DrawingPhotoshop TutorialsUpdated

How to Paint a Woman Portrait from Scratch

In this tutorial I’ll show you how to paint a woman portrait from scratch. You’ll learn some basic rules to form your painting, the tips to paint effectively, how to use brush and take care of the details. A graphic tablet is highly recommended for this tutorial.

We’ll start this tutorial by learning something basic of female face anatomy to define the base of our painting. After creating the base of the head we’ll go more for the details of the face, hair, body and dress. Later we’ll use a few adjustment layers to make the color stand out. Finally we’ll refine some details to complete the process. You can use any versions of Photoshop to follow this tutorial.

Tutorial Resources

Step 1

Create a new document in Photoshop with the given settings:


The background color should be black.

It’s very important to work on a large canvas so you can pay attention to the details.

Step 2

Create a basic shape of the head using a basic, hard brush with the color #c99e80 on the upper section of the black canvas.


Before detailing it you should know something basic of female anatomy, especially if you don’t use any specific photo references. Every human head is different but here are something in general to remember if you’re going to paint a portrait from a frontal view with a straight look (not smiling):

– The nose length should be about 1/2 of the part counted from the highest point of the nose to the lowest point of the chin.

– The edges of the nostril should reach as far as the inner edges of the eyes.

– The lowest part of the nose should be in-line vertically with the lowest part of the cupid’s bow.

– The edges of the mouth ( the lips corners) should be lined-up horizontally with the jaw and vertically with the edges of the irises.

– The mouth is always larger than the width of the nostril edges except you want to draw a child portrait.

If you want to draw a portrait from different looks and sides, some rules above will change.

Draw some lines to define the basic parts of the head and make sure that everything is as proportional as possible. We don’t paint the ears in this tutorial as they will be covered by the hair. Place this layer above all other layers and we’ll be using them as a guidance .


Step 3

Make a new layer and change the settings for the brush as shown below (press F5):


Change the foreground to #b09e92 and start to paint some shade on the face. It’s very important to define the light source in the very first time so you can paint properly later. In this case I tend to make light come straight in the front.


Step 4

Create a new layer and use a soft brush with the color #220e03 to paint in the middle of the face. We’ll correct it so don’t worry if it looks rough.


Click the second button at the bottom of the Layer Panels to add a mask to this layer. Use a brush with the hardness varied from 20% to 70%, the opacity and flow about 20 and 30% to define a nose form using the lines drawn in the step 2 as a guidance.


Step 5

Paint with the color #560e16 under the nose and use a layer mask to define the lips base with some details. You should vary the opacity and flow of the brush to make the light and shade of the lips:

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  • David Winarchik

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