How to Do a Self Portrait in Acrylic Paint


Painting a self-portrait is a way to explore your creativity, exercise self-reflection and express what you feel is unique about you. It doesn't have to be traditional or carbon copy of your face. Art is all about interpretation. Personal portraits can be done from the comfort of your home at your own pace. Not only is this an enjoyable experience, it can make a personal gift for friends and family. All you need is some spare time, inspiration and the motivation to channel your inner artist.

Things You'll Need

  • Canvas (stretched and grounded)
  • Easel
  • 2H pencil
  • Brushes
  • Palette
  • Draw your portrait by sitting in front of a mirror, adding outline, tone, proportion, size and likeness. Alternatively, trace your face from a photograph if it's the same scale as the intended final portrait. This is the case for abstract as well as realistic portraits.

  • Transfer the drawing to your canvas with a hard 2H pencil to outline the image. Fill in the solid colors of the portrait in any areas that have skin, hair and fabric. This is the under painting of basic colors without shades or tone.

  • Apply black paint to the dark areas to create shadow and tone, then highlight with whites, yellows and creams. Work from dark to light, or light to dark. The features will start to reveal themselves during this process, so step back from the painting to ensure that the proportions are right or if more work is needed.

  • Apply broader strokes when painting solid areas or the background. Choose a blue, green or red for the background, avoiding black and darker colors. Build textures by allowing the paint to dry before applying the next layer.

Tips & Warnings

  • Using a harder, 2H pencil, prevents smudging.
  • Have a varied selection of paintbrushes, thin, small, large, flat and round.
  • Don't expect your portrait to be a replica.
  • Unless you are a seasoned painter, draw your portrait before you start painting.
  • You can buy a canvas that has already been stretched and grounded, this is the easiest way unless you have previous experience.
  • Acrylic paint is fast drying.

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  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images
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