Paint a portrait quickly :

from inspiration to the signature !

To paint a portrait ! It’s for the most of us the creative processus the most delicate as an artist painter. As a portraitist, this is what makes me vibrate, what inspires me.

It is exciting to transcribe all those expressions, to transcend a face full of emotions.

Of course, my beginnings have been quite chaotic ! After have learned to draw, I had to literaly learn how to paint.

Yes, we think we know, but in front of a blank canvas, every little step can be hurtful : this is why I decided to share with you some techniques learned in the doubtful times, but in the times of grace too !

In this post, I will not give you THE application, because there are as many of methods than artists. Dans cet article, je ne vais pas te donner LA méthode, car il en existe autant qu’il y a d’artistes.

I will simply give you my approach, this one that I built with time. Indeed, I know that it will continue to evolve, and that at each canvas it will have some  nuances. Je vais tout simplement partager avec toi mon approche, celle qui me correspond et que j’ai affiné au fil du temps. En effet, je sais qu’elle continuera à évoluer, et qu’à chaque toile elle prendra quelques nuances.

To do this, I will talk about those 3 aspects of portrait creation :

  1.  My sources of inspiration, or how to find a model wich worth it !
  2.  The affordable painting furnitures that I use.
  3.  And finally, the painting work itself, or how to put the paint.


Oui je sais… Yes I know…

 Like me, you dream about/of having a model to paint, an inspiring landscape or a decadent pattern each time you want to scratch the canvas, or sketch something. As a portraitist, I have been a lot frustrated :

  • A living model, it’s a lot of money ! If it doesn’t bother you to paint granny ou the love of your of the moment, obviously…

  • Yes, personaly I need diversity, I couldn’t paint again and again the same model as a paint and his muse.

  • I prefer to work alone, without anybody who could distract my thoughts and flight of colours.

  • The pression you can feel towards the model, you have to get it right !

This is why I work a lot from photos, and the web is a without end inspiration source. It’s like a spark can occur at any time and put you on the road of promising piece of art.

Yes, photos, but no bullshit ! I want to feel life, emotions, movment !

For example, I avoid the good old Google Images which offers most of the time old style images, with very conventionals postures…

Les photos obtenues sur Google Images sont peu originales…

The Google Images photos are not enough quirky….

I admit it : you can find hundreds of more or less free pictures sources on the web, but for my part I only work with two of them.

Yes, when we talk about inspiration, it’s judicious to not scatter yourself on dozens of different websites without organisation.

So, here are my sources :

             The photo reference of each artist today !

Millions of photos sorted out in pins and a specialized cascade search engine  which give you the possibility to stroll from a theme to an other without never disappoint you. Above all, the Pinterest’s organisation capacity is just awesome et very convenient. Could it be easier ? Impossible.

Finally, it’s the period’s end of your hundred of photos lost in your hard disk’s meanders. You can now organize all of this in this big stock book.

Icing on the cake : you can fuel your Pinterest’s albums instantly with any image that you could find on the web only by clicking on the Pin button. The must for me ! You can see all my inspiration on Pinterest here !

The results of the search for « woman portrait » on Pinterest…

              Yes, I’m also very inspired by videos (music videos, tv shows, movies) on Youtube for exemple ! What ? What do you mean ?

When I watch a video and that I love a shot, I do a screen capture that I can use as a start.

The light and the position of the subjects and faces are more dynamics than on a picture. Therefore, the composition of the subject is a lot more original to paint because the video is more clore of the real life.

A portrait inpired by a music video of the singer FKA Twigs found on YouTube…

But watch out, there is a trap !

Indeed, to accumulate images is good, but not only good. I admit it, I sort of find myself in the skin of an images compulsive hoarder. I pined them by hundreds, thousand without… kinda funny… never take a moment to watch them again later.

Yes, to find inpiring images is good, but to take the time to know them is better ! It’s here that you will find all the gist of the artist.

Observe them, « tame » them, try to put some words ont the details which make you stop on them, to exploid them better, make them grow et own them.

What about you ? What are your inspiration sources ? What is your style of painting ? Do you have another sources to share with us ? Give me your good plans in the comments section.

You did find the portrait you want to paint ? We pass to the equipment preparation.


It’s easier to start with a small equipment because it’s with time and experience that you will discover what’s up to you or not.

