.
Solid painting
Forpurposesofstudythereisnothingbetterthansimple,direct,solidpainting.Paintingwith
transparent colour, with a mixture of solid and transparent, glazing etc are all things that must
betriedlateronbutforsometimeconfineyourselftodirect,solidpainting.
Harold Speed
On my image I start with the lightest part on the forehead, it is about a value 2.
I dip just the edge of my brush (number# 4 Rosemary & co ivory filbert) into the medium.
I then pull the paint from the side of the mixture and coat the end of the brush. The mixture is
thick enough to cover the underpainting, but still quite thin.
You are looking to cover the colour underneath with a solid tone, but still have a fluid mixture.
Gettingtheconsistencyrightcanbeanartinitself,sodontgetdiscouraged!
We just want a small amount of paint, notice how I pull the paint from the edge of the pile.
Youalsodontneedmuchpaint,justtrytogetthetipofthebristlescoated,Iworkthebrush
backandforthinthepaintsoithasacoverage,yetdoesntcomeupthebristlestoofar.
A beginners tendency is to overload your brush.
I then flick my eyes between the subject and my painting to judge the next tonal shift, I squeeze
any excess paint into a piece of kitchen roll untill the brush is dry,
Icanthengrabsomeofthenextvaluedownvalue3
Just to help my eye with the portrait I reinforce the white of the t-shirt with value 1.
This could have been put in first, there is no real hard and fast rule, I just scan the picture with
my eyes to look for any values that are in the first 3 light range.
Adding the midtones
I then move on to the mid-tones, again with a clean brush (I might dip it into pure mineral spirits
occasionally and scrub out the pigment into kitchen roll so I have a clean brush for the new
tone.
I then make my way down the tones using 4, 5, 6 . Notice how these are all still in the lights of
the subject.
Ihaventblendedanyofthetones,Iamjustsimplyblockingtheminwithaflattone.
Ithenblockinthetoneontheneck,againthiscouldhavebeendoneearlierbutyoullfindthe
more tones you add, the easier they are to judge in comparison.
All of the lights are now added, this has all been painting with values 1 through to 6.
We are now going to add the darks, working through 7 to 9
Adding the darks
As the light starts to drop off, I add the darks into the shadow side of the face, notice how the
tones have been dropping darker to the right and the bottom of the picture due to the light
source being from the top left.
I continue adding a darker value 8 into the shadow under the chin. Notice how blue the paint
appears next to the raw umber. The tones are still quite flat with limited blending, still just using
the size 4 ivory filbert.
I now mix a value between the 8 & 9, you could go straight in with the 9, but I wanted to leave
this for the final part of this stage.
I then soften the edge slightly using the filbert.
I swap to a sable filbert for blending the edges further, as I mentioned before, I often use the
Ivory filbert for this, but sometimes, if the paint is pulling too much the sable can just give you
that blend that you are after.
BecausetheunderpaintingisnowdryImrestingbylittlefingeronthecanvas,thiswayIcan
pivot, with a stronger support. For larger scale painting, or of the background is still damp I
would use a mahl stick.
This is now with the value 9, the pure black mix we have made. When this first goes on it will
feeltoodark.Itsnot.
Iblockinthisblackslightlythinnerthanthepreviouspaint,Imstillconcernedwithcreatingaflat
tonalvalue.NoticehowIveleftaslightegdebetweenthisdarkertoneandtheedgeofthe
face.ThiswaywhenIsoftentheedgeitwontgotoodark.
A tendency when your first starting is to add, then blend, add then blend, but it will work better if
you keep the blending to a minimum.
This is easier said than done.
Notice how light the first shadow now looks in comparison to the black.
This stage of the painting I now have a full tonal range of opaque colour. I can now assess the
referenceimageandflickmyeyesbetweenthetwo,lookingforanythingthatlooksout.
The Importance of edges
I now look to soften out most of the edges. As with the underpainting, it is easiest to keep the
edges soft at this stage as they can easily grab a viewers attention. Sharp edges come
forward, soft edges recede back.
Pro tip:Ifyouarehavingtroublepullingthepainttoomuchswaptothelargersize10filbert
and gentle blush over the edge.
Wevenowfinishedthefirststageofmodellingtheportrait.Ihaventworkedonthefeatures
much, still just keeping the focus on the main areas of the form. The larger areas first, then we
can add details in the next stage.
You might also like:
1. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart1
2. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart2
3. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart4
{ 20commentsreadthembeloworadd one }
Gunner Dave April 19, 2012
Hi Will,
I have a question about your image which shows the 9 tones of the grey colour string. Would
it be possible for you to give these 9 tones in terms of RGB (or H, S & B) values on
photoshop? This way I could make my own grey colour string swatch on the computer and
print it out.
Also, as a beginner who has limited resources, is it worth using oil painting paper instead of
canvas until I get the hang of the technique? Are there any issues with this type of surface
that I should be aware of?
Loving your work,
Dave.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 19, 2012
Hi Dave,
Glad you like the progress.
Yes, if you have access to Photoshop you can create your own value scale. Matthew
Innis (from Underpaintings blog) talks through how he makes a scale using the Munsell
system (this is another approach for mixing and matching colours and, confusingly, used
10stepsandthevaluesarelabelledtheotherway)usingPhotoshopSeebelow:
To make the scale, I began with a new image file in Photoshop, 1 inch high and 11
incheslong,andwithabackgroundcolorofwhite.ThisIthendividedinto11
squares using guides. I approached each tone square as if this were a screen
printingproject,choosingtothinkofeachsectionasapercentageofblack(ie.Value
9, which is 90% white, can also be thought of as 10% black. Value 8 would be 20%
blackvalue7,30%blackandsoon).One by one, each square was then
selected, and filled using the color black and the Paintbucket tool. This action,
however, was done each time on a separate layer, which was later merged with the
background. The separate layers were necessary, because each successive layer
had a different fill percentage in order to control the density of black in each square
(eg.The layer which represented value 8, had a fill percentage of only 20%).
This, however, is for straight black and white, our mix is slightly warmer so might need a
bit of tweaking.
If you, or any of the readers, have another way to make a value scale with photoshop
please add to the comments.
Yes,byallmeanspracticeonoilpaintingpaper,youmightfinditfeelslikeitsitsontop
of the surface more, but just use a thicker mix of paint.
Thanks,
Will
REPLY
David A. April 20, 2012
Hi Will,
I was wondering about brushes again, and would like to know what is the difference between
a Bright, Flat and Shader. My local art store in Chicago does not have the brands you talked
about. Only Princeton ( they artist there say that they are from the UK).
I would like to know if you think that if the painting/drawing is wrong if it does not represent
the model perfectly.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hey David,
The difference between them is shape, so all have different uses.
Flat:Flatsquareedge.Goodforbroadstrokesandcreatingstraightlines.Nottheideal
for portraits because we want soft edges.
Bright:BrightsTheshorter,sturdierversionoftheflatbrush,(sohaslessflexifyou
were working with thick oil paints a bright would be able move the paint around easier.)
Shader: I think this is just a brand name and not in general used in other brush
manufacturers. I had a look at the Princeton website and the Shader is very similar to a
flat.
I forgot to mention Rosemary & co are mail order, but in terms of the Princeton brushes,
tell me your budget and I can advise which ones would be best.
There is no such thing as perfect representation, capturing a models character is more
important than a photo realist drawing. This all comes with practice and developing your
own style as an artist.
Dontgethunguponitbeingperfect,Iveseensomanystudentsstartportraitsget
disheartened and not continue on, just out of interest Picasso produced 50,000 unique
pieces of art over his lifetime.
Not every piece has to be a masterpiece, the process is just as important as the end
result.
Thanks
Will
REPLY
David A. April 21, 2012
Hi Will,
My budget per month is $25-35. I use half for painting and half for drawing.
The Princeton brushes at Blick cost between $6.29-15.00.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hi David,
You might be interested to look at the Winsor & Newton Artist Quality oil Brushes
(availableatblick)thesearereallyexcellentbrushesandtheonesIuseifImnotusing
the Rosemary & Co Ivory Filberts. They are slightly more reasonable than the Princeton
brushes and I can feel confident in recommending them.
Acoupleofhandysizes(ifyourworkingquitesmallA4papersize)are:
Long Handle Filbert, Size #2 ($4.37)
Long Handle Filbert, Size #4 ($5.14) (this is the same size as the brush I use for 90% of
this demo)
Size #5 & #6 are also handy.
Also, a small round for details with slightly softer hair, so either one of the synthetic
sables from Princeton (series 4000) or Winsor & newton Monarch are nice. (between a
size0and3dependingonhowdetailedyouworkIuseasize3forthisdemo)
For blending the filbert princeton size 6 ($6.45) or 8 ($7.05) (series 4000) is closest to
what I have used.
You could just start with the oil brushes though and see how you get on.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Michelle April 23, 2012
Do you ever use a different mixture for your shadows such as mixing a red,
ultramarine blue, and yellow ochre? This would be used after the initial raw umber stage on
just the shadows. I am starting to learn to paint portraits and have been told using this
mixture allows the shadows to remain transparent later on, however it seems to make things
more complicated than your method. Thanksforthisseriesitsveryhelpful.Looking forward
tothenextpart
REPLY
Will Kemp April 24, 2012
Hi Michelle,
Pleased to hear you are enjoying this portrait painting series. As this techniques is
focusing on the importance of tone and making the step from drawing to oil painting
keeping it simple really is the way the to go. So I will be only be using the raw umber and
Ivory black.
Forfullcolourportraits,Iuseasimilar,simpleapproach.Andwouldntinitiallyusered,
ultramarine blue or yellow ochre. I would still use a earth pigment like raw umber or burnt
umber.
Different artists have different approaches, but I am a great believer in keeping your
materials simple, so you can have more time to concentrate on the tricky part, the
painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
rod hulme June 3, 2012
HiWilleverythingokayhere!Have started playing with Golden liquids, [10 half oz.
bottles for 40.00] and find them interesting! Must pick up a 40 series knife to do my mixing of
theheavy,asthespatulatypeIhaveisawkwardforme,butprogress,asIalsofoundpaper
pallets I used to use with oils. There is something about a clean WHITE mixing surface..that
colorblind moi finds more accurate somehow in delineation of shades. Anyway, makes sense
tometome,andthatsjustfine.
Manythanksforyourpatience.cheersrod
REPLY
Will Kemp June 4, 2012
Hey Rod, yes the fluid acrylics can be very effective, especially for glazing
effects.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Alice July 5, 2012
Hello,Idontreallyunderstandwhyyouneedtopaintfirstwithrawumberwhycant
youjustpaintwithblack/whitestraightontothecanvas?Sorryifthatsanobviousquestion.
ThanksAlice
REPLY
Will Kemp July 5, 2012
Hi Alice,
Thanks for the comment. The reason I paint onto a toned ground is because it makes it
easier when you are first starting to judge your tones.
You can quickly establish your darkest darks and lightest lights and this will make it
easier to judge the other tones in your painting. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is
working onto a white canvas. you can read more about it here: How a prepared canvas
can drastically improve your painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
David Smith July 2, 2013
Hello Will,
Enjoying working through these lessons so far. Your method produces a nice look to a
portraitsimilartoVelzquez.
Regarding a value strip, I had a go creating one using GIMP (the free photo-editing
software). I edited the brush colour and altered the HSV (hue, saturation, value) settings.
Changing V amount from zero (black), 50 (mid-grey), 100 (white) etc. and all the tone
gradations in between.
David
REPLY
Will Kemp July 3, 2013
Hi David,
Pleased to hear the portrait course is going well, and that you could create a value strip
using GIMP, good one!
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
I am passionate about painting the figure, but have only worked in watercolors. My
question. Do you think it best for me to begin to learn painting in oils or do you think I should
work in Acrylics first. I was in fine arts for 10 years before I became an art therapist. Now that
IamretiredIwanttofocusonpaintingthefigure..portrait.Can you help direct me to
make the most of the next 10 years. My concern is the time it will take me to master two
mediums (acrylic and then on to oils). IlikeyourdemosandthinkIcanstartwithgood
training.Butwhichtrainingtobeginwithismyquestion.
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
Hi Bernice,
You might find this article helpful that goes through the differences between the two,
many of my acrylic painting techniques stem from classical painting techniques, so you
are inadvertently learning skills for both mediums.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
Yes, thank you. I think you are saying it would be good practice and learning
in acrylics before starting oils, since most of your acrylic techniques are taken from
classical oil techniques? Correct?
