Oil Portrait

Painting a portrait in oils is intimidating since there are so many traps to avoid. Here is my painting process, from meeting your model through preliminary sketches and the final markings.

Model positioning

Prioritize your task list, prioritising must be done first. So I would play around and experiment with various arrangements. I would place my model in several poses, such as smiling, solemn, averting eyes, and looking directly at me. Capture his whole figure, or just his head and shoulders. Look sad and attempt smiling.

I’d ask her to sit next to a window, a spotlight, go outside, and try some photos. You should always use natural light if you don’t have a lighting setup. Good lighting will provide enough light to sketch or shoot. Position your model near to it such that one part of the face gets some light and the other half is darker. Light and shade will add dimension to your photo. Windows are my first option for it. If you’re interested, give electric lights a try. I’ll make a lot of images and sketches to review all the ideas. If you do it enough, you will know what you enjoy and dislike.

Choosing clothes and backgrounds

A consistent mood and lighting will make finding the right background and apparel easier. Experiment with your design in different settings, rooms. Try creating a background using large pieces of fabric and see how it looks. Using backgrounds makes a major difference in portraits, so explore what works and what doesn’t.


Work on your drawing or painting to make it easier. Your model will be ‘in your fingers’. It’s all practice. Starting your oil painting with a head start will expedite the process. The more time you spend studying your model’s face (in pencil, charcoal, or paint) the more comfortable you will be painting. If you have previously figured out how the mouth, nose, and eye lid relate, you will have spared yourself a lot of frustration in the future. Drawing pays off, as well.


Final stage: polishing and texture work. To add depth of colour and texture, I use a little brush and paint. to enhance shape, I seek colour and value alterations I find edges I can lose and edges that require enhancement. I aim to find the perfect balance between saturation and colour darkness.


I often keep my paintings on the easel for a long time, working on it periodically. I’ll work as long as I can see mistakes. I have not finished till I am unsatisfied. I won’t sign off on anything until I believe it is perfect.