Pencil Portrait Drawing – Tips For Getting Started

Pencil Portrait Drawing – Tips For Getting Started


Pencil portrait drawing is an exciting art, and with  even a little artistic talent drawing in pencil can be learned through practice. Just as with most things, “practice makes perfect.” Here are some tips for getting started –

The first thing you will want to do is get drawing pencils and paper. These can range from an everyday pencil and any paper you might have, to more technical drawing pencils and heavy duty or textured drawing paper. It will take some experimenting to discover what tools you prefer for your own style and drawing techniques as you learn to draw.  Professional type drawing pencils look just like a normal yellow pencil, but they are graded as to hardness and softness of the lead. You will want to find 2-3 different pencils, each with a slightly different hardness.

Take a trip to an art supply store or search online. Amazingly enough even your local grocery or drugstore will commonly have basic drawing supplies in their stationary department.  Look for a pad of plain drawing paper with a little texture larger than the common 8.5″ x 11″ paper. Slightly larger paper will give you more room, not only to express yourself, but also to leave “breathing room” around your pencil drawings and portrait sketching. This is one of the secrets to good drawing technique to incorporate as  you learn how to draw.

Another tool that can be helpful is a basic anatomy book. You might find one at your local library or at a second hand bookstore. Studying muscle structure will give you an idea of what lies beneath the skin’s surface, and can take your drawings from being amateurish to professional life drawing. If you’re interested in drawing animals as well as people, look for books with good pictures of the animals you are interested in as well.  Even if you find them used at a second hand book store, these can be great references to make your drawings more true to life.

A great way to start out is to get a friend or relative to do some real life modeling for you. Make sure the lighting is good, and have them sit in an easy and natural position. They might read a book or rest, so they are comfortable, and you will have a stable model to look at for a period of time as you practice. If you decide to start out with a dog or cat, experiment with your portrait drawing while they sleep, so you’re not trying to capture a moving target.

Start out with a soft line drawing on your paper – not to draw your model, but simply to show where head, body, arms and legs are – to provide a sort of map to follow. A really great way to get proportions right is to stand back, hold up the tip of your pencil, and sighting down your arm take a measurement from forehead to chin, and then use this measurement to figure out comparative proportions of other body parts. This drawing technique can help you learn to draw more proportionate portraits and pencil drawings.

Experiment, be creative, follow your passion. Each person develops their own technique. You’ll be amazed at what you can come out with, and how you progress when you stick with it. Always imagine on the front end what you’d like your drawing to look like. Practicing techniques such as turning your paper upside-down in order to accurately follow the line of a particular feature, can be of great help. Taking classes, going to workshops, visiting with other artists  can also help you progress faster. Enjoy the journey of discovering the art of drawing.


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