How to Paint Pop Art Portraits

Turn family photos into iconic masterpieces with this do-it-yourself wall artwork project. DIY diva Michele Beschen breaks it down for us with these easy steps.

Using just four colors and a few simple steps you can channel your inner Andy Warhol to paint vibrant portraits of your family, friends, and even pets. No matter your artistic skill level, you'll have fun painting and blending your way to one- of-a-kind wall art. "You don't have to worry about getting it perfect," says Michele Beschen, DIYer and host of Public Broadcasting Service's B. Organic. "This is an abstract, pop-arty version of your photo."

Compose single portraits on newly bought or thrifted picture frames with glass. Or salvage an old window to display members of your family and favorite sayings. Group a collection of your vivid masterpieces on a brightly painted wall for a bold, colorful statement in any room.

To see more projects from Beschen, click here.

How to paint pop art portraits


Old window or picture frame with glass panels

Black-and-white photo (one printed in reverse from your computer works well)

Rubbing alcohol

Painter's tape

Acrylic paint: white and one other color (Michele used turquoise)

Paintbrushes in several sizes

Razor blade (to scrape off any painting mistakes)

1. Clean the glass with rubbing alcohol. Place the photo face-up on your work surface. Place the glass on top, securing the photo to the glass with painter's tape.

2. On the glass, use the white paint to highlight the brightest details in the photo, including teeth, glints in eyes, and lightened areas of hair or clothing. Blend your strokes to avoid sharp lines. Let dry.

3. Use a thin-tip brush and your deepest color to outline the darkest features of the photo. Trace around the face. Use brushstrokes that mimic the texture, such as the wisps of the hair around the forehead and eyebrows. Let dry.

4. Mix white with your other color to create a lighter version. Dabbing over the lines you previously painted, fill in the shadows of your photo--all the areas that aren't quite white but just a tad darker. Let dry.

5. To create your final tone, mix a slightly darker shade than in the previous step. Make sure all previous coats of paint are dry to avoid smudging. Now use a large brush and the medium color to cover the entire piece of glass by dabbing rather than brushing. Let dry.

6. Now for the fun part. Flip the glass over, remove the tape and the photo, and marvel at your work!

DIY Tips: Follow Michele Beschen's tips to hone your technique. Her No. 1 trick: Practice! The more you try, the better you'll become.

Key on contrast. The sharper your black- and-white photo, the easier it will be to see the distinctions between light areas and dark shadows. Use basic photo-editing software on your computer to intensify the image's contrast.

Go deep. When choosing an acrylic paint color, select a deep hue to give the shades as much variation as possible.

Blend in. Experiment with blending techniques. You'll discover quickly how to create different effects with your brushes. Blend less to achieve a defined look. Blend more for a photographic feel.

Play paparazzo. Run out of familiar faces to paint? Make pop art portrayals of famed mugs, too. Michele got up close and personal with the likes of Mother Teresa, Pablo Picasso, Marilyn Monroe, Henry David Thoreau, and Elvis.

Try, try again. If you mess up, scrape the mistake off with a razor blade and resume.

Click here to view a video of Beschen completing her pop art portrait project.


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