How to Paint a Portrait in Oil – Part 5 of 5

how to paint a tonal portrait with colour strings

How to paint a portrait series. This is part 5 of a 5 part series of tutorials for beginners making the transition from drawing to oil painting.

We look at how importance value and tone are in creating a realistic black and white portrait using classical oil painting techniques.

Here is a quick review of what we have covered so far if you’d like to join in…How to Paint a Portrait in Oil - Part 5 of 5

Part 1 – Establishing the drawing, including the shadow line.

Part 5 – Finishing & Glazing

mixing damar varnish medium

The next medium to use is a simple mix of 1 part Dammar varnish: 1 part Linseed oil.

If you don’t have dammar varnish just add a bit more linseed oil to the previous mix. The varnish is fatter than the odourless mineral spirit but leaner than pure linseed oil.

Oil paint medium recipes

I have tried to keep the mediums in this demonstration as simple as possible because when I was first starting, I became obsessed with trying down track down the ‘medium of the old masters’ as I was convinced this would be the missing ingredient in my paintings.

It wasn’t.

I’ll go into more detail on the different recipes you can use in mediums for oils in a future post.

The greatest advancements in your own paintings, especially if you’re making the transition from drawing, will come from simple principles.

These aren’t glamorous, or shiny and new, but waiting for the ‘right’ brush, or the perfect medium will slow down your progress due to time and energy wasted searching for an answer rather than actually painting. Start simply with solid colour and flat tones and progress from there.

using skinned over oil p

Reusing Old Oil Paint

The first thing I do is put pressure onto the old blobs of paint on my palette, this bursts the paint skin and gives me access to the paint underneath. As I mentioned in the steps last week there are a variety of ways of keeping your oils fresh between painting sessions, and the paint can go slightly thicker using the method above, but as it’s at the final stage of the painting I’m happy to use it. Just use your own judgement if the mix feels okay.

At this stage of the painting, we are going to redefine some of the edges and check our drawing. Painting is a process of constant refinement and our fresh eyes are often our best judge.

how to paint a nose in oil paint

I then start to readdress some of the shapes using a round sable, as before when the paint goes on, it will feel like it sits on-top of the paint underneath rather than blending in, so I apply the paint knowing that I will be using a soft dry sable to blend and fuse the edges.

I work around all of the features redefining the shapes and subtly altering the tones.

how to paint a portrait in oils

I also add dark accents to the darkest points in the portrait, these can look a bit ‘stuck on’ but I will be softening them shortly.

glazing with oil paint

What is a Glaze?

A glaze is a method of altering the colour and tone of an underpainting by applying a thin translucent layer of paint. The best pigments for a clear glaze are the translucent pigments, as with all colours, the glaze will appear warmer when painted thinly, so classically painters like Vermeer used to start with a highly finished grisaille (a monochromeunderpainting) and then apply layers of colour in the form of glazes.

So, I then mix a thin consistency of paint using the blackest mix, to use as a glaze. This will be the most translucent as it contains none of the Titanium white (which is an opaque white)

If you were painting with the Flake white, you can make a more semi-opaque veil of colour to adjust areas in tone. This is called a ‘Velatura’ in Italian.

adding black accents
a black and white portrait

Focus in portraits

You have control of the viewers gaze, well a certain amount of control. We are always drawn towards eyes and contrasting colours. James Gurney has done some interesting eye tracking studies on some of his own paintings. Notice how the viewer focuses on the face.

For this painting, I keep the eyes sharper and more detailed and the lips and chin softer.

You then need to look to check the edges, are they too soft or too hard. I purposely leave the eyes and nose sharper in focus than the mouth.

adding ivory black to the shadows

Adding dark accents

Now I squeeze out some of the Ivory blacks and use this diluted with a tiny amount of medium to the very darkest areas of the portrait

painting high lights on the eye

Adding catchlights

With the fine sable round, I dot in highlights around the eye, this can really add a punch to the eye and make them stand out from the rest of the features.

raw umber and ivory black portrait

A Word of Warning…

This doesn’t just happen with one quick swift movement of the brush. As we get into more details of the face there is more room for mistakes and the drawing to go out. It’s amazing how a little change in movement or shape can change the sitter’s look, feel and emotion.

Sometimes you’ll be so close to finishing the painting, then go for one final brushstroke – only for it to go out and you are back to square 1, or so it feels.

This is where the Filbert sables become your best friends, they’re soft and you can subtlety blend edges and not make too drastic changes.

darkening down background for contrast

Darkening the background

 After looking at the portrait, I felt I could go darker onto the background. I quite like the Raw umber on its own but wanted to show you how much the background can affect your subject.

I use a thin mix of Raw umber and Ivory black and apply it to the background, much like the initial stage when we were just using the Raw umber. I use the number 4 Ivory Filbert to scrub the paint in, I don’t mind if the mix goes over the edge of the hair as it helps to blend it in and bring the face forward.

Notice how the lights suddenly look lighter due to the change in contrast we have created by adding a darker background to the portrait.

background before blending
finished black and white portrait

Reviewing the Process of Light and Shadow.

  •  The power of a single light source – The old masters used the effectiveness of a single light source to great effect. It is one of the best ways to create depth and form in your paintings, especially in portraits. You’ll find the more light you have on the face the harder it will be to create the illusion of depth.
  • Flat shadow area – These can be broadly split initially into two area, lights and darks. By simplifying the shadow line shape you can quickly establish a form. Just using simple, flat tones
  • Leaving the details for later – When you are first beginning you will notice areas of reflected light and details in the shadows. If you learn to resist painting these in, it will help so much in your progress as a painter. You can create a really powerful portrait really simply without having a photorealist finish.
  • Keeping your edges soft – I keep the edges soft and only sharpen the areas I want the viewer to focus on. This is a Classical technique to create the illusion of realism.
  • Work from Large forms to Small forms – It will be tempting to paint the eyes as soon as you begin, but getting the general shapes and modelling the form will pay dividends later in the painting. Adding the white highlights should be left until the end.
  • Glazing for subtlety –  When you first start using glazes they can be addictive and if you’re not careful, you can end up with the ‘Tom Jones’ effect ( see – How to choose a basic portrait palette for oils) so tread carefully and they can give some amazing results.

So now we have the finished painting, I could, of course, carry on refining with glazes to get a more realist finish.

However, as an impressionist starting point when working with Oils, I am happy to leave it at this stage and sometimes with paintings, it’s knowing when to stop that’s the hardest bit.

If you have any questions about painting a black and white portrait, let me know in the comments below. Students have been achieving some fantastic results, I’d love to hear how anybody else has got on.

