Do you enjoy painting portraits? 

Whether if it’s for fine art, mixed media, art journaling or just to practice for kicks and giggles, you’re likely to be using photographs for reference material instead of a live model…am I right?

Nothing wrong with that at all…I do it.

But the one big challenge when using a reference photo is that the colours aren’t really true. Here’s why:

You’re relying on the colours shown on your computer or device.   

Load that photo on different computers, tables and smartphones and there will be slight differences in what the colours look like.  Why?  because devices are all calibrated differently.

Same as printers…print the photo on 10 different printers and they will all look different.

  • What ink are you using?   OEM (brand) or no-name
  • What paper are you using?  photo paper… which quality?  best, good, ok?
  • What quality setting are you using on your printer?  best, good, draft?

So what do you do?  I bet you just want to paint the best you can right?

Basically, either use your one device for all reference material or print at the same settings, same paper etc.  So everything you do is consistent.  Let’s keep the reference photo part down to a standard way of preparing it.

Now the next thing… how to colour mix paint to match the colours in the photo.

Now, there will never be a 100% match, because a photo is made up of ink using a proprietary formula.  

and it’s likely you will not be using the exact same pigment as the ink manufacturer….right?

So let’s use our eyeballs and colour mix our paint the best way we can and there are a few things that can make the process a little easier.

In this lesson, you’ll learn how I colour match/colour mix from a photo as the reference material and really boost up the intensity and values of the mixes.  I’ll be using Student/Intermediate quality paint where the reds and oranges are not the ones I usually use and a core colour I use isn’t available. 

Talking about making it more difficult for myself!

Here is the photo I was working from – click here to download it from Pixabay.

Give this painting study a try and see how close you can get.  Just remember to enjoy the process and understand that you’ll never get a 100% match.  Use the paints you have, follow my basic guidelines and see what happens.  

When you’re done, please share a picture in the community with any “ah-ha” moments you had or things that you noticed during the process.

Colour Matching and Mixing - Painting a Woman's Mouth from a Photo