- Hunter Museum of American Art - https://www.huntermuseum.org -

Portrait Props

Portrait Props


  • Paper

  • Pencils, paint, markers, or crayons

  • Mirror

Portraits are drawings, paintings, or photographs of people. When an artist creates a portrait of herself or himself, it is called a self portrait.

Some artists use objects or symbols to add meaning to a portrait. See how this portrait of Zachariah Poulson by James Peale [1] shows Poulson with a book in hand because he was a publisher. Artist Roger Shimomura [2] combines popular icons from his childhood. What objects or symbols would you include in your own portrait?



  1. First, decide how you want your portrait to look. Is there an outfit you want to wear? Where in your home do you spend the most time? What symbols or objects are you going to include?
  2. Set up your station. Make sure you have enough light to see and a table to draw on. Set the mirror nearby so you can see yourself.
  3. With a pencil, lightly outline the basic shapes you see in the mirror. Do you see circles, triangles, ovals, and rectangles? Don’t forget to include your props and the background.
  4. Once you have the basic shapes in place, add details like your facial features, buttons and zippers on clothes, and fill in the scenery behind you. Don’t be afraid to imagine what isn’t there and add extra details, objects, or symbols.
  5. Finally, add color! You can match the colors to what you see, or you can use colors that match your mood.

Share your creations @huntermuseum