Learning how to paint people is exciting, and sometimes challenging. There are some tips and techniques that can help you as you begin your portrait painting journey.
Start with an accurate drawing of the subject you plan on painting.
Some artist use the grid method, while others free hand the initial drawing. One hint that you need to take to heart is this; If you don’t have an accurate drawing, do not attempt to paint the person. You more than likely will not achieve a likeness if you don’t have a likeness first in pencil.
Painting the closed mouth is fairly easy with practice. Painting the open mouth is more difficult and requires lots of practice. This is because you not only have to paint the lips, but the gums and teeth and sometimes the tongue. The mouth is the facial feature which most expresses the subjects’ mood. The mouth and lips can make or break a portrait. They can make an otherwise realistic portrait look unlike the person or even cartoonish if you do not get it close to exact. To paint closed lips make sure that the pencil drawing is accurate. You will need to step back and view the drawing to make sure that it looks like the subject.
Using the correct color for the lips.
When you are satisfied that the drawing is correct, use a color that matches the persons flesh tone and create the outline of the mouth and the line between the lips. The color that you will use for the lip outline is flesh tone with some burnt umber and alizarin crimson added to it. Be careful not to make the lips look too pink or red, unless there is lip stick on the subject. Lips are really just a little pinker or reder than the flesh color. The outline color should be slightly darker than the actual lip color. Think of this stage as a coloring book. For the outline of the lips you are just painting over your drawn lip lines.
After you have painted the outline color, use the same color but a little lighter and paint in the upper lip. The upper lip will be darker than the bottom lip. Now, paint in the bottom lip with a slightly lighter lip color.
Highlight the lips
Now highlight both lips. The upper lip will have a touch of very light lip color or even white right along the very top center portion. The lower lip will have quite a large area of highlight along the “puffy” center of the lip. The highlight gives the illusion that the puffy portion of lip is rounded and closer to the viewer if you will. When you add the light or whitened highlights to the bottom lip do so in vertical strokes. You should leave a few stroke lines to indicate lines in the skin that make up the lips.
If your subject is a person wearing lip stick you could be done with the lips because lipstick sometimes shows a defined line. But if the subjects’ lips are natural, you should gently blend the lip color into the flesh color of the face so that a hard edge does not exist where there is none.
The last thing to do with a closed mouth is to add shadows directly above the top lip where the crease under the nose is, and directly under the bottom lip and in the chin area. Painting people accurately is an art that requires much practice and patience. You should purchase literature for acrylic painting techniques that demonstrates these methods.