In this tutorial I’ll show you how to paint a woman portrait from scratch. You’ll learn some basic rules to form your painting, the tips to paint effectively, how to use brush and take care of the details. A graphic tablet is highly recommended for this tutorial.
We’ll start this tutorial by learning something basic of female face anatomy to define the base of our painting. After creating the base of the head we’ll go more for the details of the face, hair, body and dress. Later we’ll use a few adjustment layers to make the color stand out. Finally we’ll refine some details to complete the process. You can use any versions of Photoshop to follow this tutorial.
Create a new document in Photoshop with the given settings:
The background color should be black.
It’s very important to work on a large canvas so you can pay attention to the details.
Create a basic shape of the head using a basic, hard brush with the color #c99e80 on the upper section of the black canvas.
Before detailing it you should know something basic of female anatomy, especially if you don’t use any specific photo references. Every human head is different but here are something in general to remember if you’re going to paint a portrait from a frontal view with a straight look (not smiling):
– The nose length should be about 1/2 of the part counted from the highest point of the nose to the lowest point of the chin.
– The edges of the nostril should reach as far as the inner edges of the eyes.
– The lowest part of the nose should be in-line vertically with the lowest part of the cupid’s bow.
– The edges of the mouth ( the lips corners) should be lined-up horizontally with the jaw and vertically with the edges of the irises.
– The mouth is always larger than the width of the nostril edges except you want to draw a child portrait.
If you want to draw a portrait from different looks and sides, some rules above will change.
Draw some lines to define the basic parts of the head and make sure that everything is as proportional as possible. We don’t paint the ears in this tutorial as they will be covered by the hair. Place this layer above all other layers and we’ll be using them as a guidance .
Make a new layer and change the settings for the brush as shown below (press F5):
Change the foreground to #b09e92 and start to paint some shade on the face. It’s very important to define the light source in the very first time so you can paint properly later. In this case I tend to make light come straight in the front.
Create a new layer and use a soft brush with the color #220e03 to paint in the middle of the face. We’ll correct it so don’t worry if it looks rough.
Click the second button at the bottom of the Layer Panels to add a mask to this layer. Use a brush with the hardness varied from 20% to 70%, the opacity and flow about 20 and 30% to define a nose form using the lines drawn in the step 2 as a guidance.
Paint with the color #560e16 under the nose and use a layer mask to define the lips base with some details. You should vary the opacity and flow of the brush to make the light and shade of the lips:
I used a Hue/Saturation adjustment layer with Clipping Mask to lighten the look of the lips. On this layer mask use a soft black brush with a very low opacity to reduce the Hue/Saturation effect :
On a new layer I painted the eyebrows shape. I wanted to paint a red hair for the model so I chose a pretty dark red for the eyebrow (#824f3e), remember to make the brow ends faded to create a finer look for the face.
On two new layers I used a brush with the color #100d06 to paint under the eyebrows, on the indicated area of the eyes in the step 2. Then I used a layer mask to create the base of the eyes included the irises and eyelids:
I made a new layer under the eyes ones and used a light color for the brush (#d6d3ce) to paint the sclera, remember to lower the brush opacity to make some eyes veins and details inside visible:
Here is the result should be so far:
Since this step we’ll go for more details. Delete the lines as we don’t need them anymore. We’ll start from the eyes as it’s my favorite part. On a new layer under the sclera one use a soft brush with the color #3d291a to paint around the eyes, especially the eyes end to create more depth for them.
Create a new layer and on this use a brush with the color #746f65 to paint inside the irises. Add a mask to this layer and use a black brush to make the pupils and the details inside the irises visible. The pupils should be in the middle of the irises as she is looking straight at us. Also make the top of the irises less visible, less bright as there is the shadow of the eyelids:
Make a new layer and use a hard brush with the color #e9e4d7 to paint small lines around the pupils to create more details inside the irises:
I used the same brush but lowered its hardness to 0% to paint under the irises bottom to make them brighter:
On a new layer, use the same brush to paint on the bottom right of the irises to make the light there stronger. Change this layer mode to Overlay 100%:
I used a new layer with a hard brush and the color #f3fbfe to make reflection in her eyes. The reflection can be anything so you’re free to paint as you see fit.
Make a new layer, use a soft brush with the color #beb0a6 to paint more details at the bottom of the eyes:
Create a new layer, use a soft brush with the color #593f36 to paint under the eyes and make some wrinkles:
On a new layer use a soft brush with a pink color (#6b4541) to make the caruncle at the inner corner of the eyes:
I used a soft brush with the color #2e2c27 to paint more details of the caruncles:
Make a new layer and use a soft brush with the color #efe5e3 to paint highlight on the caruncles and around the eye edges.
