View Full Version : portrait technique question

12-30-2002, 05:02 PM
Being so new to drawing/pastels/art- I am curious to know more specifics about the use of pastels and color in portraits. From much reading, observing, and discussion on Wet Canvas, am I correct in concluding that many people, when beginning a portrait, lay in lots of differennt colors first like blues/purples for shadows, yellows for some areas, etc. to give more depth and interest and THEN add flesh tones on top of all the underlying colors??? Do some just simply place the flesh tones first and then add shadows in browns, umbers and skip all the "colors?" Help!!! I am really wanting to hear some SPECIFIC techniques to try for portraits that some of you use.

12-30-2002, 05:09 PM
ALSO, do you move from hard, medium, to softer pastels or do you just use soft for the entire portrait or pic?

12-30-2002, 06:07 PM
I'm no expert but I believe generally people lay in the darker tones with pastels first. I know I have been doing that. When you get to the lighter, "flesh" tones on the upper layers they will have much more depth.
That doesn't mean I have never put a darker color on top but I try to avoid doing that.
I also usually work from hard to soft but again it is not absolute. I know that some people work in all one type of pastel though. That is really personal preference.
I think.
I hope that helps...and I am sure you will get lots of other comments here to help you.


12-30-2002, 07:51 PM
Hi Leslie,

Skin tones vary from person to person, there really is no set of standard colours so to speak, also lighting effects surroundings and clothing etc., will alter the colours of the skin too.
I don't generally work to a rule, but study the face and work in the basic shapes and values, then will keep working over these areas defining all the time, look for cool greens and blues in the skin tone if you see them put them in. There can be so many varying colours in one face, from cream to green, from blue to yellow and red umber etc. Don't be afraid to paint what you see.

12-30-2002, 07:56 PM
Dunno if this will help...but here is a link to see some of what I do when I start on skin tones! You can see that I always start with the dark colors first and layer lighter on top! I used Rembrandts for base colors, they are medium on the chart of soft to hard.
It is usually recommended to use the softer pastel for your final layers.
First reason being that the harder the pastel it will push off the softer.
Second reason is because the softer the pastel the more expensive they tend to run. So you would be wasting it away if used under the harder:D
Hope that helps:D
Link to Work:
Eves asp WIP (http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=65172)

12-30-2002, 08:16 PM
Can't really add too much to what has already been said.

I lay in my darker colors first, unless there is a prominant reflective light. Reflective light sometimes comes off of the shirt collar around the chin or cheek area. Or if the subject is close to something or someone else where that colors reflects onto the face. I like to add a little of that reflective light in my underpainting...and usually strengthen it with a softer pastel with my finishing strokes.

decoratorgirl look forward to seeing your work....I'm sure you will do fine.:)

Redsy thanks for the link.

12-30-2002, 08:48 PM
Well....being a beginner at portraits myself I have to make many, many changes as I go along. I usually lay down the darker colors first, then come in with the lighter shades. However, often I have to make radical feature changes and so that all goes out the door and I find that I'm working darker over lighter and also lighter over darker. Basically what I'm trying to say here is I've found that I'm not at a point where I'm getting things right the first time to have a set method. I'm hoping as time goes on and I improve I'll get into a process that I can use successfully from portrait to portrait. Until then, it's basically experimentation for me! :D

12-31-2002, 12:18 AM
Hi Leslie,

Check out this thread for some specifics about starting out:


There's more good stuff in the portrait forum as well, about portraits specifically, but also some about pastels.


12-31-2002, 09:21 AM
Hi Decorator...... Im new to all this myself.... love attempting portraits..... you will learn a great deal from looking through the threads and studying what people have done - I know I have :), and especially with the help and advise of all these great people in here. I cant give you specifics, as I dont actually pay attention to what I am doing :eek:, just go with the flow and the momentum at the time, this will all come with practise and studying what you like for yourself - of course bear in mind your own type of style for portraits...... impressionistic or realism.

Contrary to everyone else (typical) lol .... I do believe I always start off with light :eek: and work darker hee hee

if you click on my profile and look for threads started by me and for portraits going to the earliest date first..... you will actually see my work progress with each attempt learning colour, shaping etc. the very first ones look quite cartoonish and flat...... progressing more into something more realistic (I hope) hee hee...

Looking forward to seeing your work - hope I helped in some small way

12-31-2002, 01:54 PM
Thanks everyone-i appreciate all the comments. I guess I just have to keep on trying and experiementing until I find what works best for me! I will go back Cark Shades and check out your threads-thanks! And thanks Ruth and Redsy for the links!
Appreciate all of your help!