How to draw portraits with a pencil step by step

1. Find Good Paper To Draw On

Drawing an eye is an art, it takes skill to reflect realism at different levels. Once you master the skills to draw accurately, the sky's the limit. Art is impeccable, it is surely flawless at different levels. There is no bad art, every drawing or painting has its own meaning that is why every art is different no matter how close it is to realism.

When embarking on a new drawing, it is important to have a plan in mind. How you will start your drawing matters to producing a masterpiece. Every professionals out there have their own sets of tools they use to accomplish their job, therefore, as an artist it is important to at least familiarize yourself with different drawing papers and different sets of tools. There are more papers that are intended for different art style, or that produces different results. If you a beginner and you want to draw a realistic eye, it is important to be aware of different textures of paper.

For example, when I started drawing an eye, I decided to draw on a Bristol Vellum Strathmore paper because of its two different surfaces. One surface or side of a paper has a smooth touch and the other is kind of rough, the rough side is good for drawing textured figures like an Orange, a dog’s nose or a rock while the other smooth side is good for drawing figures/objects like portraits, flowers, baby faces and many others.

2. Know shades of pencils and how to use them

Shading is one of the important skill to have when drawing a realistic eye. Infact, most artists are successful because of their unique technique to shading. Shading can bring a drawing to life, lets say, a drawing outline wasn’t properly done or wasn’t accurately plotted on the paper, when an artist who is skilled in shading applies good shading to a drawing, the shapes start to take place.

There are important steps to good shading. It all depends on kind of pencils and the flexibility of an artist hand. Just as it is important to know shades of pencils and what they do, shading can be achieved by utilizing those pencils.

  • H1 pencils can be used for outlining the shapes of your drawing and can also be used in a first stage of shading. There is what is known as Shading from Lightness to Darkness. When you shade from lightness to darkness H1 pencils are used to fill in light shades then move on to darkness or shadows with much darker/hard pencils.

  • HB pencils are good for blending light shading to dark shading, this is an overly important step to note. You don’t what your shading to have strokes of pencils, it won’t look too much professionally drawn. Make sure to smooth the blend between light shading and dark shading, no strokes of pencils or hard lines in the shade.

  • B2 pencils can be used only on the darker shadows of a drawing, it can also be used when drawing hard lines or hair. So, make sure that when using B2 pencil not to press hard against the paper else the drawing will be damaged. When using hard/dark pencil like B2, it is important not over shade. Keep in mind that, there is a reason why many artists start shading from light to dark. The keynote in this step is to remember to blend the light shading with a dark shading to produce continuity between two different shades. That is the only secrete to it, I mean there are other skills involved when it comes to producing masterpiece of art, but in this blogspot, we will only look at few steps required.

3. Have a nice eraser

Erasers are a bigger part of a successful drawing, they come in different forms, shapes and some of them are electric erasers. It is important to know your tools that will help in producing a captivating piece of art. Just like shading, remember to use your eraser like you use pencils, only that erasers produce light strokes compared to that of a pencil. Types of erasers mostly used by pencil artists are:
  1. Kneaded eraser (recommend)
  2. Electric eraser (recommend)
  3. Gum eraser (not recommend)
In the drawing below, I used the eraser to create a depth of a teer or water depth. Erasers are so powerful when used creatively.

Since drawing is creativity, artist see pictures or figures in a picture as nothing but shapes. If you adopt that style of seeing the object you are drawing as shapes, you start to understand the connection between one shape to another. Erasers help in correcting the shapes to form accurately, in other circumstances the eraser can be used to create highlights on your drawing.

4. Find a flat smooth board to put your paper on

One of the mistakes to avoid when trying to draw a detailed picture is not damage the drawing. Damaging can be that you are trying to draw a line, and you ended up drawing a harsh/strong/hard line. Harsh line or hard strokes of pencil can be avoided by not pressing your pencil hard against a paper. One instance you could draw a hard line is unless you are trying to draw a buffer zone, that is specifying a deepest part of your drawing. For example, buffer zone can be the space in between two lips (when the lips meet, the line that separates two lips) or a part when two body parts or figures meet each other. When drawing buffer zones, make sure to blend two parts carefully to avoid leaving skid marks (strokes of pencil) on your drawing.

5. Prepare a reference photo

Reference photos are equally important as the actual drawing itself. Sometimes, it could be that an artist has all the skills it takes to produce a good quality piece of art, but if the reference photo is not as detailed or clear as it need to be then a drawing might show inconsistency. It is important to find the focal point in a reference photo, something that lets you say “wow” when you look at the photo. After narrowing down on the reference photo to draw, make a copy of it, one in black and white and another in color. Keep in mind that when making copies of the reference photo, the copies need to maintain resolutions, meaning it has to show details visible on the original reference photo. After making a copy of the reference picture you want to draw, now the fun part begins. Refer to choosing a right outlining method, for example there is an outlining method called Grid Method.

6. Start Outlining to Get Shapes

Sometimes experienced artist can bring a drawing to life* even without having an outline accurately. As a beginner, it is important to get the outline of a drawing as accurately as possible because the whole drawing will be based on that outline. There are other instances when an artist doesn’t need an outline to draw a perfect picture, all s/he needs is a reference photo or even imagination to draw. As I mentioned earlier, if you need some thorough method to follow to achieve great accuracy then Grid-Method will be helpful to getting the right perspective. It is important to know at this level that, a good outline can be achieved by drawing light strokes of pencil on the paper. When outlining, make sure not to damage the paper by drawing hard lines as it becomes convoluted erasing hard line that would eventually damage the paper.

7. Grid Method

Grid Method is method of drawing an outline from a reference photo onto the paper. Sometimes, you will hear people say that artist who use Grid-Method are not experienced, don’t let this bring you down. I have bought DVDs from artist who make a living making art and they rely on Grid-Method to have the outline perfect. Below are reasons why you should use Grid-Method to get the outline as perfect as possible.
  • If you need to draw a small picture on a larger scale.
  • To get the shapes of a drawing right.
  • To make a drawing process easy.
  • To understand perspective.
  • To calculate dimension of a drawing on a larger space.

8. Rotate the drawing

TIP: Every artist has their own tips and experience, the tip that helped achieve great detail was to rotate the drawing as I worked on it. When drawing, it is important to see a drawing and a reference photo as an object. There is a benefit when you look at a drawing that way, because you will become less intimidated and what you see is just shapes. Some artist have used a mirror to determine perspective and accuracy of an outline, and some artist have used a small telescope to find mistakes. It is really depends on what level of detail you want to achieve in your drawing.


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