This page will be dedicated to “How to approach” your painting style. There is NO RIGHT WAY to paint when starting a painting. Some artist paint from dark to light and others light to dark. The picture I am adding is painting from dark to light values. preferably, I paint light/medium tones  to dark in watercolor and in most mediums; which ever is easiest for you to understand.

I come across this approach often with entry level painters, add the different color/colors as you paint. Putting this base color, letting dry and then adding the colors later are or is a longer harder process to achieve your painting goal. Paint the details as you go meaning different colors; the blending of colors will be an easier in the long run.

Sometimes when painting a loved one or any portrait the painting leading to forms and shape may not look exactly like what you think it should right away. I post often when you get stuck on Not ‘Seeing” forms and or likeness exactly  put the correct highlights in on the forms closest to you in space and that should allow you to start to see shape and form. Working darker to lighter tones can be hard to understand and see results quickly because the darker part of forms and shapes are Not forming /creating forms and shapes with out realism. It is easier to work light tones to darker tones because you are building the forms to be exact to the features which is Key.  Working opposite is more difficult if you don’t have a strong drawing foundation with value skills in graphite to start with. The forms here are being added in opposite and built from dark tones which is harder to see without highlights. If painting darker tone skin then you start at a 5 / 6 on value scale. Based on the Hill and Valley principle I teach [see drawing] putting in valley tones heavily will make it hard to see highlights and forms, unless you have a strong drawing foundation. With darker tones you don’t go directly to the darkest skin tone, like I stated start with a 5 / 6 value. That may not make any sense to you, but the darker tones if not in gradual order can be hard to work up to create forms and shapes.

Working dark to light isn’t wrong, some artist work this way; I think it is harder to understand for the beginner. As you paint through time techniques will be adapted to your style and you will figure out what approach works for you in meeting your goals and level of realism.  The hair works well here with working dark to light. How you would make the hair have more movement is to add a rich brown such a Burnt Umber and  or Vandyke Brown with a touch of black and paint into the valleys to create more movement. The blouse is looking great so far. For a higher level of realism you need to start concentrating particular color in a certain area; fine tuning shape and form. Play the dark tones against the highlights.

Keep in mind for any artist it is an emotional attachment to the subject when you are painting a loved one. Your mind’s eye knows what the person looks like and if your painting isn’t portraying that image in paint at first that alone can be frustrating. Realism can be hard, the goal is to capture the essence of the person. I have painted and drawn many portraits thus far and the goal is to execute anatomy correctly and add the essence of personality to each person.


This particular artist painted or started the painting at the darker end of the value scale in flesh tones. Starting in the darker range can be a challenge to see and understand were forms on the face and skin are. Starting in the middle tone range is the easiest approach; this technique allows you to work both ends of the value range. Here lighter shades of flesh tones were made to start to create skin wrinkles and forms. The dark lines that were painted in for wrinkles were way too dark. It would be correct if you were painting darker skin tones. Below is a simple palette of flesh tones. You do NOT need to buy flesh tone paints.

If you come up against a portrait were you need to paint glasses, paint the eye and folds and then add the glasses over the dried finished eye. You will have better luck getting the shape correct, etc.

You need:

Raw Umber is a rich brown, my base with white.

Burnt Umber has a rich brown with a slight reddish under base tone.

You can see in the picture a red for “Tinting” a base flesh tone well. Take white and Raw Umber and mix for a number Five on the value scale; not dark, not light tone. From that point add a DOT of Burnt umber to make the mix a slight more red. Keeping the first mix alone. Always take from the main well. either making darker or lighter off to the side of the main well.

Use Linseed oil to dilute paint if needed, NOT turpentine or mineral spirits.



This portrait was painted by a friend of mine that is learning how to paint realism. He did a great job and captured the essence of his loved one.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s