How to Paint a Realistic Face With Acrylic Paint

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A portrait of a loved one makes a great gift.
A portrait of a loved one makes a great gift. (Image: Girl Paint image by Nenad Djedovic from Fotolia.com)

Painting portraits is a wonderful hobby and talent that can be used to create works of art. Mastering the art of painting can be difficult, especially when dealing with facial expressions and features. Painting faces on canvas is the best way to preserve your work and hang it on a wall upon completion. Acrylic paint, though it lacks the range of oil paint, is a common medium for portraits because it dries quickly and is easy to blend.

Things You'll Need

  • Canvas
  • Paint brushes
  • Acrylic paint
  • Cup for water
  • Water
  • Paper towels
  • Easel
  • Model or photograph of a subject
  • Pencil
  • Photocopier
  • Paint palette

Choose a live model or a photograph. A photo may be easier for beginners. It is possible to make a photocopy of the photo in the size you want and then place it against the canvas with a sheet of carbon paper under it. To transfer the image to canvas you can trace over the photocopy with a pencil, and the carbon paper will transfer your lines to the canvas.

Put your canvas on an easel and have your model sit in front of you, if you are using a model. Put onto your palette colors that are similar to your model’s skin tone, clothing and background. Put your brushes into a cup of water to soften the bristles. Fill in your painting with colors that relate to your photograph or model. This will serve as a base for your work.

Start shading the face within your portrait to make it look realistic. You can do shading by taking two brushes; use a skin tone shade and another paint color that is slightly darker. While shading in the darker areas use the lighter shade to blend the two colors to create a realistic look. Repeat this process for all aspects of the face.

Create hair for your painting by using a fan brush to add depth and a flowing effect. Use a detail brush to create eyebrows, lashes, make up and filling in the eyes. Make sure to use shades that are light and dark to create a realistic look with depth. Use your model or photo as a reference point as you are working.

Let your work dry thoroughly and make corrections as needed. Acrylic paint dries in less than 10 minutes, so you will not have to wait very long at all. Making changes to your piece is easy, simply go over your preexisting work with more paint as needed.

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