Portrait Drawing Tips For Beginners

Portrait Drawing Tips For Beginners
Portrait Drawing

Drawing a portrait can seem a real challenge if you are new to drawing from observation. There are so many things that can go wrong if your drawing is not in proportion, or you have no concept of how to represent the basic features.

Portrait drawing is a form of drawing from the observation that focuses on depicting the human face, its characteristics, and expressions. To draw a portrait from observation, you need to complete some specific tasks to represent it likeness correctly.


Draw an Oval Shape

Drawing the oval shape is the first and most crucial mark you can make when commencing a portrait drawing. Always as you begin, at this stage focus on working with a faint light line. Especially important if the lack confidence in rendering a continuous line.

Think about the type of shape you want to represent. Long, thin, fat or thick the variety of human faces is immense. So the character you want to serve needs to be clear from the start.

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Draw a Center Line

The next couple of tips are essential and deal with the underlying proportion of the head and face. The first and most important is the subdivision of the oval shape you have drawn into two vertical sections.

Draw a centerline down the center of your portrait. A vital mark as you will need to build a framework of underlying shapes created on the proportions developed from the centerline.

Measure the halfway point on the Center Line

Measure the centerline to find the halfway point. You can compare visually to see the location or use a rule to find this. Draw a horizontal line from one end of the oval to the next.

You have created the eye-level onto which the eyes with vivid details can be represented.

Draw the Eye Level

The eye-level needs are drawn with a faint line across the face. A common mistake made when drawing at this stage is the draw with a darker edge. A significant error as the beautiful details will not be able to be added if all we can see are heavy construction lines.

Subdivide the Eye Level into Five Sections

The focus when learning to draw a portrait at the early stage is proportions and constructions lines. The next action is the sub-divide the eye level horizontally into five equal parts sections.

The outline of the eyes is drawn on the points created by dividing this line. Ensure and double check that the distance between the points inaccurate. If one section is longer or more prominent than another, the portrait drawn with look incorrect and out of proportion.

You should at this early stage of your portrait drawing added to of the most important lines on the face, from which the remaining features of the portrait can be drawn.

Draw the Outlines of the Eye

Focus now needs to be placed on the drawing of the outline which will represent the eyes. The human face is infinite in the sizes and variety of shapes, so do consider the look you are drawing from observation.

If working from a direct first-hand model or secondary sources of photographic reference, the shapes of the eyes are critical if you are to achieve a good representation of the person you are trying to draw.

Once you have drawn the outline shapes, you can progress onto establishing were the other main features will be illustrated.

Subdivide the Bottom Half of the Face and Repeat

To an adept artist who has been sketching for many years the tips mentioned above should have been drawn quite promptly.

The focus now is to focus on drawing a line to indicate where the nose and mouth will be drawn. Subdivide again the bottom half the face with a mark to show the bottom of the nose.

Underneath this mark, subdivide again to show the area of the face where the mouth will be drawn. The point is the center point between the chin and the nose. If the proportions are correct when the features can be illustrated in more detail later.

Measure the point on the Bottom Half of the Face

double check all of the proportions are correct and measure the spaces with your pencils by visually comparing the areas on your drawing with what you can actually see in front of you.

Draw the Nose and the Mouth

You can now begin to add a more definite amount of detail to the portrait by drawing the outline of the nose and mouth. For a beginner, I would suggest that you begin by drawing a closed mouth.

Remember is this a full lip or a long thin feature, Try to draw will as much accuracy as possible while still retaining faint lines.

A straightforward way to draw the nose is to draw three tiny circular shapes and then draw the nostrils and point of the nose around them. If you are applying tone at a later stage, this will help you apply shadows.

Draw and Represent the Jawline

The jaw is a bone structure which can on some people define the shape of the head and face. For instance, some people will have rounded jawline, and some individual will have a more chiseled looking face.

The next stage is to draw the jawline, most of the time the jawline will not be in extract the same place and the underlying oval construction line that you drew earlier. For visual reference double check the proportions of all of the features drawn at this stage.

Add the Neck and Ears

Drawing the neck is quite a simple method and the simplest way to instantly illustrate a mark which is level with the mouth on the jawline. From these points drawn on both sides of the jaw, you can represent the neck.

You may wish to add shading and tone to represent the cast shadows which is created by the head on the neck. This will begin to develop the form of the face and head beyond what is at this point a two-dimensional linear representation of the face.

Draw the Hairline

Before you attempt to you draw the hair establish the hairline, remembering that the top of the oval is the crown of the head or skull bone. The imaginary fringe line is halfway down between the eye level and the top of the ellipse.

The hair is one aspect of portraiture which will help you develop the character of the person you are attempting the depict. Draw with the long flowing line to draw the hair. Shadow and tone can be added to the spaces in between.

Focus on the type of mark you are drawing and the pencil marks you are creating. Quickly draw fine lines will help you create the impression of fine flowing hairs.

Draw Eyebrows

The same finely draw the line can be applied to draw the hairs above the eyes and the eyelashes themselves when you reach the stage of adding subtle detail to your portrait.

Begin to add Subtle Detail to the Various Features

Drawing the features of the face as mentioned earlier in this post can be achieved quite quickly by a professional artist who is practiced in the art of portraiture.

The next stage is to add tone and shading to the features of the face, the neck, jaw, and hair. Adding detail is a time-consuming process as you will need to carefully observe the fine detail of the individual features and you progressively add more detail to your drawing.

Create Art With My Favourite Drawing Resources

General Drawing Courses. I like Udemy if you want to develop your knowledge of drawing techniques. Udemy is an excellent choice due to its wide range of creative courses and excellent refund policy. They often have monthly discounts for new customers, which you can check here. Use my link.

Sketching and Collage. Take a look at this sketching resource I have created. Use this link.

Proko. Is one of my favorite teachers who surpasses in the teaching of Anatomy and Figure drawing. Prokos course breaks down the drawing of the human body into easy-to-follow components aiding the beginner to make rapid progress. For this, I really like Proko.

Art Easels. One of my favorite ways to draw is by using a drawing easel, which develops the skill of drawing on a vertical surface. The H frame easel is an excellent vertical way to add variety to the style and type of marks you create when using a drawing board.

To see all of my most up-to-date recommendations, check out this resource I made for you.


Ian Walsh is the creator and author of improvedrawing.com and an Art teacher based in Merseyside in the United Kingdom. He holds a BA in Fine Art and a PGCE in teaching Art and Design. He has been teaching Art for over 24 Years in different parts of the UK. When not teaching Ian spending his time developing this website and creating content for the improvedrawing channel.

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