How to Paint Women's Bodies

By Tiffany Ross
The curves of a woman's form present challenges to artists.

The female form has been immortalized by artists for centuries. But the subtlety of a woman's lines are challenging for a beginning painter to capture. Most figure painting begins with a drawing that acts as a foundation for the painting. The pencil markings of a drawing are easier to adjust than the more permanent marks of the paintbrush. The paint itself will add highlights and low-lights that will bring the body to life.

Mark the proportions of the woman's body on the canvas. Use your brush to measure points on the body. Hold the brush upside down and steady it with your thumb. Hold your arm out straight with the brush at eye level. Close one eye and hold the line of the brush's stem between the two points of the shoulders. Use your steadying thumb to mark the measurement then transfer the measurement to your canvas. Repeat this step for all the major lines of the body.

Draw the female body between your markings. Re-check your measurements and make adjustments as you go along.

Define the lights and darks in the figure. Lightly trace the darkest shadows into your drawing. This will be a guide when you add the paint.

Mix a limited palette. A limited palette is one that uses very color variations. This will simplify the painting process while you search for a skin tone to fit the model. Begin with two colors, titanium white and burnt umber. Place the white at one end of the palette and the umber at the other. Blend the color together with different variations of umber to white eight times in between. Begin mixing at the white end with each variation progressively becoming darker.

Paint the extreme lights and darks first. Defining the extremes will help you find the colors in between through blending and added colors from your limited palette. Move on to the mid-tones only after you have painted the extremes.

Plan your painting in sections. Work on defining one section of the body, but step back to check the overall composition before moving on. Reference your model often.

About the Author

Tiffany Ross is a writer and actress who has been working in Chicago since 2004. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting and is completing her Master of Science in Oriental medicine. Ross is a world traveler with experience working overseas.