If you want to learn about how to add colour glazes to a grisaille you might enjoy the colour portrait oil glazing video course.

This Post Has 146 Comments

  1. Excellent post, Will.
    I look forward to your post about recipes for oil mediums.
    And also excellent course as well. Very useful to begin or to improve the technique. Especially interesting for those who want to connect this painting technique with drawing tonal valuation techniques.


    1. Hey Mario,

      Thanks for your kind comments about the post and course, really great to hear you’ve enjoyed the process.

      Moving from drawing to painting can seem daunting but if you follow simple principles, you can get some fantastic results.



  2. Hi Will,

    I am so keen on painting portraits and have followed you through this process and am learning a lot. Will you be doing a portrait in colour? I would love to learn from this! Also how do you recommend I capture a painting from a photo? I live in South Africa so therefore would be unable to attend classes but love the way you teach in the “step by step” format. Thank you so much for sharing!!! Regards

    1. Hi Bev,

      Glad you’ve been enjoying the portrait posts.

      I’ll bear a colour portrait post in mind but I may well run it as a E-course as it needs to be a lot more comprehensive. To answer your question:

      Also how do you recommend I capture a painting from a photo?

      I talk about my process of capturing a portrait in the comments section on Week 1 of the portrait post:

      When I paint a portrait from a photo reference it is a ‘guide’ albeit a good one, to develop a portrait that embodies the character of the sitter.

      In a perfect world I would choose to paint from life but due to the amount of hours a sitting takes it is nearly always out of the question, however, I would always meet the sitter and take the reference photographs myself to try and capture what I’d felt when I met them.

      Everybody has their own quirks, the way you hold yourself, the unconscious movements – that as an artist, you see.
      The painting will always have an extra energy, something of the artist and the ability to hold the viewers gaze much more than the photograph will ever do as Walter Benjamin puts it, the artworks ‘aura.’

      Hope this helps,


      1. Hi Will,

        Many thanks for your prompt response! Much appreciated. Have you ever considered writing and e-book? This would be a huge help to those of us (and others) that live so very far away and can’t get to you for lessons. I battle with getting the skin tone right and wondered if you could help with explaining the basic mixes in one of your “How To’s” in other words, where do we begin, what colours do we buy etc. You obviously realise that I am a total beginner, or else I would not be asking such “silly” questions. Thank you for sharing your expertise with everyone, we can see why you are an award winning artist (:

        1. Hi Bev,

          Thanks for the comment, I’m made a video on how to match a skin tone using your own skin, it’s a very effective method of understanding just how muted flesh colours can be. You can see it here: How to match a skin tone with acrylics (it’s halfway down the post) There really is no such thing as a ‘silly question’ as often the simplest answers are the most effective to your progress, so keep on asking!


  3. Hi Will,
    Keynote, Will, simply masterful.
    You managed to explain in a simple an issue as difficult as in the portrait.
    I pick up the brushes again after a long time without paint. I want to paint portraits and I was desperate … But your guide has given me a lot of air and help to get started again.
    I really like your work. I follow you from Spain.
    Receive a greeting,

    1. Hi Sandomingo,

      It’s really good to hear from you, so glad this series has inspired you to pick up the brushes again.

      Hope you’re enjoying going through the process,



  4. Hi Will
    Found your website via You tube and have found it very useful. Thanks so much. I am an Illustrator and work in acrylics, though I have used other media both for my degree and to experiment. However I have not used oils. I am about to start an A1 portrait painting of multiple people which is a bit of a departure for me. I will be working in acrylic but my dilemma is how to approach the background. For my illustration work I would normally plan out the whole image to balance the colours and work on the picture as a whole. For this I would do small colour studies first to check before starting. For this project though I can’t seem to get it right. I have reduced the image to A4 but I think the number of people plus brightly coloured (Indian) dress is throwing me a bit – darker/lighter, neutral/bright? I am tempted to start the painting (which I have to do fairly quickly) leaving the background till last to see how all the colours look with full depth. Do you think that would be a mistake? Also I don’t usually underpaint for my illustration work, do you think that is advisable/necessary for this?
    I also remember seeing a comment re colour palette for olive skin but can’t find it now. Can you direct me?
    Thanks a lot. Love your work and your website.


    1. Hi Val,

      Glad you’re finding the website useful for your paintings.

      I always advise students to work up under paintings of local colour so you more accurately judge the colours and harmony as the painting progresses.

      If you leave the background until last you run the risk of it looking ‘stuck on’ and more illustrative, even though I know you’re from an illustration background.I depends on the look and style that you’re after.

      Are you looking for a more realistic finish?


  5. Hi Will, I find your art school amazing and so educational specially for me who didn’t finish art causes and is self taught .I am amazed with portraits and I finished my first one ( acryl) without any special knowledge about color , mixing hues….My niece who is 4 years old looks very like herself, painting looks nice even though she has Tom Jones skin color .I watched many times your videos about color theory and I understand it completely( I hope so). But then the problem comes( my fault).When I mix and match my niece skin color ( the second portrait that I am working on now) on pallet and then apply it over the burnt umber layer – color looks so pale , dull and not right. So to cut the chase- what could I do to avoid it. And to mention for record- I want to paint like old master painters were doing ,in all those fazes .The series of your portrait painting are a my bed time story. HELP please.

    1. Hi Lily,

      Great to hear the videos have helped your colour mixing and your portrait painting of your niece looked so like her.

      Regarding your second portrait, often when the skin colour first goes on it will look ‘wrong’ even if you’ve colour matched it perfectly. The reason for this is an optical effect called simultaneous contrast, this is where colours look differently depending on the other colours that surround them.

      The solution? To carry on building up the painting in general colours, until your eyes get adjusted. It takes time to trust yourself that it will turn out o.k.

      Hope this helps,


  6. Hi Will,
    Thank you so much for your reply.
    Will have a confidence in my work and will continue to follow your excellent website.You helped me so much in understanding the basic color principles and painting secrets. Repeticio is mater studiorum-new canvases are waiting for me. Mistakes are the lessons that I should learn from.THANKS.Lily

    1. Hi Lily, you’re welcome, mistakes are definitely to be learnt from and expected when learning to paint!


  7. Hello,
    In my quest to find an answer to a difficlty I’m having with a painting I am doing, I have come across your wonderful site. It is so helpful, please do not remove it yet as I want time to read part 1 to 4 also!
    My question is the following: I have painted a black African women and her baby using burnt sienna, burnt umber, permanent rose and french ultramarine. I am stuck now as to how to achieve the highlights. Adding white to these colours is not working as it is not warm enough.
    If you can help that would be great and thank you!

