Taking Photos of your Artwork

Bottom line: do not take your pictures indoors. You won’t be able to capture the details of your painting to its full potential. Taking photos outside helps you see every detail in your painting. You don’t even need to use a fancy camera… I just use my iPhone!


With just your phone you can easily capture the small details in your painting. I try to take my photos around sundown so when the sunlight hits the painting, it adds a warm effect which overall helps the painting look better.

Don’t ever take a photo with flash, it tends to wash out the tones of the painting. Turn your painting at a 45 degree angle towards the sun to get the best lighting.

If for some weird reason you don’t want to take a photo of your painting outside, at least try to take a photo of the painting using the lighting coming from windows.

Shades of Skin

Creating the right skin color is extremely important in portraits. One shade lighter or one shade darker creates an overall difference and your painting will just look “off”. It’s almost like finding the right foundation color! Not only that, but skin holds so many values that help create depth and dimension in your painting. It’s also the most detailed part of a painting because of every pore and wrinkle which makes up your skin. However, you don’t have to go into too much detail if you don’t want to. I, for one, get really impatient with my artwork and tend to speed through them… something all my past art teachers have complained about (whelp). Therefore I opt out of creating a lot of detail on the skin in my paintings, but if you do invest your time you really will get closer to creating a truly realistic painting. You just need a lot of patience. And time.

The colors I used to create skin color are Titanium White, Alizarin Crimson, Burnt Umber, Cadmium Red, Yellow, and Burnt Sienna. Depending on the amount of each color really transitions quickly between each shade. When you look at your reference photo try to capture the undertone you see. Whether the skin has a warmer, or a cooler appearance. Warmer tones will stay in the range of reds, oranges, and yellows. Whereas cooler skin tones (which are usually pale) contain just a hint of blue and have a grayish-purplish tone to it. I will be using the same photo that I used to explain in the sketching post. The tones that I picked up from my photo lean towards a warmer skin color with traces of grayish areas which settle into the wrinkles and pores.

I used white, cadmium red, alizarin crimson, yellow, and burnt sienna to create these colors. The top color contains more yellow, the middle color contains more cadmium red, and the bottom color has more white and burnt sienna in it.

Using these colors, I am focusing on the area underneath the eye. When you paint skin color just paint the undertone first and then you will be going back to add detail and value. It’s good to paint a cartoonish version of the whole painting first, instead of focusing on getting every detail right in one small area of the painting. Why? Because when you create the colors in your palette you want to keep it consistent throughout the painting. It doesn’t make sense to have to use a certain shade one day, and then the next day trying to recreate that same exact shade. Unless you’re deciding to complete the painting all in one day… in that case, you have way too much time on your hands. But hey, do what you want!


Don’t freak out if you think you can’t draw.

It’s alright if you’re accustomed to drawing stick figures… you’re one step away from being able to draw! It’s really rather simple after you get the gist of it. There’s no need to get special sketching pencils either, a mechanical pencil will do.

Start practicing by drawing small objects: for example, I will be drawing an eye. Focus on the shapes in your image. Whenever you sketch before you start a painting, don’t fret about getting every detail down pat. Just draw relative lines that will help guide your painting process. As long as you get the right proportions, you’ll be satisfied with the end product.

Taken with an iPhone 5s

Proportion lines come in handy to guarantee a balanced drawing. To properly use proportion lines, use your pencil at arm’s length to simply measure one point of the image to another. For example, from one corner of the eye to the other corner.



It also helps to create these lines with sharpie or a pencil on your printed out image. This helps split up your image into shapes, and assures the correct distance among the drawing. It may look a little strange at first to see lines all over your drawing, but you will be painting over them.


After you’re satisfied with the drawing, it helps to shade in a few dark areas so you know what parts of the painting need value.

Now you’re ready to paint! And remember, practice as much as you can on paper before you start on canvas (to avoid disappointment and you’ll honestly be more comfortable with exercise).

The Palette

This is where the magic of paint mixing happens. You can’t substitute a palette with anything. Unless you want to be lame and use a piece of cardboard (actually did this in high school *sobs*). You just look cooler holding a palette!