« Paint, it’s the run to the absolute and the unknowable. »
Alain Bosquet / La Confession mexicaine

About the painting equipement, you don’t need to ruin yourself :

  • 3 brushes : a large one to do the more flat tints of colour. a small one for the details and a water brush to melt them
  • An easel or the corner of a table well protected with a plastic cloth where you will put your canvas
  • The palet : a wooden or plastic one, it’s up to you. For my part, I use a white ceramic tale, which is easily washable. With the time, I bought a bigger one to be able to make more quantity of blended colors when I paint XL canvases. You can see on the below image how I organise it.
  • A cleaning pot, water for acrylics and in my case turpentine for oil painting.
  • A small bucket with a little of linen oil to weaken oil painting, or you will use clean water for the acrylic ones.
  • 2 cleaning clothes, one that I stand flat on my painting table to take off the surplus of cleaner on the brush, and an another on in my hand to spin it perfectly.

How I organize my little painting place…

The canvas and his preparation

Hehe, which is great is that you can paint on anything.

I prefer canvases but if you want a cheaper solution, sometimes I paint on wood board.

Indeed, they are very cheap and convenient. You can buy them in any DIY store and make them cut at the exact dimension you want, this is an asset. You just have to a quite thick one, this way it will never warp.

  • To prepare your support, you will always have to apply a generous layer of gesso : your paint will sticks well to the support and your artwork will last longer.

It’s really simple to apply because it has quite the same texture of acrylics. Apply it with a large brush or a paint roller. To have a smooth result, I weaken it with a little of water and I cross the layers.

3 thin layers with 20 minutes of drying in between give good results. For more details, watch this !

  • Then, before starting the real work of painting, you will always have to apply a colored background, but why ? The colored background will make colors pop and you will not find any touches of white through your painting. You will be at ease and have a more free touch : we are less impressed by a non-white canvas.

Furthermore, the goal is not to fill every little inch of the canvas but to put touches of painting, You don’t have to care about visible through points of white.

You just have to dilute acrylic painting with a colour which will fit with your future painting.

In the beginning, we chose a brown umber because it’s neutral. But later, when you will have good notions of colours, you will able able to find the craziest combinations !



You will find in this video of my Youtube channel all the process described after it :

  • For the start, sketch the main lines of the face with diluted paint.

I prefer to paint first the more technical zones and the after the less ones. For exemple, I generally paint the eyes, the mouth and the nose first and after the rest of the face skin.

  • The basics of the values or how to put the colour shaded. You can go on this website where you will learn everything about basic sketching.
  • The application of the shadows. I never use pure black mais a mix of dark shadows. For a better start, use an only one tint of shadow, The best process is to put them all at first to don’t have to modify them again.
  • The mid tints. These are the more complexe tints et the most numerous ones. Indeed, medium tints will give all the shape of the face.
  • The light tints.
  • Blur with a soft brush, like a water brush one.
  • Make it alive ! Don’t hesitate to put some distance between you and the canvas to see better, and if you see something that bothers you, modify it ! You can add a touch of colour here, some light, or emphasize a blurred zone, It’s the moment to bring out all you sensitivity.
  • Do you think that your artpiece is over ? It is the moment to sign it ! Put the signature is often something that we are scared of ! Come on, you deserve it !
  • You have now to varnish it. If you used acrylics it can be done the day after. For oils, a few weeks of drying and you can do it.

Trick : If you want to know if your artwork is dry, put a needle in the thickest part of the paint. If it stands out clean, you can apply the varnish !

Last advices :

  • When we start to paint, everything seems tedious, We think that we need so much equipment and that there is too many steps. But with time, and it’s the same for every aspect of your life, everything become natural. The equipment is well organised, you can now prepare many canvases at the same time and the fact of painting is not something you have to ponder on anymore.
  • Start small : choose a small sized canvas, a small number of colours, few brushes and a simple but still inspiring  model. The skill comes with repetition : many small completed art pieces will make you go further than two XL canvases sulking in a corner.
  • Don’t give up ! What is big with painting : your technique skils and style are infinite. Work and have fun !

My artistic evolution between early 2016 and today…

If you want to share your advices our have any questions, share them with us in the comments section !

And now :

Go ahead !