    1. Hi Pat,

      Thanks for your kind comments, great to hear you’re finding the site helpful in your painting. With all painting when you add white to a mix it will cool the colour.

      So you have a couple of options, to lighten the mix with a colour or to add a glaze over the highlight when it is finished. A glaze ( thin layer of paint) is always warm, so you’ll be able to add a thin layer over the top to give the skin a bit more of a glow. You might need a yellow in your mix to help achieve some of the glaze tones. Burnt sienna will work well because it is a transparent pigment. Have a look at part 3 of the jug painting and you can see how I introduce warmth to the jug by adding a glaze of the burnt sienna. The same principle apply.

      Hope this helps,

  8. Hi Will

    I’ve been following your oil portrait tutorial, and I’m now getting to stage 5, but I’m still a little unsure about glazing.

    I’ve re-read it several times – do you use the paint you have already mixed or do you start with new out of tube paint?, do I mix varnish and linseed oil in to all the shades or just the black?
    how about my white areas? sorry if I sound a bit thick this is my first time with oils, also I like the background on your self portrait (the one in the competition) did you lighten the burnt umber with white? sorry this is so long I’ve so many questions.

    1. Hi Sue,

      Well done for getting to stage 5!

      For the cleanest glazes ( as in the most transparent) I use the paint straight from the tube.

      When you add white to the mixture it makes it more opaque and is more like a ‘scumble’ than a glaze but the application is exactly the same. I use the Dammar & Linseed oil on all mixes at this stage, not just the black.

      The background colour on the portrait is a mix of raw umber and titanium white.

      Hope this helps,


  9. Thank you so much for your quick reply, very helpful, I just love oil paint, it has so much life to it, well worth the bit more effort it takes in preparation.
    Thanks Sue

    1. You’re welcome Susan, yes there can be something addictive about oil paint!


  10. Hi Will. Fantastic website… you are a gifted painter and it is so good of you to share so much of what you know. I have learned a lot from your site. I am intrigued by the b&w portrait and would like to learn more about applying glazes. I assume they are applied over the b&w? Are they applied as many different color glazes, or just one tone over major areas? Can’t help but be curious why you didn’t demonstrate. Love the idea of the b&w portrait. It would be much easier for me. I can draw well but am having a lot of difficulty with skin tone colors. Where can I learn how to apply glazes? Thanks!

    1. Hi Kris,
      Great to hear you are enjoying the site. For this demonstration the glazes are applied in the final stages (as shown above under the title glazing). The finished piece is black & white so the glazes are painted with the Ivory Black. A glaze doesn’t have to be coloured, it is just the name for a very thin application of paint. You might be interested in my video on matching skin tones, although this is more about mixing a solid colour rather than the optical mixing when using coloured glazes.


  11. Hi Will,

    I owe you a huge thanks for sharing all of this. It is all ringing so true as I have hit a wall with the transfer to painting which for years has alluded me. I have read the entire contents of your site and watched every video since yesterday. Absorbing all the knowledge! Superb effort.
    I have a question regarding the specifics of glazing for this portraiture – I take it the translucent neat black after thinning is “washed over” or is it blended from only the value 9 areas into the value 8 areas? Or is it gently put over the entire face and neck to establish a uniform layer?
    Bit confused on that one stage.
    Thanks once again, this is spectacular!

    All The Best,

    1. Hi Micheal,

      Thanks for your kind comments, pleased to hear the articles have helped in your painting. To answer your questions about the glazing:

      I take it the translucent neat black after thinning is “washed over”
      Yes, that’s right in a thin layer.

      Is it blended from only the value 9 areas into the value 8 areas? Or is it gently put over the entire face and neck to establish a uniform layer?

      For this particular painting the glaze is only painted over the shadow side of the face.

      Hope this helps to clarify,

  12. Your website is one of the best resources I have come across and am now painting pictures that I would previously have thought were beyond my ability!

    I recently bought your Oil portrait course and have had some excellent results.

    The videos are really well produced and it is good to see it from the artist’s viewpoint.

    Just a quick question – I’d like to move on to adding colour to my portraits. Do you have any tips/advice on moving from the black and white portrait to a colour one?

    1. Hi Dan,
      Great to hear from you, so pleased you’ve had some excellent results in your black & white portraits.

      Moving onto colour portraits you have two options:

      1. Add several layers of coloured glazes over the top of a black & white painting.
      2. Work with exactly the same method as the black & white portrait with opaque solid colour but use and a portrait palette rather than a black & white palette.

      The less colours you use the easier it will be, try using my recommended basic limited portrait palette of Titanium white, Yellow Ochre, Light red, English red, Raw umber, Ivory black.

      Personally I find learning with the second option, solid colour, as apposed to colour glazes is the best next step. Then when you introduce glazes in the final stages the portrait will really come to life. Arrange your colour strings in the same way as we did in the black & white video (light to dark) and the same principles will apply.

      I will be making a colour portrait course but not immediately as I’m working on a colour mixing course at the moment.

      Good luck with your next portrait,


  13. Hi Will,
    How many days you took to complete this?

    1. Hi Swapnil, including drying days between layers, 7 – 10 days.


  14. There is a list of colors that are transparent and those that aren’t. i forget the name of the classic old book that lists these. Do you know which book i am thinking of? It covers all kinds of methods, etc. and is highly detailed.

  15. This is amazing! it was really interesting to see the process; it turned out great! I’ll be sure to use your advice when i attempt a portrait myself! Thanks for all the tips!

    1. Thanks nonamebrand, looking forward to hearing how your portrait turns out using these techniques.


  16. Your have made the most thorough and clearest to understand tutorials. My sincerest thanks for your time and sharing of your talents! Major, major thank yous!!

    Question: I was watching your jug acrylic video and was wondering if I could under paint a portrait in acrylic and then go for oil over it. Theoretically it’s possible I understand, but do you think it’s a good idea? As a beginner I would find it to be helpful to get the basics down fast with the fast drying acrylic. When the oil of my underpainting is wet, it is a bigger temptation for me to continue to fuss with it.

    also, what is the difference between these 5 free tutorials for the black n white portrait, and the class you offer for a fee?

    Thanks for your time,

    1. Hi Aimee,

      Thanks for your kind comments, to answer your questions:

      Question: I was watching your jug acrylic video and was wondering if I could under paint a portrait in acrylic and then go for oil over it. Theoretically it’s possible I understand, but do you think it’s a good idea? As a beginner I would find it to be helpful to get the basics down fast with the fast drying acrylic. When the oil of my underpainting is wet, it is a bigger temptation for me to continue to fuss with it.

