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The Hardest thing about Portraits......for me any suggestions?

The toughest thing for me in all of painting is.......... Teeth ..... I hate doing teeth so much that I try to avoid doing any portrait work with people smiling...... each tooth is like an individual painting all by itself, with individual curvature, shading, color, size..... I have never seen a tutorial tackle this or even mention it (I'm guessing because all those master artists on Youtube hate teeth too) ....... (I'm a big fan Mark, you have probably done more for artists, at all levels, than anyone else ever has, Thanks~!)


  • edited February 7
    Hmm on the last one I did there were teeth. I was initially worried it would be a big problem but it wasn't. I recommend using transfer paper for the drawing and then just painting it carefully getting all the values right. With colour matching and patience it shouldn't be too bad. A member here candora painted some ridiculously realistic looking teeth. Check out his or her work

    One tip for portraits and teeth included is that you might find like when matching colours there are too many values everywhere and it's impossible to match perfectly. In this case you can just match the colour on the darker end of the gradient say on the side of the forehead or tooth, and then the lightest one in the middle or whatever, and then just add a value or two in between the two that you've matched and that will do the trick. Easier than colour matching each individual stroke. 
  • edited February 7
    I recommend learning to draw it out real well on paper as practice, it will help you see and understand much better beforehand. These can be simple thumbnails or life size, practice sketching. You may want to read Andrew Loomis.
  • edited February 7
    Big to small. Conceptually think of the set of teeth first as one big curved object and model the values accordingly. Then model the individual teeth but don’t overdo it  it’s a portrait of a person with some teeth but the teeth are not the focal point. Never exaggerate whiteness or separation between teeth. 
  • edited February 7
    I agree with Martin. Here's how Sargent did teeth. 
    They are only suggested but it works beautifully.

  • Also in photos teeth might be blown out and too white
  • dencaldencal -
    edited February 7

    Darryl Tank identifies seven common portrait drawing mistakes.

    Number 2 (oops No 3) is chicklet teeth. His advice applies to painting teeth too.

  • It sounds like a psychological problem. Turn the source photo and the canvas sideways or upside -down then paint what you see. @movealonghome advice about photos blowing out color and brightness is true too. you gotta watch out for that.
  • edited February 7
    There is a woman who is a brilliant portrait artist, she painted people from her town - hundreds of them!  I think she needed 4 hours for each sitting - if they desired teeth - she DOUBLED the time that is how much she struggles with teeth.  I thought it was amazing - especially given how brilliant she is.  Rose Frantzen (sp?) is her name.

  • If you want to paint teeth well try @Haitham
    I think he is actually a dentist.
    But you said it yourself, its a little painting all by itself, and usually in miniature, which makes it hard.  But its no more difficult that the whites of the eyes.  They are miniature paintings too!
  • Generally, teeth  should be suggested.  Drawing/painting each tooth often creates a picket fence.  If I have any say in the matter, I insist that there be no teeth, but when stuck with them, they are mostly a suggestion.


  • Yes, teeth are tricky. A study copy I did a few weeks ago - the teeth took ages, but it was worth it!
  • edited February 8
    Teeth are indeed tricky but after learning to draw them well, never a problem again, and the effort is worth it. I drew these in 2015, after many years studying human anatomy. The memories of these are retained within me, help guide me in portraiture and in figurative work. Perhaps continued practice and development is the key, keeping it a familiar subject at hand.
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