Figure Painting Lessons And Techniques

(Scroll down to see the full list of lessons in this section)

It is believed that if you can paint a person, you can paint anything. Many artists feel daunted by the idea of having to handle skin tones and portray characters, but it isn’t all as difficult as it seems. This article will give you a few basic painting lessons on how to paint a human being.

First and foremost, you need to choose a model. Whether the model be 3-dimensional or not is completely up to you, and painting a figure from a photograph is just fine.

You can take your own photos, or browse magazines and the internet for figures (a photo from head to toe is ideal, details are not too important, you really just need the overall shape to work with).

If working with a photo, attach it to your sketch-book. With a pen, outline the basic shapes that you see in the figure: head, body, arms, legs and maybe hands and feet. Notice the stature of the figure and the attitude that this seems to convey.

Now, sketch that basic shape quickly and confidently. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t perfect, you can always start fresh if you don’t like what the finished drawing looks like. Do this a few times, perhaps with different figures, until you feel good about it.

Paint your sketched figures to colour them in but don’t worry about shadows and details yet. Now that you have more of a feel for painting figures, try to depict one, using paint alone with no pencil sketching to guide you. What do you think? Does it look like a person?

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Never mind if it doesn’t, and just try again. Nobody is perfect the first time around. If you’re having difficulty with the color of your subject’s skin, then try mixing white with yellow ochre or golden ochre and a touch of cadmium red.

Once you’re satisfied with a paint-only figure, look at your photo again. Squint your eyes a bit to make the image seem blurry, and notice where the block areas of shadow are. Using a dark shade of the colours that you used to paint your figure, fill in the most obvious shadows. Repeat this as much as you see fit, changing the shades and colours that you use, as you notice variations of color and other details in the photo.

If you are drawing a large enough figure and want to move on from basic stature and form to details like faces, hair and hands, then you’ll be doing pretty much the same thing as before, but on a smaller scale: recognizing shapes and shadows, and applying the right color and shade of paint to create those shapes and shadows on your canvas or sketch-book.

For darker skin tones, try using Payne’s Grey, or create your own grays and neutral tones by mixing blue (or other colors, it’s really up to you) with black.

Other quick tips:

  1. Don’t try to paint individual hairs, rather use a brush to create texture. Hair isn’t all one color! Don’t forget to add highlights.
  2. Soften the edges of teeth as hard edges stand out too much. Remember, teeth aren’t white and have variations in tone and color, as do eyeballs.
  3. Paint your subject with their eyes looking directly at you. This will give the illusion of the eyes following you when the painting is complete.

Practice makes perfect! The more you paint figures, the more natural the process will become for you.

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List of Figure Painting Lessons And Techniques:

  1. Painting Gestures in Humans and Animals
    This is nothing to worry about, as you can always collect energetic images of people and animals from the internet, magazines and books, which you can use instead.
  2. How to Paint Human Hair | Painting Human Hair on Canvas
    Learning how to paint human hair is relatively easy. The trick to painting human hair is to paint it as a whole and not by every single hair.
  3. Using Glaze for Skin Tones in Figure Painting
    Applying color in thin layers called glazes creates glowing skin tones that have a depth that single layers can’t compete with.
  4. Drawing Gestures in Animals | Painting Animals in Oils
    The first question that you might ask is to how to draw an animal when they can’t stay still. Well, you can do this by making drawing gestures in animals.
  5. Basic Poses for Art Models
    When you have a human subject to paint, it can be tricky to come up with an interesting pose, especially if your subject is not a professional model.
  6. How to Find Good Books on Figure Painting
    Books that cover specific art-related topics can be a good companion to artists who are looking to learn more about specific techniques or as a crash course on art lessons.
  7. Important Figure Painting Tips | How to Improve on Figure Painting
    Painting figures may seem like an impossible task at first, but the more you know about it, the less daunting it seems and the easier it becomes to let go of your insecurities and just give it a shot.
  8. Face Proportions in Figure Painting | How to Draw And Paint Faces
    Learning to draw facial proportions in figure painting is very important. If you are not that great in drawing, then you might find it hard to draw facial proportions.

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