How to paint a self portrait like a pro

By Nicole Tinkham

How to paint a self portrait like a pro

Have you ever painted a self portrait? If not, we strongly suggest giving it a try. Here’s why. Working on a self portrait is unlike any other painting you’ll ever do. It can be a challenge but you’re sure to grow as an artist by doing it. You have total control over the subject because you are the subject! You’ll have to really focus in on the fine details and take a good long look at yourself. But don’t sweat it; you can always do it over and over again if you don’t like it the first time. Here are 6 of our top tips for painting a self portrait like a pro to help you get started.
1.    Do a preliminary drawing FIRST.

We recommend  doing a preliminary drawing first before taking paint to your canvas. This will help you get your proportions right and allow you to make the necessary changes. Here are just a few tips to getting proportion just right, something many artists struggle with when doing portraits:

* The space between the eyes should be the length of one eye.
* The edge of the mouth should be aligned with the pupil of the eye.
* The tops of the ears should be aligned to the eyebrows.
* The bottom of the ears should be a little lower than the bottom of the nose.

2.    Lighting is everything when doing portraits.

We know how important lighting can be when working on a painting or any artwork for that matter but it’s especially important when doing portraits. The correct lighting will help you achieve contrast. For portraits, we recommend placing a light on one side of your head a little bit above the head. This will give you the perfect shadows on the face.

3.    Use a mirror in addition to a photograph.

One challenge that you may face is your set-up. You can work from a photo but we also recommend using a mirror. Why a mirror? In the art world we prefer to work from real life and only use photos when we need to. When doing a self-portrait, using a mirror is as close as you can get to working from real life. Be sure that your mirror is positioned next to your canvas where you don’t have to twist or move around a whole lot to see in it. Consider using a second mirror so you can paint more of your face. This gives a 3D effect.

4.    Show yourself as you really are.

This will probably be the most difficult part of painting your self portrait. You want to show yourself as you really are. That means every wrinkle, blemish, and crooked tooth. We often want to forget these things and choose to not see them but in the case of improving as an artist you must see things as they really are. You will only improve your skills as an artist if you really focus on this.

5.    Have fun making different expressions.

When doing self portraits, the possibilities are endless. You are free to play around, get a little goofy, and make any expression you can come up with. For this, you may want to use a camera and work from a photo. Take a bunch of different photos and when considering which one to work with look at what the expression portrays. How do you want your painting to feel?

6.    Just get started

Self portraits can be intimidating but the best way to get over your fear of starting is just to do it. Remember that if it doesn’t turn out how you had wanted, you can always give it another go. Keep going and keep practicing. There are always new techniques to try so don’t give up after your first one. You will eventually nail this and have a killer self portrait!

Take a deep breath. You can do this! Remember to make it your own personal style. Your self portrait can be fun and colorful. Paint in a way that excites you and makes you want to do another. It is a painting of you after all so make sure it reflects your own unique personality. Tell us, what are some of your best self portrait painting tips? Leave a comment below and we’ll add it to our list.

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