      Theoretically it is possible and there are some advantages to doing it this way, which I’ll come back to.
      However, one of the biggest mistakes beginners make with portraits is they keep their edges too hard in the critical early stages of the painting. If you were to use acrylics you’re making it harder for yourself, even though it appears to be cleaner.

      You could use fast dry oils which give a nice blend and will dry quicker.

      The advantage I was referring to, is if you have a certain area that is very black or very white, acrylics can help to quickly establish a solid tone, rather than using Titanium white or ivory black which are both slow drying oils.

      What is the difference between these 5 free tutorials for the black n white portrait, and the class you offer for a fee?

      The portrait and the process is the same, but the paid course is a video filmed from the artists eye perspective so you can see every brush mark and is over 4 hours of instruction, you can read more about it here.



  17. Hi Will.
    You are a god gifted painter and I must tell you it’s so good of you that you are generously sharing your knowledge of art. It is very much useful for the budding painters and learners.

    I have learned a lot from your site and would like to learn more. Since now I have done so many knife paintings and two portraits as not having much confidence on the portraits. But now I’m gonna start the portrait for which I’m very keen.

    Thanks for all you have share as I got solutions of many of my questions.
    I am following you from India.
    Have a nice day!!
    Tejal Chitroda

    1. Hi Tejal,

      Thanks for your lovely comments, so pleased that the site and tutorials have been helping to answer your painting questions and you are learning some new techniques.

      Good luck with your portraits.


  18. Wow. I have to join and Journey with you on this Oil Portrait Session :) Wonderful! Thanks for Nice Class!!

  19. Hi Will
    This set of tutorials is great! You make it look so easy – i guess that is the part you cannot teach! Amazing talent. These are the best painting tutorials I have seen, as a beginner this has really helped build my understanding and confidence in using oil paints. I would love to be as good as you at painting one day but sadly I fear the only similarity between us is the surname!

    Thanks for inspiration – my black and white portrait starts next week – wish me luck!

    1. Hi Joanne,
      Really pleased you found the portrait painting tutorial helpful. I think you’ll surprise yourself with your results, just follow it step-by-step and you’ll be away!

      Let me know how you get on.


      (Excellent surname btw!)

  20. Hey Will,
    I absolutely loved the way you sketched your face in this series. Would you mind giving me a few pointers because I am really struggling!

    Thanks :)

    1. Hi Tabby, I would try a portrait using these techniques, just take it a step at a time and you might just suprise yourself with the results!


  21. Thanks for the tutorial, fantastic tips and hints.
    Great work, I will be trying this out on the weekend. I love doing portraiture but need to ‘loosen up’.

    Cheers Jo

    1. Thanks Jo, good luck with your portrait.

  22. I enjoyed every bit of this lesson and I learned a lot! You mentioned an E course for colored paintings. If it is ready for purchase, please tell me how I go about purchasing it.

    Thanks. Loved the no non-sense approach.


    1. Hi Judith,

      Really pleased you enjoyed the black and white portrait lesson, the colour portrait course is on its way, but not ready for purchase just yet.

      If you sign up for free updates to the blog I’ll be posting details when the course is live (might realistically be a few months though when I find the time in-between my commissions!)


  23. Hi Will,

    I have come across the link to your site on Facebook page Oil Painting Club. I am so happy I did! I am only just starting experimenting with oils, and this tutorial is so helpful. Thank you so much for sharing you working methods, so interesting to watch your portrait to develop. I have learned a lot, and will try to apply some of it while I learn to use oils. I am certainly going to follow your blog in the future.

    Thanks again for your generosity,

    1. Hi Alena,

      Thanks for dropping by, so pleased you’ve been finding the tutorial helpful for your portrait painting.
      Enjoy exploring the site.


  24. Hi Will,

    thank you ever so much for posting this tutorial.
    You have taught me a lot about the fat on thin rule
    and how to use different mediums. I also feel that
    I understand underpaintings far better now.

    I wanted to share with you my first attempt at this
    tutorial. I’m going to have another go at it very soon.
    Here is my painting, feel free to tell me what you think.

    Best regards

    1. Hey Carmel,

      Great to hear from you and what fab results with your portrait!

      You’ve really cracked the eye’s they look great, love how you’ve kept the tonal planes clean and distinct, it so helps to give the illusion of form in the portrait.

      You’ve handled the hair well without becoming too fussy with it, and the neckline and dark top works great for the whole composition.

      One thing to watch is the shape of the curl at the bottom of the hair that scoops up and it very similar on each side, what this does is subtly draw the viewers eye to the negative shapes of the curls of the hair, rather that back towards the face. Try softening the curl on the right just a touch and it will just help to re-adjust the viewers focus.

      But great work Carmel, for your first portrait with this technique it’s a real achievement.

      Thanks again for sharing.


      1. Hi Will,

        thanks for the critique. I’ve fixed the curl and entered this into a competition.

        I’ve recently finished another monochrome portrait, this time I drew the portrait using the sight size technique (walking back to measure and then placing your line etc.) and then used this tutorial to paint from again.

        Here it is, I hope that it’s better than the first.

        Best regards

        1. Good one Carmel, your painting is looking ace! nice tonal range and paint handling.

          Thanks for sharing,



  25. will, I’ve been learning about painting for the last year from many books and great painter on the web. I was overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge taught and complexity and I couldn’t see my way out. I worked with many colors, then the limited pallete , read and copied other artists methods.
    When I found your site It simplified the process without all the technical stuff .
    you started simple with the Burnt Umber and then added as you go.
    You let the student learn with you. I’m so excitied I could spit. only kidding.
    I recommend your site to all my new painting friends. painting to get good results is not easy. I found your color mixing videos to really open the door to many discoveries.
    How easy is white and burnt umber and from there nirvana.
    thank you for your kindness for offering you expertise free. Compared to all the really technical books from other artists you are right on and make it fun to learn with success. It really comes down to painting between light and dark.
    Ovanes Berberian , a great Russian painter says when finishing a picture , he uses 2 values and a high light. In painting, more isn’t always better. thanks again
    I’ve learned so much and thanks for keeping it simple. M leblanc

    1. Hi Mike,

      Great to hear from you, and so pleased you’ve been finding the tutorials helpful in your painting progress.

      Yes, starting with the burnt umber and white is like stealth painting, before you know it the painting is being formed, and then the other colours can start to slot into place.

      Keeping it simple really is the key to success, thanks for spreading the word about the site to your painting friends, much appreciated.


