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Portrait Tutorial - Step by Step Lesson
This is a step by step tutorial on how to draw a realistic portrait. I would suggest that you have a basic understanding of drawing and shading before attempting to draw a serious portrait.
OutlineStep 1 - First I have laid down a basic outline. You can either grid or freehand your outline. I prefer to grid because it's a lot faster and more accurate. Don't make your outline too dark. An HB pencil is perfect for outlines, not too dark and not too light. This step is very important in obtaining a likeness of your subject. If your outline doesn't resemble the person, your final product won't either. So take your time and get features and proportions correct. It's not uncommon for your outline to take a few hours.
Tip - Do NOT use a hard pencil (example: 5H, 2H) for outlines or grids. They will indent your paper and show up later when you are shading. They are almost impossible to cover up once the indentations are there. Don't say I didn't warn you. :)
HairStep 2 - Next I have started working on the hair. I always work from top to bottom, left to right, just like reading. I work this way so that I never have to rest my hand on a finished area of the drawing (I am right handed. Lefties would work right to left, top to bottom). I won't spend too much time explaining hair, since this is a face tutorial. But pay attention to which way the hair is flowing. Kelly's hair is very dark. I'm using a mechanical 3B and a 7B woodcased pencil on it. The mechanical pencil allows me to add the fine details and the 7B allows me to push the darker areas, adding contrast.
Step 3 - I continue working on the hair. Be patient and don't rush anything on a drawing. It's the small details that will make your work stand out from others'. Hair can take just as long, if not longer, than the face. Notice the hair is defined with different tones, not lines. If you just scribble a bunch of lines onto your paper, the hair will look flat and unrealistic. I use a mechanical 3B for most of the hair, using broad strokes in the direction the hair is flowing. Also there is no blending involved in drawing hair. I want the imperfections and paper texture to show through somewhat. Darken areas around highlights first and then fade your darks into the highlights. The highlights in the hair are darker in the back and become more brilliant towards the front. Remember that, for the most part, tones flow into eachother. Dark tones flow into midtones then into lights. Lights flow into midtones then into darks. If your hair isn't looking quite right, this may be your problem. Make sure you have a balanced flow of darks, midtones, and lights. If you just remember to keep tones flowing in gradients, you will end up with a realistic drawing.
Step 4 - I am still working on the hair. The first area that I will shade on the face is the forehead. So I want that area completely framed in with the dark tones of the hair. That will give me a reference to compare facial tones to. Remember when I said hair can take a while? I have worked about 6 hours on the hair so far and I am not even halfway done with it yet. I am done with the hair momentarily though and will move onto the forehead.
ForeheadStep 5 - Whenever I start working on a face the first thing I do is identify where the lightest areas will be. When you find these areas you can lightly outline about where they will be . Highlights are usually found on the forehead, cheeks, tip of the nose, bottom lip, and chin. I know where my highlights are on the forehead. I know that the rest of the forehead has to be darker than these highlights. So I start by laying down some H graphite around the highlights. I just scribble it down VERY lightly and then blend it out with a tissue. If you are not darker than your highlights, you need to lay down more. After we do this, we have to blend the tone you just laid down into the highlights to form a light gradient. I do this with a q-tip. Remember what I said earlier about tones flowing into eachother? You have just defined the form of the light area of the forehead. Now onto the dark.
Tip - Highlights give you a good opportunity to suggest skin texture if you want. Skin texture can be achieved by either using the circulism technique (very lightly) or by dabbing a kneaded rubber eraser on surrounding shaded areas. Just make sure you don't make your texture darker than the lightest surrounding tones because it won't look natural.
Step 6 - The further away from the highlights you get, the darker you get. I am basically making a gradient that starts light around the highlights and gets darker along the hairline. The shading around the hairline is important. Have you ever seen a drawing that looks like the hair is pasted on? I have seen plenty and that's the reason it looks this way, not enough shading around the hairline. There will always be darker shading around the hairline from the hair casting subtle shadows onto the skin.
