Step by Step Dog Portrait in Oils

I’ve not done a pet portrait in a while, but when I saw this dog on Paint My Photo, I thought it would make a good painting, and I decided to take photos at regular intervals like I did for my recent portrait of Jim.

A video posted by danjohnsonart (@danjohnsonart) on May 24, 2015 at 9:51am PDT


Here are the steps I took for this painting:


First I put down a thin wash of Transparent Oxide Red mixed with rectified turpentine, and wiped it down with a paper towel.

Then I sketched in the general boundaries of the major shapes, measuring with my paintbrush to make sure the proportions were accurate from the start.


Next, I sketched in an underpainting in Transparent Oxide Red. Again, I measured a lot at this stage to make sure all the shapes were accurate. It’s important to get the drawing as accurate as you can from the start to avoid having to make major alterations later.


Then I blocked in the darkest darks, making the shapes slightly larger than they will eventually be, so I can paint back into them later. I didn’t use any black paint in this painting, the darks were mixed from Ultramarine Blue, Transparent Oxide Red, and a touch of Alizarin Crimson.


At this stage I blocked in the background, which can help to judge the values of the face more accurately. The background is basically Cadmium Red Light mixed with Titanium White, with less white in the shadow area. I tried to keep the edge of the shadow as soft as possible.


Next I blocked in the fur on the dog’s back and chest. The dog has black fur, but because it’s so shiny it really reflects the blue of the sky. Here it’s a bit too blue, but I’ll grey that down a bit later. It’s always best to go too saturated to begin with, as it’s much easier to decrease saturation later rather than to increase it.


Next I blocked in the darks around the dog’s nose and mouth, paying careful attention to the value relationships there, as they are vital in portraying a convincing illusion of three dimensional form.


There are two main colour groups in the dog itself – I’ve already blocked in most of the black/blue fur, and here I started blocking in the lighter brown/orange fur on the face. Here I actually started off too grey, so I had to bump up the saturation in a later stage to make it more orange.


Next I finished blocking in all the remining areas, and adding some of the blue shine from the body into the head too.


Then I spent some time refining the shapes of all the planes in the face, and getting a bit more detailed around the eyes. You can see that I’ve added more orange the the face here, bringing up the saturation.


Almost done now, just getting more detailed in the eyes, and continuing to work around the whole painting, refining shapes and value relationships.

“Akira” – Oils on 8×8″ Gessobord

Here’s the finished painting, after I spent some time softening various edges, and adding final details such as the highlights on the eyes, and the stitching and buckle on the collar.

The colouring here looks slightly different, as this photo was taken in natural outdoor light, so this is a more accurate representation of the actual painting.

I’d love to hear what you think, and if you have any questions about any part of the process, just leave a comment and I’ll be happy to explain further.

This painting is available to buy now.







4 responses to “Step by Step Dog Portrait in Oils”

  1. Vanessa Brummer Avatar
    Vanessa Brummer

    Thank you so much for sharing your talent and Wisdom! A very inspiring demo. I am trying to paint a black dog and this has helped tremendously.

  2. Al Kline Avatar

    Very nice work!

  3. Ursula Gillett Avatar
    Ursula Gillett

    I appreciate knowing which exact colours you choose and why. You give more information than I was ever taught in art school, which was heavy into allowing the subconscious to dictate the process.

    1. Dan Avatar

      Thank you, I’m glad it was helpful!

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