  26. Will,
    I keep coming back to your tutorials because they are great step-by-step’s.
    My question at the moment is about acrylics and portraits. I am new at this painting and would like to get my feet wet, but I use acrylics for the moment because I am a beginner. How difficult is it to paint a portrait with acrylics giving that the drying time is so very short? I have used extenders to play a bit longer. I do understand that Oils will allow for more time to move things around, but I just don’t feel ready to jump into oils yet.
    I have given myself a challenge to learn to sketch a bust of a person from a photo and paint a portrait within a year. I have only been painting for 2 months, but I feel confident that I can do this with tutorials like yours. There is still so much to learn, but willing to put in the time to do this.
    Thanks in advance for any information you can suggest to me.


    1. Hi Sharon,

      I would say it is possible with acrylics, but much harder due to the drying times that you mentioned. If you use a two palette system – mix the colour strings on a stay-wet palette and then mix the tones with a tear-off palette it can help. I would try using the techniques, even on just a small section of the face, an eye, or nose and see how you get on with the blending time. Good luck with your challenge! definitely achievable in your timeframe,



  27. Hi Will,
    As I am pleased have found you among all my research on the painting and composition. I really learned a lot of thing on your portrait demonstrations. As I did on a site a Victorian painting in the Flemish technique, I used acrylic for run this painting. By watching what you explain so well, I’ve seen many of my errors. Because your explanations are really impressive by your details and photos that you have put. This will allow me to now other portraits, because I no longer doing anything in this area for more than 3 years, because I couldn’t understand the technique well enough. Now I can tell you that I understand it much better. Many thanks for sharing this wonderful that you did. Excused my English because I speak french and I’m in Quebec, Canada. And I used a translator to write to you.
    Lucie bye

    1. Bonjour Lucie,

      So pleased you’ve found the tutorial helpful in your portrait painting.


  28. Will,
    I so appreciate this tutorial and have followed along to paint my first portrait. Love the out come and this is the first of many portraits that I have in mind.
    My question is, now that I have the portrait done, up to the glaze, how do I add some flesh tones using a glaze? I am assuming it would be similar to the steps for your glaze only with thin layers of flesh tones? I do understand that I need to let each layer dry before adding the next layer of glaze.
    Any comment would be extremely helpful at this point.
    Again, thank you for sharing your great talent with this beginner.


    1. Hi Sharon, pleased you’ve enjoyed the lessons, it’s a bit tricky to explain glazing a portrait in words, but yes its a similar process to the last stages of the portrait just using thin layers of flesh tones. It’s on my list of new courses to create!


      1. Will,
        I have been watching more video’s (my way of learning to paint) and then coming back to read your glazing technique. Before I start on the portrait I have done some samples of what I did on the face and will start by practicing so I won’t screw up the portrait…
        Will be watching for that lesson to come out.
        Thank you again for your shared information and you quick response.


        1. You’re welcome Sharon, good luck with your portrait.


  29. Hello Will,
    Your oil painting tutorial is amazing! I learned so much. Iv’e taken many drawing classes years ago but never a painting course.[email protected]/12110059273/
    (Poor light and cell phone camera. It certainly looks better in person)

    It was an absolute joy painting this for somewhere around 60 hours. I can’t wait to try your other tutorials! No way I would have come close to this without your help.

    Thanks very much!


    1. Hey Michael,

      Great to hear from you, really fantastic results with your painting, it looks ace!

      The fall of light is working well and the whole painting in monochrome gives a lovely quietness to the portrait.

      You’ve kept your edges nice and soft where they need to be and the thicker highlights on the nose etc have worked perfectly.

      Really great job, so pleased you enjoyed the process, thanks again for sharing.


  30. Hi Will,
    I am just in the process of starting an art group amongst expats here in France. Our combined ages add up to more than 500 years and we are less than 10 members! We are mainly novices too. My mission is to paint a portrait of my husband this year and I am so inspired by your work that I will study your tutorial really hard as I love the way you explain everything and at the end you produced a beautiful painting which is so full of warmth and character without being too precise and like a lifeless photograph. I have never painted a portrait in my life. If I live long enough and get to produce anything which comes just fractionally close to your work, I will certainly send you a copy. Wish me, and my fellow art group members, luck (and longevity)!!

    1. Hi Kryssy,

      Great to hear from you and your group sounds fab! so please you been inspired by the portrait tutorial, can’t wait to see the painting of your husband. Hope your first meet up goes well!



  31. Hi again:) I have made it to this stage and I didn’t have the chance to finish it. So I’m restarting my paint mix and I left off using linseed oil in the paint. Do I just mix again with only linseed? I do have gamvar should I mix this in?
    Thanks for your time and your fabulous tutorials!

    1. Hi Bernadette, yes, just mix again with the linseed oil mix so you have a ‘fatter’ mix. Gamvar is a varnish, you can see its application in this article on varnishing an oil painting.



  32. Hi Will,
    Old lady from France here. I am losing my way a bit this week. Now I am down to the finer details I seem to be messing up quite a bit. I have never painted a portrait in my life and hubby is being very supportive, especially as I have knocked about 20 years off his age, but even though I see his face every day I still can’t get his character. Help !! I have been using quite cheap paint but have bought some W & N Artists, Old Holland and Michael Harding oils to use in the future – if I should ever improve. I am also using just an oil sketch pad for now. Do you think I should call it a day with this try and start again on proper canvas and good paint and learn from my mistakes or plod on? I have put all the weeks’ work on Fickr and I hope you can find time to just take a peek and tell me – honestly – what I should do now. Hopefully this link will work…..[email protected]/
    A couple of the photos don’t represent the true colour but I have kept the Raw Umber background as you did.
    P.S. Art Group going well. 10 members and all different styles and abilities but we have fun and I have printed out and circulated some of your tutorials. Everyone likes the french cafe – of course!!
    Thank you Will.

    1. Hi Kryssy,

      Your painting is looking great, lovely soft blends in the shadows and a great tonal range throughout the piece. The main tweaks to the painting aren’t in the actual painting, but more in drawing elements of the features. So as a portrait painting study you’ve done a fantastic job. Also, this is your first portrait you should be really proud Kryssy. In classical Atelier schools the black and white portrait lessons are continued for 1-2 years (after 2 years of classical drawing) so don’t be too hard on yourself! pleased the Art group is going well.



  33. Hi Will,
    Thank you so much for your lovely comments. I truly was not expecting that. I am really shocked – but at the same time inspired to continue. I would just like to say that my husband’s eyes are uneven. A friend commented that I had painted his eyes one above the other. Well, it’s how he is, poor soldier, and he has a lovely wonky smile too. The smile is the bit I struggled with so best to quit while I’m ahead.

    I am going to buy some canvas boards and keep practicing and following your tutorials. I have a question about colour which I shall put on the relevant page and apologise for all the questions.

