What Makes a Portrait Painting Great and Colorful

Create a certain flow

There were numerous masters who made great use of rhythm and this compelled the viewer to keep looking at their work.

Decide on a focal point

You may have more than one focal point and once you know what they will be, you will have to do a good job contrasting shadows and lights in those parts to make sure that they are truly focal points. Eyes are often the focal point of many portraits but you need not limit yourself to them. Remember not to overdo contrast and detail in areas that are not meant to be focal points.

Find something that will interest the viewer

The fact that it's a portrait does not excuse you from including something of interest that will catch the looker's eye. Portraits are, more often than not, focused on the head but don't cut it off at the neck, either. Add some hands or an accessory that has complementary colors. You may even add jewelry to the subject's hands to add more texture and color.

Keep an eye on proportions and perspective

Portraits typically follow a design called the pyramid. A good example would be the Portrait of Elizabeth Throckmorton by Nicolas de Largilliere, or the Mona Lisa. Depending on the angle of the painting, the weight must be appropriately distributed; otherwise, the portrait will end up a caricature more than anything else. Resist the urge to make drastic alterations and try to stay true to the subject's likeness.

Space is your friend

The more emphasis you want to put on a subject, the more space you should leave around them. This is especially applicable to smaller individuals, such as children. However, you must be careful to keep things interesting when it comes to colors because a lot of space requires a lot of attention. Along that note, if you are trying to make a subject seem large and dominant, leave just a little space above their head to make sure they take up most of the portrait's space.
While it may be difficult to find a tried and true recipe for amazing portraits, there have been lots of books written on the matter, as well as people who claim that they have found the secret. The bottom line is this: no matter how much you read and study, there will be no better teacher for you than experience. Keep practicing your art and you will eventually find your own brand of portrait painting that is both memorable and exceptional.

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