The most important thing step in painting a portrait is to actually start painting. Portraiture can seem daunting and overwhelming, but it’s a lot easier to complete a portrait once you begin.
The trick to a realistic portrait is keeping the features of the face at the same scale throughout. A huge nose shouldn’t be paired with little tiny eyes. To solve this dilemma, try to paint from a set amount of feet away from the subject.
Paintings are just sections of colors compiled together to create an image. They’re a chunk of light blue next to a chunk of white next to a chunk of dark blue to create an image of the sea. They’re a chunk of green next to a chunk of brown to create a tree. The more you can break down an image into its component parts of colors, the more exact your painting will be. Try to adjust your thinking to this method, and soon your paintings will be better.
What distinguishing feature “makes” the person you are painting? Do they have an interesting nose or a handsome jawline? Are their eyes placid and docile or are they piercing and intense? Really think about the person and paint them how they should be portrayed.
Create a mood within your painting. If the person was even tempered, maybe try for some rhythmic, smooth brushstrokes. If the person is fiery, spunky, and wild, use eager, fervent, zealous marks on the canvas. If the subject mean or solemn, maybe use blues and greys. If the subject is tall and lanky, maybe orient the canvas vertically to help exaggerate this quality.
Remember that if you’re a novice in the painting world, you can only get better. Try your hand at some portraits, just for fun. You might surprise yourself!