Portraits: Apply Traditional Art Training to Digital +video







In this video tutorial I will tackle the difficult subject of portraits. Portraits can be very daunting to paint, especially obtaining the elusive “likeness” of a person.


In order to do this, we will learn a method of painting in traditional media and apply that to digital. This tutorial will be useful for any self-taught artists that feel scared of painting portraits (like myself). I hope that this tutorial helps you so that you can start painting your friends and family!


Mass Painting - "Tiling"/ "Mosiac"/"Colourbook"

In traditional art schools one of the first assignments given is a study made in black and white or monochrome. This introduces the idea of value.


The method I will introduce is called by many names (mass painting, tiling, mosaic painting, colour book painting, etc.) However, this method has been used to help art students start painting as far back as Harold Speed’s “The Practice and Science of Drawing” published in 1913 and is still in use today at schools all over!


What is it?


The idea mass painting is after doing a line drawing, start off at the darkest value of your subject and to exhaust all locations with that value. Then, move up to the next value and fill in all locations for that value as well. Continue to do this until the whole image is filled in. Afterwards, evaluate every edge one at a time in the painting and determine if it needs to be blended and by how much. In this way, a very organized and systematic way of painting is possible.


The benefit


By learning to paint in this way, beginners can tackle very difficult subject matter. By doing this, beginners also learn to differentiate value, learn about the 3D form of the object they are painting, as well gain an understanding of lighting.


Let's learn this usually TRADITIONAL method of painting and use it to help us paint portraits DIGITALLY in Clip Studio Paint.

Example 1: Black and White

Start off with a good line drawing of your image, this is a portrait done of my friend who I have gotten permission to use his image in this article and in the video tutorial.

I like to use a middle toned value in the background. This can be done easily by double clicking on the "Paper" layer and choosing a value around 50 with low saturation.


After the sketch has been finished, create a layer with your value scale, seen here at the top. Simply choose values separated by around 5~10 and work your way up, try to have at least 10 different values. You don't have to keep the colours pure grey either, I added a little bit of a cold blue tint to a few of the greys.


We will be using the value scale at the top in order to pick our colours from. Now, look at your reference and start with the darkest values first. Here, I started filling in areas of the hair and eyes already! Make sure to use that value up, before you move onto the next one.


Notice that I have three layers. One for the lineart, one for the value scale, and one for starting my painting.

Keep on working your way up. Do not worry about blending yet, keep all the edges hard. This method involves tackling value and so one problem at a time. We also don't have to worry too much about layers, everything has been painted on one layer with the default "Oil paint" brush in Clip Studio Paint.

It may be difficult for you to differentiate values in your own reference image, especially when they are close together. That is OK, that's what this method will help you learn. As a useful tip, usually the next lighter value you use will usually be in areas beside the value you just put down.


Now, after finishing all of your values, it may look a little bit messy, sharp, or rugged. That is OK, we can now move onto the next stage.

Blending Stage

Let's now focus on the edges! Your painting should be fairly messy and rugged. Now we need to look at every edge (where one shape meets another) and determine whether it should remain hard, or if it should be blended and softened out.


Traditionally, in gouache this blending would be done by glazing the edge with water, or using an airbrush. In digital however, we can blend our edges in a variety of ways.

Here are a few examples of a cube with edges blended in different ways.


The top left looks like our painting right now. Hard edged.


The top right is blended with the oil paint brush in Clip Studio Paint, going in the same direction as the edge and color picking in order to transition from the top to the side plane.


The bottom left is blended with the airbrush tool in Clip Studio Paint. I liked to use this with the lasso tool in order to control where the airbrush goes.


The bottom right is with a textured brush, going perpendicular to the edge direction.


You can see from these examples there are many ways to blend edges. It is up to you to blend them in a way that you want, that will help you achieve your own individual look.

After evaluating each edge and blending the ones that needed to be blended (I used either the air brush or transparent watercolour tool) we are done the portrait.


You may need to go back and make some edges hard again if they have been over blended! I did this in the glasses.

Check out the Video for More Indepth Information

Please check out the video for more in-depth information, a skit, timelapse video, and another example in colour shown below!



I have been given permission to use the reference for this portrait in the video and article. Please check out the video for colour example and more!


Thank you for reading let me know if you have any questions.



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