How to Create Pop Art Portraits


The Pop Art movement came into its own in New York in the 1960s. Pop artists were fascinated with consumerism and the objects of popular culture. Andy Warhol was obsessed with Hollywood's fame and glamor. He used photographic silkscreen to create his famous portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Mick Jagger, Elvis Presley and Jacqueline Kennedy. This process allowed him to mass-produce a large number of prints with ease. Warhol used a method of mass production to create his images of celebrities because he felt celebrities themselves were mass produced. You can create your own Pop Art portraits using a much simpler and more economical technique. Just trace a photo and make sure to paint it with bright, vibrant colors.

Things You'll Need

  • Tempera paint
  • Graphite transfer paper
  • Tracing paper
  • Drawing pencils
  • Brushes
  • Computer
  • Poster board
  • Small water containers
  • Scissors
  • Digital camera

Create Pop Art Portraits

  • Familiarize yourself with Andy Warhol portraits at Andy Warhol Prints (see Resources below).

  • Photograph yourself or your subject using a digital camera. (You could also use the image of a pop icon like Madonna, Cher, Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts.)

  • Download your image to a computer and enhance it. You need to be working with a clear, well lit and "in focus" photo.

  • Print your image in black and white.

  • Crop your image to create a portrait. To achieve the iconic Andy Warhol portrait look, a head and shoulders shot works best. A Warhol-style pop portrait is about the person, not the background.

  • Trace your image, concentrating on shapes. Trace the darkest shapes first, then the lightest shapes. Trace the medium gray tones last.

  • Transfer the traced image onto poster board using graphite transfer paper.

  • Mix your paint colors. Be outrageous. Warhol used a variety of dramatic, bold colors for his backgrounds and skin tones.

  • Paint. You can create a monochromatic painting or use up to four colors. The values of your colors should be exactly the same as the values in the photo.

  • Create more than one portrait and combine them in the same way that Andy Warhol did. An example would be his portraits of Marilyn Monroe.

Tips & Warnings

  • Make sure that the drawing pencils you choose have different size points and that one of them has a very thick 4B or 6B point.
  • If you use egg tempera, paint thinly. Impastos will crack.
  • If you will be working with children, washable tempera paint is great. It comes out of clothes easily.

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