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
HiBernice,yes,Ivefoundforlearningaboutcolourmixingandpaint
techniques acrylics are very forgiving because you can easily work over them, so
are a great medium to learn with, can be painted anywhere, on pretty much any
surface, so are like a quick start painting. Then, when you feel move confident in
colour mixing and brush techniques you can go into oils there and will be less
mudmixedandmoreahamoments,asmanyofthetechniquesIteachare
transferable.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
I'm Will Kemp, I'm an award-winning
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1
HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart3
by WI LL KEMP
i n OI L PAI NTI NG, PORTRAI TS
Whenyoucomebacktoyourpaintingyoullnoticehowtheoilhasbecometranslucent
overnightandwonthavethesamecoveragethatyoufirstthought.
How to paint a portrait series. This is part 3 of a 5 part series of tutorials for beginners making
the transition from drawing to oil painting.
Hereisaquickreviewofwhatwehavecoveredsofarifyoudliketojoinin
Part1Establishingthedrawing,includingtheshadowline.
This can be done in pencil or charcoal (that you can fix with fixative) try to keep the drawing
lines angular to start with.
Try to establish the basic shapes if you could only use a straight line, then add the contours as
the drawing progresses. A classic beginner mistake when drawing a portrait is an over
exaggerationofthecurvesintheface.Everythinggetsroundedoffandtheportraitcanhave
acartoonlikequality.Becausewehaveastrongvisualmemorysystemthattellsusfacesare
roundthiscansubconsciouslyaffectyourdrawing.
We the started to scrub in the underpainting layer. To a beginner, this stage is often skipped,
deemed to be unimportant, but a good foundation is key to success with portraits.
We then have our 3 part tonal underpainting which allows you, and your eye, to become more
in-tune with the image, and become aware to the tones.
Part2Developingthetones,addinglights.
We then worked over the top of the initial underpainting still just with the raw umber to
strengthen the tones and get a better feeling of form. These layers are all painted thinly.
The medium for this stage being a simple mix of 1 part linseed oil to 4 parts mineral spirits
(artistturpentineorodourlessmineralspirits)thisestablishesthefatoverleanrule.Witheach
progressivelayerbeingslightlyfatterwithmoreoilcontent.
We also added some roughed in lights with a faster drying white.
Thisistohelpusjudgethetonesforthenextstagesowhenwepaintthemontheydontlook
tooutwhenweaddthelights.
The Allure of highlights
I forgot to emphasis at the end of part 2 that the roughed in lights are the light tonal mass, and
not the highlights.
The highlights and the very darkest parts of the painting should be the last brushstrokes to be
done,buttheytryanddrawyouin!Itshardtoresistputtingthemonattheearlystage.
Andevenifyouvereadthewarning,itsamazinghow,whenyougetengrossedinthepainting,
your hand will be drawn to that lightest white.
This can seem counterintuitive if you are coming to the painting from drawing as we often erase
out the lightest areas, or work on this areas that attract out attention. The white highlights on
the eye have a particular allure.
When the painting is finished these will be seen by the viewer to be painted with the most skill,
however, a single dot of white can be painted by anyone, but resisting adding them takes the
practice of an artist.
A note about grey
One of the students following this series let me know about Gambiln Torrit grey competition
(Thanks Mario!) Every spring, the paint manufacture collect all of the residue paint pigment that
havebeencollectedbytheairfiltrationsystemandrecyclethemintoGamblinTorritGrey.
You can learn more about the Torrit Grey painting competition from Gamblin website.
Pigmentdustshouldnotgointotheearth,waterorlandfill,butintopaint,
Robert Gamblin.
For our grey we are going to mix a neutral using the raw umber and Ivory black.
Part3FirstPainting
Mixing a new medium
We now create a new medium for the next layer of the painting. Different artists vary the
richness of the medium depending on their own personal preference but the next mix is a very
useful one.
1 part linseed oil to 3 parts mineral spirit
Youcanusethepipettetomeasureoutamounts,orifImmixingalargeramountIllusekitchen
measurement spoons.
Pro tip: If you are doing a lot of painting it can be worth premixing a larger amount of each
medium in resealable jars, label them up and then you can simple decant the medium each
stage of the painting.
Mixing our black
We are now going to mix a neutral black for developing this monotone study. You can still
create some lovely studies just using the raw umber and white, it is a warmer finish than the
black, but you will still learn the importance of contrast in your paintings.
To mix the neutral we use 3/4 ivory black to 1/4 raw umber. This helps take the blue out of the
black (black has a blue base, this is why you can mix lovely muted greens with black)
Ivory black
Ivory black is a slow drying pigment, by mixing in 1/4 of the raw umber (which is quick drying) it
will match nicely with the titanium white (slow drying) and at this stage of the painting the longer
opentimewehavewiththepaintsthebetter.Ivoryblackalsohasalovelyrichnesswhen
painted thinly which will help out in the later stages of the portrait.
This way you will have time to work through your painting and blend and fuse edges that you
need to. This is why we started with the raw umber, it dries overnight and has a cooler
undertone when working with portraits.
Materials
Winsor & Newton artist quality Ivory black
Micheal harding artist quality Raw Umber
Old Holland artist quality titanium white
Winsor & newton Sansador ( odourless mineral spirits)
Winsor & newton Refined linseed oil
ThereisntanyspecificreasonwhyIuseeachbrand,IoftenintermixbrandsasIliketo
experiment using different manufacturers colours. Whatever is available where you are. The
one key throughout them all is that they are artist quality (See: the 8 key differences
between artist quality & student grade paint)
Paint consistency
When you are just beginning with oils, the handling of the paint can vary greatly depending on
the consistency of the paint.
Oil paint (especially the titanium white) is often too thick and stiff to work with at this stage of the
paintingstraightfromthetube.
To make the paint more fluid, I slightly dilute it with the medium shown above. I use a pipette to
drop a few drops of the medium onto the paint mixture and mix it thoroughly with the palette
knife. Using the palette knife for mixing your paints is a very useful technique.
The video below shows a quick tutorial on how I dilute the oil paint.
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I often mix the colours on a separate, tear off palette and then transfer the mixture to the clean
glass/ perspex.
Ifyourejustbeginningwithoilsyoullnoticehoweasilyyoucancontaminatecolourswhen
using a full palette of colours, this can lead to muddy colours and frustrating painting.
This helps you to learn clean working methods. I am naturally more impatient so it is a discipline
to spend the time mixing the colours as you just want to get painting but it will pay dividends.
Step14Mixingour tonal colour strings
Thisnextstageoftheportraitiswherewereallygetpaintingasin,thicker,moreopaque
colours mixed together. If we look back at the last couple of weeks lessons you can see that we
haventactuallymixedanytonestogetheryet.
Wehavesimplybeenblockinginthebasictonalvalues,inwhatissometimescalledthedead
colouringstagethisisbecauseweareusingalimitedamountofoilinthemix,andmore
mineralspirits.Asthemineralspiritsevaporatethecolourcanappearflat,anddeadasit
doesnthavethelustrethattheoilgivesus.
Pro tip:Whenworkingwithcolour,thisisalsoreferedtoasaddingthelocalcolourofa
subject. For example a lemon would have a local colour of yellow.
So before we start the painting we are going to premix a range of 9 value tones.
White (1) is the lightest, black (9) is the darkest. This enables us to get a mid tone 5 and split
the tones into lights, half tones, and darks. These are called tonal strings, you can read more
about them on A beginners guide to tonal strings
Using a value strip
Print out, or paint out your own value strip.
When you are first starting, working from a print out it can be handy because the value strip will
be the same tones as your reference photograph compared to the hues of the black and white
paint if you were to paint your strip.
Just slide the value strip under the glass. This way when you are trying to match the tone you
can test it by dabbing a swatch ontop of the tone underneath to determine how close you are.
The first tone I match is a number 5. It will take you a few attempts to get it spot on, this is
normal.
BeawarethattheblackhasastrongertintingstrengththanthewhitesowhenIadditImjust
scraping a small amount with the palette knife.
I then match a light value 3
Then a value 7. With these 3 tones you can create some great value studies (which are
sometimescalledposterstudies)theseallowtoquicklypracticeandsketchouttonal
compositions for future paintings.
It is also handy if you want to experiment working with a compressed value range.
Waterseller of Seville -Diego Velazquez, 1619
IfwelookatVelasquezspaintingbelowwecanseehisuseoftheumberunderpainting,and
the range of tones used to direct the views gaze.
When we look at the painting in black and white it is even easier to see how the most focus on
the painting has been placed on the subject with the broadest tonal range and
the background figure has a very compressed tonal range.
9 value tones
I then remove the value strip and we are ready to begin.
Iveplacedthepaletteovertheimagesoyoucanseetheeffectoflightfallout.
Due to my light source being above the subject the light drops off as we get further down the
face. When you look at the colour strings you can start to see how there is a subtle shift in tone
as we go down the painting. This is a key point to remember because when you take the paint
swatches away it is harder to judge the light drop off, your mind just accepts it.
The light was set up so that it was stronger on the top half of the portrait, and the value drops
away. You need to be aware of this drop off as you progress through the tones.
This can help in getting the fall of light right, and creating a logical progression throughout the
painting.
So what you can do now is remove the value strip from underneath the paint and hold it next to
your reference photograph. Make sure you have trimmed the edge of the value strip so you
donthaveanywhiteontheedge.Thiswillmakeithardertojudgetones.
Now shut one eye, this helps to flatten your vision and makes it easier to see tone. Then flick
your eyes between the tone and the value strip and the tone on the reference photograph until
you have a match.
Pro tip: If you are finding it hard to isolate the colour the use a hole-punch to punch a hole in
each square, this way you can use them as a viewfinder.
Solid painting
Forpurposesofstudythereisnothingbetterthansimple,direct,solidpainting.Paintingwith
transparent colour, with a mixture of solid and transparent, glazing etc are all things that must
betriedlateronbutforsometimeconfineyourselftodirect,solidpainting.
Harold Speed
On my image I start with the lightest part on the forehead, it is about a value 2.
I dip just the edge of my brush (number# 4 Rosemary & co ivory filbert) into the medium.
I then pull the paint from the side of the mixture and coat the end of the brush. The mixture is
thick enough to cover the underpainting, but still quite thin.
You are looking to cover the colour underneath with a solid tone, but still have a fluid mixture.
Gettingtheconsistencyrightcanbeanartinitself,sodontgetdiscouraged!
We just want a small amount of paint, notice how I pull the paint from the edge of the pile.
Youalsodontneedmuchpaint,justtrytogetthetipofthebristlescoated,Iworkthebrush
backandforthinthepaintsoithasacoverage,yetdoesntcomeupthebristlestoofar.
A beginners tendency is to overload your brush.
I then flick my eyes between the subject and my painting to judge the next tonal shift, I squeeze
any excess paint into a piece of kitchen roll untill the brush is dry,
Icanthengrabsomeofthenextvaluedownvalue3
Just to help my eye with the portrait I reinforce the white of the t-shirt with value 1.
This could have been put in first, there is no real hard and fast rule, I just scan the picture with
my eyes to look for any values that are in the first 3 light range.
Adding the midtones
I then move on to the mid-tones, again with a clean brush (I might dip it into pure mineral spirits
occasionally and scrub out the pigment into kitchen roll so I have a clean brush for the new
tone.
I then make my way down the tones using 4, 5, 6 . Notice how these are all still in the lights of
the subject.
Ihaventblendedanyofthetones,Iamjustsimplyblockingtheminwithaflattone.
Ithenblockinthetoneontheneck,againthiscouldhavebeendoneearlierbutyoullfindthe
more tones you add, the easier they are to judge in comparison.
All of the lights are now added, this has all been painting with values 1 through to 6.
We are now going to add the darks, working through 7 to 9
Adding the darks
As the light starts to drop off, I add the darks into the shadow side of the face, notice how the
tones have been dropping darker to the right and the bottom of the picture due to the light
source being from the top left.
I continue adding a darker value 8 into the shadow under the chin. Notice how blue the paint
appears next to the raw umber. The tones are still quite flat with limited blending, still just using
the size 4 ivory filbert.
I now mix a value between the 8 & 9, you could go straight in with the 9, but I wanted to leave
this for the final part of this stage.
I then soften the edge slightly using the filbert.
I swap to a sable filbert for blending the edges further, as I mentioned before, I often use the
Ivory filbert for this, but sometimes, if the paint is pulling too much the sable can just give you
that blend that you are after.
BecausetheunderpaintingisnowdryImrestingbylittlefingeronthecanvas,thiswayIcan
pivot, with a stronger support. For larger scale painting, or of the background is still damp I
would use a mahl stick.
This is now with the value 9, the pure black mix we have made. When this first goes on it will
feeltoodark.Itsnot.
Iblockinthisblackslightlythinnerthanthepreviouspaint,Imstillconcernedwithcreatingaflat
tonalvalue.NoticehowIveleftaslightegdebetweenthisdarkertoneandtheedgeofthe
face.ThiswaywhenIsoftentheedgeitwontgotoodark.
