What is going on in your brain while drawing a portrait? Are you stressing over your pencil paper combination? Are you concerned about not being able to draw the models likeness?

Wow that sounds really familiar to me. I’ve stressed over both of those concerns many many times. Especially when I first started drawing. What works much better is thinking about several core portrait drawing techniques.

Don’t think about what is not working in your portrait drawing, instead focus on what will help you. Take a moment to watch this short video critique below.


The question you should be asking yourself, where is the light coming from. Get a clear picture of the light shapes and shadow shapes. Of course when you start physically drawing you want to draw with angles and measurements. Specifically with portraits you want to focus on the negative space around the head.

Form is another element you should be thinking about. How are you going to draw a three dimensional portrait? Do you know the major landmarks of the skull?

How about your value set up? Having a clear goal for your value set up in huge when drawing a portrait.

Below is a list of several core drawing techniques you want to focus on. Write them down and keep them close by the next time you start a new portrait drawing.

  • Start with angles and measurements.
  • Be aware of the negative Space.
  • Be clear on the light direction.
  • Draw the shape of the hair versus the shape of the face.
  • Promote form, be clear with showing surface planes.
  • Shade the shadow shapes in a top to bottom solid way. Use a simple three value set up.
  • Stay loose working the whole drawing, don’t get stuck in one area.

Of course when it comes to teaching portrait drawing words can be clumsy. However rotating this short list of drawing techniques will help you tremendously.

If you would like to learn more about portrait drawing consider subscribing to Drawing Tutorials Online. We love drawing portraits, it is certainly our biggest department.

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