Pencil portrait, a Stars Portraits tutorial

Stars Portraits > Tutorials > Pencil portrait

Pencil portrait

by ArtyFactory

Pencil portrait

Author : ArtyFactory

Tutorial submitted on August 13, 2006

A good tutorial in 10 steps for learning how to create a portrait : basics features, outline, shading and toning...

Materials: 2B, 3B or 4B pencil and paper.

When you draw a portrait from life, you need to record the subtle variations of the features which make that individual's face unique.

There are three basic stages in the creation of this image:

1. Using line drawing to organise the position, shape and proportion of the features.
2. Using softly shaded tone to create the form and texture of each feature.
3. Using larger areas of tone to unite all the elements of the portrait.

Pencil Portrait - Step 1- laying down the basic features

Most artists make the greatest number of changes at the start of a drawing. Therefore it is important to draw lightly at first, as lightly drawn lines are easier to erase.

Begin a portrait with the eyes as they are the main focal point. Take care where you choose to position them on the page as this will affect the overall balance of the portrait.

Mouse over the image and you will see that nearest eye is situated on the vertical centre of the page. This is a strong compositional starting point for a three quarter view portrait.

The size and position of the other features are directly related to the scale and placement of the eyes.

If you get this stage right, you will end up with a good likeness.

Pencil Portrait - Step 2 - the full outline

The next step is to set the distances between the eyes and the top of the head and the eyes and the chin. These measurements should be similar.

The main features are then framed by the outline of the face and hair, while the neck and shoulders form an angular support for the head. The hairline on the right side of the face creates a sweeping curve as it meets the neckline of the t-shirt. This movement builds a strong visual link between the head and shoulders.

At this stage, the drawing is a set of carefully positioned features that establish the final proportions of the portrait.

Pencil Portrait - Step 3 - some extra linework

The final stage of the line drawing in this portrait is to sketch some of the detail in the hair and the folds on the t-shirt.

These lines of detail in the hair should follow the direction and shape of the locks as they split into different strands. They should be drawn fast and forcefully to give a natural rhythm and vitality to the surface of the hair.

The folds in the t-shirt help to emphasise the form and angle of the shoulders. They should be gentle and uncomplicated curves that do not distract your attention from the rest of the head.

Pencil Portrait - Step 4 - the tone of the eyes

Return to the eyes to begin the tonal development of the portrait. Tone used around the eyes should:

Help them to sit solidly in their sockets by creating a shadow beneath each eyelid where it rests on the eyeball.

Give them a sparkling look by placing the brightest highlight against the dark pupil.

Create the translucent effect of the iris by simulating its changing tone.

Create the curved planes of the eyelids and sockets with softly graduated tones.

  You can follow the next steps of this tutorial on

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