How to Paint Lips

No two set of lips are alike. But, that doesn’t mean they have to be hard to draw and paint! Despite how different lips may be, we can realistically paint them all in a similar way.

Before you begin, round up some of your favorite painting tools. I have a small sheet of paper that I prepped with acrylic matte medium, as well as several tubes of paint including red, yellow, white and burnt sienna.

1. DRAW THE LIPS AS YOU SEE THEM

For this exercise, I decided to draw and paint my own lips, and I snapped a quick photo for reference. You can always challenge yourself, though, by looking straight into the mirror. I drew a quick outline of my lips with a pencil. To start, I established a center of my mouth with guiding horizontal and vertical — sort of where the upper and lower lips purse. I then drew the general shape of each and added facial details (like my piercing) after.

2. FILL IN YOUR BASE COLORS.

I always like having a color base to build my highlights and shadows on. I filled in my mouth and skin with a medium pigment that works great before you really start to develop the form. Don’t worry about contours yet.

3. START ADDING VALUES.

There’s one large shadow when it comes to the lips — it’s where the upper and lower parts meet. I painted a dark (but not super dark) line in that place and added dark pigment to the lips. Keep in mind that the lower half is in shadow. Continue to fill in your lips with this medium-dark color until appropriate. I then added some lighter colors and even a few highlights.

4. ADD CONTOUR LINES TO THE LIPS.

If you examine your lips, you’ll see its not a perfectly smooth surface. They have tiny ridges that stretch from edge to edge and reveal their contour. Using a small brush (such as a liner), paint thin lines that resemble this texture. Remember, they’re going to appear more curved on the sides than they do in the center. And, since they are the valleys of these little “ridges,” they’re going to appear dark.

5. PAINT AROUND THE CONTOURED LINES TO BRING YOUR PAINTING TO LIFE.

Here’s where your painting really starts to resemble realistic lips. Look closely at your reference to determine where the light, medium and dark areas are. Generally, the upper lip is going to be lighter than the bottom one because it’s not in shadow. Focus your light-colored pigments in that area, as well as the base of the bottom lip. Where the two lips meet will be in shadow as well as around it.

6. ADD THE FINISHING TOUCHES.

Once you’ve filled in the contours, it’s time to add the darkest-darks and the lightest-lights to your puckers. I used a dark burnt umber and a liner brush to trace the line where my lips met. I also applied highlights to the very top of my upper lip and well as around parts of the entire mouth. Remember, your lips stick out from your face, so they’re going to have some light that catches the edges.

7. COMPLETE YOUR PAINTING.

Make your painting look even more realistic by adding a few facial details. For me, this included shadows on my chin, above my mouth, and facial piercing. It doesn’t have to be too involved, just a few strokes of the paintbrush will do.

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