Mixed Media Step-by-Step

How to paint realistic Pet Portraits from a Photo

Welcome back to the Painter’s Forum! Today we will be looking at the technique on how to paint a per portrait from a photo. Painting a pet portrait can be just as challenging as painting a human portrait because the owners of the pets know every little detail about their dog or cat. If the eyes are too wide or far apart from each other, it is not a good job. The painting does not look like the photo or the human, or the pet. So, I have prepared a little portrait to show you how to do this with ease. This is a technique on how to make pet portraits and I’m pretty sure this will make your clients happy. Maybe make you a little cash flow for your pocket while you’re at it. So, grab your paints and let’s get to it.

Step 1: I want you to meet Rumi! The little Falcor of Love! So this is the photo I will be using for our painting today. I have chosen this photo because it shows the challenges of painting a pet portrait from a less than clear image. It is our job as artists to make it work and work with what we have!
Step 2: So the first step is to cut your stencil out and prepare all the little things that we will be using later in the project. I am simply cutting out a stencil for eye placement, nose placement and overall shape of the pet’s head and body.
Step 3: Now that your stencil is cut and you’re ready to paint the background, it is time to spray some easy lift / re-positionable spray mount on the stencil (to hold it in place).
Step 4: Now that the stencil is on, we are ready to paint the sky, distant sea and the waves in the foreground. Of course, the sky comes first. Next is the horizon line. After that, comes the waves. Stay with the photo as closely as possible to get a close reference as possible.
Step 5: With the photo being taken in Florida, I have to add some nice looking waves. I want it to look exactly like the photo, so the client is happy and satisfied when they see the art next to the photo. This also covers any misconceptions on what the painting will and should look like; kind of like a visual agreement between the two parties.
Step 6: Now that the background sky and beach are completed, I can now focus on the doggie. So, using the cutaways on the stencil, I paint the dog’s eyes, nose and mouth parts black. This placement will assure that the dog will look like the photo.; the most important thing about painting portraits.
Step 7: Now I can actually remove the stencil and begin free handing the wiry fur with the airbrush. I am painting in the lighest layer of transparent black over the whole body and getting it ready for some brush work. For this job, I really like using the ‘ol fan brush. I am just adding in the base coat fur, at this time.
Step 8: Continue to add in the white fur over the airbrushed body.
Step 10: So now, take you r trans black and paint over the fur, ever so lightly. This is a great technique for pushing and pulling fur, meaning; I am trying to make the fur look real by having some pieces folding back and some pieces coming out at me. This style of shadowing is great for making fur really come to life.
Step 11: Here I am adding in the red for the tongue. I use a transparent red and carefully add it to the spot.
Step 12: You can see how I am pushing back some fur and allowing other areas for the fur to pop out at the viewer. Notice the areas around the eyes and nose.
Step 13: Now it is time to replace some of the whiteness in some of the fur. Notice how the layering of airbrush vs. brush strokes builds up nice depth in the fur. This is what we want.
Step 14: Here you can step back and take a closer look at the entire piece to see if it is on track. Here you can judge to see if the piece is looking like the photo and what else needs to be done to it.
Step 15: So I wanted to add the little doggie tag in my portrait. Here I had to cut a special stencil of the tag and emblem. I start by painting it black, then silver.
Step 17: Now I add a little black shading to the emblem to give it some shading, like it is resting on some fur.
Final: So there you have it folks. Just a little fur ball, his beach and his smile to warm up the house where it will hang. I hope you have enjoyed this project as much as I have. Please leave me your thoughts, comments or ideas below and I hope you can join me for another PaintersForum project very soon! Be happy, stay colorful and paint everyday.

Artist’s Tool Box:

Airbrush- MAS G222-SET

Compressor- ABD TC-20-HB

Paint Brushes- USA BS-124

Airbrush PaintUSA AB-KIT-6

Canvas- USA SC12X12-SV-7PK

Give me a follow on Instagram @ Artistanhpham for more art from Anh Pham

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