A tendency when your first starting is to add, then blend, add then blend, but it will work better if
you keep the blending to a minimum.
This is easier said than done.
Notice how light the first shadow now looks in comparison to the black.
This stage of the painting I now have a full tonal range of opaque colour. I can now assess the
referenceimageandflickmyeyesbetweenthetwo,lookingforanythingthatlooksout.
The Importance of edges
I now look to soften out most of the edges. As with the underpainting, it is easiest to keep the
edges soft at this stage as they can easily grab a viewers attention. Sharp edges come
forward, soft edges recede back.
Pro tip:Ifyouarehavingtroublepullingthepainttoomuchswaptothelargersize10filbert
and gentle blush over the edge.
Wevenowfinishedthefirststageofmodellingtheportrait.Ihaventworkedonthefeatures
much, still just keeping the focus on the main areas of the form. The larger areas first, then we
can add details in the next stage.
You might also like:
1. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart1
2. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart2
3. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart4
{ 20commentsreadthembeloworadd one }
Gunner Dave April 19, 2012
Hi Will,
I have a question about your image which shows the 9 tones of the grey colour string. Would
it be possible for you to give these 9 tones in terms of RGB (or H, S & B) values on
photoshop? This way I could make my own grey colour string swatch on the computer and
print it out.
Also, as a beginner who has limited resources, is it worth using oil painting paper instead of
canvas until I get the hang of the technique? Are there any issues with this type of surface
that I should be aware of?
Loving your work,
Dave.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 19, 2012
Hi Dave,
Glad you like the progress.
Yes, if you have access to Photoshop you can create your own value scale. Matthew
Innis (from Underpaintings blog) talks through how he makes a scale using the Munsell
system (this is another approach for mixing and matching colours and, confusingly, used
10stepsandthevaluesarelabelledtheotherway)usingPhotoshopSeebelow:
To make the scale, I began with a new image file in Photoshop, 1 inch high and 11
incheslong,andwithabackgroundcolorofwhite.ThisIthendividedinto11
squares using guides. I approached each tone square as if this were a screen
printingproject,choosingtothinkofeachsectionasapercentageofblack(ie.Value
9, which is 90% white, can also be thought of as 10% black. Value 8 would be 20%
blackvalue7,30%blackandsoon).One by one, each square was then
selected, and filled using the color black and the Paintbucket tool. This action,
however, was done each time on a separate layer, which was later merged with the
background. The separate layers were necessary, because each successive layer
had a different fill percentage in order to control the density of black in each square
(eg.The layer which represented value 8, had a fill percentage of only 20%).
This, however, is for straight black and white, our mix is slightly warmer so might need a
bit of tweaking.
If you, or any of the readers, have another way to make a value scale with photoshop
please add to the comments.
Yes,byallmeanspracticeonoilpaintingpaper,youmightfinditfeelslikeitsitsontop
of the surface more, but just use a thicker mix of paint.
Thanks,
Will
REPLY
David A. April 20, 2012
Hi Will,
I was wondering about brushes again, and would like to know what is the difference between
a Bright, Flat and Shader. My local art store in Chicago does not have the brands you talked
about. Only Princeton ( they artist there say that they are from the UK).
I would like to know if you think that if the painting/drawing is wrong if it does not represent
the model perfectly.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hey David,
The difference between them is shape, so all have different uses.
Flat:Flatsquareedge.Goodforbroadstrokesandcreatingstraightlines.Nottheideal
for portraits because we want soft edges.
Bright:BrightsTheshorter,sturdierversionoftheflatbrush,(sohaslessflexifyou
were working with thick oil paints a bright would be able move the paint around easier.)
Shader: I think this is just a brand name and not in general used in other brush
manufacturers. I had a look at the Princeton website and the Shader is very similar to a
flat.
I forgot to mention Rosemary & co are mail order, but in terms of the Princeton brushes,
tell me your budget and I can advise which ones would be best.
There is no such thing as perfect representation, capturing a models character is more
important than a photo realist drawing. This all comes with practice and developing your
own style as an artist.
Dontgethunguponitbeingperfect,Iveseensomanystudentsstartportraitsget
disheartened and not continue on, just out of interest Picasso produced 50,000 unique
pieces of art over his lifetime.
Not every piece has to be a masterpiece, the process is just as important as the end
result.
Thanks
Will
REPLY
David A. April 21, 2012
Hi Will,
My budget per month is $25-35. I use half for painting and half for drawing.
The Princeton brushes at Blick cost between $6.29-15.00.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hi David,
You might be interested to look at the Winsor & Newton Artist Quality oil Brushes
(availableatblick)thesearereallyexcellentbrushesandtheonesIuseifImnotusing
the Rosemary & Co Ivory Filberts. They are slightly more reasonable than the Princeton
brushes and I can feel confident in recommending them.
Acoupleofhandysizes(ifyourworkingquitesmallA4papersize)are:
Long Handle Filbert, Size #2 ($4.37)
Long Handle Filbert, Size #4 ($5.14) (this is the same size as the brush I use for 90% of
this demo)
Size #5 & #6 are also handy.
Also, a small round for details with slightly softer hair, so either one of the synthetic
sables from Princeton (series 4000) or Winsor & newton Monarch are nice. (between a
size0and3dependingonhowdetailedyouworkIuseasize3forthisdemo)
For blending the filbert princeton size 6 ($6.45) or 8 ($7.05) (series 4000) is closest to
what I have used.
You could just start with the oil brushes though and see how you get on.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Michelle April 23, 2012
Do you ever use a different mixture for your shadows such as mixing a red,
ultramarine blue, and yellow ochre? This would be used after the initial raw umber stage on
just the shadows. I am starting to learn to paint portraits and have been told using this
mixture allows the shadows to remain transparent later on, however it seems to make things
more complicated than your method. Thanksforthisseriesitsveryhelpful.Looking forward
tothenextpart
REPLY
Will Kemp April 24, 2012
Hi Michelle,
Pleased to hear you are enjoying this portrait painting series. As this techniques is
focusing on the importance of tone and making the step from drawing to oil painting
keeping it simple really is the way the to go. So I will be only be using the raw umber and
Ivory black.
Forfullcolourportraits,Iuseasimilar,simpleapproach.Andwouldntinitiallyusered,
ultramarine blue or yellow ochre. I would still use a earth pigment like raw umber or burnt
umber.
Different artists have different approaches, but I am a great believer in keeping your
materials simple, so you can have more time to concentrate on the tricky part, the
painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
rod hulme June 3, 2012
HiWilleverythingokayhere!Have started playing with Golden liquids, [10 half oz.
bottles for 40.00] and find them interesting! Must pick up a 40 series knife to do my mixing of
theheavy,asthespatulatypeIhaveisawkwardforme,butprogress,asIalsofoundpaper
pallets I used to use with oils. There is something about a clean WHITE mixing surface..that
colorblind moi finds more accurate somehow in delineation of shades. Anyway, makes sense
tometome,andthatsjustfine.
Manythanksforyourpatience.cheersrod
REPLY
Will Kemp June 4, 2012
Hey Rod, yes the fluid acrylics can be very effective, especially for glazing
effects.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Alice July 5, 2012
Hello,Idontreallyunderstandwhyyouneedtopaintfirstwithrawumberwhycant
youjustpaintwithblack/whitestraightontothecanvas?Sorryifthatsanobviousquestion.
ThanksAlice
REPLY
Will Kemp July 5, 2012
Hi Alice,
Thanks for the comment. The reason I paint onto a toned ground is because it makes it
easier when you are first starting to judge your tones.
You can quickly establish your darkest darks and lightest lights and this will make it
easier to judge the other tones in your painting. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is
working onto a white canvas. you can read more about it here: How a prepared canvas
can drastically improve your painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
David Smith July 2, 2013
Hello Will,
Enjoying working through these lessons so far. Your method produces a nice look to a
portraitsimilartoVelzquez.
Regarding a value strip, I had a go creating one using GIMP (the free photo-editing
software). I edited the brush colour and altered the HSV (hue, saturation, value) settings.
Changing V amount from zero (black), 50 (mid-grey), 100 (white) etc. and all the tone
gradations in between.
David
REPLY
Will Kemp July 3, 2013
Hi David,
Pleased to hear the portrait course is going well, and that you could create a value strip
using GIMP, good one!
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
I am passionate about painting the figure, but have only worked in watercolors. My
question. Do you think it best for me to begin to learn painting in oils or do you think I should
work in Acrylics first. I was in fine arts for 10 years before I became an art therapist. Now that
IamretiredIwanttofocusonpaintingthefigure..portrait.Can you help direct me to
make the most of the next 10 years. My concern is the time it will take me to master two
mediums (acrylic and then on to oils). IlikeyourdemosandthinkIcanstartwithgood
training.Butwhichtrainingtobeginwithismyquestion.
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
Hi Bernice,
You might find this article helpful that goes through the differences between the two,
many of my acrylic painting techniques stem from classical painting techniques, so you
are inadvertently learning skills for both mediums.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
Yes, thank you. I think you are saying it would be good practice and learning
in acrylics before starting oils, since most of your acrylic techniques are taken from
classical oil techniques? Correct?
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
HiBernice,yes,Ivefoundforlearningaboutcolourmixingandpaint
techniques acrylics are very forgiving because you can easily work over them, so
are a great medium to learn with, can be painted anywhere, on pretty much any
surface, so are like a quick start painting. Then, when you feel move confident in
colour mixing and brush techniques you can go into oils there and will be less
mudmixedandmoreahamoments,asmanyofthetechniquesIteachare
transferable.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
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1
HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart3
by WI LL KEMP
i n OI L PAI NTI NG, PORTRAI TS
Whenyoucomebacktoyourpaintingyoullnoticehowtheoilhasbecometranslucent
overnightandwonthavethesamecoveragethatyoufirstthought.
How to paint a portrait series. This is part 3 of a 5 part series of tutorials for beginners making
the transition from drawing to oil painting.
Hereisaquickreviewofwhatwehavecoveredsofarifyoudliketojoinin
Part1Establishingthedrawing,includingtheshadowline.
This can be done in pencil or charcoal (that you can fix with fixative) try to keep the drawing
lines angular to start with.
Try to establish the basic shapes if you could only use a straight line, then add the contours as
the drawing progresses. A classic beginner mistake when drawing a portrait is an over
exaggerationofthecurvesintheface.Everythinggetsroundedoffandtheportraitcanhave
acartoonlikequality.Becausewehaveastrongvisualmemorysystemthattellsusfacesare
roundthiscansubconsciouslyaffectyourdrawing.
We the started to scrub in the underpainting layer. To a beginner, this stage is often skipped,
deemed to be unimportant, but a good foundation is key to success with portraits.
We then have our 3 part tonal underpainting which allows you, and your eye, to become more
in-tune with the image, and become aware to the tones.
Part2Developingthetones,addinglights.
We then worked over the top of the initial underpainting still just with the raw umber to
strengthen the tones and get a better feeling of form. These layers are all painted thinly.
The medium for this stage being a simple mix of 1 part linseed oil to 4 parts mineral spirits
(artistturpentineorodourlessmineralspirits)thisestablishesthefatoverleanrule.Witheach
progressivelayerbeingslightlyfatterwithmoreoilcontent.
We also added some roughed in lights with a faster drying white.
Thisistohelpusjudgethetonesforthenextstagesowhenwepaintthemontheydontlook
tooutwhenweaddthelights.
The Allure of highlights
I forgot to emphasis at the end of part 2 that the roughed in lights are the light tonal mass, and
not the highlights.
The highlights and the very darkest parts of the painting should be the last brushstrokes to be
done,buttheytryanddrawyouin!Itshardtoresistputtingthemonattheearlystage.
Andevenifyouvereadthewarning,itsamazinghow,whenyougetengrossedinthepainting,
your hand will be drawn to that lightest white.
This can seem counterintuitive if you are coming to the painting from drawing as we often erase
out the lightest areas, or work on this areas that attract out attention. The white highlights on
the eye have a particular allure.
When the painting is finished these will be seen by the viewer to be painted with the most skill,
however, a single dot of white can be painted by anyone, but resisting adding them takes the
practice of an artist.
A note about grey
One of the students following this series let me know about Gambiln Torrit grey competition
(Thanks Mario!) Every spring, the paint manufacture collect all of the residue paint pigment that
havebeencollectedbytheairfiltrationsystemandrecyclethemintoGamblinTorritGrey.
You can learn more about the Torrit Grey painting competition from Gamblin website.
Pigmentdustshouldnotgointotheearth,waterorlandfill,butintopaint,
Robert Gamblin.
For our grey we are going to mix a neutral using the raw umber and Ivory black.
Part3FirstPainting
Mixing a new medium
We now create a new medium for the next layer of the painting. Different artists vary the
richness of the medium depending on their own personal preference but the next mix is a very
useful one.
