Paint a female face in four easy steps

How to paint a female face

Lauren K. Cannon shows you how to create a female face.


Lauren K. Cannon
Lauren K. Cannon
Lauren is a freelance fantasy artist who specialises in dark fantasy and the surreal. She lives in a small woodland village in Southern New Jersey, US.

Even a casual viewer will notice if a face doesn’t look right in a piece of art. This makes painting it a challenge. The biggest piece of advice I can offer is to avoid detailing until you have everything else in place. It’s the best and easiest way to ensure that the face as a whole looks correct.

It’s easy to get lost in the features we consider to be the most beautiful and feminine, such as the eyes and lips, but don’t neglect the rest of the face. The nose, jaw and cheekbones also add beauty and definition to a face. It’s unnecessary to paint in a lot of makeup on a face to make it more feminine.

While visual cues such as long eyelashes, sculpted eyebrows and red lips are hallmarks of a female face, these things aren’t necessary to make a face feminine. In fact, it can make for a more interesting portrait without.

Even experienced artists benefit from using reference material for faces. Every artist has a default – we always fall back on the same set of features if we don’t pay attention. I recommend building a library of headshots to give you a large sampling pool of how facial features can vary. This will keep your work fresh.

Straight, stretched lines show tension while slack, curved, or squished lines are more relaxed, so when the sides of his mouth are stretched taut, he seems much angrier and more frustrated. He's yelling so loudly that his mouth cannot open any bigger.

Step-by-step: Paint a classic female face


Before you worry about painting a female face, first concentrate on producing a basic face. Decide on a core colour palette for the skin and then block in the colours in a very general way.

Now’s the time to establish the lighting and basic form of the face. It’s important to resist the urge 
to start detailing the features until all of the basic elements are in place.

How to paint a female face

Begin to render the basic features of the face. I start with the nose because it helps me to establish the angle of the face. From here I work outwards into the cheeks and forehead.

For now, I keep the lips and eyes very simple, 
only indicating the top lid of the eyes and the line of the mouth. I flip the canvas occasionally to ensure that the features are symmetrical.

How to paint a female face

Once the general face shape is rendered, I add the main features of the eyes and lips. Shaped eyebrows, dark lashes and darker eyelids are all things that suggest feminine qualities.

Everything fits neatly within the face thanks to the time I spent rendering the bone structure. I blend the skin with a Spackled brush; this gives a great soft texture to the surface.

How to paint a female face

I add fine details such as eyelashes, more definition to the lips and, importantly, a bit of warmth to the cheeks. Women are often depicted with a stronger blush on their face than men.

You can lightly paint on a saturated orange-red tone by hand, or use the Overlay layer mode on low opacity for quick colour fixes. Overlay also deepens shadows and makes everything pop.

How to paint a female face

Don’t be tempted to over-render. Many artists approach the female face with a glossy fashion-shoot mentality, blending everything until the skin is hyper smooth. I think preserving texture and imperfections in a face is the best way to add life and character.

How to paint a female face

Lauren's tutorial was featured in ImagineFX issue 75 as part of our Artist Q&A. Head over to our store to order back issues.

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