Friday, 31 October 2014

Tutorial: Drawing a Face


This tutorial is quite a bit more advanced, and may not be suitable for a beginner to undertake. I am posting it for the more experienced; that is, the intermediate artist who has already acquired a knowledgeable and working background in the basics of composition, perspective, and the techniques of various pencil strokes and shading.

Of course, as I am just beginning this tutorial web site and there are not many posts, I plan to have a well-rounded set of tutorials for everyone, beginner and advance alike. 

I would suggest that a beginner doesn't start out with learning how to draw a face or portrait, as it could lead to disappointment and serve to discourage further interest in learning how to draw if you see your attempt of this project as a failure. Learning to draw a face is extremely advanced, and definitely not for the person just picking up the pencil for the first time!

With all that said, I still stand by my previous statement that anyone can learn to draw, with enough practice and patience! That general ability to learn certainly comes with all drawing subjects, including faces

 Using the 2B pencil sketch the outline of the face. To get the correct proportions, take note of the horizontal and vertical guidelines in the image above. There is no need to apply too much pressure at this preliminary step.
Moving further along and creating a more detailed outline of the girl's features, and still using the 2B pencil, we arrive at a basic foundation to expand upon for the rest of the drawing.

Sketch in the basic outline of the hair on the left side of the girl's face. Define the basic flow of her hair with a few strokes. No need at this point to be too detailed; that will come later. With this step, we are just trying to achieve the basic foundation, and we will build from that in each subsequent step.

Take note of the proportions and composition of the girl's smile; the corners of her mouth are parallel to the center of the eye, specifically the pupil. Also, the dimples are on a parallel plane relative to the outer far side of the irises of her eyes. I have sketched guidelines to illustrate this, shown above.

Add the outline for the eyebrows, sketch the outline of the eyes and mouth. Pay attention to the proportions; I have left guidelines here to help you. Notice the position of the girl's head; her face is slightly cast down, and she is looking up at the viewer. It is important to take notice of this, as it is an integral part of the portrait's composition, not to say nothing of how it adds an interesting element for a portrait drawing. Also, her chin doesn't fully appear in view, as well as the top of her head and the right side of her face, they are cropped by the format of the image.

Lightly sketch in the highlights in the eyes; this is the part where the light hits the eyes
As a reminder, it is helpful to refer to the reference photo to be sure you are getting everything correct.

Starting on the left eye, take the 4B pencil and add shading to the outside iris. Be sure to gradiate the shade toward the inner part of the eye, as well as the outer, and not leave a solid black line (As you can observe, the girl has very light colored eyes, so don't add too much shading). This will give the eye more depth and three-dimensionality. Moving on to the pupil, take the 6B pencil and blacken the pupil's center, fading the tone as you work outward. Also, work within the parameters of the highlights and try not to add any marks in these areas.

Add hairs to the eyebrows with feathered strokes using the 2B pencil, work from the bottom of the eyebrow and moving up and to the left, following the hair's direction. Add the eyelashes by using sharp comma strokes. Take care to not overdo it and add too many.

Using the 6B pencil, add shading to the eyelid as shown above. Gradiate the tone as you move rightward.

So that you can see what we have done so far in the overall drawing, here is Step 3 of the drawing, whole view:
 Taking the HB pencil, add an even shading to the girl's whole face. Try to go extremely light; if necessary use a 2H pencil for this step. The reason for applying graphite in this manner is that skin is never completely white, or in this case, the color of the surface of the paper (except for the spots that are hit with light). It is necessary to cover the entire face with tonal values as this will create a more life-like portrait.

We will not blend the graphite we've added to the face; that will be the task in the next step.

As a piece of advice, at this point you should get a blank sheet of paper to lay down over the drawing where your hand is placed to protect it from smudging


Using the 6B pencil, darken and shade the hair. use fluent, flowing strokes, and give all the hair some tonal values. Don't worry about drawing every strand of hair at this point; we will define the finer details in a later step, using the kneaded eraser.

At the point where the hair meets the eye and forehead, add a gradiated shadow moving to the right, as shown above.

If the image above isn't clear, click on it to enlarge 


In this step, we work on the left side of the face; the cheeks, nose, and mouth area. This detailing, shown above, is just the first layer of graphite shading, in later steps we will add more graphite tones and even finer details.

Using the HB or 2B, add the shade from the strand of hair on the girl's cheek, as shown. I use the point of the pencil to add layers of shading. Here is an example of my personal shading method

Shading Method

In the example above, I have used a 2B pencil to illustrate the method of shading and adding tonal values in drawing. When performing this technique, try to apply even layers of graphite, and don't apply pressure with your fingers on the pencil; rather use your wrist to apply the strokes. This may sound odd, and forgive me if I am not providing an adequate explanation here. What I mean is, the fingers should be the vehicle, and the wrist and forearm should be the motor. Try to develop the habit of not using your fingers to stroke, but letting your wrist and forearm apply strokes. The strength of application should come from the arm, not the fingers.

Pay attention to how deep or light the shadows and tones are from observing the reference photo. In the area covered in this step, the shadows are light to medium, not so deep and dark. From the reference photo, try to observe each cast of shadow, it's direction, and how it follows the contours of the face. Then, add what you see with the pencil.


In Step 7, we continue to working adding tones and shading to the nose, lips and mouth area. With the lips, observe the reference photo. As you can see the source of the light cast on the girl's face appears to be from the upper left-hand side. So as shown above, the bottom lip highlight is on the top, and slightly lighter on the left side, then darkening slightly as it moves to the right.

I have mostly used the HB and 2B pencils in this step.

Here is a zoomed image of the area in particular


Following the technique that we took in Step 3, render the right eye, using the 6B pencil for the darkest areas, and the 4B and 2B for the eyelid shadows and the eyelashes. Keep within the parameters of the eye highlights.

With the 2B pencil, add shading to the right side of the girl's face, starting from the nose and moving rightward. Note that the right side of the face is slightly more in shadow than the left side.

I have started to add some freckles here; use an HB pencil for this and go lightly. When sketching the freckles, be aware of the contours of the face. As an example, look at this image

Notice that on the side of the girl's nose that the freckles appear to be thinner and clustered closer together. This is because we are not looking at the freckles head on. As the freckles make their way around the nose, they appear more clustered. It is very important to render the freckles in this way, to do otherwise will make the drawing look less life-like. The bridge of the girl's nose, in life, juts out more than the sides of her nose, as do the cheeks and forehead. So, observing the contours in this way is very helpful in achieving a realistic effect.

Darken in the area of the jaw line in the lower right corner using a 6B pencil. Add additional definition to the lips and area around the mouth. Remember: the right side of the face is slightly more in shadow than the left.


Here we have added more detail, finishing the freckles and defining the tones more sharply. I have added deeper shadowing over the whole face with the 2B pencil, and with the 4B pencil added darker tones to the hair.

In the next step, we will finish up with the final details.


In the final step, we take an rubber eraser, I have one made by Derwent, although there are many manufacturers. Alternatively, you can get a hold of an electric eraser. It is different from a regular eraser, such as one for classroom. Even better is a click eraser, Pentel makes one and you can find it at any supermarket.

Of course we will also use the kneaded eraser in this step.

Take the rubber eraser and move to the hair area and erase and highlight the areas shown above. Don't worry if what you have erased out appears too white; just take the HB pencil and lightly go over the area to darken it.

Again, don't worry about getting every strand exactly as it appears in the reference photo. Getting the general idea will suffice.

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