1 part linseed oil to 3 parts mineral spirit
Youcanusethepipettetomeasureoutamounts,orifImmixingalargeramountIllusekitchen
measurement spoons.
Pro tip: If you are doing a lot of painting it can be worth premixing a larger amount of each
medium in resealable jars, label them up and then you can simple decant the medium each
stage of the painting.
Mixing our black
We are now going to mix a neutral black for developing this monotone study. You can still
create some lovely studies just using the raw umber and white, it is a warmer finish than the
black, but you will still learn the importance of contrast in your paintings.
To mix the neutral we use 3/4 ivory black to 1/4 raw umber. This helps take the blue out of the
black (black has a blue base, this is why you can mix lovely muted greens with black)
Ivory black
Ivory black is a slow drying pigment, by mixing in 1/4 of the raw umber (which is quick drying) it
will match nicely with the titanium white (slow drying) and at this stage of the painting the longer
opentimewehavewiththepaintsthebetter.Ivoryblackalsohasalovelyrichnesswhen
painted thinly which will help out in the later stages of the portrait.
This way you will have time to work through your painting and blend and fuse edges that you
need to. This is why we started with the raw umber, it dries overnight and has a cooler
undertone when working with portraits.
Materials
Winsor & Newton artist quality Ivory black
Micheal harding artist quality Raw Umber
Old Holland artist quality titanium white
Winsor & newton Sansador ( odourless mineral spirits)
Winsor & newton Refined linseed oil
ThereisntanyspecificreasonwhyIuseeachbrand,IoftenintermixbrandsasIliketo
experiment using different manufacturers colours. Whatever is available where you are. The
one key throughout them all is that they are artist quality (See: the 8 key differences
between artist quality & student grade paint)
Paint consistency
When you are just beginning with oils, the handling of the paint can vary greatly depending on
the consistency of the paint.
Oil paint (especially the titanium white) is often too thick and stiff to work with at this stage of the
paintingstraightfromthetube.
To make the paint more fluid, I slightly dilute it with the medium shown above. I use a pipette to
drop a few drops of the medium onto the paint mixture and mix it thoroughly with the palette
knife. Using the palette knife for mixing your paints is a very useful technique.
The video below shows a quick tutorial on how I dilute the oil paint.
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I often mix the colours on a separate, tear off palette and then transfer the mixture to the clean
glass/ perspex.
Ifyourejustbeginningwithoilsyoullnoticehoweasilyyoucancontaminatecolourswhen
using a full palette of colours, this can lead to muddy colours and frustrating painting.
This helps you to learn clean working methods. I am naturally more impatient so it is a discipline
to spend the time mixing the colours as you just want to get painting but it will pay dividends.
Step14Mixingour tonal colour strings
Thisnextstageoftheportraitiswherewereallygetpaintingasin,thicker,moreopaque
colours mixed together. If we look back at the last couple of weeks lessons you can see that we
haventactuallymixedanytonestogetheryet.
Wehavesimplybeenblockinginthebasictonalvalues,inwhatissometimescalledthedead
colouringstagethisisbecauseweareusingalimitedamountofoilinthemix,andmore
mineralspirits.Asthemineralspiritsevaporatethecolourcanappearflat,anddeadasit
doesnthavethelustrethattheoilgivesus.
Pro tip:Whenworkingwithcolour,thisisalsoreferedtoasaddingthelocalcolourofa
subject. For example a lemon would have a local colour of yellow.
So before we start the painting we are going to premix a range of 9 value tones.
White (1) is the lightest, black (9) is the darkest. This enables us to get a mid tone 5 and split
the tones into lights, half tones, and darks. These are called tonal strings, you can read more
about them on A beginners guide to tonal strings
Using a value strip
Print out, or paint out your own value strip.
When you are first starting, working from a print out it can be handy because the value strip will
be the same tones as your reference photograph compared to the hues of the black and white
paint if you were to paint your strip.
Just slide the value strip under the glass. This way when you are trying to match the tone you
can test it by dabbing a swatch ontop of the tone underneath to determine how close you are.
The first tone I match is a number 5. It will take you a few attempts to get it spot on, this is
normal.
BeawarethattheblackhasastrongertintingstrengththanthewhitesowhenIadditImjust
scraping a small amount with the palette knife.
I then match a light value 3
Then a value 7. With these 3 tones you can create some great value studies (which are
sometimescalledposterstudies)theseallowtoquicklypracticeandsketchouttonal
compositions for future paintings.
It is also handy if you want to experiment working with a compressed value range.
Waterseller of Seville -Diego Velazquez, 1619
IfwelookatVelasquezspaintingbelowwecanseehisuseoftheumberunderpainting,and
the range of tones used to direct the views gaze.
When we look at the painting in black and white it is even easier to see how the most focus on
the painting has been placed on the subject with the broadest tonal range and
the background figure has a very compressed tonal range.
9 value tones
I then remove the value strip and we are ready to begin.
Iveplacedthepaletteovertheimagesoyoucanseetheeffectoflightfallout.
Due to my light source being above the subject the light drops off as we get further down the
face. When you look at the colour strings you can start to see how there is a subtle shift in tone
as we go down the painting. This is a key point to remember because when you take the paint
swatches away it is harder to judge the light drop off, your mind just accepts it.
The light was set up so that it was stronger on the top half of the portrait, and the value drops
away. You need to be aware of this drop off as you progress through the tones.
This can help in getting the fall of light right, and creating a logical progression throughout the
painting.
So what you can do now is remove the value strip from underneath the paint and hold it next to
your reference photograph. Make sure you have trimmed the edge of the value strip so you
donthaveanywhiteontheedge.Thiswillmakeithardertojudgetones.
Now shut one eye, this helps to flatten your vision and makes it easier to see tone. Then flick
your eyes between the tone and the value strip and the tone on the reference photograph until
you have a match.
Pro tip: If you are finding it hard to isolate the colour the use a hole-punch to punch a hole in
each square, this way you can use them as a viewfinder.
Solid painting
Forpurposesofstudythereisnothingbetterthansimple,direct,solidpainting.Paintingwith
transparent colour, with a mixture of solid and transparent, glazing etc are all things that must
betriedlateronbutforsometimeconfineyourselftodirect,solidpainting.
Harold Speed
On my image I start with the lightest part on the forehead, it is about a value 2.
I dip just the edge of my brush (number# 4 Rosemary & co ivory filbert) into the medium.
I then pull the paint from the side of the mixture and coat the end of the brush. The mixture is
thick enough to cover the underpainting, but still quite thin.
You are looking to cover the colour underneath with a solid tone, but still have a fluid mixture.
Gettingtheconsistencyrightcanbeanartinitself,sodontgetdiscouraged!
We just want a small amount of paint, notice how I pull the paint from the edge of the pile.
Youalsodontneedmuchpaint,justtrytogetthetipofthebristlescoated,Iworkthebrush
backandforthinthepaintsoithasacoverage,yetdoesntcomeupthebristlestoofar.
A beginners tendency is to overload your brush.
I then flick my eyes between the subject and my painting to judge the next tonal shift, I squeeze
any excess paint into a piece of kitchen roll untill the brush is dry,
Icanthengrabsomeofthenextvaluedownvalue3
Just to help my eye with the portrait I reinforce the white of the t-shirt with value 1.
This could have been put in first, there is no real hard and fast rule, I just scan the picture with
my eyes to look for any values that are in the first 3 light range.
Adding the midtones
I then move on to the mid-tones, again with a clean brush (I might dip it into pure mineral spirits
occasionally and scrub out the pigment into kitchen roll so I have a clean brush for the new
tone.
I then make my way down the tones using 4, 5, 6 . Notice how these are all still in the lights of
the subject.
Ihaventblendedanyofthetones,Iamjustsimplyblockingtheminwithaflattone.
Ithenblockinthetoneontheneck,againthiscouldhavebeendoneearlierbutyoullfindthe
more tones you add, the easier they are to judge in comparison.
All of the lights are now added, this has all been painting with values 1 through to 6.
We are now going to add the darks, working through 7 to 9
Adding the darks
As the light starts to drop off, I add the darks into the shadow side of the face, notice how the
tones have been dropping darker to the right and the bottom of the picture due to the light
source being from the top left.
I continue adding a darker value 8 into the shadow under the chin. Notice how blue the paint
appears next to the raw umber. The tones are still quite flat with limited blending, still just using
the size 4 ivory filbert.
I now mix a value between the 8 & 9, you could go straight in with the 9, but I wanted to leave
this for the final part of this stage.
I then soften the edge slightly using the filbert.
I swap to a sable filbert for blending the edges further, as I mentioned before, I often use the
Ivory filbert for this, but sometimes, if the paint is pulling too much the sable can just give you
that blend that you are after.
BecausetheunderpaintingisnowdryImrestingbylittlefingeronthecanvas,thiswayIcan
pivot, with a stronger support. For larger scale painting, or of the background is still damp I
would use a mahl stick.
This is now with the value 9, the pure black mix we have made. When this first goes on it will
feeltoodark.Itsnot.
Iblockinthisblackslightlythinnerthanthepreviouspaint,Imstillconcernedwithcreatingaflat
tonalvalue.NoticehowIveleftaslightegdebetweenthisdarkertoneandtheedgeofthe
face.ThiswaywhenIsoftentheedgeitwontgotoodark.
A tendency when your first starting is to add, then blend, add then blend, but it will work better if
you keep the blending to a minimum.
This is easier said than done.
Notice how light the first shadow now looks in comparison to the black.
This stage of the painting I now have a full tonal range of opaque colour. I can now assess the
referenceimageandflickmyeyesbetweenthetwo,lookingforanythingthatlooksout.
The Importance of edges
I now look to soften out most of the edges. As with the underpainting, it is easiest to keep the
edges soft at this stage as they can easily grab a viewers attention. Sharp edges come
forward, soft edges recede back.
Pro tip:Ifyouarehavingtroublepullingthepainttoomuchswaptothelargersize10filbert
and gentle blush over the edge.
Wevenowfinishedthefirststageofmodellingtheportrait.Ihaventworkedonthefeatures
much, still just keeping the focus on the main areas of the form. The larger areas first, then we
can add details in the next stage.
You might also like:
1. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart1
2. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart2
3. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart4
{ 20commentsreadthembeloworadd one }
Gunner Dave April 19, 2012
Hi Will,
I have a question about your image which shows the 9 tones of the grey colour string. Would
it be possible for you to give these 9 tones in terms of RGB (or H, S & B) values on
photoshop? This way I could make my own grey colour string swatch on the computer and
print it out.
Also, as a beginner who has limited resources, is it worth using oil painting paper instead of
canvas until I get the hang of the technique? Are there any issues with this type of surface
that I should be aware of?
Loving your work,
Dave.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 19, 2012
Hi Dave,
Glad you like the progress.
Yes, if you have access to Photoshop you can create your own value scale. Matthew
Innis (from Underpaintings blog) talks through how he makes a scale using the Munsell
system (this is another approach for mixing and matching colours and, confusingly, used
10stepsandthevaluesarelabelledtheotherway)usingPhotoshopSeebelow:
To make the scale, I began with a new image file in Photoshop, 1 inch high and 11
incheslong,andwithabackgroundcolorofwhite.ThisIthendividedinto11
squares using guides. I approached each tone square as if this were a screen
printingproject,choosingtothinkofeachsectionasapercentageofblack(ie.Value
9, which is 90% white, can also be thought of as 10% black. Value 8 would be 20%
blackvalue7,30%blackandsoon).One by one, each square was then
selected, and filled using the color black and the Paintbucket tool. This action,
however, was done each time on a separate layer, which was later merged with the
background. The separate layers were necessary, because each successive layer
had a different fill percentage in order to control the density of black in each square
(eg.The layer which represented value 8, had a fill percentage of only 20%).
This, however, is for straight black and white, our mix is slightly warmer so might need a
bit of tweaking.
If you, or any of the readers, have another way to make a value scale with photoshop
please add to the comments.
Yes,byallmeanspracticeonoilpaintingpaper,youmightfinditfeelslikeitsitsontop
of the surface more, but just use a thicker mix of paint.
Thanks,
Will
REPLY
David A. April 20, 2012
Hi Will,
I was wondering about brushes again, and would like to know what is the difference between
a Bright, Flat and Shader. My local art store in Chicago does not have the brands you talked
about. Only Princeton ( they artist there say that they are from the UK).
I would like to know if you think that if the painting/drawing is wrong if it does not represent
the model perfectly.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hey David,
The difference between them is shape, so all have different uses.
Flat:Flatsquareedge.Goodforbroadstrokesandcreatingstraightlines.Nottheideal
for portraits because we want soft edges.
Bright:BrightsTheshorter,sturdierversionoftheflatbrush,(sohaslessflexifyou
were working with thick oil paints a bright would be able move the paint around easier.)
