Airbrush Step-by-Step

Airbrushing a Pet Portrait with “Maddi”

Painting a doggie can be one of the most fun things you could do with paint.  It is a great way to make some extra bucks if you can learn to master this artform. Today we will be painting Maddi, a precious little pooch that is only black and white but, there is more to her than meets the eye.  So, grab your brushes and let’s get started.


Free handing a portrait is never the best way to capture the real and true essence of portrait painting. That is to make the subject look exactly and realistically like the subject matter. Whether it is a human or pet, the best way to make your painting as realistic as possible is to cut a stencil. So as you can see, I have printed out a photo copy of the Doggie’s image in preparation for cutting a stencil. When that is cut out, I place the stencil (positive) in position and begin to spray out the background colors. For this portrait of Maddi, I want her black and white colors to really stick out, so I chose a nice green lawn background for her.
As you can see, I have cut the stencil out with the eyes, nostrils and outline. That is really all you need to make a realistic portrait of a doggie. It is the placement of these key features that set us all apart from one another. Now with the stencil placed in position, I protect the doggie’s body from the background over spray which is green, yellow and teal paint.
Notice that I paint the background from light colors to dark. When you paint this way, you can control the color output and shades! So I basically continue building up the lawn colors here.
Now I can pull off the stencil and see where the placement of the eyes and nostrils are going to be. Like I mentioned, this “mapping” is what is going to really pin point this doggie’s features. Also notice that while the stencil was on, I added a little drop shadow underneath her to give her depth.
Now is the time to bring out the Hog Bristol hair paint brush for the fur.. This is my favorite part about this kind of project because you can really just get back to the basics of painting. I do use the airbrush a lot, but that is most always in conjunction with some paint brush strokes. Now, see where the black paint brush strokes can build up the face in no time. I also use a grey tone for where the white fur will be. Although she has a really white colored fur there has to be some contrast and indications of fur there. After that, I am able to add some whitestrokes over the black that I just laid down as well as the grey. I am just adding layers and layers of fur at this point.
After all the fur layers are laid down, I can now switch back to the airbrush to push and pull fur where I want them to. By pushing, I mean that I am making the fur look pushed back, and by pulling I am simply leaving fur that I want to appear coming out at the viewer. It’s all really an illusion and you want to stay patient to make every little tuck and fold look as real as possible. It will pay off when the dog’s portrait is complete. Just stay loose and have fun!
Now comes the best part, and that is making the eyes really come to life. I got a close up of Maddi’s eyes for color reference. So here I used the airbrush to lay down yellow, then Burnt Sienna and the a light layer of Raw Umber. Now comes the magical part of the eyes and that’s the highlight. Reflecting in the eye is a window or glass door. If you can make the reflection come out right, it will look proper to where your light source is coming from. Also, here I added some of the Sienna and Umber colors to the fur to give her that “real” dog colors. We look pretty good here and I will call this portrait done.

Thank you for joining in today as this was so much fun.  Make sure to leave your thoughts and comments below and happy painting!


Artist’s tool box:

24 Color Acrylic Airbrush Paint Set

Professional Master Airbrush Multi-Purpose Gravity Feed Airbrushing System; G22 Dual-Action Gravity Feed Airbrush


Please follow and like us:

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: