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Portrait Drawing Guide


This is our how-to guide on drawing portraits, which can be a tricky thing to do. In fact, it can be downright scary for beginning artists. We have broken down the process into some easy to handle steps, and our recommendation is that you take a picture of yourself or have a mirror close by so you can see your features for yourself. Obviously you will not end up with the same picture at the end, since we are all unique individuals, but we hope that this guide will help you in your portrait drawing journey.


Step One: Guiding Lines

This is your basic layout, which is universally how almost anyone’s face is laid out. Start with an oval, as big as you want your finished portrait to be. Divide your oval in half lengthwise and widthwise, and then in the bottom half, add a short line at the halfway point of that section for the nose. Then halfway between the nose line and the bottom of the oval, add a slightly longer line for the mouth.


Step Two: Blocking In

Now you need to block in your basic face shapes, you can start anywhere, but it is usually easiest to start with the eyes, going along that midline, leaving about an eye-length in between them. The nose starts a little above each eye and slightly curves down to that line you drew earlier. It may look a little boxy now, but this is just to get the basic shape down. Now block in the mouth, going along your line you put in under the nose, again, you can change this up later when we start to put more details in.


Step Three: Adding Some Details

Ok, time to start adding in some details. This is where it is super important to be looking at a photo or in a mirror to be sure you are getting the shapes right. We will detail each feature below, you can go in any order you want to.

Eyes: add some eyelids, bigger on the top, but add a little to the bottom too. Add a tear duct in the inner corner of each eye, and the iris as well- The colored part of the eye. Eyebrows: start above the inner corner of the eye, arching up, the top of the arch should be above the middle of the eye, and then slope down just past the outer corner of the eye

Nose: this is one feature that can change drastically from person to person, so look carefully at the shape of yours- is it triangular? Teardrop shaped? Start at the bottom, with the tip in the middle, and a line connecting to the nostrils on either side. Then go around each nostril and continue that line up the side of the nose, past the eyes and curve into the bottom of the eyebrow. Mouth: the top lip should have a “U” shape in the middle, and then slope down to the corner. Bottom lip has a general curved shape, again, look at your own mouth for shapes.


Step Four: Refine

Go back over each feature and make sure it is looking like it should, and then look at the outer line of the face, on our picture we had to add more to the chin and widen the face slightly. Your head is not a perfect oval, chances are your cheek bones will come out slightly just under the eyes, and your chin will come to a bit of a point. Start to block in the hair, which again will be different from person to person. The top of the hair will come up just above the top of the oval you originally drew, and the hairline will be about halfway between the top of the oval and the eyebrows.


Step Five: Finishing Details

Add glasses if you have them, or other extra details you want. Finalize your lines, and if you want to keep going with the pencil you can, darkening the lines you want to keep and erasing the ones you don’t. We went over our lines in ink, which we will show more of below.


Step Six: Outlines

This is an optional step, but if you want the ”pen-and-ink” look, outline the lines you want to keep, thicker lines for definition between shapes, and filling in the pupil of the eyes (don’t forget a circle of white space for an eye shine) and the nostrils of the nose. Erase any extra lines of pencil you can still see, and a little curved line under the mouth for the chin, and some lines under the eyes for definition.


Remember: practice makes perfect! The first portrait you do will not be your best, and neither will your fourth or fifth. This is not meant to be discouraging- each piece of art you do will be better than the last piece you did, and the more you do the better you will get. So get out there and get drawing!

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