Tip - Take breaks when you are drawing. Sometimes when you stare at something too long your mind starts playing tricks on you. Work on your drawing for a few hours, take a break, and come back to it later, with fresh eyes.
EYEStep 7 - I move onto the left eye. I won't spend too much time explaining eyes because I already have a dedicated eye tutorial. First I lay down some 3B graphite into the iris and blend it out with a blending stump. Usually there will be brilliant highlights in the eyes so shade around those. I always make the highlights bigger than they actually are. It's a lot easier to make them smaller than make them bigger after you've shaded everything else. I always make my tones around these highlights slightly darker than they actually are. Doing this makes the eyes appear to sparkle more. Next I darken underneath the upper eyelid. This indicates a shadow from the eyelid. I also darken in the center of the eye to indicate a pupil. The "whites" of the eyes are not actually white. I shade them with H graphite. There will be a cast shadow from the upper eyelid also. Pay attention to tones in your reference photo. The answers are there, you just need to see them.
LEFT CHEEKStep 8 - Next I move down to the left cheek. I start by locating my lightest tone. I lightly shade this area with H graphite and blend it with a tissue. Then I lay down some B graphite around the H and blend it out. Just as the forehead, we are making a gradient that will get darker as we near the outside of the face. I work my way right up next to the nose.
NOSEStep 9 - Noses can be a struggle for many artists, especially beginners. Just try to remember that noses are nothing more than different tones representing contour and depth. I start by shading the bridge of the nose with H graphite. It is quite possible that there will be a subtle highlight on the tip of the nose so watch for that and shade around it. Next, I shade around the bridge with B graphite, making it slightly darker than the bridge area. I am making a subtle gradient towards the outer edges of the nose and into the cheek. As you are working on the nose area, make sure that tones flow seamlessly into the areas that we've already done. If an area of shading seems to abruptly stop, you need to work on blending it in so everything flows nicely.
EyeStep 10 - I move onto the other eye. Just as before, I start by laying down some 3B graphite onto the iris and blend it with a blending stump. Again, shade around any highlights in the eyes. Leave them paper white. I darken the pupil and any areas under the eyelid to suggest a cast shadow. The eyelashes are drawn in now too but be careful not to make them too dark. Also, make them completely random. Eyelashes are never perfect and evenly spaced. I lay down some H graphite in the "whites" of the eyes. Even though these areas look white they never are. The only things that should be white on your drawing are brilliant highlights.
Tip - For most of my portraits I will add a small highlight where the iris meets the lower eyelid. This helps in attaining that wet look.
RIGHT CHEEKStep 11 - Now I am working on the right cheek. I lay down some H graphite in the lightest area and blend it out. Then I lay a slightly darker B graphite around the lighter area. I hope by this point you are noticing a pattern. The pattern is that most everything on a portrait drawing is done with gradients, light tones flowing into darker tones and vice versa. The tones continue to get darker until I've reached the outside of the face.
JAWStep 12 - Following the jawline, I lay down my darkest tones with a 3B pencil. The darkest tones for the jaw will be towards the edges. If the subject is smiling as is the case in my reference, there will be folds in the skin so watch for those too. These folds will be darker. I move onto the upper lip area laying down some B graphite. Make sure that you are making the whole jaw area darker than the highlights on both the cheeks and nose. Since my light source is coming from above, there is a cast shadow underneath the nose. This is not always the case and will depend upon where the light source is coming from. I shade this shadow area with a 3B pencil.
Step 13 - As you work your way down on the face don't forget about the hair. I play catch up on the hair until it's about down to the jaw area. Working this way prevents you from having to rest your hand on the finished facial area to get at the hair. Don't go too far down with the hair either because you'll have to rest your hand on the finished hair area to get at the face. Try to keep every part of the drawing at about the same point horizontally. I'm often asked how my drawings look so clean and this is the reason. You'll never see smudge marks all over my paper. Just as before, I use my 3B mechanical pencil along with a woodcased 7B for darker areas. The only lines that you draw in the hair should indicate the flow and direction. Now I'm down far enough with the hair on the left side where I can go back to working on the face.
