Stuck on portrait and question on printing reference photos

I started on my first portrait.i find myself stuck. The hair in the reference photo is very dark with some highlighted hairs. I was thinking of making the top abstract to cover the hair. Which looks like one of the worst hair pieces I have ever seen. Worse than George costanzas in Seinfeld. Any recomendatiosn? I like the idea but it is a bit of defeat.

Second question is how should I print my reference photos. I am using a high definition image but I just sent it to Walgreens to be printed and the colors are all off which forces me to match colors to my iPad when mixing which is very hard because of the backlighting in the iPad. Any recomendations. I don’t know photoshop. Is the only way to buy an inkjet printer and just play with the settings?

Thx so much as always. Hope everyone is well.


Here is my reference photo

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The Walgreens print has bright orange skin

Good morning Mark,

A great start to the portrait my friend. Tackling what appears to be a complex pattern of hair can often seem initially intimidating—ESPECIALLY is you are thinking about it as an aggregate of many tiny hairs. Rather, think of the hair as a pattern of light and dark masses. Yes, a few stray hairs can be tackled individually, as well as some individual strands passing thorough highlight regions—but to handle it all as individual hairs can lead down a very problematic path for those less experienced with the subject. Here I have simplified the hair a bit in your reference photo to diminish some of the individual hairs in favor of a more abstracted pattern—I have also included a look at how masters like Sargent and Repin handled hair as a series of abstract masses:

Here, you can see even in some of my most rendered/detailed work the hair is handled in a similar strategy of large masses (with only some individuals handled separately):

Try and revisit the hair with this in mind and I guarantee you will find improvement in outcome.

To you second question—I would highly recommend getting an inkjet photo printer (we use a Canon TS9020) with Photoshop to do your own printing in-house. We have many artists with extensive Photoshop skills in this group (like @LWaichulis) that can effectively guide you through any questions you might have. It will save you a great deal of time and energy.

Hope this helps!



As always thanks so much Anthony. Incredibly helpful.

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Anthony am I correct that this printer is only 130 bucks? Thought I would have to spend much more to get good prints to use as a reference. Useful for matching colors obviously with lamination to protect photo.,loc:2

That’s it. Printers aren’t very expensive anymore. It’s the ink that gets you in the long run. As to color management for printing it can be either assigned to the printer or to Photoshop. I think we try both often to see what works best.

Just post any issues that you might have as you go and @LWaichulis and I will assist in any way we can!

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Specifically regarding the hair… In addition to what Anthony said, frequently the “hair piece” look is due to the edge between the hair and the forehead looking too solid (i.e. sudden solid smooth-edged uniform transition to hair; no indication of seeing scalp through the start of the hair, no stray hairs pushing over onto skin; especially if edge is too hard for too long; this solid transition can make it look like the start of a dense wig instead of the start of natural hair). A lot of times people work around this issue by pushing the scalp edge up into the hair, and then working the hair back towards the scalp, but not solidly, perhaps even intermittently. This tends to create a soft or nonuniform edge that looks more natural. Other times they push in a transition color with intermittent, nonuniform application in between the hair and the forehead/skin, keeping the edges soft. I hope this helps! And I hope you load the finished piece when you’re done.