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Portrait Painting

Find out how portrait painting has evolved with modern photography technology.

Portrait painters work in a variety of ways. [© Jupiter Images, 2009]
© Jupiter Images, 2009
Portrait painters work in a variety of ways.

As the popularity of digital photography increases, portrait painting still remains a unique way to capture a moment in a person's life. Gone are the days when the subject of the painting had to sit motionless for hours on end. A portrait artist can now create a painting from one or even several photographs. Parents can even provide favorite photographs of each child, and the artist can combine them into a group portrait with any scene in the background.

These personal masterpieces can vary widely in price, depending on factors including the artist's reputation, the painting size and medium, number of subjects, and whether the subject is from a photograph or live sitting.

Portrait Painting from Photographs

The simplest and least expensive family portrait painting option is creating a paint and canvas version of an existing photograph. This usually takes about three to five weeks. To ensure a quality product, it is advisable to choose a company with a satisfaction guarantee policy. Many companies will ask for a 25 to 30 percent down payment to be provided at the initial order. The portrait will then be created and a full payment will only be given if the final result is satisfactory to the customer.

Some companies also offer various mediums that will likely affect the cost of the portrait. For example, Paint Your Life offers oil, watercolors and pastels at mid-range prices, and acrylic as the most expensive option. Price points for desired mediums as well as the size of the final portrait should be researched and compared before making a final decision.

The extent of the creativity of these portraits will depend upon the services offered. Some companies will simply recreate the picture provided. Many, however, allow for more flexibility. They can take subjects from several pictures and combine them into one portrait. They can also change the background of the picture. Some will even use the subjects in the provided photograph or photographs as a basis for a completely original composition.

In addition to combining subjects and adjusting backgrounds, completely new outfits and poses can be created. Most of these companies will provide a gallery of finished products to peruse before ordering. These will give an idea of both the quality and the flexibility of the services being offered.

Commissioning a Live Portrait Painting

For a truly authentic product, an in-person sitting can be arranged for a commissioned portrait. This is a much more involved and intimate process. Since this is a face-to-face situation, one of the first concerns when choosing a portrait artist is location. Most people will want to find a nearby artist to avoid travel-related costs. A search for artists in the desired area and a careful comparison of galleries and portfolios may help to narrow the choices before committing a large amount of time to any one artist. Be sure to allow plenty of time for choosing the artist. If an artist's work is appealing but the portfolio does not offer the desired style, contact the artist to determine if the preferred style is an option.

Another main consideration is price. Many artists start with a minimum base price, then add to it based on the client's requests. Some artists have a price schedule established that takes into account the style of portrait, medium used and size of the final product. In general, face portraits are less expensive than full body portraits, and a single subject costs less than multiple subjects.

Once an artist is chosen, most will ask for a down payment of 30 to 50 percent of the final price. In addition to determining style and size, wardrobe for the sitting should also be discussed. In general, classic styles that will not quickly look dated are recommended.

The actual sitting process will vary from artist to artist. Most will request several sittings and many will do drawings and take pictures. The turnaround time depends on the artist, style and medium of the portrait. It can range from weeks to more than a year. The completion time estimate should be discussed and agreed upon before the portrait is commissioned. Because an artist may have other bookings, it is advisable to begin planning for a portrait painting at least six months to a year in advance of the time the portrait is needed.

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