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  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Portrait
Design

Learn to Paint Beautiful Realistic Lips in Adobe Photoshop

Difficulty:IntermediateLength:MediumLanguages:
Final product image
What You'll Be Creating

Lips in humans are instruments of emotion. Not because we speak with them, but also because of the infinite amount of feelings they can convey. As an artist who paints a still picture, you need to be able to express and suggest all that in one single shot—your painting.

This might sound easy enough, but most times it isn't. You have to master the various emotions' anatomy, while also using light, texture and color to suggest moods and themes.

Take for example the same pair of lips—one of them painted in breezy, light, natural, innocent colors while the other is done in fiery red, shiny lipstick ones. Just seeing the lips means the mood is already set!

So now we'll go over a technique (among many others—everyone has their own way of painting) for painting realistic lips.

1. Different Lip Shapes

First, a few basic lip shapes. From top to bottom, left column: normal lips, full lips, small lips.

From top to bottom right column: thin long lips, angelic lips, Hollywood lips.

Different shapes of lips

2. Lips Seen From Different Angles

Now here are some different angles:

Lips in various angles

3. Lips Expressing Different Emotions

And some expressions!

Lips experssing different emotions

4. Drawing the Base Sketch of the Lips

Step 1

Create a new document, and set it to 600 px width and 400 px height. Set its background to Transparent, RBG color mode.

Then once you have that open, name the existing layer "Skin", grab the Paint Bucket Tool (G) and set your foreground color to #c99e7e

Step 2

Make a new layer and name it "Sketch".

Set your foreground color to #603521 and take the Brush Tool (B), set to a hard, round brush with both Opacity and Size Jitter turned on. Sketch out the shape of the lips.

The sketch of the lips

5. Adding Base Color to the Lips

Next, it's time to start coloring.

We'll assume the light source is straight in front, at a 0 degrees angle, to make all this easier.

Create a new layer and name it "Lips color". Set your foreground color to #571b13 and taking a hard, round brush with Opacity Jitter turned on, begin filling in with color inside the borders of the lips. Ease out around the corners, so that it blends a little with your background skin color:

Painting the lips base color

6. Lips Basic Shading

Step 1

Create a new layer. Name it "Basic Shading". Set your foreground color to #be4852 and grab the Brush Tool (B), set to a hard, round shape, with Opacity Jitter turned on. Paint around the top of the upper lip, and around the middle of the bottom lip. This will begin to create a tiny 3D effect already.

Adding base shading

Step 2

Then set your foreground color to #b85365 and paint around the bottom of the upper lip and the top of the lower lip, like this:

Adding basic highlights

7. Blending the Colors

Next, set your foreground color to #c54d59 and your background one to #701c1e. Remember that lips are convex structures, and since our light source is centered, the middle area of each lip will receive the most light.

Paint softly to enhance the middle of the bottom lip, as well as switch between your foreground and background colors using the X key to create the "crease" effect on the center of the upper lip.

After that, use the Smudge Tool set to a soft, round brush to blend in the colors.

Blending the colors into one another

8. Plumper Lips and Base Lip Creases

Step 1

Set your foreground color to #701c1e and start brushing around the bottom of the bottom lip, to give it more of a 3D aspect.

Plumper bottom lip

Step 2

Next, create a new layer and set your foreground color to #742528.

Lower the size of your brush to a very small one—say around 3 or 4 pixels, depending on the size in which you draw—and brush vertical, slightly curved lines on the bottom lip to create creases. Lower the layer's opacity very much, so that they are only barely visible:

Bottom lip base creases

9. Adding in Environmental Lighting

Next, we'll deal with the beginnings of the environmental lighting. Environmental light is the light (aka color, in Photoshop) that bounces off the edges of an object, enhancing its 3D appearance.

Step 1

Create a new layer and name it "Enviro Light".

Take the Brush Tool (B) and set it to a hard, round brush with both Opacity Jitter and Size Jitter turned on.

Set your foreground color to #8f503b and paint around the bottom edges of the bottom lip to create a beige effect, such as this:

Bottom lip environmental light

Step 2

We'll do the same thing as in Step 1, but on the top of the top lip now. Like this:

Top lip environmental light

10. Refining the Lips' 3D Look

Step 1

Next, set your foreground color to #692229 and brush around the top of the bottom lip. This will create the light shadow that the upper lip casts upon the bottom one. Then grab the Dodge Tool, set it to a soft, round brush with Range: Highlights and Exposure: 30% and brush around the ends of the bottom lip to make a soft highlight:

Adding the top lip shadow to the bottom lip

Step 2

Next, set your foreground color to #9b3337 and paint around the bottom of the top lip to create more environmental light.

Then set your foreground color to #d2a192 and your background one to #802424 and begin to give a more defined shape to the crease in the middle of the top lip. Press the X key to easily switch between your foreground and background colors. You can add in some soft creases to the top lip at this stage as well:

Detailing the upper lip crease

11. Lip Creases and Wrinkles

Step 1

Create a new layer, and name it "Lip Wrinkles". Set your foreground color to #490e0e and lower your brush size to a small one, only a few pixels large. Draw vertical, curved, random strokes on both lips, making sure the ones on the bottom lip are around the center and the ones on the top lip are around the edges:

Darker colored lip wrinkles

Step 2

Then set your foreground color to #c88e82 and paint a copy of the first lines, using the new color. Make sure the lighter lines are parallel to the first and placed to the left of them. At the end, you can use the Smudge Tool to soften them up a bit, and lower Opacity to taste.

Lighter colored lip wrinkles

12. Adding Base Gloss

Set your foreground color to a dirty white like #f7dcde, and set your Brush Tool (B) to a soft, round brush with Opacity Jitter turned on. Create a new layer, and name it "Gloss 1".

