How to make a Portrait Sketch

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Sketch of a man with an eraser and pencil lying on top of the paper

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The thought of drawing a portrait sketch often comes with a feeling of intimidation. In fact, anything to do with drawing a person can be a little scary. I remember back to my first attempts at drawing a portrait – it was a little rough!

However, a portrait sketch is all about measurement and accuracy. It is not the features of a person that makes them look like who they are. Rather, it is the distances between all the different parts of the face that make someone look like who they are. So, above everything – be sure to measure 🙂

Start your portrait sketch with the Eyes

I recommend starting the portrait drawing by first drawing the eyes. Instead of drawing lines I draw the shapes of the shadows.

I measured the distance between the eyebrows as well as the length of the eyebrows. Making correct measurements is one of the most important things to do as it is by making accurate measurements that you will achieve an accurate portrait of the person you are drawing.

Drawing the Nose

Next, draw the nose by finding the shadow shape of the nose.

Again, you will need to measure the length and width of the nose. Getting the length of the nose is important as if it is too long or too short it will dramatically affect the likeness of your portrait!

Shape the head in your portrait sketch

Next, I find the shape of the side of the head – I pay close attention to the distance between the edge of the face to the facial features.

For example, I measure the distance between the edge of the eyebrow on the right to the edge of the face. As well, I measure how close the edge of the cheek is to the nose etc.

Also, I draw the shape of the beard of the sitter. Here I create a sharp line at the edge of the beard in my portrait sketch.

the beginning of a drawing sketch
drawing sketch

Shape of Hairline

Draw the shape of the hairline. Measure the distance between the top of the hairline to the start of the forehead.

As well, draw the shape of the right side of the head and the shape of the beard. In addition, draw the neckline.

Also, I drew the eyes by finding the slant of the sitters eyelids and drew in the pupil of the eyes.

Shape of Hair

Next, I measure the shape of the hair at the top of the sitters head. I also draw out the shape of the hair along the rest of the hairline.

Also, I draw the line of the neck as well as the neckline of the sitters shirt.

Portrait sketch drawing
Portrait drawing sketch

Shadow Values

I create light and shadow in the portrait by shading the left side of the portrait sketch, I also shade the hair. However, I leave the right side of the forehead untouched.

Also, I create a line of light on the nose by rubbing the eraser down the top part. This creates a sense of light.

More Drawing Resources

Learn how to create light and dark shadows in a drawing. Also, check out the 5 drawing tips for beginners. If you want to take your drawing skills even further, check out the drawing lessons for beginners from Leonardo da Vinci.

Materials used in this Portrait Sketch tutorial

Woodless Graphite Pencil

Canson Mix Media Paper Pad

Hardmuth Eraser

Elisabeth Larson Koehler creator of art studio life

Hi! I am Elisabeth

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