How to create a miniature-portrait?

By Rineke de Jong, 28 September 2016.

Hoe maakt ik een miniatuurportret

How to create a miniature portrait?

How to create a miniature-portrait?

After having made several 3 cm miniature portrait paintings, I think it is nice to tell you more about the origin of these gems and to show you how I made them. A free painting tutorial. Step by step.

We must do it with pictures, because I have not (yet)anyone who can make a video for me so that I can show you the process on film.

  1. Choosing a carrier

When it comes to jewelery it must be lightweight, because you do not want a millstone around your neck or wear heavy earrings and risking that they fall through your earlobes.

My choice for earrings has fallen on a very bright, high quality plywood. This material is laser cut for me in the desired shape.

For jewelry to be worn on a chain around the neck, or brooches, that problem is not an issue. They may be slightly heavier and larger than earrings. For those you have a wider choice. Besides the aforementioned plywood, I use masonite. This I saw myself in the desired size.

  1. Preparation of the support

You simply can not start painting on this material. It has to be well prepared at first. With about 4 gesso layers on the masonite, which first has to be degreased. On the plywood I bring 3 to 5 layers of acrylic paint all around. If everything has been applied, and has covered well, then let it dry thoroughly. After that you can start with the desired performance.

  1. Choosing a topic

All subjects are possible. From abstract to figurative. Because it is so tiny what you are about to make, you also need all the necessary fine brushes. Airbrush is also a possibility, but I do not work with that.

My brushes are the finest. The thinnest start 0000 to 5/0. The hairs are sable hair or synthetic sable hair. These brushes can be used in the subsequent and final stages of your painting. For the first scheme you use some coarse brushes, but that will always be fine brushes, about size 4 to 8. Then you can work with flat, tongue-shaped tip or pointed brushes, depending on your needs.

  1. Okay, we’ll start with the 1st draft

Because the carrier particles are so small, they have to be stuck on a shelf that can be put on the easel. I do this with double-sided adhesive tape. Do not press too hard, because you need again to remove it without damaging the drawing. And you want to keep the back also beautiful condition. Stick them in the middle of the shelf so you have plenty of room to maneuver. My board is sliding lid of a wine box. Gifts with wine bottles are often packaged in such wooden boxes. In the empty box, you can immediately pack your painting things, so you have everything at hand.

The initial setup can be done with a pencil, but also immediately with oil paint. As a pencil a watercolor pencil is very suitable, depending on the color of the substrate use a not too different color. Do not press your pencil, because it must be mounted as light as possible. It is just a tool. Ordinary pencil beats through the oil, watercolor pencil but does not do so and also dissolves into the first coat of paint applied. Are you very proficient, you can skip this stage and do the set-up in oil.

I put it first in one color. On a light surface I use raw umber, on a dark surface a very light color. Here you see the photo of the of the little girl on which I have indicated which part I am going to paint.


I work with oil in the highest quality and dilute the paint with a homemade medium of walnut oil and turpentine. After much experience this is my preference. But of course you can also buy customer-made medium. The better the quality of paint, the more pigment and the less filler there is in the paint. And that you immediately notice this. The paint is of course more expensive than study quality, but the colors are infinitely more beautiful. You can always contact me for more info.

You can first make a sketch with pencil on paper (A4 plain printer paper suits well) to find out how the composition should be. For example, you can print a picture and indicate on this print your choice of the composition.After that you are ready for your miniature.

Hoe maak ik een miniatuur portret

1st draft

Notice that I used here a kind of skin color and for the dark areas I used the dark background. Now it has to dry before you can work again. How long this lasts is depending on the ambient temperature and the thickness of your paint applied, at least 1 or 2 days. Feel gently with your finger if the paint no longer “sticky”. If that is the case then you can start with the next layer.

The basis of skin color is white, burnt sienna, and a little bit of yellow ocher. Flesh ocher is also a great color for blushes and lips. For the areas where the skin is closer to the bone, you use green or blue. All this very carefully. But now I am already anticipating on the next phases.