Tip - A retractable eraser is a useful tool to have when working on hair. You can use it to erase small fly-away hairs, adding detail and realism to your drawing.
Step 14 - I go back to working on the jaw and mouth area, on the right side this time. I start by laying down my darkest tones along the jawline, again watching for laugh lines and dimples. Next I lay some B graphite and blend it into the darks I just laid down, making a subtle gradient towards the edge of the jaw. When I'm happy with the jaw area I go back to working on hair, catching it up to the jaw on the right side.
LIPSStep 15 - Next I move onto the lips. I start by laying down an even wash of 3B graphite on the upper lip. Next I go slightly darker all over the lip except for the middle part, leaving that lighter. The darkest parts of the top lip will be the outer edges. The top lip will always be darker than the bottom. We used a 3B on the top lip so we will use a B on the bottom. I start by laying an even layer of B graphite down. Usually there are highlights on the bottom lip so make sure you avoid shading these. Underneath the bottom lip I shade in a shadow with 3B.
CHINStep 16 - We finally reach the end of the face by completing the chin. I lay down some H graphite in the highlight area and blend it out. Then I lay down some B graphite surrounding the highlight so it's slightly darker. I may adjust this area later when I am working on the neck area.
NeckStep 17 - Depending on where the light source is coming from, there may be a cast shadow on the neck from the chin. This is the case with my drawing. I start by laying down an even wash of 3B graphite in the shadowed area. How do you know how dark to go with this shadow? Compare tones on the face with the shadowed area. I see that my shadowed area is about the same tone as the cast shadow underneath the nose. The shadowed area will be darker as we near the edges on both sides. I have also begun working on the shoulder on the left side. For the hair I decided to fade it out at the bottom. I think this is a really classy, artistic look in portrait drawing. I attain this look first by drawing the hair at the bottom with a 5H pencil. This will give me my lightest tones and the tones that I need to transition down to. Then I go back up the where I left off and use a 3B, getting lighter and lighter as I near the bottom. When you reach the bottom it should be a smooth gradient from dark to light.
Step 18 - I move on to the chest area. I start by laying down an even wash of H graphite and blend it out. Then I add some darker tones along the outter edges where the hair is. Just as I did with the hair I am blending this area out at the bottom.
How to Draw a CarFor this tutorial I will show the different steps I take in drawing a realistic looking car. I chose to draw an american classic, the Corvette. This tutorial will apply to any car though because for the most part, they are all the same. The key to drawing a car that will pop off the page is having a good balance of lights, midtones, and darks along with clean, sharp edges. As with most of my graphite drawings, I am using Derwent Graphic Pencils and Fabriano Artistico Bright White Watercolor Paper . I am also using mechanical pencils for small details.
Step 1 - Proportions are critical in a technical drawing so I have gridded my outline using 1 inch squares. Gridding consists of placing a grid over your reference picture and on your drawing paper and then transfering the image square by square until you've attained an outline. DO NOT use a hard graphite (ie. 5H, 2H, H) for your grid. If you do you will have a nightmare on your hands later when you are shading. Harder graphites dent the paper, creating tiny grooves. When you go to shade over these grooves, they will not accept graphite and will appear white. Use a softer graphite like a B for your grid. Don't say I didn't warn you :)
Step 2 - As with all of my drawings I am working left to right, top to bottom (just like reading). I am starting on the front of the car and the front wheel. For the wheel I am laying down my darkest tones first with a 7B pencil. These dark tones will give me a reference when deciding how dark to go with everything else on the wheel. The wheels can be very time consuming if you want them to turn out well. They are very small and have lots of details. This one rim alone will take me about an hour.
Step 3 - I add the midtones and lighter tones to the wheel with a 2H for lights and a 3B for mids. These tones are what makes the wheel appear to shine. As with any metal surface, the wheels have brilliant highlights. I always leave these highlights alone so that they are the tone of the paper. So with my midtones and light tones around these brilliant highlights, they appear to shine. This process is called negative drawing and can be explained further by clicking on the link. At this point, the wheel is basically done. When we shade the tires later, these highlights will really start to shine.
