Artist demonstration: how to make a Pop art portrait

Artist Venessa Scott creates a portrait in the style of the Pop art movement. She demonstrates how she uses colour, line and pattern to create a portrait that incorporates bold contrasts inspired by Pop art. She shares tips, techniques and ideas to help you create your own portrait and bring a vibrant Pop art twist to your art.


  • Hi, I’m Venessa. I’m an artist, and I’m going to show you how to make a Pop art portrait.

    You might be familiar with Pop art already.

    Pop art is a movement that emerged in the UK in the 1950s and then spread globally.

    The Pop art style is bold and bright and sometimes humorous. Like this portrait of Queen Elizabeth II by the well-known Pop artist Andy Warhol.

    Warhol was one of the artists who defined the Pop art movement in America.

    I’m going to show you a super simple process, on how to create your own Pop art portrait.

    All you’ll need is paper, a pencil, an image to trace, colourful paint or paint pens, a thick black liner pen, a thin black liner pen, a light box if you have one, or a window, if you don’t.

    For my Pop art portrait, I’m going to use this image of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor because I really like the colours and the shapes.

    Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was a British composer and activist. This portrait, painted in 1881 shows Coleridge-Taylor when he was around seven years old. In this portrait, the artist Walter Wallis used oils. But I’m going to use paint pens in my Pop art portrait.

    The first thing I do when creating a Pop art portrait is first find my image that I’m inspired by and then using a piece of paper, a pencil and a light source, I trace the outline.

    Now I’m using this light box to help me trace the outline. But if you don’t have a light box, that's fine. You can always use a window and some tape.

    Tape your image and your paper to the window. and then use the light from the sun to help you trace your image.

    Whilst you’re tracing the outline, try and look for areas of light and shadow because these make really good areas to trace as patterns.

    So see here under the chin there’s this lovely area of orange, that would make a great pattern to trace.

    Okay, that’s my outline and patterns done.

    So now that you’ve finished your pencil outlines and your patterns, it’s time to choose the colours. Now you want to create a palette that has a lot of contrast, so that as you’re filling in the areas of colour, it really pops and stands out.

    I'm going to choose some complimentary colours and they are colours that are opposite each other in the colour wheel.

    So maybe a red and some green. I always have to include yellow. Now I really like to use harmonious colours in my art, and that basically means colours that are next to each other in the colour wheel. So like yellows, oranges and red, and it makes a really nice, harmonious palette.

    If you are using paint pens, you have to activate them first by shaking them. And then all you do is colour in the different areas.

    So keep adding colour until you’ve completed all the areas of your portrait. Then you can start adding patterns on top of that. So here I started with a silver base and then added a grey on top of that for my patterns.

    Then on the hair, I went even smaller on the patterns to try and replicate the curls that are in the sitter’s hair. On the chin, adding a bit more brown to have more shadow.

    I think I’m going to add a bit more green to this area to add even more contrast.

    There’s no rules in Pop art, so you can add patterns wherever you like. On parts of this, maybe to replicate light and shade. But here it’s just for fun.

    Now the next part is when we really make the portrait stand out. And we do that using a bold black outline. Adding a thick black outline all around the edge helps to separate the figure from the background and helps it to really stand out.

    Now I’m going to use the thinner pen to add the finer details of the face. So under the chin and around the ears.

    And that’s how I create a Pop art portrait. And now it’s your turn to give it a go.

    Remember, it can be completely unique.

Learning objectives

  1. Explore artists’ creative practices and techniques.
  1. Recognise and reinterpret key attributes of the Pop art style.
  1. Be inspired to create a Pop art portrait.

You will need

  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • A portrait to trace
  • Light box or window and tape
  • Paint or paint pens
  • Thick black liner pen
  • Thin black liner pen