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Dog portraits from photos

dog portraits from photos

Meet the fabulous Toby! Isn’t he a beautiful dog! Toby has been painted in colour using pastels.

I have to say, the more black dog portraits from photos I paint, the more I love painting them in colour. They are like secret paintings with lots of hidden colours!

About Toby

So before I give you lots of info about how Toby’s portrait was created, here’s a bit of behind the scenes info about the star himself! Toby is a labrador cross with some collie, his owner explained this gives him a little longer nose than a pure labrador but I think he looks a very distinguished gent indeed. Toby is co-owned by Mother and son, Paula and Olly. Olly is spreading his wings and leaving home so Toby is staying with Paula with Olly of course visiting him very often. Toby’s portrait has been commissioned as a surprise 30th birthday gift for Olly to hang in his new abode. Lucky Olly! Happy Birthday for Monday 4th July Olly!

About the portrait

As ever, I used pastels, sticks and pencils to create Toby’s dog portrait. I used sienna pastelmat for this one, although Toby is dark, he still had warm colours in his fur. I used faber-castel sticks for the background in warm brown shades and some pale cream so it would make Toby stand out. (You can see more Labrador dog portraits here)

pet portrait in pastel

I started work on Toby’s eyes as I usually do. I find it gives me an area to focus on and helps ensure everything is in the right place. I also feel that once the eyes have their glimmer and shine, the animal really comes to life in front of me. I used derwent carbon black sticks to build up the layers of darkness in Toby’s fur. Sometimes black can really flatten artwork but the carbon black from Derwent is more like a very deep charcoal, this means I can still go blacker if I need to with the faber-castel black although I use it very sparingly. You can then see I started to add some detailing around Toby’s eyes. I used all sorts of colours in his fur from browns, greys, blues and even some yellow! Black is not just black!

pet portrait in pastel

I then made a start with a furry ear. I used very short pencil strokes similar to the actual fur. I started by laying down derwent carbon black in the pencil form, then added paler and less pressured strokes to add the highlights. I simply repeated this process, alternating between dark and pale colours until I had built up the fur look but also with the correct level of contrast.

pet portrait in pastel

You can so how I simply repeat the steps of building up a darker underlayer then adding highlights, repeating until I get the desired effect. Look at that sheen!

pet portrait in pastel

I couldn’t wait to get stuck into Toby’s ruffle under his chin. I love his white fur highlights, again I used all manner of greys, yellows and blues to recreate it and actually very little white at all, just for the most obvious highlights.

pet portrait in pastel

At this point I was hoping I was going in the right direction, however due to the cache on my website, my client wasn’t seeing the updates in real time! (It took me a while to figure out why she couldn’t see them) I was plodding along when she finally was updated and thankfully I was on the right track, phew! Here you can see I made some real progress with the chest area. I used the derwent sticks to block it all in roughly, then blended it with my fingers for a smoother finish, I could then add the detail on top of. Again, so many colours which probably can’t be picked out with the naked eye but when you look at the picture as a whole, they add to the effect.

pet portrait in pastel

At this point I had thought I’d finished however it would seem the lovely Toby’s nose needed to be much wetter/shiny looking and darker.

pet portrait in pastel

So after a little ‘edit’ with the pastel pencils, his nose was approved, along with his fabulous fur and eyes and Toby was good to go!


And here he is in all his glory again, just incase you needed to see that beautiful face again like I did! Let me know what you think, don’t forget, if you have any questions, just leave me a comment and I’ll get back to you!

If you are interested in using pastels but don’t know how to, I’ve created a couple of free tutorials about how to sharpen pastel pencils and how to pack pastel paintings for posting but I’ve also created a few download art tutorials with info about how to create fur, eyes and backgrounds.

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Feel free to visit my  gallery where you will find lots of completed dog portraits but if you like to see how they are made, visit my dog art blog posts where I show step by step updates from the beginning to end of each piece and don’t forget I offer worldwide pet portraits commissions.

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2 thoughts on “Dog portraits from photos

  1. I have used pastel and coloured pencils, of the two I would say pastel pencils are so much easier to use. I highly recommend them!

  2. Your work is beautiful! ❤️
    I’ve been so nervous to try color in any medium.

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