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  • Writer's pictureVishakha

Mastering the Art of Portraiture: Tips and Tricks for Aspiring Artists

Portrait artworks tell untold stories of living beings that never escaped past the subject’s lips, through tools like brushes and pencils. Looking at well-crafted realistic portraits can feel like taking a sneak peek into the soul of the subject, often making the viewer want the subject to just tell you what’s going on in their mind. One classic example of such a portrait is the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, which has now become a timeless masterpiece.

Portrait art, irrespective of your medium, can take years to polish your skill, but with some consistency and persistence, it is definitely achievable.

If you are an aspiring artist, looking for tips to master your craft, TERAVARNA has got you covered. With our 8th portrait art contest approaching quickly, here are our top 5 tips to create portraits that speak without saying anything.


  • Take Time To Study Your Subject

Art is not only about creating everything that you see, it also is about implementing things that you know. To get a realistic image, you not only need to know what meets the eyes but also what is underneath the skin. Going back to the Mona Lisa painting, the reason that painting is considered a masterpiece is because of how realistic the artwork is. Vinci spent a great deal of time studying human anatomy by dissecting more than 30 corpses. While you don’t need to go to that extent, you can always refer to his notes and try to observe more details of your subject, such as their bone structure, the shape of their face from different angles, etc. Check the proportion of their face, the width-to-eyes ratio, the distance between the two eyes, the distance between eyes and nose, the lift of cheekbones, etc.

  • Don’t Dive Head First Into Details

This tip is something most new canvas artists ignore, but sculptors might be well aware of. You always start with shaping out the basic shapes, without going into the intricate details all at once. Even if you feel highly tempted to start out with the finest details of the eyes, hold yourself back for a while. Get the basic shapes right first, and then you can go on to adding and modifying the finer details. Think of it when a sculptor creates their artwork. They start by shaping the clay, giving it the outer structure first – a rough shape of the head, neck, torso, and the rest of the body. It is only after they get those shadow shapes right, that they move to the depths of the detail.

  • Don’t Smudge to Create Shadows

This tip is applicable in the case of pencil sketches where most young students rub their pencils on paper to create a shadow on the face. They rub the pencil shading with their fingers, which not only makes it look airbrushed but can also transfer grease on your skin to the paper, running your entire portrait artwork. Instead of rubbing the pencil against the paper, you can try creating layers of finely drawn hatched lines. The trick is to use harder pencils for the areas with more light and smoother, softer pencils for the shadow effect.

  • Let the Mirror Show You the Truth

Most artists often take the help of mirrors when they are creating self-portraits. However, this tip has a much wider use than just that. When you constantly keep looking at the same canvas for hours, your eyes get accustomed to what they see. This tends to blind them to all the possible flaws that you could find, if only just changed your perspective– mirrors help you achieve exactly that. When you put your artwork in front of a mirror and study the reflection, it will reveal to you all the flaws you might have otherwise missed. It changes the perspective of your vision and gives you a fresh perspective to approach your portrait artwork.

  • Explore With Black and Whites

There is a certain sense of attraction when you add a pop of colors to your artwork, However, when it comes to portrait art, a combination of white canvas and black charcoal (or graphite) can really help you master your skills. The basics of black and white help you develop a sense of shadows and highlights. Once you start to understand the difference between the two and how to create these effects, your portraits will start turning out to be much more realistic.


… Because Practice Makes an Artwork Perfect!

Finally, you can only hone your skills by practicing. Unless you don't actually use your hands to create your masterpieces, the theoretical tips won't do you any good. To get a better understanding of your art, you can also observe other artists working, or study their artworks. This gives you insights into other techniques and let you explore new ideas that you can try yourself. Also, don't forget to take breaks in between to rejuvenate your mind and come back to your craft with a more inspired mind to create your next masterpiece.


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