Mixed Media Step-by-Step

Airbrushing Famous Portraits series *DJ Tara Brooks*

When painting a portrait of anyone famous, I definitely need to make sure that it is spot on.  Not only will the fans notice if anything is off but, when the celebrity sees it, they will be happy.  Now, painting any portrait is challenging for that very reason.  When painting a lady, however, it can be really tough and you will need to be very careful and patient when adding the shading to the skin.  For instance, if I were to paint Morgan Freeman;  there lots of wrinkles, cracks, crows feet and flaws in the skin (no offense Morgan) to get away with.  With a pretty lady though, one little shadow too dark or misplaced can affect the whole portrait.  The same rule goes for painting a child’s face.  So take it easy, grab your brush and let’s get to it.

Step 1:  I want a nice colorful background color for this piece.  I would like something dark but not too dark. Try to envision the whole piece before you even start painting so that you have a good idea of what colors will compliment each other.  So in this step, I am just squirting on colors that I like for the background, just enough to cover the canvas.
Step 2:  Now, I will be using a palette knife to smear the paint and get a nice abstract effect.  I like it when it comes out looking like tree bark. This makes a cool and interesting effect.  I am not smearing it in together too much because I like the “bark” look.
Step 3:  Next, it’s time to start my stenciling and cutting routine.  Here, I am only cutting away the dark important parts of the face, like the eyes, the nostrils, the lips and of course the circumference of the face to have a positive and a negative to work with.
Step 4:  When my stencil is cut, I can add some light tack spray mount to the back and position her where I like.  Time to pull out the airbrush and add some transparent black to it.  Now very carefully, start to spray around the face and neck.  For the eyes, I am very careful not to “flood” the eyes too black as she has hazel eyes.  Use caution and a light touch to achieve this.  For the nostrils and lips, I apply the transparent black in a way that will build up contour and form.
Step 5:  Now that the facial features are in place, I can remove the stencil and add her hat or hoodie with a paintbrush.  I chose a complementary color that I think will really highlight what I’m doing.  I chose an aqua blue for the hoodie.  Then using the transparent black again, I add the folds and layers to the hoodie.  Here I am just tucking and folding the fabric in an aesthetic way.


Step 6:  Here comes the hard part.  Using the transparent black again, I begin to carefully build in the shading of the face.  One stroke at a time, I can see where I need to add another light stroke and where I don’t.  This is where a little patience will come in handy as it takes time to really build up just the right amount of shading.  If you need practice at freehanding or you’re just beginning to airbrush, you can check out the blog called “Beginner Practice Strokes”  Next comes the highlights in the fabric hoodie. I am using the same color blue but, I added some white to offset it for the highlights.
Step 7:  When I am happy with the face and hoodie, I can then add some details to the hair.  I want to add some very light highlights to the hair to give it some shine.  I am using a very fine line detail brush for this.  If there’s too much shine I can always knock it down with the airbrush.  Now to really make the portrait come to life, I add the Highlights to the eyes.  This is my favorite part of any portrait.  Here, I use a toothpick for the gleam in the eye.  Watch as the face really comes alive with this final step.

Thank you for joining me and tuning in.

You can send in your comments and thoughts in the box below.

also, give me a Follow on Instagram at www.instagram.com/artistanhpham  Happy Painting!


Artist’s tool box:  ABD KIT-SP-CRE-3AIR  this a Professional 2 Airbrush System Kit with G22, S68 Master Airbrushes & TC-20 Air Compressor, 6 Primary Colors US Art Supply


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