It’s time for the eyebrows. Make a new layer above the eyebrows shape one, use a hard brush with the color #3a200d to paint small hairs following the shape, remember to paint some faded hair outside and above the shape to make the eyebrows more natural:
I used a new layer and changed the brush color to #4e3127 to paint some darker hairs in the middle of the eyebrows:
I made a new layer and used a hard brush with the color #0f0e0d to paint the eyelashes. Remember to make the lower eyelid shorter and more sparse, especially at the inner edges:
Since this step we’ll working on the lips. Make a new layer under the lips one, use a soft brush with the color #664a40 to paint the shadow under the lower lip and at the lips corners, remember to make the shadow part under the lowest point darkest:
Make a new layer and use a dark color for the brush (#4c1d1d) to paint the shade between two lips. I’ve found it’s very important to show the face expression. Make it darker , sharper and smaller at the corners of the lips:
I created a new layer, changed its mode to Multiply and used the same brush to darken the shade more. Now you can see some of the teeth inside the mouth:
I used a new layer and a hard brush with the color #f2dcd3 to paint the lips texture, especially around the lips shade, remember to lower its size to 7-10 px:
On a new layer, use the same brush to create some highlight, gloss on and around the lips, especially at the lower lip corner to make them more realistic:
It’s time to take care of the nose. Make a new layer above the nose one and use a soft brush with the color #88584b , the opacity and flow about 30-35% to paint around the nose:
I used a soft brush with the color #c99e80 to fix some errors of the nose sides and around the nostril:
I used a soft brush with the color #cbac96 to brighten the sides of the philtrum. Change this layer mode to Soft Light 100%:
On a new layer, use a soft brush with the color #f2dcd3 to brighten the nose bridge a little:
In this step we’ll create the body. Make a new layer under the head base one. Use a hard brush with the color #c99e80 to paint a body shape of the neck and shoulder. The neck width should be smaller than the width between two jaws.
Create a new layer and use a soft brush with the color #736e62 for shading. We won’t do many details on the body as it will be mostly covered by the hair and dress.
On a new layer, use a brush with the color #795642 to create the details on the neck, shoulder and shadow of the head on the neck:
I used a soft brush with the color #e2b190 to make the bones in the front more visible:
Make a new layer above all of the layers. Use a hard brush with the color #ae845f to paint the base of the dress:
Create a new layer with Clipping Mask, change the mode to Overlay 100% and fill with 50% gray:
Take the Dodge and Burn Tool (O) with Midtones Range, Exposure about 20-35% to create the details on the dress. You can see how I did it with Normal mode and the result with Overlay mode:
Drag the flora pattern above the model and change the mode to Multiply 20%:
Add a mask to this layer and erase the pattern outside the dress:
On a new layer on the top, use a brush with the hardness about 40%, the color #402216 to paint the basic shape of the hair:
Make separate groups for the parts of the model (eyes, nose, lips, body, hair, dress). Create a new layer under the hair group with Multiply mode 100%. Use a soft brush with the color #976d55 and the opacity about 20% to strengthen the shade on the model face, neck and body:
I used a soft brush with the color #deb99f to make some light on the model cheeks and chin:
Create a new layer with the same settings like in the step 31 but without Clipping Mask. Use the Dodge and Burn Tool to refine some facial features: nose, around the eyes, chin, forehead, lips, philtrum, neck:
Now it’s time for the hair. Make a new layer above the hair base one. Use a brush with the hardness about 30-35%, the color #683d2b , the size about 250 px to paint the big basic strands of the hair and smaller strokes outside of the head . It’s a very important step to define the hair style and it can change the whole look.
Make a new layer and pick a lighter color for the brush (#82503c). Lower the brush size and paint more details for the hair, remember to follow the basic strands direction. It’s very important because if you don’t, your hair will looks very messy.
Continue painting more strands with the color #945f49 and with the lowered brush size (about 85-150 px) and don’t forget to follow the hair movement. I also added flying strands outside of the head to keep the hair realism:
I used a brush with the color #ab6d54 to fill the hair with small, flying strands:
To make the parting of the hair I used a soft brush with the color #c99e80, lowered its opacity about 20-25% to paint on the top of the head:
On two new layers I used a soft brush with the color #683d2b and #945f49 to paint some tiny hair strands around the parting to make it more realistic:
In this step I used the Dodge and Burn Tool to define the light and shade of the hair, create its depth and nature:
To make the skin more realistic, I made a new layer above the face, body group, but under the hair one. Fill it with 50% gray and change the mode to Overlay 100% then convert it to a Smart Object so you can adjust the values later. Go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise:
Go to Filter > Noise > Dust & Scratches to soften the noisy effect:
Make a new layer and change the mode to Overlay 100%. Use a black brush with the settings below:
Paint some freckles on her cheeks and nose and use a layer mask to reduce their opacity to get a more natural result:
It’s time for the background. Place the smoke texture above the background layer (black one) . You can paint your own or use others if you like. Create a Curves adjustment layer above the texture with Clipping Mask:
On this layer mask use a soft black brush to reduce the lightness at the edges to make some green light glowing behind the model:
Create a Color Fill layer on the top:
Change this layer mode to Exclusion 100%:
I used Color Balance to add red to the image:
Make a Gradient Map adjustment layer:
Change this layer mode to Exclusion 10%:
I used Curves to increase the contrast of the image:
Create another Color Balance adjustment layer:
I used Vibrance for this picture:
Make a new layer on the top, use a soft brush with the color #3b8d72 to paint inside the eyes and change the mode to Overlay 100%:
I used the same brush on a new layer to paint the green light reflected on the shoulders and dress, also painted some green flying strands outside the head:
Final step: I used Hue/Saturation to increase the skin tone saturation:
Download the PSD
Tutorial by Jenny Le