Briefing

Introduction and Material Talk

When you look at the image we are going to paint, you will most likely think of the image in lines. Let us start by NOT doing this and look at it as shapes. Nearly each shape transitions from light to dark or from soft to hard.

Look at the sphere below and see how light changes when the light source is further away from the object. All these shadows and lights need to be observed carefully and then painted. If you are not sure what you are looking at, it becomes much harder to paint. So break your image down in shapes and see where the light source is “hiding” so that you will never place shades or lights wrong. Also note that the darkest light is still lighter than the lightest light in the dark. Understanding what it is that you see makes painting much easier, as painting is 70% observation, the rest are techniques on how to handle the airbrush and paint. 

  • As a warming up exercise you can paint a circle without an outline (as below) and carefully place it’s shades and lights like you see on the reference. Use a white surface so you can save the light and work transparent with a thin black or blue. You can use a circular template to keep the sphere round.
  • To make proper transitions you need to slowly increase distance and spray from dark towards the light with an angle. It is as if you slowly walk backwards with the airbrush while aiming towards the light you walk away from and slowly move (aim) at the parts you need darker.

Now let’s have a look at the image we are going to study again.

A study of Eyes, a Nose, Cheeks and Eyebrows.

We see various directions of skin textures, sharp and softer highlights, light-, dark-, and mid- tones, and details such as eye lashes and texture in the iris. 

Subtle transitions such as the bottom eyelid from eyeball to skin to eyelashes. These are all very important to make convincing eyes. Don’t make dark outlines all around the eye, it’s a common mistake. Another pitfall is the eye white. This is never really white and can sometimes be nearly black! The corner of the eye is very moist so you will find sharp white highlights there, specular highlights. specular highlight is the bright spot of light that appears on shiny objects when illuminated.  You will also find a highlight in the Pupil/iris, usually caused by umbrella’s and soft boxes or other light sources. These surfaces are moist, so you will find more clear and sharp highlights here then in a skin, unless there is more moist or grease on the skin.

Eyelashes need to be counted and carefully placed onto the upper and bottom eyelid edges. Notice how they can be soft or sharp, small, wide, long and thin. None of them are the same!


As for the materials we are using, here is a list for the first project, feel free to make your own choices in materials as long as you feel comfortable with them.

  • Graphite Paper Red
  • Schoellershammer 4G board
  • Mixing jars
  • Schmincke or Holbein Titanium White
  • Liquid mask in pen form or with the use of a Frisk Brush
  • Mechanic Pencil or sharp HB Pencil with sharpener
  • Dustfree Eraser /Soft big eraser (flexibel)
  • Eraser Pencil Hard/Soft
  • Tombow Mono Eraser pen
  • Grey Value Finder
  • Mini Texture FX 3
  • Electric Eraser Tihoo /NE60
  • Black Watercolor Pencil
  • X-Acto knive #11 or a Ceramic knive
  • Kleenedge Tape
  • Colorless Medium or another Transparent airbrush medium
  • Colors: Primaries, umber, sepia, Red

More Specific Colorlist:

HOLBEIN: Hansa Lemon Yellow - Imidazolone Brown - Burnt Umber - Sepia - Lamp Black - Primary Magenta (Or Quinacridone Magenta) - Naphthol Red Light - Pyrrole Orange - Primary Blue Cyan (Or Phthalocyanine Blue)