If you choose to use a wooden palette, you have to make sure you take care of it. Before you begin be sure to spread linseed oil on the palette and wipe it dry (this preserves the wood longer so it doesn’t wear and tear). However, if you prefer not to spend money on yet another product, then use a piece of foil to wrap around the palette. This is what I prefer to do as it makes it a lot easier to clean up at the end because there’s no need to get messy by having to wipe all the paint off. Plus, it keeps your palette looking as good as new.

When you start putting paint on to the palette, don’t get too excited and start squirting paint in the center of your palette. Place the colors on the top edge of your palette in rainbow order (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black and then white). Leave enough space in between the paints in order to prevent unwanted mixing. The bottom half of your palette is used to mix your colors together. With oil paint, you only need a blueberry sized amount for each color. One thing I love about oil paint is how highly pigmented each color is and how a little amount can spread so much on canvas. Remember not to take too much of your paint out, thinking that you’re going to use all of it because in the end you won’t. Then you’re left with wasted paint and it’s really quite sad.

What makes oil paint so pigmented anyway?

Oil paint is made out of a mixture of dry pigments and drying oil. The pigments are powdered natural minerals and dyed minerals. These powdered minerals (cadmium and titanium) are mixed with oils to ultimately create opaque oil paint. On the other hand, pigments from dyed minerals when mixed with oil create transparent colors (transparent colors are used for glazing a painting before you paint and/or after). Interesting stuff!

Paintbrushes + Palette Knives

Good morning! Today I will be recommending the best materials to use for oil painting. There are all kinds of packs that include paintbrushes, easels, canvases, and small sets of oil paint. For beginners, these packs are excellent as they include the basic necessities of painting. However, these packs may have a limited set of paintbrushes and/or oil paints, so I purchased myself a set of paintbrushes which are also a better quality. The worst is when you begin to paint and all the hairs start fraying and the whole thing begins to fall apart, so buying yourself an extra set of good quality paintbrushes is beneficial if you wish to paint at least more than one painting. A lot of people assume that you just need one big, medium, and small paintbrush, right? Wrong. The more variety of paintbrushes you have, the better your details and overall your painting will come out. Paintbrushes differ in how many hairs are in one brush, affecting the amount of pressure applied to the canvas. Therefore, affecting how much paint is applied to the surface of the white canvas.


Many people mix paints with their paintbrushes, but because of the thick consistency of oil paint, your paintbrush begins to collect the paint at the tip into a glob and it really is quite frustrating to take out. In come palette knives! These little knives are wonderful and make the whole mixing process all the more fun. Coming in different shapes and sizes, you can easily mix a small or larger puddle of paint. Following these simple four steps will truly mix your colors together:


  1. Pick your desired colors to mix and scoop them up with the palette knife.
  2. Place them near the edge of the palette by wiping them off the knife.
  3. Do not stir the two colors together in a circular motion. Gently apply pressure by patting the colors together with the back of the knife.
  4. Gradually transition the pat into a gently scrape on the palette, as if you’re spreading butter on toast, but in a faster pace (but please don’t spread the color across your whole palette, which essentially is wasting space).


Canvases come in all sizes, or they may come in sheets. If you wish to hang your art piece, I recommend to buy a canvas with panels inside. Also, it is best to purchase an easel instead of choosing to paint on a desk or table. The angle your painting is at is very important, otherwise your painting may turn out distorted. And quite frankly you’re probably going to develop back problems.

Lastly, no you can not wash your paintbrushes with water. Remember, oil and water don’t mix. A lot of artists use a substance called turpentine, which removes all the oil paint off of your paintbrush. However, it smells disgusting. So I use a brush cleaner which also preserves your paintbrushes by conditioning them. All you have to do is:

  1. Wipe as much paint you can off with a paper towel.
  2. Rinse it with some water and then stir your paintbrush in the waxy substance.
  3. Rinse it off with more water and BAM your paintbrush is as good as new (maybe even better).

Here is a list of what products I use and where I got them from (mostly from Amazon because Amazon is amazing… I have a pretty unhealthy relationship with online shopping):

Easel Set


Palette Knives

The Amazing Paintbrush Cleanser (this stuff is awesome)

16×20 Canvas

11×14 Canvas

Keep updated on my blog for more on the basics of oil paint!