Drawing Ideas for Faces and Portraits


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Realism and similarity to nature are the cornerstones of a strong and engaging portrait. If you think it will take you many months to comprehend and improve these skills, forget about it. You have enough power and talent to learn how to create a harmonious work of art in a short time.

Portrait painters talk about the rules and techniques of drawing people from nature or photography. These ideas contribute to your development of expertise and skills, thanks to which you become an excellent artist. So, prepare your paints, brushes, and an easel and start creating, considering the advice of experienced and knowledgeable portraitists from Noble Portrait. We are sure that the results of your creativity will soon exceed your expectations.

Draw a self-portrait or portrait from a photograph

Portrait painters sometimes complain about the difficulties of finding sitters. However, if you need practice, and the appearance and physical conditions of the model are of little importance, just think about the nature that is always here. Of course, it’s you! There is no need to be skeptical. In fact, a self-portrait is a wonderful way to practice forms, composition, background, and color transitions, and therefore painters perceive it as an effective exercise.

You can draw a self-portrait from nature using one mirror or mirrors of different sizes to see your reflection from different angles and fix the most helpful posture and expression. However, if this is still too complicated for you, close-up photos will come to the rescue. Besides contours and lines, pay attention to shading and applying highlights, because this is an important part of portrait painting.

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Start with shapes

Geometric shapes are the basis for drawing any object, and human faces and silhouettes are no exception. Professional painters propose to study every feature of your sitter. You will need to split the object into circles, squares, or triangles. This will help you understand both the proportions and the personal features of the facial structure. Then do these 3 steps:

  1. To make it easier for you, print out an enlarged photo of the person whose portrait you want to paint.
  2. Examine his face and silhouette, and compare them to certain geometric shapes.
  3. Compose an image using all of the shapes and put them on paper.

For example, draw an oval, circle, or triangle with soft corners in place of the face. Depict the forehead as an oval or trapezoid, the cheeks as circles, and the chin as a triangle or semicircle. If the result bears little resemblance to the original, try to replace one shape or another.

Repeat this as many times as you need to get the most realistic sketch. By doing this with each portrait, over time you will gain the ability to recognize the proportions and structure of the face at once and find personal features in each of them.

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Always get the perspective right

Drawing with perspective can be a challenge for a novice painter. Be more persistent and patient, however! Having mastered perspective, you will notice how much easier it has become for you to draw portraits.

The fact is that it is the perspective that makes the face depiction realistic and true. You will have to delve into the study of the relationships between facial features—we mean the ratio of the mouth to the corner of the nostrils and the location of the ears relative to the eyes. Artists mark these relationships with horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines, and thus form the correct perspective. If you do not neglect such work, you will manage to get a correct and proportional image of a face with clear and deep features.

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Never undervalue the mid tones in a drawing

Mid tones play a key role in the palette and composition of any portrait. They create a well-balanced foundation and are highly in demand in portraiture.

There is an effective way to determine the right tone gradation for your work. It’s simple and instant! All you have to do is squint and look at the object. This way, you can see deeper shades and color transitions and see the exact location of highlights and shadows. When you squint, the large details become less noticeable, and you can focus on the nuances of the color scheme.

Practise clothing

The precise conveying of textures around the sitter makes the portrait realistic and lively. That is why it is so important to learn how to depict a variety of textiles and clothing details, whether they are thin and translucent or coarse and dense fabrics, woven or printed patterns, ties or jackets, hoods, or fur collars.

Remember: your representation of the texture should be in harmony with the anatomy of the sitter so that the portrait looks realistic.

Experienced portraitists prefer to work out textile elements and clothing details on separate sheets in order to achieve perfection and accuracy. Take this tactic into account, and as you accumulate a collection of sketches, you can grasp the essence and depict any textures.

Sketch at the art gallery

A good visual example is reliable support if you are not too confident in your talent and skills. An art or digital gallery may well become your guiding star when you start portraiture. Choose the portraits that you like and try to copy them.

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It is good practice to capture important features of a portrait, including accents, chiaroscuro, and ways to convey the personality of the sitter. An inspiration board with portraits and your sketches can also be a source of inspiration for you.

Practice and love what you do!

Your passion is your most faithful companion and assistant in painting. If you are in love with what you are doing, you will not spare any time or effort to achieve perfection! By trying certain ways, techniques, or methods, you will hone your technique and learn to feel the pencil and brush as if they were a natural extension of your hand.

Moreover, your involvement and inspiration will have a huge impact on the portrait. Viewers can feel your emotions, vision, and the slightest movement of the soul, and this leads to an understanding of the message that the portrait conveys. If you can’t spend even a few hours without a brush, don’t restrain yourself. You are on the right track and in the right place if the very practice of basic painting techniques brings you pleasure.


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