Vellum Portrait




This is a quick and simple project that comes out beautifully, even if you're not great at drawing. The entire process won't exceed an hour and a half. Great for last minute personalized gift giving!

Step 1: Materials

These are the materials you'll need:

-One sheet vellum (translucent, textured on one side)
-Camera or iPad
-Acrylic paint
-Fabric or decorative paper
-Scotch tape

Step 2: Take a Photo

First you need to take a photo.  A tip here - it's best to not smile showing teeth. Teeth end up looking terrifying in these portraits. 

Step 3: Trace the Image

Now it's time to trace the image. I like to take the image on an iPad and then use the surface of the iPad as a little light table. It's best if you set the photo as your wallpaper so the image doesn't move around on the iPad while you're touching it. You can also print an existing image and hold it against a television screen for a similar effect. Draw on the textured side of the vellum. The point here is not to be as detailed as possible, but to just give an indication of the subject's facial features. You'll be amazed how just a few lines make your subject identifiable.

Step 4: Painting

Once you've traced your image, you can start to paint. The beautiful thing about this step is that you can paint right on top of the sharpie lines you've drawn. It's easiest to start with the smallest areas here like eye and lip color. You don't need to be super exact because the image that you'll actually see is on the opposite side of the translucent vellum. Remember the first paint you put down onto the vellum is the paint that will show through so it's a good idea to test a small area first to see how the color will show through the vellum. You may need a couple of layers of paint - peak on the opposite side of the vellum to see if the paint is laid thickly enough. 

Step 5: Background

I like to put fabric behind the portrait. It can add a pattern or texture to the picture. Here I used a t-shirt with a complimentary color that I didn't mind cutting up. Remove the cardboard that comes in your frame and cut the fabric with about two inches excess on each side. Then tape the fabric onto the back of the cardboard. 

Step 6: Framing

Cut the vellum to fit the frame. Place the unpainted side of the vellum against the glass of the frame, and the fabric side of the cardboard against the vellum. Install the back of the frame and you're done! 



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    3 Discussions


    7 years ago on Step 3

    Cool idea!

    One bit of advice, don't forget to flip the image before you start tracing it or the image will have a strange feel about it to those that know the subject. I raise my right eyebrow alot and if you didn't flip the image before you traced it, I would be raising my left eyebrow.

    Nicely done.

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    That's a very easy but fundamental advice, if you don flip the image it literally will give a "strange fell" to those who know the subject. Very good Hisart!


    7 years ago on Step 6

    This is really cool. I could see doing a few, with different colors or backgrounds, same subject. What fun!