Pet Portrait Media

Pet Portrait Options – Media


Pen pet portraits provide an affordable option.  I use light-fast pens and good quality paper to ensure the work does not fade or discolour.  I find these work best when kept simple and they are great for a quick sketch to capture the essence of the whole animal, though head studies are possible too.

Dachshund drawing, pen
Dachshund drawing, pen


The essence of a pen drawing with a splash of colour.  I use light-fast pens, watercolour and ink and acid-free paper.

dog illustrations


Watercolour is a beautiful, delicate medium which can work especially well for smaller-scale pet portraits, allowing for fine detail.  It lends itself to a more illustrative style.  It can be used with wet paper in a fluid, painterly style and/ or applied in layers to give a more detailed painting. The beauty of a good watercolour painting is its transparency.  I use heavy-weight, acid-free watercolour paper and artists’ quality paints with good permanence.  Watercolour paintings should not be kept where there is bright light.  It is difficult to make extensive alterations to a watercolour painting.

Watercolour portrait of a Spaniel


Gouache is essentially watercolour paint which is opaque.  It can work nicely on tinted paper as a sketch.  I find it works best with white pets!  It is more easily corrected than watercolour and I find it works best for a loose, painterly style.

dog painting


Pastel is a conventional choice for animal portrait painting, with the unique quality of softness, ideal for rendering fur.  It can be carefully layered and blended to achieve more detailed portraits, for which I tend to favour pastel pencil, or used more expressively.  I work on acid-free tinted pastel papers or Pastelmat (which can hold a lot of colour) for which I choose colours to compliment the tones of the animal.  It is worth noting that a pastel work does need to be specially (and quickly) framed since it is a powdery medium and is easily smudged.  I only use good quality pastels, with light-fast pigments, so colours will retain their vibrancy over time.  When framed, pastels should be double mounted.  Alternatively, the mount should be thick enough to prevent the picture from coming into immediate contact with the glass.  Once correctly framed in this way and looked after, pastel is a durable medium that can last for generations with minimal colour fading.

pastel dog portrait


Acrylic is similar in its dramatic effect and richness of colour to oils, giving the effect of a traditional pet portrait painting, but with the advantage of requiring less drying time.  It is a more expensive medium due to the cost of the paint as well as the canvas or canvas board.  Acrylic allows for texture and expressive marks within the painting as with oils.  Acrylic paintings may be framed without glass and mount. Acrylic works can be painted on acrylic paper, board or canvas, though the latter are preferable, if more expensive.  Prices for paintings in acrylic will depend on the size and choice of support.  Canvasses can be hung without a frame, for a modern look, which also avoids the cost of framing.

Acrylic dog portrait on canvas