    Thank you once again and if you ever get to France there’s a very large glass or three of the red nectar here for you. xx Kryssy

    1. You’re welcome Kryssy, the expression of a sitter can change within a brushstroke, and mouths can often cause issues, Singer Sargent once said “A portrait is a painting with something wrong with the mouth!’ so you’re in good company. Thanks also for your kind offer of red nectar! much appreciated.

      Enjoy your next portraits.



  34. Hi Will,

    All I have to say is this tutorial is AWESOME.

    Thanks for taking the time to so patiently explain each step


    1. Thanks Clare, pleased you’ve found it helpful.

  35. Hi Will,

    Sorry me again. I do have one quick question, I am going to start my portrait tomorrow, I just wondered between part 2/3 and 5 how long generally (I know this depends on if I use Liquin etc) but approx how long to wait approximately between steps?

    Thanks again,


    1. Hi Clare, usually a day is fine if you’re using Liquin, just check if the paint is dry to the touch


  36. Hi Will,

    Well, after all this time I think I have at last finished my portrait of hubby. It has taken me longer than expected as illness put it on hold but I don’t think it’s too bad for the first portrait I’ve ever done. I have to be positive otherwise I won’t do another…
    Hope you can see it here.[email protected]/

    Our Art Group is going well and some of the members are now followers of yours.
    All the best
    Kryssy x

    1. Hi Kryssy, I tried the link but couldn’t see your painting, would you mind sending through the link again? Pleased the Art Group is still going strong and you’re feeling back to good health.


        1. Hi Kryssy, thanks for taking the time to re-upload the image, I can now see Tony in all his monochrome glory!

          I think you’ve one a fantastic job, and have observed all the major points from the portrait process really well. The turn of the form is excellent, and the fall of light throughout the piece is nice and consistent.

          You’ve handled the shadow edges particularly well going nice and soft and smokey. The lips are good as well as a slight smile can often cause issues with portraits, but it sits well within the painting.

          Love the broken brushstrokes in the hair, they sit in a nice juxtaposition with the smoother brush handling on the skin tones.

          I feel this is a real achievement Kryssy, hope you’re proud of your painting. The only thing I can see missing…is your signature.


          1. Dear Will – you have made my day. What lovely kind things you have said about my painting. I can only say that without you I would never have done it. I have tried to follow all the steps in your tutorial to the letter and the advice you gave me about the final stage being about the drawing was vital. Up until then I was still trying to paint with a brush the size of a small car. Once I changed to a very small brush and tried to discipline myself not to splurg the paint on, it seemed to come together. There are areas I’m not too keen on, of course that’s natural I suppose. The photo makes it looks as if Tony hasn’t brushed his teeth for months, but he is really proud of my first effort so that’s good enough for me. He likes the fact that I’ve knocked at least 30 years off his age, his eyes are level and his smile is straight – not as he really is – but I didn’t have enough paint to put all the wrinkles in :-)

            I had completely forgotten about signing the painting. Not used to doing that. It’s still stuck onto my easel but when it dries I will take great pleasure in putting my name to it. I think I will leave it unglazed, as you have on your portrait, but I have taken off Tony’s ear lobe which I found a bit odd as I hadn’t put one on the other side.

            I’m now inspired to carry on. Thank you, Will. You’re a treasure.

            Kryssy xx

          2. You’re more than welcome Kryssy, great to hear Tony is a pleased with it as you are.


  37. Hi,

    I always find your website really useful for tips on painting as I am starting to get into oil painting and love it. I have already finished my black and white portrait and hope that I can further what I have learnt in other similar projects.

    I have a question though about how to properly dispose of and store used rags contaminated with oil paint or solvent/medium and also some tips on cleaning brushes? I worry about the potential for any rags to catch fire or cause harm to the environment. Many sources talk about the risk or using these materials but don’t seem to give very much practical advice on using them safely at home.


    1. Hi Joanne,

      Sorry for the delay in response, oil rags catching fire is dependent on the ‘flashpoint’ of the solvent.
      Traditional turpentine has a flashpoint of 95 degrees.
      Odourless Mineral spirit has a flashpoint of 125 degrees.
      The safest way to store these materials are in a ‘safety storage cabinet’ but they are often quite expensive. Different countries have different regulations for disposal of solvents/lead paints, here is my process if I’m using lead white:

      ‘I collect any residue and store in a resealable, heavyweight plastic container (a thick tupperware) and then, every few months, I drop it off with a local waste collection firm that deal with hazardous waste.

      I had an account with the waste management company when I was running our gallery so it didn’t seem too much hassle, alternatively you can drop it off at a local approved council disposal facility, the container needs to be marked as containing hazardous waste “Lead Contaminated – Poisonous”.

      But I can see as a beginner this might seem a bit off-putting if you just want to get started with oils!

      For the rest of the painting I will be using Titanium white so using flake white is definitely not essential. (I just wanted to show exactly how I personally work)

      An alternative to flake white is to underpaint with a quick drying Alkyd paint or another non-toxic paint.

      I’ve also seen that Gamblin produce a flake white alternative that is non toxic. I haven’t personally used it but will look into doing a comparison post in the future.

      From the Gamblin website:

      Gamblin Flake White Replacement: The first true nontoxic alternative to Flake White. It’s the leanest of the Gamblin whites and a terrific underpainting white. Its beautiful opalescent quality is of special interest to portrait painters. Flake White Replacement has all the working properties of traditional Flake White: long ropey stroke, warm color, translucency and short brush mark. Not only does our FWR come without the lead but it also doesn’t suffer from the fast drying time of traditional formulations, which contributes to the cracking of oil paintings over time

      Hope this hasn’t scared you off!’

      Hope this helps Joanne,

  38. Without doubt the best tutorial on portrait painting I have ever come across. Just brilliant. I have only been painting since 2010 and only started using oils in October 2013, but from now on your blogs, website, youtube material will be my first ‘port of call’.

    Many, many thanks!


    1. Thanks Steve, really pleased you found it helpful in your painting.

  39. Will, just wanted to add my thanks to all the above. Really a very well-written and highly informative series. Not only is the painting advice very good, but I greatly appreciated the references to materials, something that’s very often left out of even the best posts about painting. Bravo. Steve

    1. Hi Steve, thanks for taking the time to leave your kind comments, much appreciated. Hope it has helped in your portrait painting.

  40. amazing steps, told so well. thank you for creating a very productive course online for us beginners. Now, can burnt umber be used in place of raw umber? and could you please elaborate on the process of glazing? You mean to say that it is just an over touch we give with thin layer of oils to our painted surface?

