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Frame it! Learn How to Draw Portraits With a Step-by-step Guide

How to Draw Portraits
Drawing portraits can help you create beautiful sketches that can not only capture a likeness of the subject, but also recreate the vitality and character of the sitter. Continue reading to know how you can draw portraits with a pencil.
Parul Solanki
Last Updated: Dec 10, 2017
Portrait drawing is something that has fascinated me since childhood. For me, a good portrait is not just one that captures the likeness of the sitter, but also captures the character, vitality, and personality of the person. However, capturing the essence of the human face with a myriad of expressions, can be quite a challenging task, especially when you are a beginner.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Draw Portraits
Before you can start drawing portraits, you need a sketch paper or drawing paper (8x10), HB or B pencil, and kneaded rubber. If you want to draw portraits from photographs, choose an appropriate reference picture of the person whose portrait you want to draw.
Marking the Facial Proportions
★ Start by drawing an oval shape with a pencil.

★ Now draw straight lines across the middle, both horizontally and vertically.

★ The horizontal line marks the place where the eyes will have to be placed.

★ Mark the intersecting point of the horizontal and vertical lines. This is where the nose has to be placed.

★ Mark halfway between the nose and chin to place the mouth.
Sketching the Eyes
★ Add the features by drawing some "block in" basic shapes and shadows. Check if some features are off-kilter and correct it.

★ The next part involves sketching the eyes. This is an essential part of drawing a lifelike portrait. Remember that the iris is not a solid tone, but has streaks of color which is dark around the edge.

★ Observing your subject carefully for identifying the patterns of their iris, and highlights and reflections on the surface of the eye, help in capturing the essence of the eyes.
Drawing the Nose
★ In order to draw the nose, we first draw two lines at each side of the nose where the bony protuberances are and then add an oval shape at the bottom of these two lines.

★ Add subtle tones of shades to the each side of the nose, while keeping the front of the nose lighter. Shade the nostrils and around the bottom rim of the nose, leaving the paper white for the highlight on the tip of the nose.

★ Darken the shapes inside the nostrils and lines on each side of the nose, at the points that they meet the cheek running all the way around, and underneath the nostrils. This helps in adding the finishing touches to your portrait.
Shaping the Mouth
★ A basic oval shape is drawn in for mouth.

★ A line dividing the top and bottom lips is drawn, keeping an eye out for small angles and subtle curves like an indention in the middle of the top lip. Now shade the top and lower lips, keeping an eye on the light source.
Add the Finishing Touches
The last part of drawing a portrait consists of sketching the ears and the hair of the person.

★ Build up the hair in short strokes, moving from the darkest areas and working up to the lighter areas. Make sure that the highlight of the hair are clear and precise.

★ For the ears, draw a half heart shape and add the complex shapes within it. Accent it with highlights and shading.
Along with the pencil drawings, you can also draw portraits with charcoal and pastels to create life like portraits. This step-by-step guide for beginners, if practiced regularly, will teach you how to draw portraits in no time. However, achieving perfection is a long process that needs patience and time. So keep sketching and soon you can achieve a realistic portrait.
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