3 Tips for Better Pastel Portraits

Artist Dan Slapo divulges a few secrets to great pastel portraits:

Alice.jpg1. The first color you put down is a guess. It helps if you fill in all the areas of the background surrounding the face before you judge which skin tones are correct. Every time you place a color, it changes the look of the adjoining color. For example, a light area on top of the chin appears lighter than it is because it’s on the bottom of the face where the average values are darker. The light on the chin has to be darker than the highlights on the forehead.

2. The direction of the light hitting the planes of the face determines the value. The pigmentation of some parts of the face nullifies that principle. The round eye socket from the eyebrow to the top of the cheek appears darker than the forehead or cheek because of the many blood vessels close to the skin. The skin on the forehead is thin, just covering bone; it looks cool compared to the fleshy areas of the cheek. Fleshy areas, such as the bottom half of the nose, have warm pigmentation. The top and bottom eyelids are darker than the surrounding flesh. The lips have darker pigmentation than the surrounding flesh. The irises and hair are usually darker than the skin tones.

3. Both sides of the face have similar planes. Divide the face in half vertically. Make the planes on the side opposite the light source darker than the planes facing the light source.

Find six more tips from the artist, as well as pointers on simplifying your palette, in this single article download from The Pastel Journal. At just $1.99, the price can’t be beat. And there’s more where that came from—check out other $1.99 single Pastel Journal article downloads in our online shop.

What are your go-to tip for painting portraits? We’d love to hear them.

Pictured: Alice (20×16) by Dan Slapo


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