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How to Draw a Portrait – Tutorial Part 2

November 1, 2009


Part two of my portrait tutorial will focus on the hair and body. To see how I drew the face, check out part one of how to draw a portrait. The important thing to remember when drawing either the hair or the body is that you approach it exactly the same way you would anything else. Look for the shapes of light and dark, and create gradual shading between the two.

First of all, here is our reference, which comes from Jocelyn.




Begin blocking in the values in the hair with a 2H pencil. Build up your shadows with layers, not by pressing harder, to get a sense of the volume. Blend it out.




Next, using a B pencil, go back in and shade the shadows and midtones, creating more depth. Blend.




Now take your 2B and shade in only the very darkest areas. These include the top of the head and the areas around the face. Blend.




Now that we have shaded in the base of the hair, it’s time to add the texture. It’s important to create a sense of depth and volume in the hair as a whole before concentrating on drawing individual hairs. To draw the hairs, use a very sharp pencil and a wrist-flicking motion. Use a B pencil for the highlight areas and your 2B for the shadows. Be sure to adda  few fly-away hairs.

I’ve kind of breezed through drawing the hair here, but if you want a more detailed lesson check out my tutorial on how to draw hair.




Now we can start working on the rest of the body. It’s important that you treat it the same as the face so that it looks like the same person. You don’t want either to be significantly darker, lighter or more contrasting than the other. Start with your 2H, shade in the values and blend.




Using a B pencil, shade in the darker values and blend it into the lighter. Try to achieve a smooth gradation by building up layers slowly rather than pressing harder with the pencil. Blend.




Now you can darken up the shadows with a 2B. Here I’ve darkened the shadows around the neck and shoulders as well as the straps. Blend.




At this point you’re almost done! All that you need to do now is go back in with your kneaded eraser and pull out some of those highlights. Check with your reference throughout this step and try to refine the shapes of your shadows in case they’ve shifted during blending. Don’t forget your signature!



Don’t be intimidated by drawing portraits. At the end of the day, it’s no different from drawing anything else! All you have to do is pay close attention to your reference and take your time. I also find it helps to start with the most challenging part: the face. Once you have a likeness, the rest will come together!

If you’re having trouble with a particularly tricky portrait, send me a message; I’d be happy to help!


From → Drawing, Tutorials

  1. Miranda, this is a great tutorial, I have been working on a commission (or should I say I haven’t been:) for so long now, struggling with technical questions, I’ll cherish your post here, and when I’m ready it will help me working on this thing!
    Thanks so much for sharing your skills and talents and knowledge!
    have a great week

    • Thanks for your comments, Andrea! Let me know if I can help in any way with your commission. Good luck, although judging from your work on your blog, you won’t need it!

  2. This is very useful for people starting out and wanting to develop their drawing.
    The key is to just use the reference photo as much as possible, it is all there for the artist to see 🙂 And don’t rush.

    Thanks for the article.

    portraits from your photographs

    • Hi Riki. You’re right and I can’t stress it enough: look at your reference! All the information you need is there, but it’s up to the artist to make sure they use it! My drawings improved so much when I started using references.

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