Shader: I think this is just a brand name and not in general used in other brush
manufacturers. I had a look at the Princeton website and the Shader is very similar to a
flat.
I forgot to mention Rosemary & co are mail order, but in terms of the Princeton brushes,
tell me your budget and I can advise which ones would be best.
There is no such thing as perfect representation, capturing a models character is more
important than a photo realist drawing. This all comes with practice and developing your
own style as an artist.
Dontgethunguponitbeingperfect,Iveseensomanystudentsstartportraitsget
disheartened and not continue on, just out of interest Picasso produced 50,000 unique
pieces of art over his lifetime.
Not every piece has to be a masterpiece, the process is just as important as the end
result.
Thanks
Will
REPLY
David A. April 21, 2012
Hi Will,
My budget per month is $25-35. I use half for painting and half for drawing.
The Princeton brushes at Blick cost between $6.29-15.00.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hi David,
You might be interested to look at the Winsor & Newton Artist Quality oil Brushes
(availableatblick)thesearereallyexcellentbrushesandtheonesIuseifImnotusing
the Rosemary & Co Ivory Filberts. They are slightly more reasonable than the Princeton
brushes and I can feel confident in recommending them.
Acoupleofhandysizes(ifyourworkingquitesmallA4papersize)are:
Long Handle Filbert, Size #2 ($4.37)
Long Handle Filbert, Size #4 ($5.14) (this is the same size as the brush I use for 90% of
this demo)
Size #5 & #6 are also handy.
Also, a small round for details with slightly softer hair, so either one of the synthetic
sables from Princeton (series 4000) or Winsor & newton Monarch are nice. (between a
size0and3dependingonhowdetailedyouworkIuseasize3forthisdemo)
For blending the filbert princeton size 6 ($6.45) or 8 ($7.05) (series 4000) is closest to
what I have used.
You could just start with the oil brushes though and see how you get on.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Michelle April 23, 2012
Do you ever use a different mixture for your shadows such as mixing a red,
ultramarine blue, and yellow ochre? This would be used after the initial raw umber stage on
just the shadows. I am starting to learn to paint portraits and have been told using this
mixture allows the shadows to remain transparent later on, however it seems to make things
more complicated than your method. Thanksforthisseriesitsveryhelpful.Looking forward
tothenextpart
REPLY
Will Kemp April 24, 2012
Hi Michelle,
Pleased to hear you are enjoying this portrait painting series. As this techniques is
focusing on the importance of tone and making the step from drawing to oil painting
keeping it simple really is the way the to go. So I will be only be using the raw umber and
Ivory black.
Forfullcolourportraits,Iuseasimilar,simpleapproach.Andwouldntinitiallyusered,
ultramarine blue or yellow ochre. I would still use a earth pigment like raw umber or burnt
umber.
Different artists have different approaches, but I am a great believer in keeping your
materials simple, so you can have more time to concentrate on the tricky part, the
painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
rod hulme June 3, 2012
HiWilleverythingokayhere!Have started playing with Golden liquids, [10 half oz.
bottles for 40.00] and find them interesting! Must pick up a 40 series knife to do my mixing of
theheavy,asthespatulatypeIhaveisawkwardforme,butprogress,asIalsofoundpaper
pallets I used to use with oils. There is something about a clean WHITE mixing surface..that
colorblind moi finds more accurate somehow in delineation of shades. Anyway, makes sense
tometome,andthatsjustfine.
Manythanksforyourpatience.cheersrod
REPLY
Will Kemp June 4, 2012
Hey Rod, yes the fluid acrylics can be very effective, especially for glazing
effects.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Alice July 5, 2012
Hello,Idontreallyunderstandwhyyouneedtopaintfirstwithrawumberwhycant
youjustpaintwithblack/whitestraightontothecanvas?Sorryifthatsanobviousquestion.
ThanksAlice
REPLY
Will Kemp July 5, 2012
Hi Alice,
Thanks for the comment. The reason I paint onto a toned ground is because it makes it
easier when you are first starting to judge your tones.
You can quickly establish your darkest darks and lightest lights and this will make it
easier to judge the other tones in your painting. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is
working onto a white canvas. you can read more about it here: How a prepared canvas
can drastically improve your painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
David Smith July 2, 2013
Hello Will,
Enjoying working through these lessons so far. Your method produces a nice look to a
portraitsimilartoVelzquez.
Regarding a value strip, I had a go creating one using GIMP (the free photo-editing
software). I edited the brush colour and altered the HSV (hue, saturation, value) settings.
Changing V amount from zero (black), 50 (mid-grey), 100 (white) etc. and all the tone
gradations in between.
David
REPLY
Will Kemp July 3, 2013
Hi David,
Pleased to hear the portrait course is going well, and that you could create a value strip
using GIMP, good one!
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
I am passionate about painting the figure, but have only worked in watercolors. My
question. Do you think it best for me to begin to learn painting in oils or do you think I should
work in Acrylics first. I was in fine arts for 10 years before I became an art therapist. Now that
IamretiredIwanttofocusonpaintingthefigure..portrait.Can you help direct me to
make the most of the next 10 years. My concern is the time it will take me to master two
mediums (acrylic and then on to oils). IlikeyourdemosandthinkIcanstartwithgood
training.Butwhichtrainingtobeginwithismyquestion.
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
Hi Bernice,
You might find this article helpful that goes through the differences between the two,
many of my acrylic painting techniques stem from classical painting techniques, so you
are inadvertently learning skills for both mediums.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
Yes, thank you. I think you are saying it would be good practice and learning
in acrylics before starting oils, since most of your acrylic techniques are taken from
classical oil techniques? Correct?
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
HiBernice,yes,Ivefoundforlearningaboutcolourmixingandpaint
techniques acrylics are very forgiving because you can easily work over them, so
are a great medium to learn with, can be painted anywhere, on pretty much any
surface, so are like a quick start painting. Then, when you feel move confident in
colour mixing and brush techniques you can go into oils there and will be less
mudmixedandmoreahamoments,asmanyofthetechniquesIteachare
transferable.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
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1
HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart3
by WI LL KEMP
i n OI L PAI NTI NG, PORTRAI TS
Whenyoucomebacktoyourpaintingyoullnoticehowtheoilhasbecometranslucent
overnightandwonthavethesamecoveragethatyoufirstthought.
How to paint a portrait series. This is part 3 of a 5 part series of tutorials for beginners making
the transition from drawing to oil painting.
Hereisaquickreviewofwhatwehavecoveredsofarifyoudliketojoinin
Part1Establishingthedrawing,includingtheshadowline.
This can be done in pencil or charcoal (that you can fix with fixative) try to keep the drawing
lines angular to start with.
Try to establish the basic shapes if you could only use a straight line, then add the contours as
the drawing progresses. A classic beginner mistake when drawing a portrait is an over
exaggerationofthecurvesintheface.Everythinggetsroundedoffandtheportraitcanhave
acartoonlikequality.Becausewehaveastrongvisualmemorysystemthattellsusfacesare
roundthiscansubconsciouslyaffectyourdrawing.
We the started to scrub in the underpainting layer. To a beginner, this stage is often skipped,
deemed to be unimportant, but a good foundation is key to success with portraits.
We then have our 3 part tonal underpainting which allows you, and your eye, to become more
in-tune with the image, and become aware to the tones.
Part2Developingthetones,addinglights.
We then worked over the top of the initial underpainting still just with the raw umber to
strengthen the tones and get a better feeling of form. These layers are all painted thinly.
The medium for this stage being a simple mix of 1 part linseed oil to 4 parts mineral spirits
(artistturpentineorodourlessmineralspirits)thisestablishesthefatoverleanrule.Witheach
progressivelayerbeingslightlyfatterwithmoreoilcontent.
We also added some roughed in lights with a faster drying white.
Thisistohelpusjudgethetonesforthenextstagesowhenwepaintthemontheydontlook
tooutwhenweaddthelights.
The Allure of highlights
I forgot to emphasis at the end of part 2 that the roughed in lights are the light tonal mass, and
not the highlights.
The highlights and the very darkest parts of the painting should be the last brushstrokes to be
done,buttheytryanddrawyouin!Itshardtoresistputtingthemonattheearlystage.
Andevenifyouvereadthewarning,itsamazinghow,whenyougetengrossedinthepainting,
your hand will be drawn to that lightest white.
This can seem counterintuitive if you are coming to the painting from drawing as we often erase
out the lightest areas, or work on this areas that attract out attention. The white highlights on
the eye have a particular allure.
When the painting is finished these will be seen by the viewer to be painted with the most skill,
however, a single dot of white can be painted by anyone, but resisting adding them takes the
practice of an artist.
A note about grey
One of the students following this series let me know about Gambiln Torrit grey competition
(Thanks Mario!) Every spring, the paint manufacture collect all of the residue paint pigment that
havebeencollectedbytheairfiltrationsystemandrecyclethemintoGamblinTorritGrey.
You can learn more about the Torrit Grey painting competition from Gamblin website.
Pigmentdustshouldnotgointotheearth,waterorlandfill,butintopaint,
Robert Gamblin.
For our grey we are going to mix a neutral using the raw umber and Ivory black.
Part3FirstPainting
Mixing a new medium
We now create a new medium for the next layer of the painting. Different artists vary the
richness of the medium depending on their own personal preference but the next mix is a very
useful one.
1 part linseed oil to 3 parts mineral spirit
Youcanusethepipettetomeasureoutamounts,orifImmixingalargeramountIllusekitchen
measurement spoons.
Pro tip: If you are doing a lot of painting it can be worth premixing a larger amount of each
medium in resealable jars, label them up and then you can simple decant the medium each
stage of the painting.
Mixing our black
We are now going to mix a neutral black for developing this monotone study. You can still
create some lovely studies just using the raw umber and white, it is a warmer finish than the
black, but you will still learn the importance of contrast in your paintings.
To mix the neutral we use 3/4 ivory black to 1/4 raw umber. This helps take the blue out of the
black (black has a blue base, this is why you can mix lovely muted greens with black)
Ivory black
Ivory black is a slow drying pigment, by mixing in 1/4 of the raw umber (which is quick drying) it
will match nicely with the titanium white (slow drying) and at this stage of the painting the longer
opentimewehavewiththepaintsthebetter.Ivoryblackalsohasalovelyrichnesswhen
painted thinly which will help out in the later stages of the portrait.
This way you will have time to work through your painting and blend and fuse edges that you
need to. This is why we started with the raw umber, it dries overnight and has a cooler
undertone when working with portraits.
Materials
Winsor & Newton artist quality Ivory black
Micheal harding artist quality Raw Umber
Old Holland artist quality titanium white
Winsor & newton Sansador ( odourless mineral spirits)
Winsor & newton Refined linseed oil
ThereisntanyspecificreasonwhyIuseeachbrand,IoftenintermixbrandsasIliketo
experiment using different manufacturers colours. Whatever is available where you are. The
one key throughout them all is that they are artist quality (See: the 8 key differences
between artist quality & student grade paint)
Paint consistency
When you are just beginning with oils, the handling of the paint can vary greatly depending on
the consistency of the paint.
Oil paint (especially the titanium white) is often too thick and stiff to work with at this stage of the
paintingstraightfromthetube.
To make the paint more fluid, I slightly dilute it with the medium shown above. I use a pipette to
drop a few drops of the medium onto the paint mixture and mix it thoroughly with the palette
knife. Using the palette knife for mixing your paints is a very useful technique.
The video below shows a quick tutorial on how I dilute the oil paint.
The Adobe Flash Player or an HTML5 supported browser is required for video
playback.
Get the latest Flash Player
Learn more about upgrading to an HTML5 browser
I often mix the colours on a separate, tear off palette and then transfer the mixture to the clean
glass/ perspex.
Ifyourejustbeginningwithoilsyoullnoticehoweasilyyoucancontaminatecolourswhen
using a full palette of colours, this can lead to muddy colours and frustrating painting.
This helps you to learn clean working methods. I am naturally more impatient so it is a discipline
to spend the time mixing the colours as you just want to get painting but it will pay dividends.
Step14Mixingour tonal colour strings
Thisnextstageoftheportraitiswherewereallygetpaintingasin,thicker,moreopaque
colours mixed together. If we look back at the last couple of weeks lessons you can see that we
haventactuallymixedanytonestogetheryet.
Wehavesimplybeenblockinginthebasictonalvalues,inwhatissometimescalledthedead
colouringstagethisisbecauseweareusingalimitedamountofoilinthemix,andmore
mineralspirits.Asthemineralspiritsevaporatethecolourcanappearflat,anddeadasit
doesnthavethelustrethattheoilgivesus.
Pro tip:Whenworkingwithcolour,thisisalsoreferedtoasaddingthelocalcolourofa
subject. For example a lemon would have a local colour of yellow.
