Sketching portraits with dry media.
Sketching portraits can be hard. One of the critical aspects of doing a good portrait artwork is getting the values right. In nature, the skin tone of a human face isn’t a flat color.
It has a low tone, an undertone, shadows, and a mid-tone. Now when doing this in colors, it can be quite tricky.
The suggestion is to have a black and white sketch in your hand. But – this black and white sketch is altogether a beautiful genre by itself.
Let’s see their forms.
New to them? Do read further.
Graphite pencils are slightly shiny, usually in grey. It has a wide range of grades and used for drawings that require fiber detailing.
Recommended brands for sketching portraits
Staedtler Mars lumograph pencils
They come in different grades. They are one of the best for pencil sketching – My personal favorite
Faber Castell Pitt Graphite pencils
These pencils also do their job well.
For intricate detailing like hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes, mechanical pencils suit the best.
They come in different thickness ranging from 0.3 mm to 0.9 mm.
Charcoal sketching process:
A form of carbon; is a dark matte drawing material that crumbles easily and used for expressive marks. The feel of it is not glossy as graphite.
If you want a smooth and realistic skin/sketch with a lot of details and values, charcoal sketching is the right alternative.
For blending in charcoal, you can use fingers as the oil that’s present in the skin helps in blending.
General charcoal pencils
They are soft enough and create tones that are much darker and richer than even the softest graphite.
Shading with pencils:
Persistence is the key to create fantastic artwork with pencil, it’s like making a sculpture of marble. Go step by step. If more pressure is put on a stone, it breaks.
Similarly, a lot of pencil pressure etches the paper.
We need to create a defined initial sketch so that you can conclude with a beautiful masterpiece.
The pencil has to be relatively sharp and blunt at the same time so that there are specific strokes without scratches.
Start softly with 2-3 strokes, and build layers until you see the desired result.
Various types of pencil shading
The suggestions are,
- Hatching: Lines are drawn with different grades of a pencil to create the depth, mostly in a single direction.
- Cross-hatching: This is an extension of hatching, wherein lines are overlapped in different directions to create the required impact
- Smooth: Most commonly used for realistic drawings. Pencil strokes on the paper are smoothened out with blending stumps, brush, or fingers.
(I highly recommend blending stumps for most of the drawings. It’s super cheap and readily available)
(Explanation present in the drawing, done in grid book)
I use smooth technique frequently in addition to the others.
- Stippling: For this, a marker can also be used as sometimes a pencil doesn’t show too well. Add more pressure for the darker areas and less for lighter areas. They are also called as dot technique. This cluster of dots creates an impression of shading.
Scumble/Scribble: It is scribbling in a controlled manner. It’s the most fun way of shading but also tricky as it has to be in proportion.
Shading: It is a smooth technique without blending. The lines are visible in this type of shading.
Types and grades of drawing pencils:
There are two types of pencils.
- Graphite pencils
Graphite pencils are one of the most commonly used.
It comes in different grades. These graphite pencils are available in various shades starting from H to B series. H is the harder series, whereas B is softer and more comfortable to blend. For incredibly light shades or base, H series pencils are essential (H, 2H, 3H, 4H).
For darker tones, B series are used (HB, 2B, 3B, 4B, 6B, 8B, 10B). Avoid using fingers while blending with graphite, as it leaves an oily residue of the skin in the paper.
- Charcoal pencils: They are compressed charcoal sticks covered with wood (like graphite pencils). Comes in soft, hard and neutral
- Soft – Used for the darkest shades, more comfortable to blend, and most commonly used charcoal.
- Neutral- Slightly harder and used for mid-tones
- Hard – The lightest own, which helps in drawing outlines.
Let’s start drawing!
Learn to draw some facial features!
Before starting on with portraits, it is always good to learn different facial features and facial parts in detail so that when you draw an actual picture, it looks great.
Have a sketchbook, and keep practicing in it before you go on to more significant papers. It’s your zone, your own creative space where you can do whatever you want. No one will judge you or criticize you for that. Let it be your safe zone. The more you practice, the more effective your work will be.
One more effective way while doing sketching is listening to music. When I sketch, I keep calm and soothing music on, so it just sets the tone. Music relaxes the mind, and this is an essential part of me. It helps to be more creative.
