Questions about Blending, Hair and Backgrounds in Portraits

First, I'm new to the forum and have read and watched most of the online info and videos and just purchased the portrait videos. I've "dabbled" in painting for some time (mostly acrylics) and have decided to get more serious and really learn how to paint portraits. Mark, your tutorials are fantastic and this is the first time the process has really "clicked" for me and I have a realistic understanding of how to get from photo to paint on the canvas for detailed/realistic painting. I'm hoping you or others here can help with some questions I need more clearification on?

Painting Size: I realize that it's easisest to keep your photo/printout the same size as your actual portrait, but with the number of colors and detail that go into portraits in particular, is there a "best" size that facilitates visualizing the color transitions and detail without things getting too microscopic or large?

Blending: I understand the concept of protecting your shadow areas, but in the general features such as skin tones and other "soft" transitions, are there any helpful tips or basic rules for blending where two or more colors meet to avoid "blotchy" areas and on the other end of the spectrum not over blending?

Hair: Obviously with all the different types, colors and styles this is likely an impossible question to answer, but any basic steps, tips and/or techniques for painting hair that you use? Facial hair seems like it could be especially difficult.



  • Ooops forgot one...

    Background Color: If you're not going to paint the actual room items/background, do you use a background color that is common in the original background? Use something that matches the major skin tone or reflections range or a combination of these items? Or should you just photograph the model in their choice of color in the first place?
  • Thanks Kingston.. like I stated, I've already purchased Mark's portrait video tutorial. And yes I do remember some advise regarding background colors... (don't change it!). I've watched most all of it, and might have missed some parts, but didn't hear anything regarding size. Lots of video to watch! All seems fairly straight forward and tons of excellent information to sift through, but just looking for more advise regarding blending in particular. I guess it's mostly a learned/practiced technique to achieve your desired results.
  • Background: Don't change it much or it will look like you cut the subject out and pasted it onto a different background. If you're not sure you understand what will or will not cause this problem, I recommend painting the actual background more or less (if there's a chair in the background or something you want to leave out, that's fine).

    Size: For lots of reasons, paint life-size when doing a portrait.

    Blending: You will tend to see the "blotchiness" because you painted it, but if you really analyze a lot of great portraits, it's not uncommon for them to be blotchy. For someone viewing the portrait, who didn't see you paint it, the blotchiness will just "work". But when you do blend, do it the way Mark does in his videos. Don't drag your brush around a big area and mush it all together. I'm pretty sure he shows some blending in the portrait video but if not, hopefully someone can link to a video where he demonstrates blending. One of the biggest mistakes people make is they blend way too much and they blend too soon (as they go along, usually, because they get frustrated that their painting doesn't look right to them).

    Hair: I never painted hair but maybe someone with some experience can chime in here. :)

    Welcome to the forum!
  • When you paint hair just place the values/colors where you see them. Don't look at hair as individual strands. Hair looks complicated but if you keep it simple it can be really fun to paint.
    I agree with David on the blending. I like the blotchiness.
  • Thanks David & Ronna. I appreciate the insight. It doesn't look like Mark does anything different or special with hair in the video and it looks great, so your comments seem to fit the bill Ronna. I'll watch the portrait video a couple more times. Lot's to learn. I'm sure there's and "art" to the blending process (pardon the pun) but what you said makes sense David.
  • Do absolutely no blending until the canvas is covered everywhere. And then, only make a decisions about if or when to blend more from a distance at rooms length.

    If you blend as you go, you will do two things wrong. You will blend (or "fix") WAY more than you need to, and you will absolutely ruin your color. Of course if you really know what your doing you can blend to your hearts content as you go and do whatever you want - but that takes years of practice usually.

    You just won't believe what you can get away with - it is actually better to paint "ugly" up close, leave it all jumbled - but not blended.

    Examine this painting up close(use the zoom tool in the top right corner), it does not appear loose from a distance (zoomed out), but up close it is splotchy and full of brush work - look at the ears and eyes up close - all jumble and smudges:

    I am refilming my portrait video this year, I blend way too much in the current.

    rgr[Deleted User]Wishiwaspainting
  • @Mark_Carder I'm working on my second portrait right now (well, tonight and on the weekend) and this is exactly what I needed to see this morning!
  • @Mark_Carder That is a fabulous painting . I see what you mean about the loose messy brush work. I cannot do that !!! I get palpitations even thinking about it ! The The re worked Portrait Video sounds like it will be looser ?
  • Thanks Mark, that helps. A picture's worth a thousand words. Looking at it from a distance, you sure wouldn't think all those brush strokes and values weren't blended well. Even very obvious (big) brush strokes & marks when you look closely. Amazing when you consider it's only a 20" x 16" painting. I look forward to getting your new portrait video when it's completed. While the current one makes the techniques you use easy to understand, your commentary really didn't discuss your blending "philosophy" in depth (or simplicity I should say) as your statement above (or if it did I missed it which is quite likely). Your tutorials are the first I've watched that eliminate the guesswork and do a great job of clearly stating how I'm supposed to accomplish a step or goal in terms I understand instead of just assuming I must already know something. (if that makes sense?) Thanks for your help here and your tutorials.
  • Thanks Mark. What a great site that google cultural institute is for viewing paintings up-close! :)
Sign In or Register to comment.