Find out how you can create beautiful portrait paintings easily from any photo. This tutorial will show you how to color, shade, paint hair, and more!

Preview of Final Results
Portrait Photograph Using Photoshop
Create a Painting from a Portrait Photograph Photoshop Tutorial
I have to admit that making the image in this tutorial took me over 3 hours, but that was in the midst of taking snapshots with every step, writing notes on ever step, and making sure that I had a tutorial that could be copied for virtually any digital portrait. For someone who is following the steps, it shouldn’t take as long. The steps from beginning to end can be used for any digital portrait you choose to paint. The colors may need to be adjusted depending on the person of course, but the approach is the same.
Tutorial Details
•    Program: Adobe Photoshop 7
•    Difficulty: Intermediate-Advanced
•    Estimated Completion Time: 1.5 hours
*A quick note is that if you do not have a pen tablet but are using a mouse to complete this tutorial, the brush sizes will not be relevant to your work. I still suggest using the other settings I provide.
Step 1
First you want to find a picture you want to work off of. I have always been able to produce a more accurate final product when working off a photograph. This picture was taken from and can be found at this here.
Portrait Photograph Using Photoshop
Step 2
Open up a new Photoshop file.
Portrait Photograph Using Photoshop
Step 3
For this next step I suggest either using a grid.
Make a new layer titled “Outline” and draw the shape of the face and the main features with color # A23B03, using a hard edged brush and with pen pressure on (if using a pen tablet). In the preview image I have not shown the grid so that the outline can be more clearly seen.
Portrait Photograph Using Photoshop
For working with this kind of photograph, I would use a grid set to a gridline every 3 inches, with 2 subdivisions.
*Make sure that you have “snap to” under “view” unchecked, or else working with a grid is going to be a real pain!
*Also make sure that you have set your viewing preferences so that you can view the grid. This can be done under viewàshowàGrid or by pressing Ctrl + ”
Step 4
Now is the time to determine the look that you are going for. I really was inspired by the model’s green eyes and so based the picture off of a complementary color scheme, green and red. To accomplish this I started out with a green background.
This green was accomplished using the color # 174208, applied with the paint bucket* tool to the background layer.
Portrait Photograph Using Photoshop
*Set to full opacity

Step 5
With a brush* set on 400 pixels, splotch the background with black, but leave the majority the same green color as before. Then take the heal brush** and set the mode to multiply, and use it the blend the black out and into the green of the background. This will give a nice blended effect, without the plastic look you get with Gaussian blur.
Portrait Photograph Using Photoshop
*Brush set to full opacity
**Diameter 188 pixels, Hardness 100%, Spacing 25%
Step 6
Make a new layer and title it “Skin”. This layer will serve as the base for her skin tone. Take the paint brush* and block in the face area with color # E7B4B1. It is very important at this point, to have the face shape clocked in correctly, otherwise the entire portrait will be off.
Portrait Photograph Using Photoshop
*Set to full opacity, brush size 135 pixels, and pen pressure on.
Step 7
Now that you have the basic structure of the face, make a new layer titled “hair” and place it below the skin. Block in the hair with color # 3D0502 using the same brush used on the skin. Next, make a new layer above the skin layer and title it “eyes”. Use a base neutral grey to shade the eye area* (#C1B3B0).
Portrait Photograph Using Photoshop
*If you shade the whites of the eyes with white, they will appear alien and too bright. Because of this, we begin with a grey to tone it down.
Step 8
After outlining the eye and tear duct area with a small brush* in color # 984340, use the dodge tool** to highlight the whites of the eyes. Make sure not to make them too bright, or again the eyes will look unrealistic. Use the dodge tool again, this time set to 6% opacity to add depth to the tear duct.
Portrait Photograph Using Photoshop
*11 pixels, 65% opacity, 100% flow, hard edged round brush
**11% exposure, 15 pixels, soft edged brush, mode set to highlight


  1. I believe when you need a dictionary to read the first paragraph of a blog post, you really wouldn’t want to continue, especially when you’re in a rush.