Portrait painting requires a lot of practice, skill development, patience and dedication to the craft. With a few tips, you can be sure that you will be on your way to becoming an even better portrait artist. Also, if you commit errors, don't be discouraged. Just keep at it and you'll have the technique down pat in no time.
First, start with the eye portion of your subject, and try to work your way outwards to the rest of the face. The eyes in any portrait are one of the more striking focal points, so it would be a good idea to start from this point in the portrait. The key to getting a distinct likeness from a subject is to be able to paint the face with all the features in the right arrangement and symmetry. The better the relationship between the parts of the portrait, the better the portrait will look as a whole. Begin at the corner of any eye, then estimate the distance from this point to the part of the face where the nose bridges. From the nose bridge, judge the distance and move across the face to the other eye. Now that you've gauged the distances, you can go back to the first eye and start drawing the eyebrow in, and from the eyebrow you can gauge the distance to the hairline, and so on. Remember, the key to getting a good likeness in your portraits is to effectively capture the relationships between the distinct features of your subject. Build the face using a series of sketched loops, until you get to the point where the face sketch is similar to the subject's face shape.
Always remember to work on the entire face, not just the individual parts. If you need to, step away from the canvas and take in the entire portrait before moving any further. Remember, you want to keep your portrait faithful to what the subject looks like, and if you get too caught up in perfecting the individual face parts, you might lose sight of the portrait as a whole. Keep your brush moving at all times, move across the features of the face. Keeping the brush moving while doing this will result in a portrait that looks very spontaneous and alive.
When coloring the portrait, ears, fingers and noses are slightly more reddish than any other facial feature. This is because in real life, these areas have more blood flowing through them, Bony areas, on the other hand, such as the human forehead, have less blood circulating through them, and should be colored with a slightly bluish or greenish tint. While we are on the subject of colors, use a reddish brown color for defining deeper shadows of the subject's face. Using these shadows helps your portrait blend in with the general lighting of the painting, and will result in a more dramatic, realistic feel. On the other had, to show lighter shadows you don't have to stick to brown - try using a light blue for these shadows, to give the viewer the idea of the disparity between the shadows that can be seen streaking across your subject's face, giving it character.
Now that you know how to create a portait painting, put your knowledge to work and practice! If you feel that painting is your talent and your passion, perhaps you should consider pursuing a career as a painter. You can begin by taking art and design classes online.