  1. The following phases

As you can see it does not show yet any resemblance, but the proportions and composition should be all right.

Now I’m going to continue working and looking increasingly and bringing paint on the brush searching the likeness of my subject. In this case, this is a one year old child’s portrait.

You create a palette with the colors I have mentioned before, put your media ready (I have it in a small jar that I can always close) as well as your brushes. Now look closely at the form and details of the face and put the next layer on. It is still zinc white and raw sienna. Zinc white is a transparent white. And you see I’m looking for the dark and light areas of the face. I work as if it were, from back to front. Beneath the flesh you have the bones and the skin covers the flesh. That’s the way I build the face. You have to delve into the anatomy. Still it is not the cute girl, but that’s going to be later. This phase will look something like this:

Hoe maak ik een miniatur portret

2nd draft

You see, it’s now more or less a complete face. Now it must dry again. Then we can proceed to the next phase.

It may just be that you need some more layers to achieve this result. That does not matter because you’re glazing. This is a transparent painting technique whereby each film you make will be visible under each newly applied layer. Each layer must always dry again before continuing!

If you are satisfied, then we’ll apply the color.

Hoe maak ik een miniatuur portret

3rd draft

As I mentioned earlier: The basis for skin color is white, burnt sienna, and a little bit of yellow ocher. Flesh ocher is also a great color for blushes and lips. For the areas where the skin is closer to the bone, you use green or blue. All this very carefully.

For blonde hair use white, yellow ocher, burnt sienna, raw sienna. For the dark depths and all the dark details, such as around the eyes, use burnt umber. Black I use rarely. If you blend green and red and add this you also get a nice warm blackish tone.

Now there are also colors in the face and it is allready turning into a cute girl.

You do not have to make all colors simultaneously, you can always repeat the same principle of application and allow it to dry. Because you glacing and layering structure you will get an unprecedented depth in the picture and thus you get a three-dimensional effect. The portrait seems to be alive.

Chloe Rose5 160x160pixels

4th draft

The further we come with the painting, the finer are the brushes. For example, the blue irises of the eyes I have done with brush 0000. And the bright spots too, but for that I use titanium. That is an opaque white, which you can use for all other highlights such as hair, cheeks, in short wherever is striking light.

So now we finalize all the details who needed a minor key. We look if resemblance is to our and to the liking of the client. If so, then the portrait is finished. The best part is if you can see the portrayed in reality. You can then see how she moves, see the facial expressions of the face and more. That you will then see in the painting. If that is not possible, ask as many pictures as possible, then you also get insight. Also, it is so that one person, or animal, is more photogenic than the other. It would be a shame if your painting would suffer in that case.

Here you see the final result: the portrait is on the front and on the back I place my signature in this case because there is no space at the front. On the photo I did not yet so, because the paint still was not dry.

Hoe maak ik een miniatuur portret

Final stage

I wish you good luck if you want to try it and hope my explanation is clear enough.

This way you can actually paint everything. Flowers, plants, animals, insects, portraits, etc. Oil is in my opinion the most appropriate paint for this technique. Want to work abstract? This is also possible, but then you do not have to work in this way. Soon I will publish some miniatures of butterflies among other things on my blog. The painting process is the same as is explained here.

  1. For your inspiration

Below some examples for your inspiration.

The bangles are for sale in my Etsy shop, but you can also contact me directly.

 For more facts about painting and techniques , please read :

Painting techniques – oil painting

Amber and oil painting

Making art keep your brains sharp

Mischa met miniaturen Ronin en Jade web hanger oog web hanger kat web

Thank you for your interest and attention.











Mythologie is vaak de bron van inspiratie. Ik probeer het goddelijke en het menselijke te verenigen in mijn schilderijen. Paarden en andere dieren, maar ook groente en fruit vindt u terug in mijn schilderijen. Portretten maak ik in opdracht. Regelmatig neem ik deel aan exposities nationaal en internationaal en heb vele prijzen gewonnen. Mijn werk is gepubliceerd in diverse uitgaven en aangekocht in binnen- en buitenland.

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