How to draw a portrait. Female figurative art.
The female face, building the picture.

How to draw a portrait in six easy steps.
Adding hair and eyes.

Step 3:

You now have your portrait outline and are ready to start building the picture. When building the picture I always like to start at the top and work my way down as this helps to avoid accidental smudging of the portrait. I am right handed so I like to start at the top left of the portrait and work my way across and down adding, and extending features and some detail as I go. I will only add some basic detail for now as I prefer to refine the features and details on completion of the portrait.

Tip 2: Another way to avoid smudging is to place a piece of paper or tissue on your sketch. This will act as a barrier between your hand and your picture and enables you to rest your hand on the drawing while you work.


Picture-with-reference-points. Starting the hair Study your picture to see where the darker areas of the hair are. Then using the grid locate the positions and add these areas to your portrait. Work only as far as the eye line on your portrait as the eyes will be your next feature. By doing this it will help ensure that you do not smudge the portrait as you go.

I prefer to start building the hair with a 3B or 4B pencil as they allow me to add both darker and slightly lighter areas of the hair without having to change to a harder or softer pencil. If I need to add even darker or lighter patch's I prefer to do this on completion and will discuss these techniques nearer the end of this tutorial. I prefer to add the hair in single strokes using a loose shading motion roughly following the line of the hair and building each darker and lighter area as it appears in the original picture but you can adapt your own style if you prefer. Some artists prefer to work in blocks and pick the detail out later with an eraser pen which I will discuss later.

Once I am satisfied with the basic look of the hair I then use a small cotton wall ballClassic Cotton Balls Jumbo Size, 100 Count to blend each section of the hair and take the sharpness off the image giving the hair a softer more natural look as shown on the right side of the portrait in the example to above.
There is no need to worry if you smudge the outside edge of the portrait as this can all be tidied up on completion of the work.
Tip 3: For blending your portrait you can use standard cotton wool, a cotton bud, Q-tip or artists blending stumps and tortillons which you can purchase from this page.
If you use a Q-tip or cotton bud be careful not to use the side because if you use the tip there is a chance that if you press too hard you can mark the paper with the stick that it is attached to. Some artists also use other items such as tissue, cloth, and even their finger but this is not advisable as the natural oils and grease on the skin can mark the paper and prevent the colours from blending properly.

The Eyes.
drawing eyes Again study your picture and decide where the darker areas are. Using a 3B or 4B pencil carefully begin to add them in. These always tend to be across the eyelids and the pupil. Do not add the eyelashes as you will first need to build the eyelids first. For the eyelids and around the eye I used varying pencil pressures to add the light and darker patches and then blended them with a Q-tip. I then moved on to the pupil. When adding the pupil you must allow for reflection as this is what brings the eyes to life. When doing the pupil I tend to try to work in a C shape depending on which direction the light is coming from as this ensures that I leave a small area untouched and that gives the eye the appearance that it is looking out of the page at you.
once you have finished the pupil you can move onto the iris which surrounds the pupil. It is important to study the Iris as it is seldom a block of one colour and tends to have varying details of light and shade. It is also very important that you take your time. For the Iris, I used a 4B pencil and lightly filled the area using gentle pressure. Do not press too hard with your pencil or you may make the iris too dark, take your time and slowly build the iris paying attention at all times to the different shades. I prefer to study the iris and then lightly shade in the direction of the details I see. If you make a mistake gently erase it with a soft eraser and start again. If you don't get the eyes correct then the whole picture will look wrong. Once you have completed the eye gently blend the shades together taking care not to smudge the eyeball to much. If you do accidentally smudge the eye too much use the hint below to tidy it up.

Tip 4, Custom made eraser: Get a normal soft rectangular eraser of about 20mm x 10mm and lay it on its widest side on a hard surface such as a cutting board or hard place mat. Do not do it on a table, desk or worktop. Using a sharp knife cut a 10mm slice off of the longest side making sure that you cut all the way through the eraser. Once you have your rectangular 10mm piece lay it flat on its thickest side and again using a sharp knife cut it from one corner to the opposite corner so as to form a triangle. With this done you should now have a handy eraser for removing small details and altering incorrect lines.

The Forehead.

drawing_a_portrait_stage_2 You will notice also that I have lightly shaded the forehead. To do this I used a 3B pencil. Firstly I gently rubbed out the grid lines so as to make sure that they would not show through the shading as I will only be using light shading toward the centre of the forehead. Be care full not to erase the eyebrows when doing this. I then shaded around the hairline as this always tends to be slightly darker than the rest of the face. I started just above the eye and shaded using a small circular motion and worked my way around the hairline paying attention to my original picture. once I was happy with the basic shape of the shading I used my cotton wool to slowly blend the shadow out from the hairline and across the forehead.

Once the eyes were complete and I had finished blending the forehead I then added the eyebrows. I sharpened my 3B pencil and then used small short strokes to form the hairs of the eyebrow paying attention to the darker and lighter patches. I then gently blended them taking care not to completely smudge the detail. I also added some of the eyelashes but will define them more on completion.

portrait outline

As you can now see our portrait outline is beginning to take on the appearance of our subject and so it is now time to move on down the face to the cheeks, nose and mouth.