Step 4 - With the front wheel finished, I move onto the front fender area. For the darker bottom part of the fender I use a 3B pencil. The lighter top area I am using a 2H. A car finish is typically very smooth so I am blending the body with blending stumps. When working on the body, I am comparing tones to those on the wheel. I'm also erasing grid lines so they don't interfere with my shading.
Step 5 - I go back and work on the tire. Pay close attention to the way the tire looks. There will be some diffuse (duller) highlights or possibly even some brilliant ones if the tire is wet or has tireshine on it. You can see how the rim looks a lot shinier now that we have some darker tones around the negative space. You can make the wheels look as shiny or as dull as you'd like by adjusting the surrounding tones. I will probably go back and darken a lot to make the highlights pop even more. After the tire, I go back to the body with a 3B pencil and blending stumps. You can see how I am just working one square inch at a time. Working this way makes you focus more on details than the drawing as a whole.
Step 6 - I continue working on the body and move up to the window. The tones of everything showing through the window will be slightly muted compared to the rest of the car. So I make the steering wheel and dashboard a little bit lighter. If the window had been opened or tinted this would not be the case though. I used a 2H pencil for the lighter parts of the window, a B pencil for the darker areas and a blending stump to finish it off.
Step 7 - Keep working on the door paying close attention to your reference photo. There are very subtle tone changes in the lighter areas. I'm still using a 2H for lights and a 3B for the darks.
Step 8 - Since our light source is coming from the front of the car, the rearview mirror is reflected off of the body. This reflection will be darker than the mirror itself. Just pay close attention to your reference photo when rendering details like this. After that is done I continue working on the body. The car is starting to take shape now. As mentioned earlier, just take it nice and slow working one area at a time.
Step 9 - I continue working on the body of the Corvette. The top of the car will be a lighter area, considering the light source so I use a 2H on it. I finish the area along the rear wheelwell using a 3B and blending stumps. Then I move onto the middle area of the car, shading with both 2H and B pencils. The doorhandle is one of the darkest area so I use a 7B pencil on it.
Step 10 - I start working on the back windshield. I used a 3B on this area. A shadow underneath the car comes next. The shadow grounds the car and makes it look like it's actually sitting on a surface rather than hovering in space. I use a 3B mechanical pencil on this area pressing fairly hard. Mechanical pencils work better on large dark areas than woodcased pencils. They are sharper and are able to push the graphite deep into the fibres of the paper.
Step 11 - Now I am working on the rear wheel. This will be exactly like before but I will go through it again since the wheels are very important. I am laying down my darkest areas first with a 7B. Make sure your pencil is sharp so that your edges are nice and clean.
Step 12 - Next I am adding the midtones to the wheel. Break up the wheel into different sections and focus on one small area at a time. I am working in between the spokes. You can see now that with the midtones in place, the wheel is starting to look 3 dimensional. In this case, light tones suggest an area that is closest to the viewer. So with these midtones and darks laid down, the spokes are the lightest and appear to pop out at us.
Step 13 - The lighter tones are added to the wheel using a 2H pencil. Now the rim is complete. It will begin to shine more when we get the dark tire tones around it. I am a little tired of focussing on the wheel area so I work some more on the body. I'm still using a 3B for darks and 2H for lights.
Step 14 - I begin to work on the rear of the car, using 3B for darks. Considering where the light source is coming from (the front), the lighter areas will be darker than the lights on rest of the car. This is because the rear is not exposed to the light. So I am using a B pencil on these areas.
Step 15 - I go back to the tire area. I darkened in the tire using a 3B pencil. Then I went back and added small details. With the darker tones around the wheel, you can see how it begins to shine and resemble chrome. I continue working on the rear of the car, still using 3B.
Step 16 - Paying close attention to details I move on, working more on the rear of the car until it is done. For my darkest areas I used a 3B pencil. The drawing is complete. Now you can go back and add more details if you'd like. I always have a look at the drawing from a few steps back to see if something doesn't look right.
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