Portrait drawing is one of those drawing skills many people get into drawing for.

It is so appealing and rewarding to be able to draw a portrait of a friend, a partner, or a kid in a way that makes them happy and you proud of it.

But drawing a portrait that captures the resemblance and the “soul” of a subject is not an easy task and a skill that for many takes years to master and hone.

For this reason, I am not going to focus this tutorial on the “capturing the soul” part (at least not for now) and I will instead focus on “getting the proportions right” to at least capture the appearance of your subject (this alone will bring you a long way toward becoming a proficient portrait drawer). In this tutorial, I’ll examine a method to draw portraits that are suitable for drawing from a picture and from a real person posing for you.

I do not want to overwhelm you with details and I’d rather prefer moving rapidly to the drawing, making comments and observations along the way.

I have chosen the beautiful Michael Pfeiffer as a subject for this portrait drawing and I will be using almost all the way a 2H pencil, just to keep things simple.

Lets’ get started!

Ok she is quite beautiful, isn’t she? Ok try not to get overwhelmed by the challenge and do everything one step at a time. There are many details on this face, let’s try to break those detail and forms down to the essential things.

The first and I repeat first thing I want you to do is to visualize the face as a big oval and establish three fundamental lines: The eye line first, the mouth line second, and the nose line third.

This is very important and it is also important that you trace (mentally) these lines in the order I have suggested. The reason is that your eyes might deceive you and drive you to get the wrong proportions if you do not follow this rule.

Establishing the mouth before the nose helps to impose a downward limit to the extension of the facial features. But do not get distracted and keep going.

So you have established these lines? Good! Now draw.

Quickly and roughly sketch the shape of the head and the neck and shoulders. That’s it, do not do anything else. Now wait a few seconds and look, seriously examine intensely how these few and simple elements look together.

Is everything in scale properly? Move on only if you are absolutely happy with what you have achieved so far! Ok, let’s move on with portrait drawing.

Now is the time to add those very lines I ask you to visualize upon the oval of the face. It’s imperative you position these lines as well as you can now…

Take your time. Do it with calm and patience… I will be here waiting

Done? Are you happy with those lines and their positioning? Great, these three lines are really all that you need to efficiently build your drawing upon.

Trace roughly the mouth, the eyes, and the wideness of the nose. Now look back at your subject. You should already see a hint of resemblance if you did it right so far. Ok, next step!

As you can see I have added very very roughly the hairs, and eyebrows and shaped the nose a little bit. I drew an ear also. All these things to start balancing out the drawing. This means that it will make it easier from now on to look at the subject and work to achieve resemblance if the main facial features are in place.

I know it doesn’t look like her yet but bear with me. You have got the foundations right and that’s the main thing. You have got distance from mouth to chin tip, the distance between the eyes, and so forth, all those things that will make your portrait drawing resemble the subject you’re drawing.

From now on what you need to do, really is look at the subject constantly to get the shape of the single facial features and start working on adding detail but never focusing too much on a single feature.

Add a few lines around the eyes then move to the shape of the face, then to the nose and the mouth then back to the eyes. Do not spend more than a few seconds on each part.

Remember you want to get the resemblance right. Too much detail now and you are on a “no-through road”.

See, all the drawing is proceeding as a whole. There are no parts that are developed more than others. And this is good. The drawing is still very fluid and you can make changes if you want. Like I am going to do.

I have noticed the mouth is too high and I mean, probably 2 millimeters. What I am going to do will be erasing it with my favorite eraser and redraw it in a slightly lower position. Remember, with portrait drawing small details can make all the difference.

There you go much better now! Wow, it just needed those 2 millimeters to get a completely different look. Obviously, you want to keep working at the drawing as a whole.

As you can see in this drawing every step is the immediate consequence of the previous. See for example the shadow under the chin? Look at the other drawings and you’ll see how it started as a few lines to establish where the shadow was supposed to be. And the same applies to every part of the drawing.

As you have seen the drawing is not the result of some kind of magical process accessible only to naturally talented but a sequence of simple steady steps toward the final goal. You can definitely do it!

I want to review briefly the entire process here:

1. Establish the shape of the head

2. Establish the three fundamental guidelines, in sequence for the eyes, mouth and nose last

3. make sure you get these foundations right. Check many times before proceeding and do it only when you are satisfied.

4. Build up slowly your portrait from the foundations and it will almost draw itself!

Thanks for following my portrait drawing tutorial! Tell me what you think and your experience in the comment section below.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here