Our page banner is a detail from our Pop Art portrait of the Mona Lisa.
Pop Art Portrait Lesson
Our Pop Art Portrait Lesson demonstrates how to simplify and develop any image to create a classic Pop Art image.
Step 1 - Choosing an Image
Start with a photocopy or photograph of the image you wish to use for your Pop Art Portrait. For this demonstration we have chosen a detail of Leonardo's Mona Lisa, the most famous portrait in the history of art, but you could use any image that you want.
Note: The best images to choose are those that have a strong contrast between their areas of dark and light. It is also helpful, as you will discover later in this lesson, that the proportions of your image can be divided into squares.
Our photocopy of the Mona Lisa was cropped to fit a 4X5 square grid. (Mouse over the illustration to view)
Step 2 - Outline the Areas of Dark and Light
Draw an outline to simplify and separate the main areas of dark and light in the image. It is best to keep the outline strong and simple without too much detail.
Step 3 - Trace and Transfer
Trace and transfer your outline drawing onto a fresh sheet of paper. You can do this by using tracing paper or a lightbox.
Step 4 - Adding Tone
Shade in the dark areas of your drawing to re-establish the basic tones of the original portrait. This will help you when it comes to selecting appropriate tones, colors, patterns and textures for your image.
Step 5 - Making a Template Image
Finally, draw a square grid over the image. This will help you transfer your drawing section by section on any scale that you require. On completion you can erase the grid lines.
Your drawing is now ready to use as a template to produce a range of Pop Art Portraits using color, tone, pattern and texture as illustrated in our examples below.
Note: You also have the option of printing any of our eighteen different template portraits that you can reach by clicking on the pop art portrait templates at the bottom of each page.
Pop Art Portrait - Color
In this example, our Pop Art Portrait was created by coloring the template drawing with primary and secondary colors, being careful to select the brighter colors for the lightest tones and darker colors for the darkest tones. If you are not careful in balancing the tones and colors, the image may lose impact or look like a negative.
Pop Art Portrait - Pattern
In this example, our Pop Art Portrait was created by filling sections of the template drawing with different patterns. The central area of the face and the small details were filled with single colors to make them more visible against the strong pattern. Too much pattern has the effect of camouflaging the image. Care has also been taken over the tonal composition, being careful to select brighter patterns and colors for the lightest tones.
Pop Art Portrait - Tone
In this example, our Pop Art Portrait was created by filling sections of the template drawing with graduated airbrushed colors. This technique involves masking and spraying various sections of the image with colored inks.
Alternatively, using a soft color medium like pastels which you can blend with a tissue is a suitable dry method of creating graduated colors.
Pop Art Portrait - Texture
In this example, our Pop Art Portrait was created by filling the different tonal sections of the work with contrasting watercolor washes. The areas of dark tones were masked while light colored washes were applied to the exposed light areas. Then the process was reversed where the areas of light tones were masked while dark colored washes were applied to the exposed dark areas.