In this session, we were joined by our good friend Floortje Visser from Art with Flo.

Flo is both an incredible digital artist and teacher. She uses her knowledge and skills help you get the most out of Procreate for your creative ventures and spends a good proportion of her time creating handy, cool, easy-to-use digital art brushes to help designers make their mark.

During this session, Flo detailed 7 common mistakes that are made in portrait painting and talked us through how to fix them. It's these mistakes and their remedies that can take your portrait design from dodgy to dolce. If you'd like to enhance your works of portrait art, we definitely recommend watching this session.

Want to give life to your portraits? Learn these seven easy tips on how to improve your portrait paintings with the super talented Flo. Actionable and practical tips that will make your work better instantly, especially if you have created a portrait with some flaws, this article will teach you ways to fix those.  

Tip Number 1: Color Variation

We’re beginning with a portrait that already has multiple flaws. For example, the skin color in this portrait looks dull. In reality, skin color has variation and shades but in this portrait it looks lifeless. Everything on her face has been done under one layer, including her lashes and hair. 

Now, we will start to fix these flaws and bring the portrait to life. Let's begin by setting the portrait to Alpha Lock. To add color variation, use the Overlay Brush, pick a warm red tone color and set the brush size to 30%. 

Glaze over her face and add the red and pink colors for variation. The warm areas around the cheeks are where the blood vessels are, so use warm color tones like reds and pinks around such areas.

Use saturated colors such as blues around the forehead and chin, as they’re closer to bones and are cooler areas. If you check the difference now, between her before and after, you’ll notice a lot of color variation. So it's always great to add color variation in your portraits. 

Tip Number 2: Define Edges

There’s a good balance and defining of the edges that's needed while painting your portrait. Sometimes the edges are really soft and blurry and sometimes really crisp and only a good balance of both is necessary for a great portrait.

For example, around the jaw, there’s a blurry blind edge. So to fix this, go to the Eraser Tool and set to Basic Flow Brush to make the edge look more crisp by de-fuzzing it.

Make the edges a little crisp on the neck as well which makes the portrait look like this:

Tip Number 3: Lips

For the lips, use the Basic Flow Brush, size at 20%, and pick the skin color to blend the lip with the skin, making it look more natural. Get rid of the harsh outlines and add more color to the lips. Use a dark color for the upper lip. For the skin, nose and lips, work on one layer so that you can blend easily. For hair, lashes or eyebrows, you may clip on another layer. 

Use the Standard Blender from the Basic Brush Set for smudging the edges to soften them. The outline of the edges of the lips should have a softer transition, but between the lips the edges should be harder. Use the Dark Align Brush and pick a local color to make the edges between the lips darker. 

Use the same brush to add shadow lines and creases around the eyes. 

Tip Number 4: Eyes

The absolute white in the eyes doesn't look very natural (even though it’s called white of the eye) and thus needs to be toned down. It’s advisable to use a shade of the grey here as they look extremely illuminated. Use the Basic Flow Brush and pick a darker color than white, towards a grey. 

Use the Smudge Tool to soften it up and blend it. Make the top part a bit darker than the lower, as the lower part is hit by the light. Use the Darker Line Brush to make it even darker. 

If you check the difference now, it’ll already start to look more natural.

Tip Number 5: Eyelids and Crease

Always draw eyelids. Use the Dark Line Brush, add in the crease at the top by using local colors. Add a bottom crease too, to give volume to the eyeball. 

Tip Number 6: Eyelashes

You may notice that both the eyelashes look the same. Both lashes have the same curve and the same thickness, that doesn’t give it a very natural look. Hence, erase all the lashes and start from the beginning. 

Use the Lashes Brush from the Eye Brush Set, at about 30% thickness and curve the lashes on each side. 

In the middle curve straight up, towards the left make the lashes go left, and for the right curve them towards the right. For the bottom eyelids, use less pressure as they’re thinner and lighter.

You could even choose a slight brownish color for the lower lashes and make them look natural. 

Tip Number 7: Hair

Add variation in hair by going into the Hair Brush Set and choose the Hair Blocking Brush. 

This will help to block and shape the hair from making it look very flat and undone. While painting the hair, always try to imagine as though you were combing it so you get a flow in the hair. Make long flowy strokes so it looks more curly. Add color variation by staying close to the warmer tones for hair. 

Use the Smudgy Hair Brush and add texture to the hair using a light brown color. Use the Overlay Brush to add color variation by turning on Alpha Lock. Add reddish-brownish tones for this. 

Turn Alpha Lock Off again to add more hair. Add darker and lighter areas. Look for clumps of hair and when you see shadows, add more color there. 

You may use the hairbrushes as a Smudge Tool. Also, add texture near the hairline with the Smudgy Hair Brush. Drag the hair on top of the skin with the Smudge Tool and merge it with the skin as though it’s growing out of the skin. 

With the Lighten Brush, add layers of light hair to give it more depth and lighten the hair.

Final Look

Blend in the skin and the eyes and hair, wherever needed. Add skin texture using the Skin Brushes and color variation in skin by adding warm and cool tones. This will make the skin look more alive.

Make sure to take care of all the edges especially crips and fuzzy edges wherever needed. Get a balance between a soft transition and a crisp one. Make sure to have crisp lips only in-between the lips and not outside the lips. For the eyes, use a warm grey and add shadow on top of the eyeball to make it look natural. For the eyelids, draw a crease and give it more detailing. For the eyelashes, make sure that all eyelashes don't look the same. Add volume and curl up by defining thickness, making it more natural. Finally with the hair, add volume and color variation.

Apply the tips shared above and further work on the artwork to achieve this look!