I've enjoyed 3dtotal's books on digital painting, so when they offered me a free ebook in exchange for leaving a review of one of their books from a recent purchase on their website (I reviewed How to Keep a Sketch Journal, previously repoted on), I opted for Portraiture: Painting Portraits from Photographs. (So consider this my full disclosure note as well.) I've been working on learning to paint digitally in Photoshop, and was hoping for some insights.
This consists of six walkthroughs by six different artists: a male self-portrait by Mike Lim (Daarken), a female portrait by Nykolai Aleksander, a male child portrait by Richard Tilbury, a male caricature by Jason Seiler, a female self-portrait by Charlie Bowater, and a female caricature by Guillermo Ramirez. I liked the variety of subjects in terms of sex and age. I do wish that there had been a little more variety in apparent ethnicity/skin color of the subjects, not because I think 3dtotal or the artists are racist, but because I find that different skin tones require different handling when painting. For example, I do a lot of cracky hexarchate art so I'm used to rendering cockamamie Far East Asian skin tones, but I recently experimented with a fair-skinned blonde (not from photo reference) and I discovered that trying to capture that peaches-and-cream thing required an entirely different approach in terms of color. So seeing more variety there would have helped me out.
On the plus side, each artist used different techniques and had different tips (although of course there were commonalities--for example, the oft-repeated advice to flip the canvas horizontally to check for errors came up a lot!), which I liked a lot. I advise reading all of the walkthroughs, which are copiously explained and illustrated in full color. My favorite turned out to be the male caricature by Seiler, even though I'm not a caricaturist (well, okay, I'm not an artist, period, but I don't do caricature even for hobby drawing), because Seiler had such interesting things to say about the medium and his process.
All of these portraits used photos as reference, with the occasional departure or artistic license. It's definitely an interesting art form. I do use photo reference when I'm drawing, but almost always for poses and lighting, not for the specifics of the face, since I'm trying to draw characters that I see a specific way. Still, there's a lot of helpful stuff in here, and I will continue my digital painting of Nirai Kujen with a little more confidence!
Overall, good stuff here. This is in ebook format only, PDF format, from 3dtotal (http://shop.3dtotal.com), and ordinariliy goes for £9.95. If you're patient, some of their ebooks go on sale from time to time (I picked some of those up a while back), so you may be able to get it for less if you wait.