Portrait painting of Sienna done with oil colors

Portrait painting of Sienna made in oil from Winsor and Newton
Photo taken right after completion and while the oils were still wet

As usual this portrait painting of Sienna is on top of a pencil drawing. I have chosen not to make a post of the pencil drawing this time and go straight to the oil portrait. One thing I can say though was that my pencil drawing was very solid and resembled the model very accurate. This gave me the foundation and confidence to make this portrait which I personally think got pretty solid. Below is a photo of the drawing.

Portrait painting of Sienna made with pencil
Portrait of Sienna. Made by pencil

Color mixing

First I put down my colors which consisted of Cadmium Green, Burnt SiennaScarlet LakeYellow OchreIndian Yellow,Titanium WhiteManganese Blue HueCobalt BlueDioxazine PurpleAlizarin CrimsonOlive GreenUltramarine Blue. I put down the colors in the order as described above from left to right. The following is a very thorough description of my color mixing for the portrait painting of Sienna, since I think it’s very important element. For more information see my page of color mixing. Links will be in the bottom of this post.


Mixing my darks for shadows was the next step for the portrait painting of Sienna. They consisted of Olive GreenAlizarin Crimzon and Ultramarine Blue. This pool of darks had 60 percent Olive green / 20 percent Alizarin Crimson / 20 percent Ultramarine Blue. The purpose is solely to put down paint the most very dark places on the drawing. In this case I used it along Scarlet Red where the right ear is covered in shadow. The nostrils as well. Last place was the right side of the neck which was almost completely black as no light hit this area on the model.


The shadows I made for the portrait painting of Sienna consisted of the previous pile mixed with Burnt Sienna and Yellow Ochre. Since my portrait was fairly light in the skin tone I mixed a little more Yellow Ochre in the mix to lighting it up. The shadows need to be a middle value of all the shadows that persists in the portrait. I added Scarlet Red in the mix of shadows as my models had this rosa skin tone. I wanted that to be visible in the shadows. As you can see there’s a long almost red shadow line running down the cheek and jaw of the model. In this line I added particularly much Scarlet Red into the mix. I always analyze the exact area. This means that one area of shadows might have more red into them than others. This gives the portrait variety, character and dimension.

Darkest light mix

Then I mixed the Burnt Sienna and the Cobalt Blue. The pool consisted of 60 percent Burnt Sienna / 40 percent Cobalt Blue. This made a warm grey that could be altered in a warm and cold spectre. This mix was later used to make the half tones which is a mix of this pool and the skin tone pool. Half tones are used everywhere there’s oval shapes – “explained further down”. I tend to keep the half tones more reddish or warm as that looks more like flesh or skin. When that said all half tones has a greyish look to them.


This color mix is my neutralizer because it calms down the redness in the later mixing of the exact skin color. The mix is a must to neutralize the red hue of the Scarlet Lake that effects the skin tone color mix. This mix consists of Manganese Blue Hue tinted with Titanium White. This mix was made approximately with half of each color. I chose to keep it fairly light as my overall skin tone was light.

Light tone / Skin tone

The light tone consisted of Burnt Sienna and Titanium White – in the following order. Since my portrait was very light and almost pinkish in her skin tone I lightninged it more with Titanium White. After this I mixed my Neutralizer into it, to grey it more and neutralize the red Hue. It was an overall light skin tone. I even put a very small amount of Scarlet Red into the mix as my model had this almost pinkish skin tone. But I’m always very careful with the red as it is very powerful and can ruin the mix very fast.

Half tones

Added my light skin tone mix to the darkest lights mix for the portrait painting of Sienna. This made my half tones. This mix is very important as it is used everywhere there is oval shapes. This makes an even more light grey in which you can alter in temperature according to your models features. Half tones tends to grey around the oval shapes on the face. But they still has temperature to them that can vary from warm and cold. In general my half tones were warm on this portrait.

Laying down the paint

Shadow areas

I always lay down my shadows from the darkest areas to the lightest on my oil portrait paintings. No expection this time either. Used my darkest pool of darks to the corners of the eyes and the nostrils and the darkest areas of the ears. In the hollow spots in the eyes near the eyebrows I used more Yellow Ochre into to the mix to lighten the area. Was aware not to make it to yellow and therefore added more Scarlet Lake. The darker ares of the hair I simply laid down a thicker pile from my Darks added with more Olive Green and Yellow Ochre. As the dark pool is transparent it’s fairly easy to make the illusion of less or more hair. It’s simply about putting down more paint or removing the paint. The two above mentioned colors mixed together were very close to the models real hair.

The right side of the face had extra of Burnt Sienna and Scarlet Red to make it have that pinkish look that my model had. With this area I was not stingy with the reds. I needed it to be very red. You can very clear see the red long line down the cheek and jaw line.