Now let’s understand each facial feature sketching in detail.
How to draw eyelashes?
- Here is the simplest way to draw eyelashes.
- Draw curves on the upper eye line. Smaller at the ends and bigger in the middle.
- Then just extend the curve lines above. The lines will be small near the nose and long near the ears.
- Draw random strokes in the given shape and enhance the eyelashes.
- Add thickness near the eye line.
- Finally, add additional shadows at the upper eyelid.
How to draw eyebrows
- First, draw the basic shape of an eyebrow lightly, add a flesh tone with HB pencil, and blend it well.
- With HB pencil draw the eyebrow hairs, it’s easier to erase if you make any mistakes.
- The hair grows in various directions and lengths and does not grow at regular intervals next to each other. They grow irregular, they group, overlap, just like eyelashes.
- Near the nose, it will be straight, and as it goes towards the center, it will start to curve.
- Try to make grouping and overlapping. Then make some darker and lighter strokes with a 2B pencil with light pressure.
- Finally, with a 4B pencil, draw the darkest strokes and blend it softly with a flat brush.
How to draw an eye?
Eyes are always a unique feature. As the saying goes,
“Eyes are the window to your soul,”
There’s so much to study only about eyes, the various expressions, and angles.
To start with, draw the basic eye shape, pupil, and iris with HB pencil. Then the eyelashes and eyelids. It’s good to practice and learn from a reference picture.
For shading, use 2B graphite pencil and later for darker tones use 4B. Always leave the highlighted part shading the other parts of the pupil, iris, and blend it with blending stumps or flat brush.
- I always like to finish the iris first.
- Keep on building layers slowly and steadily.
- Add structural strokes on the iris, fill the pupil, darken the edges, the shadow under the eyelid, and darken around the pupil.
- Keep moving the lines and shade softer with a blending stump or a brush.
An important point to note is the eyeball is never really white. Add soft shading to create the illusion of roundness.
How to draw a nose
- Draw the basic outline of the nose lightly with HB pencil, marking the highlighted part as a small circle for the nose’s tip.
- Always pay attention to lights and shadow because this can create an illusion of form. The source of light is very important to understand the shadow effect.
- Using an HB pencil, give basic shading and blend it well, keeping the highlighted part intact.
- Slowly build layers to give more depth to the contours of the nose. That is, how you can create a curved image on a flat surface. For the nostrils, you can use 4B and darken it a bit, making sure it blends well with the face.
How to draw lips
- Draw the centerline, add two circles on top, and one circle below the above two circles.
- Build the shape of the lips around it, maintaining the bow shape.
- With an HB pencil, give the basic shade and blend it in, keeping in mind that the lower lip will be lighter than the upper lip.
- The shadow of the upper lip will also fall on the lower lip near the centerline.
- Make small and light curve lines on the lower lip, going straight in the center and more curves toward the lip’s outer side.
- The lower part of the lower lip will be a little darker. You can enhance the highlights with a kneaded eraser or pencil eraser. Avoid making a sharp outline for the lips.
- Build the edges with soft shading.
For all those who took interest in my work here’s a video for you.
We are through with our face portraits. I am sure you have been able to make the most out of this knowledge. I plan to come live at Ayush Paper Instagram on coming Thursday join me lets create this together.
About me and my workshops
I am Reshma Venkatraman, your portrait educator.
A science enthusiast who became a Chartered Accountant and now a passionate artist. Talk about diversity.
Not a technically trained artist, so when I started teaching, the first hurdle I had to jump was organizing my thoughts about creating art. I wanted to present the techniques in a clear and understandable format. Over time, I realized that the more I taught, the more I learned, and as I learned, I explained.
Time and practice had taught me many things about the pencil shading that I never knew when I started art. With all the mistakes, I learned how to do shading with pencils and how not to.
Doing art is like meditation and a habit for me now. So first and foremost patience and practice is the key. Focus on the fundamentals of producing quality art.
If portraits are something you plan to learn to get in touch with me, I’d love to teach you.
Also, accept that mistakes are part of life. There may be many mistakes that you make while sketching as beginners or even at an advanced level.
I make mistakes while sketching. We all make mistakes. Don’t get discouraged by it. If you don’t like what you have drawn, just do it over again or erase the errors, and you can always correct it.
Art works created by me