Painting an expressive B&W portrait in Photoshop | Julio Carvalho | Skillshare

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Painting an expressive B&W portrait in Photoshop

teacher avatar Julio Carvalho, Illustrator & Portrait artist

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

5 Lessons (30m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Sketching

    • 3. Painting

    • 4. Painting: part 2

    • 5. Final touch

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About This Class


In this class, you'll learn my tips and tricks to achieve such expressive portrait paintings.

Using some photo references, we'll draw and paint a B&W portrait focusing on the expression, the appearance and accuracy of it.

We will also cover some painting Photoshop techniques, including the technique I teach on the class "Drawing with the lasso in Photoshop". So, if you haven't watched it yet, it would be nice and helpful. 

By the end of this course you'll understand how to make expressive portraits without losing the real aspect of the character. 

List of tools to be used in this class:

  • A PC or a Mac computer;
  • A Wacom Tablet (Intuos, Cintiq, or similar);
  • Adobe Photoshop;
  • Internet connection for references;
  • Creativity!

See my portraits here:



Meet Your Teacher

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Julio Carvalho

Illustrator & Portrait artist



My name is Julio Carvalho. I’m a Brazilian illustrator, animator and graphic designer. I’ve been professionally illustrating and designing books, magazines, posters, products and logos since the 90s.

In 2004, I started drawing digitally, and Photoshop became my main productivity tool. In 2019, I started trying to draw using the Lasso Tool in Photoshop. Since I loved the results I got using this technique, I decided to create a class Drawing with the lasso in Photoshop, where you can learn how I achieved this modern portrait illustration style.