So before we start the painting we are going to premix a range of 9 value tones.
White (1) is the lightest, black (9) is the darkest. This enables us to get a mid tone 5 and split
the tones into lights, half tones, and darks. These are called tonal strings, you can read more
about them on A beginners guide to tonal strings
Using a value strip
Print out, or paint out your own value strip.
When you are first starting, working from a print out it can be handy because the value strip will
be the same tones as your reference photograph compared to the hues of the black and white
paint if you were to paint your strip.
Just slide the value strip under the glass. This way when you are trying to match the tone you
can test it by dabbing a swatch ontop of the tone underneath to determine how close you are.
The first tone I match is a number 5. It will take you a few attempts to get it spot on, this is
normal.
BeawarethattheblackhasastrongertintingstrengththanthewhitesowhenIadditImjust
scraping a small amount with the palette knife.
I then match a light value 3
Then a value 7. With these 3 tones you can create some great value studies (which are
sometimescalledposterstudies)theseallowtoquicklypracticeandsketchouttonal
compositions for future paintings.
It is also handy if you want to experiment working with a compressed value range.
Waterseller of Seville -Diego Velazquez, 1619
IfwelookatVelasquezspaintingbelowwecanseehisuseoftheumberunderpainting,and
the range of tones used to direct the views gaze.
When we look at the painting in black and white it is even easier to see how the most focus on
the painting has been placed on the subject with the broadest tonal range and
the background figure has a very compressed tonal range.
9 value tones
I then remove the value strip and we are ready to begin.
Iveplacedthepaletteovertheimagesoyoucanseetheeffectoflightfallout.
Due to my light source being above the subject the light drops off as we get further down the
face. When you look at the colour strings you can start to see how there is a subtle shift in tone
as we go down the painting. This is a key point to remember because when you take the paint
swatches away it is harder to judge the light drop off, your mind just accepts it.
The light was set up so that it was stronger on the top half of the portrait, and the value drops
away. You need to be aware of this drop off as you progress through the tones.
This can help in getting the fall of light right, and creating a logical progression throughout the
painting.
So what you can do now is remove the value strip from underneath the paint and hold it next to
your reference photograph. Make sure you have trimmed the edge of the value strip so you
donthaveanywhiteontheedge.Thiswillmakeithardertojudgetones.
Now shut one eye, this helps to flatten your vision and makes it easier to see tone. Then flick
your eyes between the tone and the value strip and the tone on the reference photograph until
you have a match.
Pro tip: If you are finding it hard to isolate the colour the use a hole-punch to punch a hole in
each square, this way you can use them as a viewfinder.
Solid painting
Forpurposesofstudythereisnothingbetterthansimple,direct,solidpainting.Paintingwith
transparent colour, with a mixture of solid and transparent, glazing etc are all things that must
betriedlateronbutforsometimeconfineyourselftodirect,solidpainting.
Harold Speed
On my image I start with the lightest part on the forehead, it is about a value 2.
I dip just the edge of my brush (number# 4 Rosemary & co ivory filbert) into the medium.
I then pull the paint from the side of the mixture and coat the end of the brush. The mixture is
thick enough to cover the underpainting, but still quite thin.
You are looking to cover the colour underneath with a solid tone, but still have a fluid mixture.
Gettingtheconsistencyrightcanbeanartinitself,sodontgetdiscouraged!
We just want a small amount of paint, notice how I pull the paint from the edge of the pile.
Youalsodontneedmuchpaint,justtrytogetthetipofthebristlescoated,Iworkthebrush
backandforthinthepaintsoithasacoverage,yetdoesntcomeupthebristlestoofar.
A beginners tendency is to overload your brush.
I then flick my eyes between the subject and my painting to judge the next tonal shift, I squeeze
any excess paint into a piece of kitchen roll untill the brush is dry,
Icanthengrabsomeofthenextvaluedownvalue3
Just to help my eye with the portrait I reinforce the white of the t-shirt with value 1.
This could have been put in first, there is no real hard and fast rule, I just scan the picture with
my eyes to look for any values that are in the first 3 light range.
Adding the midtones
I then move on to the mid-tones, again with a clean brush (I might dip it into pure mineral spirits
occasionally and scrub out the pigment into kitchen roll so I have a clean brush for the new
tone.
I then make my way down the tones using 4, 5, 6 . Notice how these are all still in the lights of
the subject.
Ihaventblendedanyofthetones,Iamjustsimplyblockingtheminwithaflattone.
Ithenblockinthetoneontheneck,againthiscouldhavebeendoneearlierbutyoullfindthe
more tones you add, the easier they are to judge in comparison.
All of the lights are now added, this has all been painting with values 1 through to 6.
We are now going to add the darks, working through 7 to 9
Adding the darks
As the light starts to drop off, I add the darks into the shadow side of the face, notice how the
tones have been dropping darker to the right and the bottom of the picture due to the light
source being from the top left.
I continue adding a darker value 8 into the shadow under the chin. Notice how blue the paint
appears next to the raw umber. The tones are still quite flat with limited blending, still just using
the size 4 ivory filbert.
I now mix a value between the 8 & 9, you could go straight in with the 9, but I wanted to leave
this for the final part of this stage.
I then soften the edge slightly using the filbert.
I swap to a sable filbert for blending the edges further, as I mentioned before, I often use the
Ivory filbert for this, but sometimes, if the paint is pulling too much the sable can just give you
that blend that you are after.
BecausetheunderpaintingisnowdryImrestingbylittlefingeronthecanvas,thiswayIcan
pivot, with a stronger support. For larger scale painting, or of the background is still damp I
would use a mahl stick.
This is now with the value 9, the pure black mix we have made. When this first goes on it will
feeltoodark.Itsnot.
Iblockinthisblackslightlythinnerthanthepreviouspaint,Imstillconcernedwithcreatingaflat
tonalvalue.NoticehowIveleftaslightegdebetweenthisdarkertoneandtheedgeofthe
face.ThiswaywhenIsoftentheedgeitwontgotoodark.
A tendency when your first starting is to add, then blend, add then blend, but it will work better if
you keep the blending to a minimum.
This is easier said than done.
Notice how light the first shadow now looks in comparison to the black.
This stage of the painting I now have a full tonal range of opaque colour. I can now assess the
referenceimageandflickmyeyesbetweenthetwo,lookingforanythingthatlooksout.
The Importance of edges
I now look to soften out most of the edges. As with the underpainting, it is easiest to keep the
edges soft at this stage as they can easily grab a viewers attention. Sharp edges come
forward, soft edges recede back.
Pro tip:Ifyouarehavingtroublepullingthepainttoomuchswaptothelargersize10filbert
and gentle blush over the edge.
Wevenowfinishedthefirststageofmodellingtheportrait.Ihaventworkedonthefeatures
much, still just keeping the focus on the main areas of the form. The larger areas first, then we
can add details in the next stage.
You might also like:
1. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart1
2. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart2
3. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart4
{ 20commentsreadthembeloworadd one }
Gunner Dave April 19, 2012
Hi Will,
I have a question about your image which shows the 9 tones of the grey colour string. Would
it be possible for you to give these 9 tones in terms of RGB (or H, S & B) values on
photoshop? This way I could make my own grey colour string swatch on the computer and
print it out.
Also, as a beginner who has limited resources, is it worth using oil painting paper instead of
canvas until I get the hang of the technique? Are there any issues with this type of surface
that I should be aware of?
Loving your work,
Dave.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 19, 2012
Hi Dave,
Glad you like the progress.
Yes, if you have access to Photoshop you can create your own value scale. Matthew
Innis (from Underpaintings blog) talks through how he makes a scale using the Munsell
system (this is another approach for mixing and matching colours and, confusingly, used
10stepsandthevaluesarelabelledtheotherway)usingPhotoshopSeebelow:
To make the scale, I began with a new image file in Photoshop, 1 inch high and 11
incheslong,andwithabackgroundcolorofwhite.ThisIthendividedinto11
squares using guides. I approached each tone square as if this were a screen
printingproject,choosingtothinkofeachsectionasapercentageofblack(ie.Value
9, which is 90% white, can also be thought of as 10% black. Value 8 would be 20%
blackvalue7,30%blackandsoon).One by one, each square was then
selected, and filled using the color black and the Paintbucket tool. This action,
however, was done each time on a separate layer, which was later merged with the
background. The separate layers were necessary, because each successive layer
had a different fill percentage in order to control the density of black in each square
(eg.The layer which represented value 8, had a fill percentage of only 20%).
This, however, is for straight black and white, our mix is slightly warmer so might need a
bit of tweaking.
If you, or any of the readers, have another way to make a value scale with photoshop
please add to the comments.
Yes,byallmeanspracticeonoilpaintingpaper,youmightfinditfeelslikeitsitsontop
of the surface more, but just use a thicker mix of paint.
Thanks,
Will
REPLY
David A. April 20, 2012
Hi Will,
I was wondering about brushes again, and would like to know what is the difference between
a Bright, Flat and Shader. My local art store in Chicago does not have the brands you talked
about. Only Princeton ( they artist there say that they are from the UK).
I would like to know if you think that if the painting/drawing is wrong if it does not represent
the model perfectly.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hey David,
The difference between them is shape, so all have different uses.
Flat:Flatsquareedge.Goodforbroadstrokesandcreatingstraightlines.Nottheideal
for portraits because we want soft edges.
Bright:BrightsTheshorter,sturdierversionoftheflatbrush,(sohaslessflexifyou
were working with thick oil paints a bright would be able move the paint around easier.)
Shader: I think this is just a brand name and not in general used in other brush
manufacturers. I had a look at the Princeton website and the Shader is very similar to a
flat.
I forgot to mention Rosemary & co are mail order, but in terms of the Princeton brushes,
tell me your budget and I can advise which ones would be best.
There is no such thing as perfect representation, capturing a models character is more
important than a photo realist drawing. This all comes with practice and developing your
own style as an artist.
Dontgethunguponitbeingperfect,Iveseensomanystudentsstartportraitsget
disheartened and not continue on, just out of interest Picasso produced 50,000 unique
pieces of art over his lifetime.
Not every piece has to be a masterpiece, the process is just as important as the end
result.
Thanks
Will
REPLY
David A. April 21, 2012
Hi Will,
My budget per month is $25-35. I use half for painting and half for drawing.
The Princeton brushes at Blick cost between $6.29-15.00.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hi David,
You might be interested to look at the Winsor & Newton Artist Quality oil Brushes
(availableatblick)thesearereallyexcellentbrushesandtheonesIuseifImnotusing
the Rosemary & Co Ivory Filberts. They are slightly more reasonable than the Princeton
brushes and I can feel confident in recommending them.
Acoupleofhandysizes(ifyourworkingquitesmallA4papersize)are:
Long Handle Filbert, Size #2 ($4.37)
Long Handle Filbert, Size #4 ($5.14) (this is the same size as the brush I use for 90% of
this demo)
Size #5 & #6 are also handy.
Also, a small round for details with slightly softer hair, so either one of the synthetic
sables from Princeton (series 4000) or Winsor & newton Monarch are nice. (between a
size0and3dependingonhowdetailedyouworkIuseasize3forthisdemo)
For blending the filbert princeton size 6 ($6.45) or 8 ($7.05) (series 4000) is closest to
what I have used.
You could just start with the oil brushes though and see how you get on.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Michelle April 23, 2012
Do you ever use a different mixture for your shadows such as mixing a red,
ultramarine blue, and yellow ochre? This would be used after the initial raw umber stage on
just the shadows. I am starting to learn to paint portraits and have been told using this
mixture allows the shadows to remain transparent later on, however it seems to make things
more complicated than your method. Thanksforthisseriesitsveryhelpful.Looking forward
tothenextpart
REPLY
Will Kemp April 24, 2012
Hi Michelle,
Pleased to hear you are enjoying this portrait painting series. As this techniques is
focusing on the importance of tone and making the step from drawing to oil painting
keeping it simple really is the way the to go. So I will be only be using the raw umber and
Ivory black.
Forfullcolourportraits,Iuseasimilar,simpleapproach.Andwouldntinitiallyusered,
ultramarine blue or yellow ochre. I would still use a earth pigment like raw umber or burnt
umber.
Different artists have different approaches, but I am a great believer in keeping your
materials simple, so you can have more time to concentrate on the tricky part, the
painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
rod hulme June 3, 2012
HiWilleverythingokayhere!Have started playing with Golden liquids, [10 half oz.
bottles for 40.00] and find them interesting! Must pick up a 40 series knife to do my mixing of
theheavy,asthespatulatypeIhaveisawkwardforme,butprogress,asIalsofoundpaper
pallets I used to use with oils. There is something about a clean WHITE mixing surface..that
colorblind moi finds more accurate somehow in delineation of shades. Anyway, makes sense
tometome,andthatsjustfine.