    1. Hi Khan, yes you could use a burnt umber instead, it would just be slightly warmer. A glaze is just a thin veil of paint over the top of a previously dried layer.


  41. All I can say is “thank you”, “thank you”, thank you”! You have no idea how helpful this tutorial (as well as all the info on your site) really is. I studied art when I was younger but was never properly taught the Classical skills required for good grounding in painting. Returning to art in my middle years has been both thrilling and disappointing, precisely because there are so few good quality resources available (even at so-called art academies). I’ve been trying to piece together all the knowledge I should have been supplied at school and it’s not always been a bowl of cherries. So finding your website has been a godsend and has probably saved me hours of agonising and hair-tearing. I feel like I’m finally starting to “get it” and it’s partly thanks to wonderful artists like yourself who are generous enough to share your experience and wealth of knowledge with stragglers like myself. At the risk of sounding emotional, God bless and thanks again :)

    1. Hi Monika, thanks very much for your kind words and so pleased you’ve been finding the lessons helpful to fill in some of the gaps in learning about painting. Thanks again Monika for taking the time to pass on your thoughts, much appreciated.

  42. I am glad I stumbled upon this page. Many thanks for providing such informative material in lucid terms for all of us to understand. I appreciate you adding step by step instructions with pictorial representation as well.
    I have a huge stock of Flake White in my collection, but strangely, in the nearby stores I do not find Titanium White. So, for a portrait would you advise me to go ahead with the Flake White, steps 3 to 5.
    Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Laki, yes if you’ve got flake white already that’s great and the portrait will still work really well.

  43. Hi Will,
    Such a valuable site here with loads of helpful tips!!!!
    I have a doubt though – with regard to a finished oil painting on a primed canvas board. I had let it be in the sun for a full 3/4 days and I already find them completely dry. But somewhere in your post I see the time period mentioned as a month atleast to be completely dry. I am musing over it – as I need to travel in a day or 2, I wonder if I could wrap them in a thick transparent sheet until I get them framed with glass. Would appreciate your advice much on this.
    Thanks once again Will, have a great day!

    1. Hi Cupu, yes that’s right, if you’ve painted in thin layers the paint will be touch dry, but not fully cured. You’ll be able to wrap your paintings for travel. But its best to leave the painting surface open to the atmosphere because oil paints dry by oxidation.

  44. PS: I have not applied any varnish yet… and I am new to varnishing. Would varnishing be a must?

  45. Hi Will,was wondering with the black glaze, do you put a little bit all over the painting and just wipe off where you don’t want it or just on dark areas.
    Thanks Ruth

    1. Hi Ruth, just to darken down the shadow areas.

  46. Hi Will,what a stroke of luck finding your site.I am just starting my first Life Drawing portrait(previously I have used photographs)I was advised to try to draw with my brush and not use pencil. The results surprised me,what is your take on this technique.
    Looking forward to your reply.

    Kind regards Jean C.

    1. Hi Jean,

      Lovely to hear from you and so pleased you’ve been finding the website helpful, yes drawing with a brush is a great technique to use when you’re confident with your portrait drawing techniques. It can work especially well for more alla-prima style portraits.


  47. You are a genius…am so so happy…am gonna work on this…am a major in pencil portraits. You have improved …be blessed

    1. Thanks very much Nas, hope the lessons have helped.

  48. Many thanks Will, what a great “step by step”. As a Graphic Designer and finished artist, I have always been a “drawer”, bit scared to lock down oil paint on canvas. I am so excited now to let my brushes loose! and see what I can achieve with your fab guidance. Totally “get” what you were saying about the “fine tuning” and those eyes and highlights tempting the artist to finish them too early :) Love the portrait you did!
    Thanks from Australia….

    1. Cheers Jane, really pleased you found the portrait tutorial helpful. If you take each step one at a time think with your Graphic Design skills you’ll achieve some great results.

  49. Hi Will, I loved your demonstration in black and white portraiture. It was so informative and simplified. I cleared up most of my problems and frustrations and given me a realistic goal to aim for. Thank you for sharing all your knowledge. I’m eager to start a portrait in black and white.
    Kathleen ( a beginner)

    1. Hi Kathleen, really pleased you enjoyed the lessons and hope your portrait turns out well.

  50. Hello Will, I’m a new-comer to oil painting; started teaching myself 18 months ago at the age of 78 (now 81) .. I’ve managed one portrait of my Dad, which I did from a black and white photo (in colour), after several complete flops. But I want to try another black and white painting from a crumpled photo taken of me, as a tiny tot, during the “great depression” in 1935 or 1936. I found your website today and firstly, need to thank you so much for the 5 part lesson, which has inspired me to “try” … So, once again Will, thank you so much … Many Blessings ,,,,, Dawn

    1. Hi Dawn, so pleased you’re feeling inspired to give the black and white photo a go, if you just take it step-by-step you should get some fab results, good luck with your painting!

  51. You mentioned mixing a glaze using your blackest mix. Can you, please, elaborate on where you applied this glaze? Sorry, I’m a newbie. Thanks.

    1. Hi Mary, the dark glaze is used over the shadow areas to deepen the shadows.

  52. Dear Will
    Words fail me at your generosity. You have given it all to us, your fans. This is a complete course on academic grissaille painting. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    bless your generous heart.

    1. Really pleased you’ve found it helpful in your portraits Noni.

  53. Hi Will !
    Thankyou very much for this tutorial !
    Could you kindly tell me when is your new portrait (glazing) course coming live ?!
    I remember reading somewhere that you said sometime in the mid of this year . any tentative dates ?

    really looking forward to it . thanks ! please reply soon !

    1. Hi Annie, pleased you enjoyed it, the new oil portrait glazing course will be out within the next couple of weeks, just adding the finishing touches to it now. Pleased you’re looking forward to it.

  54. It was of great help for me as a beginner … Will keep looking out for more from you !! Thanks much!

  55. Hello Will,

    Thank you so so much for your wonderful courses and tutorials. Having absolutely no background in art, I never dreamed I could paint anything until I came across your website. Your clear and generous instructions have opened up a whole new world for me. One question on the black and white portrait. I just completed my first one and am now finishing part 1 of a second one. I just love the raw umber color and would like a lot of that color in my finished painting. .. Would a tonal string with raw umber rather than black work?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Susie, really pleased you’ve been enjoying the lessons, yes, raw umber is great isn’t it! You can mix a colour string with any colour, just bear in mind that whatever colour you use will influence the effect of other colours you paint on top (if working in glazes) but raw umber is a great choice for underpaintings or monotone studies in their own right.

  56. Hi Will,

    I would just like to say that I found this course very useful indeed. I used an old photograph my mother had of her dad and was able to create a nice clean image which I would like to show you. Is it possible to send you a photo of the finished work?