In my newest class Painting an expressive B&W portrait in Ph... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Painting portraits digitally is something challenging. And capturing the real expression of them is hard. Since I've been drawing portraits for a long time, I've learned some tricks that changed completely my artwork. My portraits became way more expressive than ever. And I've been drawing lots of them. My name is Julio, I'm a Brazilian illustrator, and in this Skillshare class, I'm gonna show you how to draw and paint a truly expressive black and white portrait. I'm going to talk about my technique. And why and how I changed it completely. At the end of this class, you will understand how to improve your portrait drawing, adding way more appeal and personality in your portraits without being excessively realistic. 2. Sketching: First of all, it's important to choose a good reference. In this case, I chose three different poses of the same woman in order to understand what happens to the anatomy, when she changes her facial expression and the position. That understood, it will help us to know the best choices we can make when it comes to proportion and distortions in our very first traces. The best thing to do is starting with some little drawings, that I am used to calling them thumbnails. You don't have in this moment, spend so much time, they're fast drawings. What we are doing here, is to recognize the character. So, looking at her, I could already find some features I'm going to explain in the next step. Now and we're going to trace it over. You don't need necessarily trace like that. It's a very personal choice. There are artists who think that doing that way, we lose personality. But to my way of thinking, it depends on the character. In fact, I chose that way so that we could understand the amount of distortion we're going to apply, I mean, how much my drawing is going to be different from the photo. I chose this position because it's showing amazingly all her facial features. Something I usually to do is letting the values marked, somewhat. So, the sketch is complete. What we're gonna do now is saving this and finding the facial features. As I said before, I had already found some features, as you can see here. And she has a so expressive wide mouth. In order to understand the nose, we can try to do some 3D study. What we can see here is a thin turned-up nose. Drawing the head's geometry helped me to notice that she has a not prominent but present square jaw. So there are the three features I found. Before starting. Let's take a look at this picture. Something we have to keep in mind is the exaggeration amount we are going to apply. If we go to the right we tend to a caricature, it's not our intention, but having something between the drawings number one and number two, I would say not precisely our drawing is going to be about 15% exaggerated. So let's remember the three facial features we found. A wide mouth, the turned-up nose and the square jaw. Going back to the drawing, we are gonna use the Liquify filter, where we can apply distortions easily and fast. Starting with the wide mouth. Not to much Now the turned-up nose. Something I always do is making the eyes a little bit bigger. It works well when the character has make-up put on, I feel like the eyeliner makes the eyes bigger. Finally, the jaw. And in this case, we are going to just remove the rounded aspect of it. So that's it. Let's go to the next lesson. 3. Painting: So before we start painting, I'd like to show you these illustrations and I've made a couple of years ago. I love it. However, if I'd make it today it would be a little different. Since I started painting with the Lasso Tool, my drawings became way more sharpen and expressive. And I feel like these sharpen edges I've been using in. my drawings are a kind of unique, and people love it. Let's take a look at this drawing I made to explain my top secret. It's a trick that helps me not to lose the expression. Doing that, we are never going to simplify the facial features of our portrait. Let's start blocking the main values using the lasso tool. I'm gonna create one layer to the face, one, to the neck, and another one to the shirt. The hair is gonna have two layers because the strands over the forehead. After that. Let's also use the lasso tool to block the mouth, the eyes, the nose, and the eyebrows. Using the palette exposure to change the values, not necessarily achieving the exact tones for now. Another tool I use a lot is that palette Levels. Sliding the arrows toward the center, we increase the values. It helps us to save some time. Let's use the brush. Let's pick out a brush that will determine the texture my painting is going to have. In my case, I chose a pastel one. For precaution, let's duplicate and lock the layer we intend to paint. It's pretty important that we start with a not so thin brush. It's a personal choice. But keeping in mind that The thinner the brush is, the later you'll finish. Alongside the painting process, I'm gonna use the lasso tool in order to adjust the values. As we saw before, we can make this easily just changing the exposure amount using the palette. I use the lasso tool a lot, and I believe it's the best tool for changing the values correctly and fast. As a matter of fact, I can come back to the brush tool whenever I want. The idea is getting some balance between painting with the Lasso tool and the Brush. There is no exact order I follow. But in this case, I chose to let the highlights to the end. So, that's it. Let's continue in the next lesson. 4. Painting: part 2: In this lesson, I'm going to show you more tips than everything. So you feel like your painting is messy, I mean, you ended up using the brush excessively, you can fix it. Go to the layer, and change it to overlay mode. But it's important to have the layer duplicated before doing that. Something I do a lot, is selecting the layer I am painting and reducing their exposure as a whole. How does it help me? It helps me to gain more values. The more you do that, the more values you're gonna have. Of course, you'll have to paint the highlights over and over again, but believe me, it's well worth it. Remember this drawing? So what we're gonna do now is validating this. Remember that we applied some exaggeration to our drawing after tracing it over? Despite that distortions, the result tends to be closer to the original. Let's check it out. Yes, believe it. Why does it happen? When we trace it over, we always tend to miss something. Our brain will always show us the shortcuts. So exaggerating a little, we kind of take back what we lost. So, that's it. See you on the next lesson. 5. Final touch: And in this final step, it's time to get more details, then establish how realistic my drawing is going to be. My easy way to create some gaps in the hair, is doing this. I draw shape using the Lasso Tool. Pressing the option key we deselect some areas to emulate some strands and delete it. You can create more and more layers to the hair and more gaps. If I feel like there is in the area too dark and I need to smooth it, there is a trick I use. I create a new empty layer above, draw a white shape and adjust its transparency. And the opposite works the same. When we feel like it's done, I mean, the face. It's time to make the shirt. To do that, since the shirt is white, I'm gonna darken the background, just a little. On the shirt, I'm going to use the Brush tool very carefully. Blocking the areas with the Lasso Tool. You can create a gradient on the background. But not to excessive. You can go back to the Liquify panel, to the Levels panel and to the Exposure panel whenever you want. And you can use another adjustments, like Brightness and Contrast, for example. Finally, a good texture is always welcome. But, don't forget to use the overlay mode. So, that's it. I hope you liked it. And feel free for reaching me with questions and comments. Don't forget to upload your work here. Thank you.