About the Job Title "Portrait artist"

Portrait artist Job Description

A portrait artist is a type of artist who specializes in painting people. Although no formal education is required, many portrait artists achieve postsecondary education as this provides them with advanced skills.

Portrait artist Job Profiles: This is a general writeup based on our research into Portrait artist positions in the Artist career area. For individual, real-life job profiles of actual people with this type of job, check out our job profiles page.

  • Career Field: Artist
  • Salary Range: $22290 - $106000

What's it like to be a Portrait artist?

Duties and responsibilities

A portrait artist captures uses materials to create images of people. They work to caputre the personality, likeness and even the mood of the person they are painting. Portrait artists can specialised in many types of portrait art, such as nudes, religion, sporting, group, waist-up or full-length. The typical duties and responsibilities of a portrait artist include:

  • Using different techniques create portraits
  • Creating sketches, templates, or models to guide their work
  • Using visual techniques to produce desired artistic effects
  • Developing and maintaining their portrait portfolio. The portfolio should highlight their artistic styles and abilities to show to gallery owners and others interested in their work
  • Displaying their work at auctions, craft fairs, galleries, museums and online marketplaces
  • Marketing themselves to new clients


There is no formal education required to become a portrait artist. However, many artists achieve postsecondary education as this teaches them more advanced skills and may give them more opportunities.

Skills and relevant work experience

The main skill that a portraits artist will need is to be talented at creating art of people. They will demonstrate this talent in a portfolio. Portfolios are essential, because art directors, clients, and others look at them when deciding whether to hire an artist or to buy the artist’s work. Artists will also need skills such as:

  • Time management skills, as they will potentially be working on a number of projects for different clients at the same time, and will need to keep on top of them all
  • Creativity, as portrait artists must keep up with the latest trends and produce unique work
  • Technical ability, as many artists are now using advance software to enhance their images (note: this is more for digital artists)
  • Business management skills, as many portrait artists own their own business and need to know how to market and promote themselves
  • Communication and interpersonal skills, as artists will need to from relationships with the clients as they are painting them
  • Customer-service skills, as artists must be good with dealing with prospective clients


Many portrait artists are self-employed. This means they are in charge of their hours. Some will work full-time, some may work part-time and have another job on the side. One of the great things about being an artist is that it is often quite a flexible career.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for craft and fine artists, which includes portrait artists, was $48,760 in2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $22,290, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $106,000.

The earnings for self-employed portrait artists vary widely and their income changes alongside changes in the overall economy. Only the most successful craft and fine artists receive major commissions for their work.


Portrait artists are a specialized artist, meaning that they will have better progression opportunities than some other artists. Portrait artists could progress to owning their own gallery or working with more established clients (e.g., celebrities)

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