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01 November, 2019
Looking to experiment with new painting mediums for portrait painting? If you haven’t tried using oil pastels for portrait painting yet, then here is your chance!
In this particular art project, the artist has used a photograph as a reference. You also can draw the portrait with a person actually sitting across you, if that’s what works best.

Here’s our guide on how to draw portraits in pastels

What you need:

Step 1: Sketching the portrait

Image Source: https://bit.ly/2J9CdLn
Image Source: https://bit.ly/2J9CdLn
The first rule of drawing portraits is getting the proportions of your subject right. Knowing the basic techniques of drawing is a skill that will help you in all types of art projects.
If your drawing skills are not as good as you’d like, don’t worry! You can still draw a portrait using the grid method. All you have to do is draw a grid over your reference photo and simply focus on getting the elements inside each square right. You will notice how much this little hack can make portrait sketching simpler. You can use this method while you practice your basic drawing skills side-by-side.
In order to provide more visual interest, the artist decided to crop the original photo and place the subject off-centre. This creates a focus on the features and expressions of the subject, giving the portrait a more dramatic quality.

Pro tip:

Avoid using a graphite pencil to draw the sketch for a portrait painting with oil pastels. Oil pastels can’t cover the imprint of a graphite pencil like it can cover the impression of a charcoal or a pastel-coloured pencil.
Once you have the basic structure of the portrait ready, start sketching the shadows. The portrait must look recognizably like your subject at this point. If it doesn’t, take the time to make adjustments as the remainder of your painting depends on the drawn structure. Your pencil sketch is like the architecture of a house – get this right and you can focus on getting pro at painting the portrait.

Step 2: Colouring the portrait

Pro tip: Image Source: https://bit.ly/2J9CdLn
Pro tip: Image Source: https://bit.ly/2J9CdLn
Begin colouring with softer shades that resemble the skin tone of the subject. In this painting, colours like light cream and pink have been used. Use shades like earthy reds to paint the darker areas of the face like the area under the nose, a tiny place on the cheek where the subject’s fingers touch their face or any other areas that are in the shadows.
The irises can be painted using shades of pale greens. If you don’t have the shade of pale green, you can mix grey and white with dark green to get the shade of your desire.
Then, use a clean finger and blend the pastels gently.
Pro tip: Image Source: https://bit.ly/2J9CdLn
Pay careful attention to the way you colour the hand to add details like shadows and light since these two factors are the key to making the hand look as natural as the picture.
Pro tip: Image Source: https://bit.ly/2J9CdLn
Once you are happy with the way the hand is drawn, you can move on to colouring the spectacles. Begin with colouring the outer edges of the glasses. Colour the outer edges with black and the inner edges with white – this gives a certain depth to the spectacles to make them look realistic.
Pro tip: Image Source: https://bit.ly/2J9CdLn
Pro tip: Image Source: https://bit.ly/2J9CdLn
To show the dark circles around the eyes and dimples, use touches of reds and browns. Define the face structure with these colours and sculpt the face. You can use white as the base for the colour of the lips.
Pro tip: Image Source: https://bit.ly/2J9CdLn
Next, work on getting the chin, lips, and forehead right. Use shades of pink, cream, brown, and red to do so. Paint with bold strokes to give each section a deeper hue. You can use blues on the lips for a realistic effect like the artist has achieved in the image below.
Pro tip: Image Source: https://bit.ly/2J9CdLn
Now that colouring the face of your subject is done, focus on their hair and shoulders. Paint strong lines for the hair bit with colours like ombre, white, and yellow ochre. For the shoulders, make sure to use only the colour of the shirt your subject is wearing.

Step 3: Add defining features

Your portrait is almost ready. Once you are done with the hair and shoulders, add details like borders of defining features of your subject. For example, for the subject by this artist, the defining features would be the nose and the spectacles. Accentuate these with blacks and whites as per your liking but be careful that you do not smudge outside the subject of your focus.
Oftentimes, painting portraits can be a daunting task. But as you can see, portrait painting is simply about focus, precision, practice and probably the most important bit of all – patience. In time, you will get better at it.

Did you like these tips on how to paint a portrait in pastels?

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