Monochrome portrait of Charlize Theron by Setka


Triple Actioner
Here's how I painted monochrome portrait of Charlize Theron.

Tools and materials:
Airbrush: Iwata Custom Micron C+
E'tac transparent Sepia
Photo paper for large format printing cut down to A3 size
Staedtler ereaser and electric Ereaser
Freehand shields

Photo 1
First I transfer the image to the painted surface using a HB pencil. I'm trying to make outlines as light as possible to lose them later under the layers of paint. What you see in the picture is tweaked up a bit with photoshop levels to show you the sketch lines.

Photo 2
I start painting from the darkest parts of the image. I choose an area that in the shadow behind left hand for Charlize. It is quite easy part of the image, allowing me to warm up before going to more complicated areas. Pressure is about 2 bars. The paint is pretty much diluted (proportion is about 4:1). I start gently and slowly, layer after layer, gradually building up to the desired value. When I feel confident enough I move on to painting the lips. From the beginning I use freehand shields in areas where I need strong cutoff line. I use them for the lips and teeth. At this stage, I do everything gently to leave myself room for full coverage of colour. You have to remember that E'tac Sepia is transparent color and it is is the only color that I'm going to use. I'm not going to use white colour at all. With transparents it's easy to darken up the colour but you have to be very carefull not to overshoot it. When it happens or you want to make colour brighter you have to erease it.

Photo 3
I go the eyes and nose. I throw a shadow on her cheeks. The whole is slowly starting to gain contrast, especially on her left eye. From the beginning, I try to take care of the detail bearing in mind the principle "general forms first, details later". In my opinion, the image should appear on the painted surface such as photo paper submerged in developer. Similarly we should build our images. I pick up an eraser and erase wrinkles on the lips, higlights of the upper lip and in the eye.

Photo 4
I go to the right eye of Charlize. I deepen the value on the lower lip and its texture. I deepen the shadows on the cheeks and paint the cast shadow of the hair. To achieve a sharp line between the face and the hair I use freehand shield. All the time I'm using the same mix of paint (sometimes diluting it a bit, or vice versa depending whether I'm painting dark or the light areas). I switch to hair. I treat hair as a whole, like it was sculpted in the stone. Than, when the general lights and darks are established I go to details and erease single knots of hairs. I add the shadow on the hands. At this stage, the image begins to look prommising. Of course, there are still many deficiencies and lacks of details.

Photo 5 and 6
The next step is detailing and deepening the values to achieve desired contrast. I put a layer of paint, and then I'm ereasing, layer of paint, than ereasing until I reach a satisfactory result. You should be especially careful of the brightest parts of the image. It is easy to overshoot the values there. The return to the initial situation can be difficult and sometimes even impossible, but that's just charm of transparent paints. At the very end I erease single blond hair on the face. To achieve fine lines I cut the ereaser with knife and use sharp edge. It's also possible to get simmilar result with electric ereaser.

And here are all steps together for a quick view:

Hope this step by step will be helpful. If any questions show up feel free to ask!
Last edited:
Thanks for sharing your process. Very nice work. I always seem to have trouble with value. One spot gets too dark and I compensate then another spot and so on untill it's a mess. But that's why I practice. :) thanks again I enjoyed it.
AW: Monochrome portrait of Charlize Theron by Setka

Excellent work and great step-by-step for the rest of us. Thank you so much for the your time and effort putting this together!
hey setka,

as i said before this is a stunning piece, really crisp, light and perfectly executed..... i love portraiture and i fi could get to this standard i would be very happy indeed.

thank you for the thorough well thought out detailed step by step also!!!!
I'm happy that you like it and even more happy if its gonna make you at least a bit better artists :). I see many flaws in my works... but that's how it works I guess. I belive that anyone that has enough determination, takes his time and tries to understand what he does can achieve the same results!!
Awesome work Setka! if that's not in PoM then whack it in there - such an informative tute. What a great bloke. You're up there with fezzles in my opinion. Incredible portrait! It doesn't get much better than that:eagerness:
You have painted the only women I would leave my wife for. I will be waiting for her but she's afraid of my wife. Beautiful job and thanks for the tutorial.
This is a great step-by-step with very valuable information. I am going to try my first sepia monochrome this week and you can bet I will be using the information here. Thanks for posting it.
Nice step by step guide setka, thanx!
I also like your skills, looks great
Awesome!!!! All the way from the work to the step by step!!!! As Mitch said, this needs to be in the Pom and the step by step is exactly what we meant as far as the WIP thread!! Top notch!!!
Excellent step by step Setka ! Very informative! Thanks for sharing!