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How to Draw a Portrait

October 21, 2009

I’ve covered all the separate elements of portrait drawing, ears, nose, eyes, mouth, and hair; now it’s time for some tips on drawing a whole realistic portrait! This will be followed by a tutorial to walk you through the entire process.

  • Keep proportions in mind; there is as much head above the eyes as below, and no matter what angle you’re drawing the face at, the nose will line up with the centre of the mouth and between the eyes.
  • Start with a line drawing to get the placement of the facial features and the shadows. The patterns of light and dark around the face are as important as the eyes, nose and mouth.
  • At the line drawing stage, check your drawing for accuracy. You can hold it up in front of a mirror to look for awkward areas, or you can scan it into the computer and overlay the drawing with a transparent version of your reference.
  • The more accurate your line drawing, the better your final drawing will be.
  • Try to use some kind of a reference, no matter how closely you follow it. Until you get a lot of experience, you will be able to draw more realistically with a reference image.
  • If you’re using a grid, it can be helpful to use a finer grid for the facial features. Divide your squares in half again to help get the proper placement of the eyes, etc.
  • Remember to draw what you see; often when we draw a face at an angle, one of the eyes seems to slope too sharply upwards. What you see is more accurate than what you think it should look like.
  • To get the proper angle of the eyes, use a ruler and line it up with the corners of the eye on your reference image. Hold the ruler in place, and slide your drawing under the ruler until it lines up with the eye on your drawing. Use the ruler as a guide to mark the corners of the eye. Now you know you have the right angle, you can draw the shape of the eye.
  • Shade slowly and don’t try to rush it. If you build up layers of dark, your shading will be more smooth.
  • Try to create a range of lights and darks from the white of the paper in highlights to a dark 2B for the shadows and a smooth gradation in between.
  • Avoid drawing lines around the facial features; instead, use shadows to define shapes.
  • Shade your skin tone up into the hairline a little bit, then draw the hair on top. This give you a base for your hair to grow on, and let the skin show through the individual hairs.

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From → Drawing

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