Make an Easy Mixed-Media Portrait with Pam Carriker

Mixed-media portraits are hot, hot, hot, and no wonder—the variety of mediums and styles that can be used is huge, paving the way for artists to create any type of face they choose. Pam Carriker, the author of Mixed Media Portraits with Pam Carriker, is here with a great tutorial on how to use just a few materials to create a stunning portrait. If you can’t draw, don’t worry—Pam’s book has great info on creating portraits from stencils and photo transfers. Give this technique a try and start adding portraits to your art journals, collages, and sketchbooks! ~ Jeannine

When creating portraits, I love mixing Conté à Paris Crayon with my Fluid Matt Sheer Acrylics (my paint line with Derivan® Matisse), or other white paint. The key is the viscosity of the paint—you want to use paint with a lot of pigment, but you also want it to be fluid. You can also use thicker paint and add a paint medium to it to thin it down. Water will also work, but you have less ‘play’ time, and have to work a bit faster.

Note: To increase the workability of the paints I create a gessoed background. I used gray gesso for this piece and love the way the portrait looks on a darker background.

1. Sketch a portrait with pencil. You can do this in a variety of ways and even use a stencil if you’re unsure of your portrait drawing skills. I show several ways to transfer a photo or use an existing sketch in my book. Using a Conté crayon, add some shaded areas around the face. Don’t be afraid to go heavy with the crayon, as this will be mixed with the white paint later.

Mixed-Media Portrait

2. Add in some white highlights with the white paint. I pat it on the paper with my brush.

Mixed-Media Portrait

3. Load some white paint on a paintbrush and mix the paint into the areas with crayon. You’ll see the crayon and paint mix to form lovely gray tones. The key here is not to over mix and turn everything the same shade of gray.

Mixed-Media Portrait

4. Continue blending and mixing. Wipe your brush off on the background to create hair. If the paint on the brush becomes too gray, rinse it.

Mixed-Media Portrait

5. Continue painting, adding additional crayon to darken select areas until you like the look of the portrait.

Mixed-Media Portrait

6. To finish the portrait, use a pencil to re-sketch some of the details and add some white highlights to eyes, nose, and lips.

Mixed-Media Portrait

This is a fun way to practice painting portraits and learn shading. It only takes a few supplies, and I find it a quick way to add faces in my journal work as well.

Pam Carriker is an artist, instructor, author of the books Art at the Speed of Life,  Creating Art at the Speed of Life, and Mixed Media Portraits with Pam Carriker, and  a columnist for Somerset Art Journaling. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, she now resides in the Dallas/Fort Worth Texas area with her husband and her youngest son, while her two oldest boys serve in the Army and National Guard. Traveling to teach around the country is something she enjoys very much, as sharing the satisfaction that comes from creating art is her passion. She has created instructional art journaling videos for the Strathmore Artist Papers line of Visual Journals, and she has designed a line of stencils for StencilGirl Products, rubber art stamps for Stampington & Co., and continues to develop her line of signature mixed-media products for Derivan Matisse. Turning her hobby into her dream job has been the culmination of a life-long pursuit of living a creative life, and she firmly believes it is never too late to begin living Art at the Speed of Life™! See more of Pam’s work at

Mixed-Media Portrait
Mixed Media Portraits with Pam Carriker is packed with techniques for creating all kinds of portraits that show off your unique style. Get great tips and ideas for creating skin tones, rendering realistic features, adding shading, and much more.


Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques

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