Brush random vertical shapes around the middle of the bottom lip, like this:

Basic gloss texture

13. Adding More Gloss and Further Detailing

Repeat the process to add more gloss, further refining the wrinkles. At this point I also used the Hue/Saturation command (Image > Adjustments > Hue/Saturation) to redden the lips some more.

Also, set your foreground color to #3c0a0a and brush around the bottom of the top lip, to create the shadow it casts on itself.

Detailing the gloss texture

14. Detailing the Upper Lip

Time to give the upper lip some love too!

Step 1

Create a new layer, and then paint a blurry blob halfway between the two upper lip "hills". Make sure it's just slightly visible, as a faint glow. Then on top of that, use the same technique as before to paint the white highlights. Make sure that the layer's opacity/fill is set to 100%, otherwise you won't notice the light intensity difference between the fuzzy blob and the highlights!

Detailing the upper lip

Step 2

Create a new layer. Set your foreground color to #eccece and use a small, hard, round Brush (B) to brush light wrinkles over the top lip:

Adding light wrinkles to the upper lip

15. Adding Texture to the Lower Lip

Set your foreground color to #6f1e16 and your Brush (B) to a small, soft, round shape.

Brush soft, curved, vertical strokes onto the lower lip, to enhance the wrinkles.

Texturing the lower lip

16. Creating the Light Reflections

Step 1

Set your foreground color to #f8d7db and take the Pen Tool (P), set to Shape Layers mode. Create several random shapes, always keeping in mind the vertical orientation.

Light reflections basic shapes

Step 2

Lower the Opacity of the Pen Tool layer to taste—but make sure it is only slightly visible, as if many windows would be reflected in it:

Finishing the light reflections

17. Adding Final Touches to the Lips

As a final touch to the lips themselves, create a new layer above all your others, and set it to Color Dodge blending mode. Set your foreground color to a light tone such as #f1d992.

Take a soft, round Brush (B) and paint around the mid-top of the bottom lip and the top of the top lip, to enhance your highlights. Then lower the layer's Fill to taste. 

Final touches added to the lips

18. Painting the Interior of the Mouth and the Teeth Base

Step 1

Create a layer under all your Lips layers (but above your Skin color background layer). Name it "Mouth Background"—yes, very creative I know...

Then, set your foreground color to #2b0201 and using a hard, round Brush (B), paint with the dark maroon the area between the lips:

Painting the mouth interior dark area

Step 2

Next, make a new layer again, and name it "Teeth". Set your foreground color to #52221d and, following the sketch, draw the base shapes of the teeth:

Painting the base for the teeth

19. Adding Detail to the Teeth

Step 1

Start off by setting your foreground color to #6d4848 and your background one to #2f0503.

Then take a medium-soft, round brush with Opacity Jitter turned on, and paint the middle of the teeth (think of them in a convex way). Use the darker color to shade the outer edges. Also, lower the size of your brush to just a few pixels and define the boundaries between the teeth more:

Adding the teeth base shading

Step 2

Next, set your foreground color to #856262 and define the bottom edges of the teeth—especially the frontal two ones—better:

Painting teeth separations and base highlights

Step 3

Using the same color, add a couple of strokes to highlight the following areas:

  • the left corners of the right-side teeth
  • the right corners of the left-side teeth
Blending in the teeth ends

Step 4

Lastly, set your foreground color to #a18c8c and add two highlights of color around the inner corners of the left and right two front teeth:

Final touches to teeth

20. Painting the Base Skin Shading

Step 1

Create a new layer and place it right above your background "Skin" one.

Then set your foreground color to #edb087 and your background one to #b35f51.

Take a soft, round, big brush and paint the top half in the lighter color, and the bottom half in the darker color:

How to paint the skin base

Step 2

Next, set your foreground color to #f2d6ab and your background one to #903a39. Brush around the bottom of the lip with the darkest color, to create a shadow which follows the lip shape.

Then, with your lighter color, paint the chin as a lighter bump that goes from darker at the ends to shiny at the center:

Painting the chin

Step 3

Next, set your foreground color to #f2d6ab and your background one to #b76141 and paint two spikes going up from the upper lip creases. Make the highlight stronger the closer you are to the lip, and weaker the further away you get.

Then, using the darker color, paint a cone of shadow between them, darker at the top and lighter as you get closer to the lips:

Painting the lips crease

21. Blending the Lips With the Skin

Then set your foreground color to #84372a and your background one to #d78765.

Using the darker color, paint around the corners of the lips, darker the closer you are to the separation line between the lips, and lighter as you go outward. Focus mainly on the sides and the upper part.

Then press X to switch your foreground color with your background one, and start brushing lightly around the bottom of the separation line, to create a depth effect:

Blending the mouth with the skin - painting the lips corners

22. Adding Skin Texture

Go to Filter > Noise > Add Noise. Set it to Uniform, Monochromatic, around 2.5 intensity, and click OK. Then take the brush provided in the .abr attachment and paint lightly to create skin pores—alternate between light and dark colors for the best effect:

Adding the skin texture

23. Optional: Painting Lips Makeup

You can always take it a step further and add makeup—let's try a Queen Amidala-esque one!

Set your foreground color to #ffffff and create a new layer. Set your layer to Linear Light mode and lower the Fill to 30%.

Then brush with a medium hard round brush with Opacity Jitter turned on around the top and bottom of the center of the lips.

Paint more around the center and less around the edges:

Adding lips makeup

24. Admire Your Handiwork

Mandatory official step to motivate you to do more and better!

I hope you found this useful, and that you enjoyed the journey. If you try this out and wish to share your result and/or hit bumps along the way, feel free to drop a comment below about it.

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