An academic portrait is a painting which is painted over numerous sittings using multiple layers of paint. The artist will typically complete a layer of the painting and allow it to dry before moving on to the next stage and painting over the top, often in glazes.

The underpainting of an academic portrait typically provides a framework for the latter stages with the outline, major shapes, shadow shapes, colours and tonal values established.

The following layers of paint will look to establish the likeness of the sitter and move toward refining colour and smaller details.