One of the most popular subjects in painting and photography is the portrait. For centuries, painters have explored the art of capturing a person’s likeness and character on a canvas. Today’s artists – with the help of technology – are redefining what a canvas can be by painting portraits on mobile digital tablets. Enter the iPad.
Let’s take a look at the process, using your finger as a brush and your iPad as a canvas. The portrait below was entirely drawn using the Brushes app.
The first step is to find a model, and figure out if they’re happy to sit and pose while you create the painting, or if it would be a better idea to do a photoshoot and paint from photo references.
If you’re new to drawing and painting, working with a live model can be a big challenge. Lighting and pose are likely to change over the course of the session, making it difficult to capture a good likeness. You may also find yourself limited to working around the model’s schedule, which can be frustrating and increase the pressure to achieve something in each sitting. We recommend taking photos just in case you need to work from them afterwards.
Step 1: Sketch
With the canvas background set to 50 per cent grey, sketch in the basic facial proportions: outline the shape of the head and mark the lines of the mouth, nose and eyes. Use a black paintbrush set to 30 per cent opacity, which will help reproduce a pencil-like line.
Step 2: Facial features
Begin sketching the facial features – the shape, size and position of the eyes, nose and mouth are key areas to focus on. As the portrait progresses, you may choose to remove the initial sketch lines and use the eraser tool to clean areas that become overly complicated.
Step 3: Tone shadows
Gradually add a three-dimensional quality to the portrait with shade. The key to shading is to use a black paintbrush with varying levels of opacity to build up the darker areas. Start with the lightest shadows using 10 per cent or lower and gradually increase the opacity.
Step 4: Tone highlights
Introduce highlights with a white brush; you’re essentially painting with light on to the surfaces of the face that are most illuminated. Start painting with a low opacity value on the brush and increase for the brightest areas. These include teeth, eyes and other small highlights.
Step 5: Colour wash
Create a new layer and change the blend mode to Color, so it will fuse with the black and white underneath. Identify two or three main colours, such as skin, hair and background, and block them in. Then deal with less prominent colours where necessary.
Step 6: Final details
To complete the portrait, we recommend creating a final layer on top for any missing details or colours you were unable to add on the blend mode layer. Here, we’ve added a few extra highlights to the hair and eyes which we missed earlier in the highlight stage.