Online Course

Portrait Painting in Oils

Learn how to properly plan, set up, paint and finish a refined portrait in oils

Always wondered how to go about the whole process of painting a portrait?

5 Steps to a Perfect Portrait

Learn the 5 steps to a perfect portrait in this online video course. From initial setup and placement, to a value underpainting, a colour block-in, refinement and finish.  I show you every step of the way and you can paint along with your own portrait. You will be able to see how I paint without using solvents or a medium, only using paint from the tube. Post your progress in our private online forum for feedback and support from your fellow students.

All the Preparation Covered

Find out how to set up your model, do a photoshoot, choose background, clothing, and lighting.  Then work on creating your own vision so you know what you will be painting towards.  We prepare for our portrait by creating sketches and photos and learn how important it is to choose the right reference photo. Whether you work from photos or life, both approaches are welcome. 

Course Outline


- Introduction

- Materials

- Copyright

- Join the Course Community


- Positioning your model

- Choosing your background and clothing

- How to photograph your model

- How to choose a photo or pose

- Making sketches

- Find your vision


- Choosing your canvas

- How to position your reference material

- Brushes and paint


- Painting thinly

- The fat over lean rule

- Painting your skeleton

- Putting the bones in

- Value underpainting

Colour and Form

- Colour block-in

- Colour mixing

- Refine shape into form


- Vision

- Refinement

- Refinement 2

-Edges and chroma


- Finish

Portrait in Oils

an online course

An online course so you can:

- Watch the lessons in your own time and space
You can watch the lessons wherever you like, from the comfort of your hown home or studio

- Take the course as often as you like
You can watch the lessons as often as you like

- Each video lesson is about 10 minutes long
A few lessons are a bit longer (17 mins) but most are around 10 mins. 

- You need an internet connection
You cannot download the lessons

- There are 6 modules
22 lessons in total (excl. the introduction lessons)

- Get started straight away

This course is part of the curriculum of Sophie’s Art School. Join the school now and get access to warm and welcoming community, and a range of courses, tutorials, workshops and a private community.

Enroll now and get started straight away!

Here’s What You’ll Get When You Sign Up

All Prep Covered

All the preparation required for a  perfect portrait: posing, expression, lighting, background, photographing, sketching and more.

Paint Along

Paint along with every step and every stage. I show you how to create an underpainting, a colour block-in and will push through until the final tiny details.

Get Feedback

A private online community is with you all the way. Post your work, your questions and comments in The Art Cafe and get (and give) feedback on your work in return. 

Learn New Techniques

Learn colour mixing, painting without solvents (unless you want to), how to work with edges and working 'fat over lean'.  

A happy student

I have taken several classes on painting portraits, but I learned far more by following this course. It is an extremely comprehensive and detailed guide to creating a realistic portrait. It covers topics I had scarcely given a thought to before, such as how to take a good reference photo, how to position your model, choose clothing, backgrounds etc. The step by step technique created order out of, what was before, my rather muddled and chaotic method in which I tried to tackle everything at once. I have learned to slow down, pay far more attention to detail, and to work methodically. To be able to paint along with a skilled artist, and watch over her shoulder, so to speak, was invaluable, and I really feel that I have made tremendous progress by doing so.

What’s in the course


Module 1: Preparation

Six lessons on how to get ready to paint your portrait. We discuss how to pose your model, what expression to go for, background, clothing, and lighting. I will discuss how to photograph, sketch and how to choose the right reference photo.


Module 2: Studio

Three lessons cover all the material needs: choosing canvas, brushes and paint. I discuss which colours to set up on your palette, whether you are a beginner or more experienced painter. We discuss how to position your model or reference image. We also cover what size to work at.


Module 3: Structure

Now we dive in! Five lessons get you going with you portrait. I show you the benefits of painting thinly and in layers, and  I explain what 'fat over lean' means. We then start off by positioning our 'head' on the canvas and create a value underpainting.


Module 4: Colour and Form

We cover up our value underpainting (yes, really!) with a colour block-in, which we will then refine further. Simple shapes get refined into smaller shapes and into 3-dimensional form. Three lessons.


Module 5: Vision

Give your portrait your own personal creative spin by remembering your initial vision. Refine your portrait further by working on small detail, edges and colour. 


Module 6: Finish

How do we know when a painting is finished? This age-old question gets answered in the final lesson. We apply the finishing touches to your painting.

A happy student

I found this course a joy to follow. It's very complete, the guidance is clear, the demonstrations easy to follow. In the end I was surprised at how successfully my first oil portrait came out. I can't wait to do the next one!

About The Course Teacher,

Sophie Ploeg is an experienced art tutor and a professional artist. Her portrait paintings have been exhibited at the Royal Society of Portrait Painters, the Pastel Society and the BP Portrait Award Exhibition.  She is self-taught and shares her practical approach to painting and drawing through courses and workshops.

Sophie’s painting techniques stem from trial and error, picking and choosing; over the years she developed her own techniques, often fed through selected bits and pieces from existing methods and approaches. She does not follow any particular school of thought but prefers to use painting techniques that are fun and ‘work’. 

Sophie’s paintings are realistic and full of atmosphere. They seem to echo traditional methods and style, but are painted in a modern and practical manner. Her work celebrates the beauty of every person and the heritage we all share.

Sophie's main website:

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  • Get started right away
  • Cancel any time
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  • Learn a thorough 5 step method for all your painting
  • Learn at your own pace
  • 6 courses, 8 workshops, numerous tutorials and more

A happy student

I have taken a lot of art courses and read a lot of books. This was one of the most helpful series of lessons I have ever taken. Thanks for your generous spirit Sophie..well done!