Painting a Facial Portrait

  •  CGNetworks Reader Tutorial :: Painting A Facial Portrait
    ‘My Wife’ by Arseny Gutov

    Arseny Gutov, 22 September 2004
    Edited by Lisa Thurston
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    Step2 – Outlining


    In a painterly depiction of his own wife, Arseny Gutov demonstrates the process of creating a face-dominated portrait in a manner reminiscent of traditional oil portraits.

    Step 1 – Initial Sketch


    I begin by creating a quick sketch to define the composition. At this point, I already imagine the final composition pretty clearly. I don't concern myself with the details, but just try to catch the pose of the model and get the foreshortening correct.

    In this work I wanted to convey the femininity and beauty of the woman while hinting at the private ‘world' she keeps hidden. In this case, my limited drawing skills meant that most complex part for me was to correctly show the turn of her head carelessly resting in her hand.


    I roughly outline the ears, eyes, mouth and nose, gradually determining the placement of each element.

    I tweaked the nose, eyes and ear to ensure they were properly placed. At this stage I could barely see my wife despite all my work on the sketch. All the same I was still satisfied with the composition. The anatomical details were not perfectly replicated in my sketch, but as a whole it generally corresponded to my wife's features , which was fine. Now I had finished enough detail in my work and to be at the point where the fun starts – painting the light, colors and shadows.

    Step 3 – Coloring &Shading

    I create a new layer under the sketch and roughly plan the colors for the image by filling shapes with colors. In this stage the detail is not important and you shouldn't focus your energy there because you can change the details later. Rather, you should focus on defining the mood of the palette or the general color composition – the balance of colors in your palette is no less important than structural composition.

    At first, in the lower right corner, I wanted to make the background considerably pale , but later I came to the conclusion that the dark-toned arm in shadow would contrast too much with the background and draw the attention from the face. Overall, I wanted to achieve a warm tone and chose a red-brown scale accordingly.

    Step 1 – Initial Sketch (above left); Step 2 – Outlining (left); Step 3 – Coloring & Shading (above)



    Step 4 – Detailing: Eyes, Nose & Mouth

    Gradually, I begin to fill in the details, starting from the most important – the eyes, mouth and nose. Then it is a good time to stop, take a fresh look, and return to key areas and correct mistakes.

    In this case, it just wasn't my day and I couldn't manage to convey that mood which I envisioned. Something went wrong, because I lost the expression of her face. I understood that the mistake was most likely a mistake in the lips which altered the look completely. My solution was to simply take a break and come back to it. Then I could make the necessary adjustments.

    Step 5 – Detailing: Hair, Clothes & Face

    At last I managed to capture the mood I wanted by correcting the nose and lips and tweaking the eyelids. To me, however, the feel of the image had fundamentally changed from what I had in the beginning.

    From this point, I draw the hair, neck and clothing literally in one breath. When drawing in hair, the main thing to remember is not try and trace each hair! To begin, it is necessary to define the total mass of hair and then use light and a shadow to divide it into highlights and separate strands. This way, drawing hair doesn't cause any problems.

    I painted in the hair and clothes and added more touches to the face.

    When doing the final touches on a face, don't forget about the shadows which hair projects on the person. To make the model to look more alive, add pink shades in area of cheekbones. Illuminate the lobes of the ears and nostrils, even if in real life at the given light conditions they do not appear very well defined. Never leave out the patches of light on a nose either, because the light patches will raise it from the face.

    Initially I wanted to paint the clothes in more contrasting tones, but as I worked I decided to subdue all the bottom part of a picture in shadow and folds to highlight the central facial features because the clothes were less important.

    Step 6 – Touchups to Ears & Eyes

    I consider the work practically finished at this point and don't want to overdo it.

    Here I made slight corrections to the eyes and ear according to wishes of my model which I myself didn't notice.

    Related Links
    Discuss Portrait of My Wife by Arseny Gutov on CGTalk
    Arseny Gutov's website
    Arseny Gutov's deviantART gallery

    Words by Arseny Gutov
    Edited by Lisa Thurston
    All images © 2004 Arseny Gutov