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Online Portrait Painting Course

Portrait Painting

Portraiture has a rich history. In this online portrait painting course, you can learn time-honored techniques for portrait painting in oil. Working with an experienced painter, you'll utilize your knowledge of anatomy, learning how to construct a painting from drawing to underpainting to final work. Along the way you'll learn essentials for lights and darks, flesh tones, and laying on color. Helpful critiques on your drawings and paintings will help you improve your techniques and build your style.

Portrait painting course image 

Portrait by Palden Hamilton

Learn professional techniques for painting portraits in oil

Instructor-Led Course

Feedback from design professionals

Creative Projects

Stretch your skills, grow your portfolio

Learn at Your Own Pace

Self-paced and scheduled programs available

Course Outline

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 Outcomes

Students in this course can expect to learn to:

  • 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 FeeTuition
Degree course
1.5-credit course, 7 weeks
Jan, Apr, Aug$200$510/credit
Vocational course
30 hour course, 3 months access
Enroll today, start tomorrow$50$619
* 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.

Who’s Teaching

Course developed by Palden Hamilton

Getting Started

Enrolling online is easy and convenient.

Chat with our knowledgeable admissions staff to select course and program options.

Complete your registration entirely online.

Related Programs

Did you know? You can take this course as part of an award-winning certificate or degree program.