Manythanksforyourpatience.cheersrod
REPLY
Will Kemp June 4, 2012
Hey Rod, yes the fluid acrylics can be very effective, especially for glazing
effects.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Alice July 5, 2012
Hello,Idontreallyunderstandwhyyouneedtopaintfirstwithrawumberwhycant
youjustpaintwithblack/whitestraightontothecanvas?Sorryifthatsanobviousquestion.
ThanksAlice
REPLY
Will Kemp July 5, 2012
Hi Alice,
Thanks for the comment. The reason I paint onto a toned ground is because it makes it
easier when you are first starting to judge your tones.
You can quickly establish your darkest darks and lightest lights and this will make it
easier to judge the other tones in your painting. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is
working onto a white canvas. you can read more about it here: How a prepared canvas
can drastically improve your painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
David Smith July 2, 2013
Hello Will,
Enjoying working through these lessons so far. Your method produces a nice look to a
portraitsimilartoVelzquez.
Regarding a value strip, I had a go creating one using GIMP (the free photo-editing
software). I edited the brush colour and altered the HSV (hue, saturation, value) settings.
Changing V amount from zero (black), 50 (mid-grey), 100 (white) etc. and all the tone
gradations in between.
David
REPLY
Will Kemp July 3, 2013
Hi David,
Pleased to hear the portrait course is going well, and that you could create a value strip
using GIMP, good one!
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
I am passionate about painting the figure, but have only worked in watercolors. My
question. Do you think it best for me to begin to learn painting in oils or do you think I should
work in Acrylics first. I was in fine arts for 10 years before I became an art therapist. Now that
IamretiredIwanttofocusonpaintingthefigure..portrait.Can you help direct me to
make the most of the next 10 years. My concern is the time it will take me to master two
mediums (acrylic and then on to oils). IlikeyourdemosandthinkIcanstartwithgood
training.Butwhichtrainingtobeginwithismyquestion.
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
Hi Bernice,
You might find this article helpful that goes through the differences between the two,
many of my acrylic painting techniques stem from classical painting techniques, so you
are inadvertently learning skills for both mediums.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
Yes, thank you. I think you are saying it would be good practice and learning
in acrylics before starting oils, since most of your acrylic techniques are taken from
classical oil techniques? Correct?
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
HiBernice,yes,Ivefoundforlearningaboutcolourmixingandpaint
techniques acrylics are very forgiving because you can easily work over them, so
are a great medium to learn with, can be painted anywhere, on pretty much any
surface, so are like a quick start painting. Then, when you feel move confident in
colour mixing and brush techniques you can go into oils there and will be less
mudmixedandmoreahamoments,asmanyofthetechniquesIteachare
transferable.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
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1
HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart3
by WI LL KEMP
i n OI L PAI NTI NG, PORTRAI TS
Whenyoucomebacktoyourpaintingyoullnoticehowtheoilhasbecometranslucent
overnightandwonthavethesamecoveragethatyoufirstthought.
How to paint a portrait series. This is part 3 of a 5 part series of tutorials for beginners making
the transition from drawing to oil painting.
Hereisaquickreviewofwhatwehavecoveredsofarifyoudliketojoinin
Part1Establishingthedrawing,includingtheshadowline.
This can be done in pencil or charcoal (that you can fix with fixative) try to keep the drawing
lines angular to start with.
Try to establish the basic shapes if you could only use a straight line, then add the contours as
the drawing progresses. A classic beginner mistake when drawing a portrait is an over
exaggerationofthecurvesintheface.Everythinggetsroundedoffandtheportraitcanhave
acartoonlikequality.Becausewehaveastrongvisualmemorysystemthattellsusfacesare
roundthiscansubconsciouslyaffectyourdrawing.
We the started to scrub in the underpainting layer. To a beginner, this stage is often skipped,
deemed to be unimportant, but a good foundation is key to success with portraits.
We then have our 3 part tonal underpainting which allows you, and your eye, to become more
in-tune with the image, and become aware to the tones.
Part2Developingthetones,addinglights.
We then worked over the top of the initial underpainting still just with the raw umber to
strengthen the tones and get a better feeling of form. These layers are all painted thinly.
The medium for this stage being a simple mix of 1 part linseed oil to 4 parts mineral spirits
(artistturpentineorodourlessmineralspirits)thisestablishesthefatoverleanrule.Witheach
progressivelayerbeingslightlyfatterwithmoreoilcontent.
We also added some roughed in lights with a faster drying white.
Thisistohelpusjudgethetonesforthenextstagesowhenwepaintthemontheydontlook
tooutwhenweaddthelights.
The Allure of highlights
I forgot to emphasis at the end of part 2 that the roughed in lights are the light tonal mass, and
not the highlights.
The highlights and the very darkest parts of the painting should be the last brushstrokes to be
done,buttheytryanddrawyouin!Itshardtoresistputtingthemonattheearlystage.
Andevenifyouvereadthewarning,itsamazinghow,whenyougetengrossedinthepainting,
your hand will be drawn to that lightest white.
This can seem counterintuitive if you are coming to the painting from drawing as we often erase
out the lightest areas, or work on this areas that attract out attention. The white highlights on
the eye have a particular allure.
When the painting is finished these will be seen by the viewer to be painted with the most skill,
however, a single dot of white can be painted by anyone, but resisting adding them takes the
practice of an artist.
A note about grey
One of the students following this series let me know about Gambiln Torrit grey competition
(Thanks Mario!) Every spring, the paint manufacture collect all of the residue paint pigment that
havebeencollectedbytheairfiltrationsystemandrecyclethemintoGamblinTorritGrey.
You can learn more about the Torrit Grey painting competition from Gamblin website.
Pigmentdustshouldnotgointotheearth,waterorlandfill,butintopaint,
Robert Gamblin.
For our grey we are going to mix a neutral using the raw umber and Ivory black.
Part3FirstPainting
Mixing a new medium
We now create a new medium for the next layer of the painting. Different artists vary the
richness of the medium depending on their own personal preference but the next mix is a very
useful one.
1 part linseed oil to 3 parts mineral spirit
Youcanusethepipettetomeasureoutamounts,orifImmixingalargeramountIllusekitchen
measurement spoons.
Pro tip: If you are doing a lot of painting it can be worth premixing a larger amount of each
medium in resealable jars, label them up and then you can simple decant the medium each
stage of the painting.
Mixing our black
We are now going to mix a neutral black for developing this monotone study. You can still
create some lovely studies just using the raw umber and white, it is a warmer finish than the
black, but you will still learn the importance of contrast in your paintings.
To mix the neutral we use 3/4 ivory black to 1/4 raw umber. This helps take the blue out of the
black (black has a blue base, this is why you can mix lovely muted greens with black)
Ivory black
Ivory black is a slow drying pigment, by mixing in 1/4 of the raw umber (which is quick drying) it
will match nicely with the titanium white (slow drying) and at this stage of the painting the longer
opentimewehavewiththepaintsthebetter.Ivoryblackalsohasalovelyrichnesswhen
painted thinly which will help out in the later stages of the portrait.
This way you will have time to work through your painting and blend and fuse edges that you
need to. This is why we started with the raw umber, it dries overnight and has a cooler
undertone when working with portraits.
Materials
Winsor & Newton artist quality Ivory black
Micheal harding artist quality Raw Umber
Old Holland artist quality titanium white
Winsor & newton Sansador ( odourless mineral spirits)
Winsor & newton Refined linseed oil
ThereisntanyspecificreasonwhyIuseeachbrand,IoftenintermixbrandsasIliketo
experiment using different manufacturers colours. Whatever is available where you are. The
one key throughout them all is that they are artist quality (See: the 8 key differences
between artist quality & student grade paint)
Paint consistency
When you are just beginning with oils, the handling of the paint can vary greatly depending on
the consistency of the paint.
Oil paint (especially the titanium white) is often too thick and stiff to work with at this stage of the
paintingstraightfromthetube.
To make the paint more fluid, I slightly dilute it with the medium shown above. I use a pipette to
drop a few drops of the medium onto the paint mixture and mix it thoroughly with the palette
knife. Using the palette knife for mixing your paints is a very useful technique.
The video below shows a quick tutorial on how I dilute the oil paint.
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I often mix the colours on a separate, tear off palette and then transfer the mixture to the clean
glass/ perspex.
Ifyourejustbeginningwithoilsyoullnoticehoweasilyyoucancontaminatecolourswhen
using a full palette of colours, this can lead to muddy colours and frustrating painting.
This helps you to learn clean working methods. I am naturally more impatient so it is a discipline
to spend the time mixing the colours as you just want to get painting but it will pay dividends.
Step14Mixingour tonal colour strings
Thisnextstageoftheportraitiswherewereallygetpaintingasin,thicker,moreopaque
colours mixed together. If we look back at the last couple of weeks lessons you can see that we
haventactuallymixedanytonestogetheryet.
Wehavesimplybeenblockinginthebasictonalvalues,inwhatissometimescalledthedead
colouringstagethisisbecauseweareusingalimitedamountofoilinthemix,andmore
mineralspirits.Asthemineralspiritsevaporatethecolourcanappearflat,anddeadasit
doesnthavethelustrethattheoilgivesus.
Pro tip:Whenworkingwithcolour,thisisalsoreferedtoasaddingthelocalcolourofa
subject. For example a lemon would have a local colour of yellow.
So before we start the painting we are going to premix a range of 9 value tones.
White (1) is the lightest, black (9) is the darkest. This enables us to get a mid tone 5 and split
the tones into lights, half tones, and darks. These are called tonal strings, you can read more
about them on A beginners guide to tonal strings
Using a value strip
Print out, or paint out your own value strip.
When you are first starting, working from a print out it can be handy because the value strip will
be the same tones as your reference photograph compared to the hues of the black and white
paint if you were to paint your strip.
Just slide the value strip under the glass. This way when you are trying to match the tone you
can test it by dabbing a swatch ontop of the tone underneath to determine how close you are.
The first tone I match is a number 5. It will take you a few attempts to get it spot on, this is
normal.
BeawarethattheblackhasastrongertintingstrengththanthewhitesowhenIadditImjust
scraping a small amount with the palette knife.
I then match a light value 3
Then a value 7. With these 3 tones you can create some great value studies (which are
sometimescalledposterstudies)theseallowtoquicklypracticeandsketchouttonal
compositions for future paintings.
It is also handy if you want to experiment working with a compressed value range.
Waterseller of Seville -Diego Velazquez, 1619
IfwelookatVelasquezspaintingbelowwecanseehisuseoftheumberunderpainting,and
the range of tones used to direct the views gaze.
When we look at the painting in black and white it is even easier to see how the most focus on
the painting has been placed on the subject with the broadest tonal range and
the background figure has a very compressed tonal range.
9 value tones
I then remove the value strip and we are ready to begin.
Iveplacedthepaletteovertheimagesoyoucanseetheeffectoflightfallout.
Due to my light source being above the subject the light drops off as we get further down the
face. When you look at the colour strings you can start to see how there is a subtle shift in tone
as we go down the painting. This is a key point to remember because when you take the paint
swatches away it is harder to judge the light drop off, your mind just accepts it.
The light was set up so that it was stronger on the top half of the portrait, and the value drops
away. You need to be aware of this drop off as you progress through the tones.
This can help in getting the fall of light right, and creating a logical progression throughout the
painting.
So what you can do now is remove the value strip from underneath the paint and hold it next to
your reference photograph. Make sure you have trimmed the edge of the value strip so you
donthaveanywhiteontheedge.Thiswillmakeithardertojudgetones.
Now shut one eye, this helps to flatten your vision and makes it easier to see tone. Then flick
your eyes between the tone and the value strip and the tone on the reference photograph until
you have a match.
Pro tip: If you are finding it hard to isolate the colour the use a hole-punch to punch a hole in
each square, this way you can use them as a viewfinder.
Solid painting
Forpurposesofstudythereisnothingbetterthansimple,direct,solidpainting.Paintingwith
transparent colour, with a mixture of solid and transparent, glazing etc are all things that must
betriedlateronbutforsometimeconfineyourselftodirect,solidpainting.
Harold Speed
On my image I start with the lightest part on the forehead, it is about a value 2.
I dip just the edge of my brush (number# 4 Rosemary & co ivory filbert) into the medium.
I then pull the paint from the side of the mixture and coat the end of the brush. The mixture is
thick enough to cover the underpainting, but still quite thin.
You are looking to cover the colour underneath with a solid tone, but still have a fluid mixture.
Gettingtheconsistencyrightcanbeanartinitself,sodontgetdiscouraged!
We just want a small amount of paint, notice how I pull the paint from the edge of the pile.
Youalsodontneedmuchpaint,justtrytogetthetipofthebristlescoated,Iworkthebrush
backandforthinthepaintsoithasacoverage,yetdoesntcomeupthebristlestoofar.
