Portrait oil of Sofia

Portrait painting in oil of Sofia
Portrait of Sofia, made in oil from Winsor and Newton

As stated earlier in my pencil drawing from the 9 th. of march Sofia is my cousins daughter. She was 9 years old when this portrait painting was made.

Based on the foundation of my drawing I knew I would have a good start and felt secure to start putting on layers of paint. That meant that I did’nt need to put to much effort in correcting the drawing with my paint.

In the following I will explain in chronological order how I build up the portrait painting in oil of Sofia.

Color mixing

Started putting down my colors which consists of Cadmium Green, Burnt Sienna, Scarlet Lake, Yellow Ochre, Indian Yellow, Titanium White, Manganese Blue Hue, Cobalt Blue, Dioxazine Purple, Alizarin Crimson, Olive Green, Ultramarine Blue. I put down the colors in the order as described above from left to right. The following is a very thorough describtion of my color mixing, since I find it very important the nature of it. For more information see my page of color mixing.


Mixing my darks for shadows was the next step. They consisted of Olive Green, Alizarin Crimzon and Ultramarine Blue. From previous experiences i added a little more Alizarin Crimson this time, so I knew the shadows would have a little more red in them. It just looks more like skin if you can see the red in your shadows.


The shadows I made 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.

Middle tones

Then I mixed the middle tones with the Burnt Sienna and the Cobalt Blue. This makes a nice grey that can be altered in a warm and a cold spectre. This mix is later used to make the darkest lights. These darkest lights are used everywhere there’s oval shapes – “explained further down”. In this portrait I used more Burnt Sienna, which would make it warmer, since my shadows were also warm. To keep it as coherent as possible


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.

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.

The darkest lights mix

Added my light skin tone mix to the middle tone mix. This made my darkest lights. 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.

Laying down the paint

Shadow areas

I always lay down my shadows from the darkest areas to the lightest. No expection this time either. Used my darkest pool of darks to the corners of the eyes and the nostrils. In the the neck line I used more Yellow Ochre in the dark mix as the neck turned more and more towards the light. Was aware not to make it to yellow and therefore added more Scarlet Lake along the way. The shadows or darker ares of the hair I added more Olive Green to my mix. Olive Green works very well to darken blond hair as this model had.

Darkest lights

The darkest lights mix 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 dark light mix reddish with the Scarlet Lake so I look coherent with the shadow – but lighter. I think I managed pretty well to make the illusion of a turning cheek etc. Everywhere i analyzed the areas if they were warm or cold and altered my mix accordingly.

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.


Added highlights around the forehead, nose area 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.


The eyes in general can be tricky. They did turn out to require extra work for me as well. It’s such a small area to work at and I don’t want to make it to detailed. It’s a fine balance that you personally have to find. Think I managed to find the balance here both regarding the eye color and the small discreet details around the eyes like little hightlights and small areas of flesh that are more exposed to light than others.


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.


As when I’m drawing so painting this area which I find most troublesome. So was it this time. Found the painting of this mouth was a little to hard. The paint is to defined and look so much like lines – like a drawing. I would have liked the edges to have been even softer. This is important, but still I find it hard. The more soft the mouth is painted the less hard it looks and the less it looks like a drawing.

Restating the day after

The day after during my restating of the portrait painting in oil of Sofia I found out that I had lost my drawing a little during the painting. Especially around the eyes. But I managed to get back on track and the eyes acutally turned out better than in the drawing.

What could I have done better and reflection

I think this portrait painting in oil of Sofia came out well. I wiped away the hole first session of painting once and stripped it down to the drawing. First session turned out way to light in my skin tone mix. Found that I had made it to light even though the model was light. I learned to keep my skin tone more to the average of the hole skin tone area. In this case it meant that I had to add more Burnt Sienna in the skin tone mix. But it was a very learning proces for me and it was not as discouraging as I have felt before. I’ve managed to keep a good balance between it looking like a painting and not to realistic and still being true to the features of the model. As mentioned before I would have liked the mouth to be more soft.


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/