Painting Tutorial: How to Add a Personal Touch

Discover tips for adding an expressive personal touch to a realistic oil portraiture, with Alan Coulson

Alan Coulson (@alancoulsonartist) is a self-taught portrait artist from the UK. His work has been selected for The BP Portrait Exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery in London on five occasions and in 2012, he was awarded the third prize for his portrait of Richie Culver. He has produced work for The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The Chronicle Review.

Although his portraitures are realistic, he likes to add a personal touch to them so that they don’t end up looking like an exact replica of a photograph. In this tutorial, he shows you how to add a personal touch to your own oil painting portraits.

1. Add flourishes and details to your painting

Once you’ve created a portraiture oil painting that you’re happy with, you can begin to add some details to it and really bring it to life with a personal touch. Use color splashes, flourishes and small details to give it individuality. Don't think about adding anything that conforms to what you think an oil portrait should include, instead, add details that reflect your mood and personality.

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Go with how you feel and let your mood guide you

2. Add paint marks for individuality

Remember you want to add a personal touch, so your oil painting shouldn’t look like every other oil painting out there – what can you add to it to make it unique and give it some flair? Bright colors against darker backgrounds can look really striking and can make your painting stand out.

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Bright colors can be added to make your painting stand out

3. Don’t be precious

Sometimes being too precious can hold back creativity. When it comes to adding a personal touch to your painting there’s no rule book – if you don’t like what you’ve done you can wipe oil paint off easily with a dry cloth.

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Neon pink works well over dull colors

4. Have fun and experiment

The main thing to remember is that you can have fun with it and be creative. Explore different colours to what you've already added to your portrait and don’t overthink it; allow yourself to experiment.

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Splashes of paint can make a painting unique
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