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If You Are Working on a Portrait Illustration or Painting, You Need to Know When to Stop

Tantowi grew up drawing and designing. Now she makes videos for a living and loves every second of it.


When you’re working on an illustration, there are several factors to consider when determining whether or not it’s finished. You want your illustration to look as clean and clear as possible, yet you don’t want to overwork it either, which can cause you to lose some of the dynamic quality that makes your work unique.

I wasn't always a good enough artist to know this, but judging from almost all amateur artworks I've seen, the artist was likely unable to stop and was too attached to his or her creation. It's definitely difficult to have this kind of objectivity when it comes to your own work, and I wouldn't fault anyone for being unable to have that outside perspective. But for those of you who are willing to change that practice of prolonging perfection and are looking for some guidance on how to quit while you're ahead, here are some tips on how to do that.

First, sketch a rough picture. It doesn't have to be perfect

In other words, get your creative juices flowing by first sketching a rough picture of what you want your final illustration to look like. Don't worry about making it perfect; just get it on paper. This phase is all about letting your imagination run wild. You can begin in any way that feels comfortable, whether using pen and paper or a digital graphics program (just make sure you save everything in case you want to change something later). Don't overwork it. If you make a mistake or add too much detail then you might end up overthinking it and it won't come out as nice as you want it to. It's better to start with something basic and adjust as you go along.

It may be challenging to talk about perspective, composition, and gesture. However, let it go

There are several rules of perspective, composition, and gesture that you need to follow. But as an artist, you always have some freedom in your artwork. Don't be afraid of breaking or bending a few rules just for fun. There is a time and place for everything! Be sure not to let these guidelines take over your imagination - there's nothing wrong with going off script once in a while. As long as you don't do it all of the time, it can be good practice in letting go and just seeing what happens. This way, you may surprise yourself (and maybe even create something really interesting).

Identify before you make a decision about Hue, value, saturation in portrait illustration

In portraiture, color plays a very significant role in conveying emotion. Color schemes can symbolize one of two emotions: whether it’s bright and happy or dark and gloomy. Deciding on a color scheme will determine how you go about creating your art. Most importantly, decide whether you want to create something that looks realistic or stylized; pick one strategy and follow through with it throughout your artwork—don’t mix it up by switching between realism and a drawing style without reason. Next, think about saturation: how vibrant do you want your colors to be? Finally, hue: which particular colors do you want to use for your piece?

At the end of the day. Stop if everything looks good enough

The thing about pixel-pushing (aka. digital painting) is that it’s easy to find yourself working on a piece forever. But don’t let that happen! There will always be another day, and there will always be more time and energy at your disposal tomorrow than today. Sometimes it feels like our art could always use just one more small touch here or there... but if you stop for a minute, look at what you have so far, and compare it with any of your other pieces; chances are you’ll see what I mean.

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Know When to Stop

Often, creating a great piece of art is as much about knowing when to stop as it is about knowing what to start. You can spend hours working on a painting, only for it to never be finished because you’re always striving for more. It’s easy in such cases to lose perspective and forget what made you begin in the first place. Setting limits and boundaries before you begin will save you time by helping you focus your energy in useful ways that aren’t detrimental.

A painting or illustration takes time to create. You can waste time if you don’t know when it will be best to stop. When to stop is very important. Painting early and often and then revisiting during the week can help you discover what needs to be changed or added to the paint. If you miss a day, it could end up being a wasted week because you didn’t get a chance to refine your idea. For example, if you are working on a portrait and are getting great feedback but you are also struggling to get really good results, try taking a day off and coming back the next day with something fresh.

Yes, it's finished, but my art isn't as good as other people's. I don't know what to do. Post it! Then create a new one

Think about how much work it took you to get from where you started to your final product. Think about all of that sweat and hard work. Now, think about what all of that means: Your art is good enough for people in your field to see! It's done, even if it wasn't perfect (which is a rare occurrence). Showing someone your finished product will either make them want to be you or learn more from you. You can be proud because now it's time for people who don't know what they're doing yet to be inspired by someone who did something remarkable. If you've got some time on your hands, make another one.

When working on a portrait illustration or painting, no matter how detailed you get, there is always more to do. However, this doesn't mean you can stop improving the work. If you have a lot of work to do to complete a piece, it is better to stop and do something else than to continue working on it and never finish it.

That's all, I hope it helps you finish your artwork in the future.

© 2021 Tantowi Gilang

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