Have you been wanting to try acrylic portrait painting but don’t know where to start?
Painting portraits in acrylic can seem challenging at first. After all, acrylic paint is known to dry quickly and requires more work to create a smooth, blended finish when compared to oils and pastels that are traditionally used for portrait painting.
However, acrylic portrait painting is completely possible. We’re here to help you learn how to paint a portrait in acrylic with these tips and tricks.
Acrylic Portrait Painting Supplies
First things first, when painting portraits in acrylic (or any project) it’s important to have all the right supplies on hand. When it comes to acrylic portrait painting, you need many of your basic supplies, like:
- Acrylic paints
- Artist palette
- Painting surface (i.e. canvas)
- Cup or jar of water
For an acrylic portrait painting, you’ll also want to utilize a slow drying medium. There are a variety of mediums that can be used to slow the drying time of acrylic paint and make it easier to blend. Using a slow drying medium is a must for an acrylic paint portrait because you’ll also need to take your time layering colors and adding small details.
You may also want to consider utilizing a reference photo throughout the process.
Starting an Acrylic Portrait Painting
With your supplies ready, it’s time to create your acrylic portrait painting.
While everyone has a different approach to acrylic portrait painting, many experts agree that the first thing to do is sketch the outline of your subject. This is why having a reference photo is important. Use a pencil to outline your portrait, focusing on major features like their nose, eyes, and mouth to ensure everything is in the correct proportions before painting.
Next, you will want to blend your colors to create your starting palette.
Pro tip: The skin tone of your subject is often the first thing to paint in an acrylic portrait painting.
This is when having a slow drying medium on hand is important. Mediums can help change the consistency of your acrylic paint, allowing you to blend colors better and giving you more time to work. Make sure to only create the colors you’ll be working with immediately so you’re not wasting paint.
How to Paint in Acrylic 101
Now for the main attraction, filling your canvas with color! For an acrylic portrait painting, it’s recommended to start painting with your fill color (like the base skin tone) and then go back to add details and dimension with smaller brushes.
Remember: Skin is never one or two colors. You may be surprised, but using reds, blues, and greens is often a must for creating a realistic skin tone for your acrylic portrait painting.
Once your base is somewhat completed (but don't worry, you can always go back to add more details!), it’s time to move on to other features. Using a smaller brush, you can begin working on your subject’s eyes, lips, and nose. When it comes to these details, it’s important to focus on blending your acrylics to create a smooth transition from them to the skin. To make your acrylic paint portrait realistic, you’ll also want to include shadows and highlights from your reference image.
Much of the same advice is true for adding other details, like your subject’s hair and eyebrows. It’s always important to start with the base color and go in to add fine details later in the process.
If you’re a visual learner, you can also take advantage of the internet to find an acrylic portrait painting demonstration. There are a wealth of tutorials available on the matter for artists of all skill levels!
Finishing Your Acrylic Portrait Painting
Once your acrylic portrait painting is finished, don’t forget to add a varnish. As with any acrylic painting, a varnish is ideal for protecting and enhancing your portrait for the years to come. Just make sure to allow your acrylic portrait painting to dry for at least a week before this final step.
So, what are you waiting for? If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at painting portraits in acrylic there’s no better time than the present! While it may be more challenging than working with oils or pastels, these tips and tricks can help you get better with each brushstroke.
When it comes time to gather your acrylic portrait painting supplies, make sure to shop Nova Color. We have all the artist-grade acrylic paints and more to help you get started. Shop our collection of acrylic paint today! Join the Nova Color Paint affiliate program which helps artists monetize their love of art and top-quality acrylic paint. Browse our FAQ page to find answers to all the questions related to our complete product range.