Course Outline

Preview course topics and assignments.

1 - Drawing for Portrait Painting

Drawing is the essential first step of portrait painting, capturing the subject's anatomy with accuracy. In the first lesson, you'll learn how to work with basic facial proportions and use important methods like plumb lines and reference points to represent the subject. You'll also learn about the types of portrait representation and the challenges of this art form. 

Project - Initial drawing

2 - Value and Underpainting

Before you can create a finished, full color portrait, you need to work with the values (lights and darks) of your subject and create an effective underpainting. This lesson looks at the procedures used in creating cast drawings and raw umber underpaintings, including methods for isolating and defining areas of similar values. You'll explore light theory, learning tips for representing light with paint in a portrait. 

Project - Underpainting

3 - Laying on the Paint

The final step of an oil portrait is filling it with color, especially the flesh tones that take up so much of a portrait and are the most challenging to create. Local and perceived color choices are explored, including a look at the color combinations used by masters of portraiture, and you'll gain tips on mixing just the right flesh tones. You'll learn the best ways to lay your color onto your portrait and some important (and common) missteps to avoid. 

Project - Final portraits

Course Objectives

Building skills? Here’s an overview of what you’ll learn in this course:

  • Work with naturalistic and idealized depictions of the face, and with historical portraiture influences.

  • Set up a portrait sitting including positioning and lighting of the subject.

  • Use proportion, plumb line, and reference techniques to build portrait drawing skills.

  • Create a cast drawing to demonstrate values and volume.

  • Create an underpainting using specific value and volume representation techniques.

  • Represent shadow and reflected light effectively in a portrait.

  • Apply perceived color values and mix flesh tone paint effectively.

  • Lay and handle paint appropriately for proper texture and value.

  • Create attractive finished portraits that avoid common portraiture missteps.

Course Registration

Interested in this course? Scheduled and self-paced enrollment options are available. Ask Admissions about taking this course as part of a degree or certificate program.


Course LevelClasses startRegistration FeeTechnology FeeTuition

Degree course
1.5-credit course, 7 weeksJan, May, Aug$200$50/semester$375/credit

Vocational course
30 hour course, 3 months accessEnroll today, start tomorrow$50$25/course$334

* Registration fees are nonrefundable after 5 days from enrollment. All tuition includes a digital materials fee for updates to course or program content.


Software and Supplies

To take this course you'll need:

  • Computer with Internet connection.

  • Oil paints, canvases, brushes, and other art supplies (full list provided in this course.) 

  • Basic experience in painting and figure drawing.

  • A digital camera (or ability to digitize film photos) to present your artwork digitally.