    1. Really pleased you’ve been finding the tutorial helpful Louise, yes you can contact me direct via the contact page and attach your painting.

  57. Wonderful painting.
    I really want to learn how to paint with oils. I am a competent artist using pencil and charcoal, but would love to try oils.. What would you suggest is a good starting point, brushes and paint etc?

    Many thanks

  58. Loved it,thanx

  59. Hi Will,

    I’ve just completed the black and white oil portrait course, and can thoroughly recommend it. I’m very pleased with my self-portrait, and I learned so many principles that I can apply to future paintings. It was my first oil painting, but your step-by-step approach helped me to keep up with the different stages. Your explanations are very clear and easy to follow.

    Thank you for teaching me a new skill – I’m excited about doing more oil paintings!


    1. Thanks very much Jan, you created an absolutely fab portrait and as your first ever oil painting it was a real achievement,

  60. Hi Will, I’m not sure if you still read the comments here but I wanted to thank you for you tuition that you give so freely. I am very new to oils and I wanted some help as to how to cope with them. I found your portrait tutorial and I have been enjoying it very much – with a few frustrations(about my lack of skill) along the way! I attach a link to my finished portrait….however I did get frustrated by the blending at times. How can you blend without it making a whole new shape where you don’t want it? (If you get my meaning!)
    Maybe I use too much paint but when I try to blend it spreads all around instead of blending.
    Thank you so much, I really enjoy your teaching.

    Chris Drage

    1. My pleasure Chris, so pleased you found it helpful. In terms of the blending making a new shape, that’s one of the tricky things when painting with oils, especially with portraits as the drawing can easily go out. It’s usually a combination of consistency of paint, the softness of bristle and the lightness/heaviness of touch. Try a few test swatches with different brushes and mixes. Start by trying to purposely change the shape and then pull back on the pressure and paint until you get a bend without any movement.

      Hope this helps,


  61. If this will allow me to post, I really have a question – I need to retouch (inpaint) an oil painting I originally painted back in the 1970’s. I didn’t varnish it. My daughter wants it and asked me to retouch some spots that have flaked off. I can’t find anything about this on your site (though I did print out the article on varnishes). I am fascinated by the rest of what you offer, but I don’t have time to explore it thoroughly now. Can you help me with the best way and materials to do the retouching? How can I receive your reply – I’m not on any social media. Thanks! P.S. They call me willy, and my brother’s name was Wi

  62. Hi Will,

    I love your courses. And I really love how thorough you are without complicating things. I had to give away all my oils and have invested a fair amount in acrylic paints. It is a long story but in short I have moved from oil to acrylic… feeling mixed about that but deciding to embrace it.

    I love portraits. And I love black and white. I am taking a stab at this tutorial with acrylics. I will definitely use the two palet system (stay wet and tear off). Any other tips?

    1. Hey Amy, thanks very much, glad you’ve been finding them helpful. The best advice to start with is to work small. That way you’ll be able to blend the colours more easily. Defo go for the two palette system for the colour strings and you can add a touch of slow dry medium to your paints if you’re finding them drying too quickly.
      Hope it goes well!

  63. Hi Will!

    I’m Erick

    I have been following your blog and I must say that I’m learning a lot. The way you teach is unique and easy to understand.

    You give importance to simple details and for me the simple details are the ones that make a difference in life itself. It’s like putting the highlights in the eyes of a portrait.

    I was learning acrylic but I decided to try oil and I need your help because it is a bit overwhelming especially with mediums.

    Can you help me please?
    For this tutorial why did you use different mediums in different stages and in different quantities?
    Are the velaturas and glazes the same? Are them necessary and in which cases?
    Can the paintings last for a long time without having used mediums, like alla prima?

    I hope you can help me, I’m really enjoying oils.

    Painting is becoming an obsession for me and I really want to make a living with this.

    I would appreciate your help Will.


    1. Hi Erik,
      Nice to hear from you, and pleased you’ve been enjoying the tutorials. To answer your questions:

      For this tutorial why did you use different mediums in different stages and in different quantities?

      To keep the ‘fat over lean’ ratio as the painting progresses.

      Are the velaturas and glazes the same? Are them necessary and in which cases?

      Velaturas are semi-transparent, glazes are transparent

      Can the paintings last for a long time without having used mediums, like alla prima?

      Yes, hundreds of years.

      You can read a little more about the transparency of oil paint here

  64. Hi Will this is exactly how I have been painting for thirty years. Was taught this technique at night school in 1970s and find it to be the most rewarding for oils.

    1. Great one Darren, so pleased the technique has been working well for you.


  65. Just lucked on to your website . Trying to get back into painting after 15 years of writing and other works. I have just read lesson number five on how to paint a portrait, how can I see lesson number one? Actually I hardly know where to start, I’ve been away so long. Thank you for any tips you can give me. Jo

    1. Hi Jo, at the top and bottom of the article there are links to all of the previous posts on the portrait.

  66. Hi Will, I just read part 1 thru 5 of How to Paint a Portrait in Oil and I’m speechless, great tutorial!! I can’t wait to try my hand at it. I recently retired and now have the time to get back into art. Thank you so much for all the information, step by step instructions, pictures, encouragement and words of caution on how not to get ahead ourselves. Lynn

    1. Great one Lynn, really hope you enjoy it.

  67. Hi Will , This is the best video lesson that I have found It is so detailed with step by step instructions. It must of taken you months to get these video finished . I have also followed your course on Linkin and learnt a lot, your technique also easy to follow. I have a question ? I have this oil painting that I feel is a mess. It has so many small lumps and pumps in it from too much glazing. it has six layers of paint on it from scumbling then glazing. Can I sand it back and restart ? Thanks so much for your fine work and effort.

    1. Hi Judith, so pleased you enjoyed the article, yes, you can sand back with fine sandpaper but you’ll lose some of the absorbency and handling properties of the canvas, so it’s a decision either to put it down to experience or rework an area. If it’s a small area you could get away with a sand back.

      Hope this helps,

      p.s You might enjoy this article on the subject

  68. Hi Mr.Kemp,
    nice course to mystery of clasical oil painting of portrait.Very nice, and very instructional.
    Your course I`ll have effort to aplly in my work.Thanks.

    1. Really pleased you found it helpful Dusan.

  69. I have spent considerable amount of time and money learning “the technique of the masters” and I feel that I’ve learned and achieve more after reading and implementing what I’ve learned in these 5 lessons.
    Thank you so much for sharing !

    1. That’s great to hear Lise, so pleased you enjoyed the articles.

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