Portrait Types

Pencil Portraits - Composition - Portrait Types

Defining the pencil portrait type is important in understanding what is required and it's composition. It goes without saying that definition is only a part of the process. But being prepared and knowing what is required is essential to both the 'owner' (being the person commissioning the artist) and the artist doing the portrait

The importance of an accurate representation of that special person or group of people you want a portrait of is paramount. To assure that the best results are achieved, I have structured the follow checklist to help you with the choices available, and what is required to produce that special portrait.

However, the following list is merely a guideline. Every artist will most likely structure his or her own parameters to work to. Parameters that have come about due to their own preferences in doing particular pencil portrait types. Consequently, becoming a specialist in certain types of portraits.

After all, each portrait done is something special, and should be approached in that manner.

Single Portraits

These are probably the most popular pencil portrait types of portrait. Visually, they are usually captivating and true to character with very little, to no background.

Consequently, the photographs you choose must be of a good quality and an accurate reflection of the subject's nature/personality.

While the single portrait and environment are portraits that relate to a particular event or theme with a related background. Typical themes could be sport, profession, an event, or a particular place or environment.

(For example: Out Fishing - At the Races - In Norfolk - and the like).

Generally they are not as eye-catching due to the fact that the subject tends to blend in with the background. If you have a number of pictures on a common theme, consider selecting a montage study. Other than that these pencil portrait types of portrait is usually ideal for 'Historic Photographs'.


These are usually portraits of partners.

Group Portrait

These pencil portrait types are a study of two or more subjects. However, in the case of family portraits I feel I must mention an alternative.


Consider when the children are grownup, go their own way and time moves on, who will then be the custodian of the family portrait.

It maybe better to do separate studies of each of them, so at later stage they can take their own portrait with them.

Then there is a group study composed from different photographs and made to look as if they where in one group.

Mixed Group Portrait

Then there is a group study composed from different photographs and made to look as if they where in one group.

Montage Study

Is a composite study of one person. This could be a particular or common theme, or a historic collection of picture over time. If you have collected a number of photographs you wish to render, the montage is an ideal study to capturing those special memories.


The background is usually minimal or impressionistic around the theme, except with a character study where the background is generally omitted to draw attention to the subject.

Here are a few examples of typical themes:

  • Location: A Holiday, Tour or other place related occasion.
  • Event: A Historic, Sports, Family occasion, Business or Other time related event.
  • Historic: Is a collection of memorable photographs taken over a longer period.
  • Character study.

Just one last word of warning. These are usually large studies and do take time.

Collage Study

Is fundamentally the same as a montage except for the fact that it is a composite study of a number of different persons in line with a particular or common theme. As listed under Montage studies.


By and large pets of a common breed are very similar in appearance. It is important to choose good quality photographs that highlight their unique markings or characteristics of the pet being portrayed.


Historic Photographs are usually those photographs that get handed down from a previous generation. They are quite often black & white, yellowing and a little tatty. However, if you require a portrait of a photograph of moderate to good quality please forward me a copy. Thereafter, I will evaluate the possibilities and email you a proposal.

Length & Poses: By far the most popular length for a portrait is head & shoulder. Full bust and full-length portraits are primarily used to present uniform or elaborate clothing. Reclining or seated poses apply practically to Environment Portraits and sometime in a montage study.

Complexity: Complexity is not a factor except in the case of elaborate clothing and/or background.

Clothing: Consider the mood and context of the required portrait and dress accordingly. In some cases elaborate clothing may well be crucial to the context of the portrait. In such cases I will have to evaluate the options and email you a proposal prior to commissioning.

Quality of Photographs: The clarity of the photographs you choose will make a significant difference to the quality of the final artwork. Photographs taken by a professional photographer are always the best. The importance of lighting, focus and detail is paramount to achieving a favourable result.

Avoid photographs that where taken with a flashlight with no secondary light. The photograph taken in 'daylight shade' usually produce a good result, but be conscious of light coloured clothing or nearby objects that reflect light.

Size: The minimum length of the head on your photograph should be not less than 1 1/2 inches (38mm)

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