Tips For Portrait Drawing

October 15, 2018 9:37 am by theundertown
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Tips For Portrait Drawing

Draw vertical and diagonal lines to get a sense of how the placement of the nose relates to the placement of the mouth, and chin; how the corner of the eye interacts with the neck and jawline; or the relationship between the eye and the edge of the nose.

After you have the outline and some of the shading done, its time for the fine details. Take some time filling in places in the eyes and lips, and also add some more shadowing to the neck so that your face doesn’t have the appearance of floating in thin air. The finer details are the ones which really lend to the realistic quality of a self-portrait. And, a little extra tip, (4.5) if you’ve used pencil, you can add some color at this point with colored pencils or even watercolors.

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Start with a light outline. Everyone thinks they know the proportions of a face, but when you really study the human face, its easy to realize that the eyes are not near the top of the head, they are more about half-way between the crown of the head and your chin. Get the major features first, lightly, to create a foundation so you can add in your details later. This way, if you make a mistake, you can easily erase it and it wont affect the minute details you will spend more time creating later on.  

And if you ever get tired of drawing your own image, you can always get together with a friend and practice drawing portraits of each other. Or, do a portrait of yourself and have your friend do one of you as well. Don’t look while they are in progress, but afterwards, compare and contrast. Our perspectives can vary much from individual to individual. Give it a try!

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Portrait of French actress Léa Seydoux by Antonella Avogadro

If you take the image all at once and dwell on how many details you have to draw and how difficult it will be, trying to tackle drawing a portrait would be intimidating for anyone! You can make the process significantly less daunting by taking it one step at a time.

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To make your sketch look professionally done, add shadows. You will want to go lightly here as well. To create realistic shadow effects, use a smudging tool or your finger to draw out the shadows. This will blend the medium you use whether it is graphite, charcoal, or pastel and your shadows will end up lighter and easier to clean up in case you make a mistake. Lighting is important in finding shadows and one of the best ways to properly “light” yourself is use top-lighting or lighting from above. This is something to take into consideration when you take the photo you will use to do your self-portrait, during your set-up if you plan to use a mirror.

Sketching the features of a face at the correct distance from each other is very important to achieve likeness. Some people have eyes that are closer together, others are wider apart, some have longer noses and others shorter ones. All of these details make up the person as a whole and define their individual and characteristic look. When you get the size and distance of the features right, a face becomes instantly recognizable and can come alive on the page.

2. Analyze the way the features align:When drawing, it is easy to let your brain take charge and begin to draw what we think is there instead of going with a fully observation approach and drawing what we actually see.

One way to overcome this problem is to draw lines in order to analyze how the features align on the face. Using this technique will help you learn how things like the eyes, hairline, nose, ears, cheekbones, etc.

interact with each other.

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This tip is closely related to the previous one. We are still drawing lines over our reference image, but this time their purpose is to measure distances.

If you are drawing from an image, then you can even draw the shapes on your reference photo before you draw them on your paper. This will help you get a good understanding of proportions and the distances between features.

Following these straightforward tips to make drawing faces less intimidating and more enjoyable!

This is tremendously encouraging, to witness as we slowly improve our skills and get better right before our very eyes. After all, that’s what practice is all about, nothing but a beautiful journey of discovering how much we are capable of.

Firstly, the most useful technique to get started and past the initial fear is to simplify the major shapes of the face.

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If you are interested in sketching portraits you can learn a lot more about capturing the essence of a person with the Craftsy classes Drawing Facial Features and Traditional Portrait Drawing Techniques.

What other techniques do you use to draw faces? Have you tried any of these and noticed improvement? Let me know your portrait drawing experiences in the comments below. 26 Comments Leave a Reply

Or, check out the FREE downloadable guide, Drawing the Human Face: A Primer, and discover how to draw specific facial features in stunning human likeness!

If you like your portrait, choose a great frame for it. A nice frame can complement your art nicely and highlight your sketching skills. A simple black frame is nice when using charcoal, or something made of light wood goes best with soft colors. 

The most common shapes used to break up the face are circles and triangles, but you can use whichever shape comes closest to the elements in your reference. Look at your image — or live subject if you are drawing from life — and try to find the underlying shapes that create the structure of the face and skull.

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Gary Faigin, Craftsy instructor, said that drawing portraits is one of the most magical things there is because, by using the simplest of tools on a blank piece of paper, a person suddenly appears on it. I could not agree more, and I think he put into words exactly what the amazing beauty of the portraiture experience is all about.

Start with the head and work out the proper length. Fill in with thick lines, then add shadowing and highlights as you go along.

All of these tips are aimed at improving and refining our observational skills and analyzing the individual and unique proportions of the person we are sketching. Give them a try and see how, after just a couple of attempts, you will start to notice improvement with ever new sketch you create.

Drawing self-portraits can be a great way to practice sketching techniques as-let’s face-it-there is no shortage of material when you draw yourself! Sketching or drawing yourself can be a great way to learn a lot about sketching, shading and proportions. And, when you sketch, your pictures can be kinda funny-they don’t always represent a subject the same way. But, making a sketch of yourself, whether you use a picture or look in a mirror, can teach you a lot about art and yourself. So here are some tips on how to draw your own self-portrait:

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