The half tones

The half tones was added where the cheek turned, around the nose area, around the chin and around the eyebrows. Always do that. Was aware to make the half tones reddish with the Scarlet Lake so it looked coherent with the shadows – but lighter. I think I managed pretty well to make the illusion of a turning cheek etc. Everywhere i analyze the areas if they are warm or cold and alter my mix accordingly with either warm or cold colors.

Skin tone

Skin tones were first added next to the cheek area and chin area since I knew these were the most red areas and had some of the most “darkest” areas regarding value.

Later I put down the skin tone paint at the side of the skull near the hair line, as these areas seems to fade from the light. Around the skull in general and in the forehead near the hair line I put down the first layers of skin tone paint with the darkest value and again I added a little bit of Scarlet Lake to the mix. After this I added paint to the nose area and in the lower part of the forehead in the middle of the eyes. Now with the darkest areas in the skin tone area set I could work my way towards the light by adding Titanium White to my skin tone mix.

In general I kept the skin tone very light on the portrait painting of Sienna. But doing so you have to be careful that it doesn’t go to cold. Because adding Titanium White to the mix cools it. And you don’t want a cold skin tone. So it’s a balance between Titanium White and adding Scarlet Lake.


Added highlights around the forehead, nose area, the tip of the chin and small dots around the eyes. Never use Titanium White on it’s own for highlights. So I added a tiny bit of Scarlet Lake to my highlights to give it a reddish feel. It’s barely visible. In the hair I tinted some Indian Yellow and put this mix in has highlights in the hair. It was very equal to the sister of the model Indid some weeks before. In general I felt comfortable with the color mixing.


The eyes in general can be tricky. It’s such a small area to work at and I don’t want to make it to detailed. But this time with the portrait painting of Sienna I felt that I managed to keep it balanced and it didn’t prove to be to tricky for me. It’s a fine balance that you personally have to find. Sometimes I just mix a darker value for the eyes and don’t care much about mixing the exact same color as the model. I personally don’t feel that it does much to the portrait to have the exact eye color as the model.


The nose did not give me much trouble with this portrait. It was probably because I had a very solid drawing underneath. Laid down the darkest lights next to the shadows and made them a little more red. And then I graduately moved towards the light accordingly to the oval shape of the nose. Sometimes the form of the nose slips as you put down layers of paint, but I was lucky this time to keep it true to the model. Actually it may be the best work on this portrait. I feel the form and shades has a balanced softness that I like. Even the cast shadow underneath the nose has the perfect value and varmth to it.

I always think of my master when I paint shadows. Because he would always comment on the temperature of my shadows and urge me to use more red as a reflection of the flesh and blood underneath the shadows.


It may sound like there’s no flaws in this portrait. But to be honest I really feel I nailed this one accordingly to my level. Even my big Achilles heel the “mouth” turned out good. Again I kept telling my self to keep it soft! And so I did. I also kept the color of the lips not that far away from the general skin color. It’s a little trick I’ve learned by myself. I find the lips to look to unnatural if the color and value goes to far away from the surrounding skin tone.

Restating the day after

I felt pretty comfortable with the portrait after the first sitting. So I knew already from laying down the brushes that late first evening that I had nailed it. I thoug the day after add darker shadows do areas that needed it. Furthermore I added a little extra highlights in the models hair.

I added the background the day after ass well. This is a flaw that I very often do. Paint the background to late. It really has do be done much earlier into the painting as it lets you know if your values are correct. And it allows you to blend edges from the perimeter of the models face into the background.

What could I have done better

What I learned from this portrait was really to trust what I learned from previous mistakes. I felt I took this portrait a level up in quality compared to the portrait of the sister “Sofia”.

Links to previous content

For more information about how I build up my portrait step by step follow this link https://portraitpaintingblog.com/portrait-painting-step-by-step/

Fore more information about how I mix my colors follow this link https://portraitpaintingblog.com/color-palette-portrait-painting/

To compare with the pencil sketch that was the foundation for this portrait follow this link: https://portraitpaintingblog.com/portrait-pencil-sketch-of-argentinian-guy/

To see a previous oil portrait painting for comparison follow his link: https://portraitpaintingblog.com/portrait-painting-oil-sofia/

Links to the materials and brands I use

Paint from Winsor & Newton artist color: http://www.winsornewton.com/row/

Bristle brushes from Rosemary and Co: https://www.rosemaryandco.com/

Ampersand boards from: https://www.ampersandart.com/

Nylon brushes from Trekell: https://www.trekell.com/

My Easel is from Edge Pro Gear: https://www.edgeprogear.com/

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