Draw and paint a female face
Charlie Bowater shows you how to render a beautiful female face with subtle otherworldly features
Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved painting faces. No matter what kind of character it is, I always find myself drawn first to the face. I find the many shapes, features and expressions endlessly fascinating, so naturally I’m very happy to offer you a workshop on painting them!
I’ll be talking you through the various steps of painting a beautiful female portrait, and then look in some depth at how to give my character certain features that make her appear slightly alien or otherworldly. Nothing too drastic – just subtle differences that hint at this idea. She won’t resemble an extra from Jabba the Hutt’s palace, that’s for sure!
I’ll be explaining my steps from start to finish, including rough sketches through to the initial washes of colour, not to mention painting skin, textures, colour choices and adding the final details.
You can approach this workshop at any level really, and you can go as detailed as you like. I think my own style sits somewhere between stylised and realistic: I love using textures on stylised characters. It’s not my intention to make the character look too realistic, it’s just to end up with a nice-looking portrait!
1 A basic sketch
To get started, I sketch out a few rough ideas all centring on the theme of a beautiful, slightly otherworldly female portrait. I’m keeping things simple and just using a few values (mid-to-light greys) and some slightly darker grey line work to sketch in the basic features. I’m not too concerned with any serious detail at this point; I’m more interested in getting down her pose, facial features and expression.
2 A wash of colour
Now that I have a finished sketch that’s ready to go to colour, I want to lay down a hint of colour without adding any detail (and to see if it looks good). The best way to do this is to add a wash of colour using Overlay. So, on a new layer (set to Overlay) above the sketch, I take a large brush and lay down some initial base colours. I avoid being too intricate, and just think of these as the starting point for the colour.
3 Keep in mind the character’s origins
With the sketch and colour palette chosen, it’s time to start actually rendering the portrait. My main focus when originally sketching the character was on her pose and features, but one very important aspect to the character is that she should be otherworldly, almost alien but in a very subtle way. That’s something I’ll be keeping at the forefront of my mind as I move forward with the colour process.
4 Order of layers
As I begin rendering the character I tend to add a new layer when I start painting a new section. Generally, I’ll add a couple of layers. Then, once I’m happy with that section of work, I’ll flatten everything together. I repeat this process throughout the painting. I try not to have too many layers going on at once, but you can have as many as you’re comfortable using.
5 Rendering and brush types
The main focus of this painting is the character’s face. Because it’s a close up, you’re going to see a fair bit of detail. For the majority of the painting I’m using a chalky, slightly textured brush. I love painting skin but try to avoid using airbrushes if I can. If overused, they give the skin a plastic appearance, whereas a slightly textured brush gives a much more natural look.
6 Bringing out the form
With a chalky brush, my main focus here is to bring out the form of the face. So far it’s mostly been line work and a wash of colour, but now I want to focus on structure and shape. Using darker and warmer (slightly more red or orange) tones, I paint in some subtle shadows under her nose, in her eye sockets, under her chin and so on, to start emphasising the form.
7 Importance of colour choices
One tip for painting skin is to think about colour choices. A base tone is your starting point. When building up the colour by adding shadows and highlights, remember to change the tone as well. Avoid choosing a shade of the colour you started with – change the colour also. Subtle pink/orange in warmer areas and a bit of blue/purple in the shadows makes a big difference.
8 A little eye definition
The face is the first part of a character that I’m drawn to – the eyes in particular. I want to start adding some detail to them to give the painting some focus. I’m using a warm plum-purple colour to add some deeper shadows to the sockets of the eyes and directly underneath them. I’m varying between regular layers and a bit of Overlay to give some depth to the shadows.