A beginners tendency is to overload your brush.
I then flick my eyes between the subject and my painting to judge the next tonal shift, I squeeze
any excess paint into a piece of kitchen roll untill the brush is dry,
Icanthengrabsomeofthenextvaluedownvalue3
Just to help my eye with the portrait I reinforce the white of the t-shirt with value 1.
This could have been put in first, there is no real hard and fast rule, I just scan the picture with
my eyes to look for any values that are in the first 3 light range.
Adding the midtones
I then move on to the mid-tones, again with a clean brush (I might dip it into pure mineral spirits
occasionally and scrub out the pigment into kitchen roll so I have a clean brush for the new
tone.
I then make my way down the tones using 4, 5, 6 . Notice how these are all still in the lights of
the subject.
Ihaventblendedanyofthetones,Iamjustsimplyblockingtheminwithaflattone.
Ithenblockinthetoneontheneck,againthiscouldhavebeendoneearlierbutyoullfindthe
more tones you add, the easier they are to judge in comparison.
All of the lights are now added, this has all been painting with values 1 through to 6.
We are now going to add the darks, working through 7 to 9
Adding the darks
As the light starts to drop off, I add the darks into the shadow side of the face, notice how the
tones have been dropping darker to the right and the bottom of the picture due to the light
source being from the top left.
I continue adding a darker value 8 into the shadow under the chin. Notice how blue the paint
appears next to the raw umber. The tones are still quite flat with limited blending, still just using
the size 4 ivory filbert.
I now mix a value between the 8 & 9, you could go straight in with the 9, but I wanted to leave
this for the final part of this stage.
I then soften the edge slightly using the filbert.
I swap to a sable filbert for blending the edges further, as I mentioned before, I often use the
Ivory filbert for this, but sometimes, if the paint is pulling too much the sable can just give you
that blend that you are after.
BecausetheunderpaintingisnowdryImrestingbylittlefingeronthecanvas,thiswayIcan
pivot, with a stronger support. For larger scale painting, or of the background is still damp I
would use a mahl stick.
This is now with the value 9, the pure black mix we have made. When this first goes on it will
feeltoodark.Itsnot.
Iblockinthisblackslightlythinnerthanthepreviouspaint,Imstillconcernedwithcreatingaflat
tonalvalue.NoticehowIveleftaslightegdebetweenthisdarkertoneandtheedgeofthe
face.ThiswaywhenIsoftentheedgeitwontgotoodark.
A tendency when your first starting is to add, then blend, add then blend, but it will work better if
you keep the blending to a minimum.
This is easier said than done.
Notice how light the first shadow now looks in comparison to the black.
This stage of the painting I now have a full tonal range of opaque colour. I can now assess the
referenceimageandflickmyeyesbetweenthetwo,lookingforanythingthatlooksout.
The Importance of edges
I now look to soften out most of the edges. As with the underpainting, it is easiest to keep the
edges soft at this stage as they can easily grab a viewers attention. Sharp edges come
forward, soft edges recede back.
Pro tip:Ifyouarehavingtroublepullingthepainttoomuchswaptothelargersize10filbert
and gentle blush over the edge.
Wevenowfinishedthefirststageofmodellingtheportrait.Ihaventworkedonthefeatures
much, still just keeping the focus on the main areas of the form. The larger areas first, then we
can add details in the next stage.
You might also like:
1. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart1
2. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart2
3. HowtoPaintaPortraitinOilPart4
{ 20commentsreadthembeloworadd one }
Gunner Dave April 19, 2012
Hi Will,
I have a question about your image which shows the 9 tones of the grey colour string. Would
it be possible for you to give these 9 tones in terms of RGB (or H, S & B) values on
photoshop? This way I could make my own grey colour string swatch on the computer and
print it out.
Also, as a beginner who has limited resources, is it worth using oil painting paper instead of
canvas until I get the hang of the technique? Are there any issues with this type of surface
that I should be aware of?
Loving your work,
Dave.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 19, 2012
Hi Dave,
Glad you like the progress.
Yes, if you have access to Photoshop you can create your own value scale. Matthew
Innis (from Underpaintings blog) talks through how he makes a scale using the Munsell
system (this is another approach for mixing and matching colours and, confusingly, used
10stepsandthevaluesarelabelledtheotherway)usingPhotoshopSeebelow:
To make the scale, I began with a new image file in Photoshop, 1 inch high and 11
incheslong,andwithabackgroundcolorofwhite.ThisIthendividedinto11
squares using guides. I approached each tone square as if this were a screen
printingproject,choosingtothinkofeachsectionasapercentageofblack(ie.Value
9, which is 90% white, can also be thought of as 10% black. Value 8 would be 20%
blackvalue7,30%blackandsoon).One by one, each square was then
selected, and filled using the color black and the Paintbucket tool. This action,
however, was done each time on a separate layer, which was later merged with the
background. The separate layers were necessary, because each successive layer
had a different fill percentage in order to control the density of black in each square
(eg.The layer which represented value 8, had a fill percentage of only 20%).
This, however, is for straight black and white, our mix is slightly warmer so might need a
bit of tweaking.
If you, or any of the readers, have another way to make a value scale with photoshop
please add to the comments.
Yes,byallmeanspracticeonoilpaintingpaper,youmightfinditfeelslikeitsitsontop
of the surface more, but just use a thicker mix of paint.
Thanks,
Will
REPLY
David A. April 20, 2012
Hi Will,
I was wondering about brushes again, and would like to know what is the difference between
a Bright, Flat and Shader. My local art store in Chicago does not have the brands you talked
about. Only Princeton ( they artist there say that they are from the UK).
I would like to know if you think that if the painting/drawing is wrong if it does not represent
the model perfectly.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hey David,
The difference between them is shape, so all have different uses.
Flat:Flatsquareedge.Goodforbroadstrokesandcreatingstraightlines.Nottheideal
for portraits because we want soft edges.
Bright:BrightsTheshorter,sturdierversionoftheflatbrush,(sohaslessflexifyou
were working with thick oil paints a bright would be able move the paint around easier.)
Shader: I think this is just a brand name and not in general used in other brush
manufacturers. I had a look at the Princeton website and the Shader is very similar to a
flat.
I forgot to mention Rosemary & co are mail order, but in terms of the Princeton brushes,
tell me your budget and I can advise which ones would be best.
There is no such thing as perfect representation, capturing a models character is more
important than a photo realist drawing. This all comes with practice and developing your
own style as an artist.
Dontgethunguponitbeingperfect,Iveseensomanystudentsstartportraitsget
disheartened and not continue on, just out of interest Picasso produced 50,000 unique
pieces of art over his lifetime.
Not every piece has to be a masterpiece, the process is just as important as the end
result.
Thanks
Will
REPLY
David A. April 21, 2012
Hi Will,
My budget per month is $25-35. I use half for painting and half for drawing.
The Princeton brushes at Blick cost between $6.29-15.00.
David A.
REPLY
Will Kemp April 21, 2012
Hi David,
You might be interested to look at the Winsor & Newton Artist Quality oil Brushes
(availableatblick)thesearereallyexcellentbrushesandtheonesIuseifImnotusing
the Rosemary & Co Ivory Filberts. They are slightly more reasonable than the Princeton
brushes and I can feel confident in recommending them.
Acoupleofhandysizes(ifyourworkingquitesmallA4papersize)are:
Long Handle Filbert, Size #2 ($4.37)
Long Handle Filbert, Size #4 ($5.14) (this is the same size as the brush I use for 90% of
this demo)
Size #5 & #6 are also handy.
Also, a small round for details with slightly softer hair, so either one of the synthetic
sables from Princeton (series 4000) or Winsor & newton Monarch are nice. (between a
size0and3dependingonhowdetailedyouworkIuseasize3forthisdemo)
For blending the filbert princeton size 6 ($6.45) or 8 ($7.05) (series 4000) is closest to
what I have used.
You could just start with the oil brushes though and see how you get on.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Michelle April 23, 2012
Do you ever use a different mixture for your shadows such as mixing a red,
ultramarine blue, and yellow ochre? This would be used after the initial raw umber stage on
just the shadows. I am starting to learn to paint portraits and have been told using this
mixture allows the shadows to remain transparent later on, however it seems to make things
more complicated than your method. Thanksforthisseriesitsveryhelpful.Looking forward
tothenextpart
REPLY
Will Kemp April 24, 2012
Hi Michelle,
Pleased to hear you are enjoying this portrait painting series. As this techniques is
focusing on the importance of tone and making the step from drawing to oil painting
keeping it simple really is the way the to go. So I will be only be using the raw umber and
Ivory black.
Forfullcolourportraits,Iuseasimilar,simpleapproach.Andwouldntinitiallyusered,
ultramarine blue or yellow ochre. I would still use a earth pigment like raw umber or burnt
umber.
Different artists have different approaches, but I am a great believer in keeping your
materials simple, so you can have more time to concentrate on the tricky part, the
painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
rod hulme June 3, 2012
HiWilleverythingokayhere!Have started playing with Golden liquids, [10 half oz.
bottles for 40.00] and find them interesting! Must pick up a 40 series knife to do my mixing of
theheavy,asthespatulatypeIhaveisawkwardforme,butprogress,asIalsofoundpaper
pallets I used to use with oils. There is something about a clean WHITE mixing surface..that
colorblind moi finds more accurate somehow in delineation of shades. Anyway, makes sense
tometome,andthatsjustfine.
Manythanksforyourpatience.cheersrod
REPLY
Will Kemp June 4, 2012
Hey Rod, yes the fluid acrylics can be very effective, especially for glazing
effects.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Alice July 5, 2012
Hello,Idontreallyunderstandwhyyouneedtopaintfirstwithrawumberwhycant
youjustpaintwithblack/whitestraightontothecanvas?Sorryifthatsanobviousquestion.
ThanksAlice
REPLY
Will Kemp July 5, 2012
Hi Alice,
Thanks for the comment. The reason I paint onto a toned ground is because it makes it
easier when you are first starting to judge your tones.
You can quickly establish your darkest darks and lightest lights and this will make it
easier to judge the other tones in your painting. One of the biggest beginner mistakes is
working onto a white canvas. you can read more about it here: How a prepared canvas
can drastically improve your painting.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
David Smith July 2, 2013
Hello Will,
Enjoying working through these lessons so far. Your method produces a nice look to a
portraitsimilartoVelzquez.
Regarding a value strip, I had a go creating one using GIMP (the free photo-editing
software). I edited the brush colour and altered the HSV (hue, saturation, value) settings.
Changing V amount from zero (black), 50 (mid-grey), 100 (white) etc. and all the tone
gradations in between.
David
REPLY
Will Kemp July 3, 2013
Hi David,
Pleased to hear the portrait course is going well, and that you could create a value strip
using GIMP, good one!
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
I am passionate about painting the figure, but have only worked in watercolors. My
question. Do you think it best for me to begin to learn painting in oils or do you think I should
work in Acrylics first. I was in fine arts for 10 years before I became an art therapist. Now that
IamretiredIwanttofocusonpaintingthefigure..portrait.Can you help direct me to
make the most of the next 10 years. My concern is the time it will take me to master two
mediums (acrylic and then on to oils). IlikeyourdemosandthinkIcanstartwithgood
training.Butwhichtrainingtobeginwithismyquestion.
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
Hi Bernice,
You might find this article helpful that goes through the differences between the two,
many of my acrylic painting techniques stem from classical painting techniques, so you
are inadvertently learning skills for both mediums.
Hope this helps,
Will
REPLY
Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
Yes, thank you. I think you are saying it would be good practice and learning
in acrylics before starting oils, since most of your acrylic techniques are taken from
classical oil techniques? Correct?
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
HiBernice,yes,Ivefoundforlearningaboutcolourmixingandpaint
techniques acrylics are very forgiving because you can easily work over them, so
are a great medium to learn with, can be painted anywhere, on pretty much any
surface, so are like a quick start painting. Then, when you feel move confident in
colour mixing and brush techniques you can go into oils there and will be less
mudmixedandmoreahamoments,asmanyofthetechniquesIteachare
transferable.
Cheers,
Will
REPLY
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Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
thank you so much for your kindness and expertise. I believe you
illustrated the best lesson on value that I have ever seen. Looking forward to
happy days of painting.
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
YourewelcomeBernice,thanksforyourkindwords.Lookingforward
to seeing your results.
Cheers,
Will
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Bernice Osborne November 15, 2013
thank you so much for your kindness and expertise. I believe you
illustrated the best lesson on value that I have ever seen. Looking forward to
happy days of painting.
REPLY
Will Kemp November 15, 2013
YourewelcomeBernice,thanksforyourkindwords.Lookingforward
to seeing your results.
Cheers,
Will
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