Oil Portraits

All About Oil Portraits

Oil Portraits

Welcome to my all about my oil portraits page, the home of equipment, process photos, the best type of photos and more :)

Oil paintings make beautiful portraits.  They have a lovely, almost velvety look, and are quite three dimensional with a depth and colour to them that can be quite incredible.  They appear very tactile, you can almost sink your fingers into the fur.   Like my pencils they are based on the photo, but they are so much more than that in the way they come to life and have such presence.

Oil paintings make outstanding portraits that will last for generations.

Stages of an Oil Portrait


In stage 1 the portrait is drawn up, using a grid system.  I used to draw them freehand, but the grid is quicker and can save many hours of trying to find where the proprotion is just a bit off.  It's not foolproof though!  Stage 2, the base coat is laid down. This is also the stage where if there are proportional or colour issues, its normally picked up. This stage is very rough with virtually no detail work, but you can see how it will come together and if all proportions are correct.  In some portraits there can be quite a difference between these two stages, as I may decide to approach it differently.

In stage 3, I then add another layer,  but instead of being block colours, I have started blending the different areas of shading together to add realism and texture to the portrait. Once that is done, really from here on its just adding layers of detail and highlights to give the portrait more depth.  

The Finished Portrait  

In the final stage, this includes all final detail touches to the fur, such as whiskers and fluffing out the body into the background.


My Materials

For my canvas, I have a favourite art shop I call on, who custom makes these when I need them.  I always get a high quality, fine grain, Belgium linen canvas, which comes primed and is like painting on silk.  It's beautiful to work with and great for detail work.  For my paints, I use mostly Winsor and Newton Artist Professional, stored my trusty paint tin!  The paint tin used to belong to my mother who was an artist herself.  It's quite old now and I love it!  My brushes are a variety of types and sizes, but the one I can't do without is a tiny sable brush that has about 10 hairs!  Its excellent for doing detail work!


Types of Photos

I have a page dedicated to photography tips, but I also wanted to mention the types of photos that are suited for oil paintings.  Of course you have your classic close-ups (see my graphite or photograpy page) which make excellent oil and graphite portraits.  However, oil paintings are very 3-dimensional and there are some that are great portraits with the background included.  These generally are more suited to oil, rather than graphite, as it's good to retain the colour and depth.  


This is an excellent example.  It's not quite as sharp as needed for a graphite, but it has great colour and would have fabulous depth that would make a stunning painting. 


Another good example.  The face is a little dark, but that can be lightened up, but its a great character shot that would be quite beautiful.

If you are unsure on what type of portrait you would like, or what your photos may be best suited to, please get in touch with me and I will guide you through that process.  The aim is to have the best possible portrait you can have, and sometimes the photos are more suited towards either an oil or graphite portrait, but may not be suitable for both. 

Have a look at my photography tips page for more photos and tips!