How to Draw a Portrait

The Step-by-Step Guide on How to Draw a Portrait

By Vladimir London

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir London

In this book, you will discover the step by step process of how to draw a head in the three-quarters view.

It is written and illustrated by Vladimir London, internationally published author and the founder of Drawing Academy.


In the Drawing Academy course, students often ask me how to draw a portrait so it looks realistic. I also regularly receive portrait drawings for critique that have common mistakes like misplaced facial features, incorrect proportions, wrong perspective, and so on. Such mistakes happen because of:

  • Not knowing or not following constructive drawing principles
  • Ignoring human head proportions
  • Knowledge gaps in a human anatomy.

The biggest challenge in drawing portraits arrives from the misconception of how art is created – students draw not what they know, but copy what they see. This leads to inevitable mistakes.

To explain why the principle “Draw What You Know, not What You See” is important, I’ll give you an example. When drawing from life, art students are doing their best to depict eyes, nose and mouth as they see it on a model, forgetting, however, the overall construction of the head. It is like decorating walls before building a house.

To “build” a head in portrait drawing requires much more than simply copying what you see. And the necessary know-how only comes with crucial knowledge. You simply won’t see the correctness of proportions if you don’t know what those proportions are.

So, in this series of articles, I will share with you the in-depth step-by-step know-how of portrait drawing as it’s taught in one of the World’s best art institutions – Repin Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia. This process is also described in my book “How to Draw a Portrait in the Three Quarters View” available on Amazon.

Here’s how the finishes sketch looks. You will be able to draw similar portraits by the end of this exercise should you follow closely my instructions.

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir London

This quick drawing was done in red pastel pencil; however, feel free to use any drawing medium of your choice. It is not about color, but constructive drawing principles, rules of perspective, head proportions and anatomy, which won’t change whether you draw in graphite pencil, charcoal or with your finger on sand.

How to Draw a Portrait in the Three Quarters View

Before drawing begins

I would suggest getting a model or drawing a self-portrait looking in a mirror.

First, analyze the head, chose the view angle, and decide on the artwork size and layout. Fix paper to a drawing board and get your pencil sharpened.

1. First step

Begin with measuring the main proportion of the model’s head – its width-to-height ratio using a pencil or by eye. Many art students ask me how to measure with a pencil; to answer, I created this article – //

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonThis proportion varies depending on the view angle. Make sure to get it as accurate as you can.

When you have this ratio measured, decide on a composition of your future portrait – how big the head would be and where on paper it will be located.

Mark four strokes – the top, bottom as well as the left and right edges of the head. Make sure there is enough space in front of the head – “nose room” and the head is not too close to the top edge of paper. It is also good to have more space below the head than above.

Train your eyes by marking those edges freehand and, if necessary, double-check the main proportion using a pencil.

2. Dividing the face into three parts

The next step requires a know-how of the universal proportion of the face. All adult faces regardless of individual appearances share the same proportion – the distance between the hair-root line and the bottom edge of the chin can be divided in three equal parts:

  1. From the hair-root line to the eyebrow line
  2. From the eyebrow line to the base of the nose
  3. From the base of the nose to the bottom of the chin.

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonObserve on the model where the hair-root line is intended by nature and mark this line on the drawing. Divide the distance from that line to the bottom of the head into three equal parts by eye or using a pencil as a measuring stick. Do it as accurate as you can; precise location of these three parts will help you in placing facial features correctly.

If the model’s head is on the same level as yours, you would see those three lines horizontal. When the model is located higher than a viewer, lines will be curved upward. The opposite is also true – lines will be curved downward when a model’s head is located lower. The curvature depends on the view angle.

To keep things simple for this exercise, we draw a portrait at our eye-level.

3. Placing the eye-line

The following step comes from the know-how – this proportion is not measured on a model’s head, it is universal for all portraits – the eye-line divides the height of the head in half.

So, we can place the eye-line with confidence, marking it either freehand or using a pencil to measure where the middle of the head is.

This horizontal line, of course, will be located below the eyebrow line that we marked in the previous step.

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonI have to make a disclaimer that the eye-line can be tilted or curved depending on a view angle. In such case, you need to keep in mind that distances of this proportion could be foreshortened in perspective and the top edge of the head in your drawing might not correspond to the actual top point of the model’s head. So, if we see a head from above, the eye-line would be curved downward and appear lower than the actual middle point between the top and bottom marks of the head.

If the paragraph above sounds a bit confusing, think of a cylinder seen from above in perspective and imagine how its middle line curves downward and where it is located in relation to the cylinder’s top and bottom edges. To guide you through the challenging topic of how to draw in perspective, I created this free video lesson – //

4. Base of the skull and edge of the cheekbone

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonLocation the plane of the skull base will help us to connect the head, neck and shoulders correctly. This plane is on the same level as the base of the nose, which also corresponds to the bottom edge of the cheekbone. This level is marked in red line.

5. Lower part of the cranium

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonIn this step we mark the location of the lower part of the cranium. Although it might be hidden by long hairs or a tall collar we do it using one of the constructive drawing principles – drawing objects as if they are transparent.

6. Locating the eyebrow

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonThe eyebrow’s edge is an important mark of the head. This virtual line marks the head’s planes, separating the face from the side of the head. This edge also serves as a border between tonal values of light and shade.

The eyebrow’s edge location depends on the angle of view. It has to be measured on the model by comparing distances “A” and “B”.

Later on, this edge will also help us to determine the position of the ear.

7. Defining contours of the face

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonContours of the face are very important virtual lines that help to define portrait’s likeness.

A contour should not be confused with an outline. In the drawing below, contours of cheekbones and jawlines are marked as contours. These lines are individual; angles of which have to be measured on the model. Contours here describe the shape of the model’s face.

8. Indicating the top edge of the ear

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonUnlike in previous step, where contours of the face are individual, location of the top edge of the ear is universal for all portraits. This edge is on the same level as the eyebrows line. To mark the top of the ear, we extend the eyebrows line horizontally towards backside of the head.

9. How to place the ear correctly

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonAs the Drawing Academy tutor, I often receive for critique portrait drawings that have one common mistake – a miss-located ear. To avoid such a junior mistake you need to know the following rules:

  • The top of an ear is on the same level as the line of eyebrows.
  • The bottom edge of an ear is on the same level as the base of the nose.
  • The distances from the edge of the eyebrows to the ear and to the middle of the face are equal (marked by “C” in green). In perspective, these distances will be foreshortened. This is the same distance as between the hair-roots and the eyebrows line, the eyebrows and the base of the nose, and the base of the nose and the chin (marked by “C” in red).
  • The line where an ear connects to the head is not vertical but tilted backward (blue line).

10. Placing the pit of the neck

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonAnother common mistake art students make is forgetting about the neck and drawing it as an afterthought when the head is fully drawn. It is almost impossible to draw believable looking portraits from life or imagination without the knowledge of a head and shoulders anatomy.

Let’s indicate an important landmark of the portrait – the pit of the neck. It is located between two collarbones just above the breastbone.

The distance from the chin to the pit of the neck is equal to the one-third proportion of the face (marked by “C” in red).

11. Why sternocleidomastoid muscle is important in portrait drawing

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonThe muscle with a very long name, sternocleidomastoid, is an important landmark when it comes to drawing a neck. It connects the top part of sternum (breastbone) and clavicle (collarbone) with the base of the skull called mastoid – the process of the skull positioned just behind the ear.

We draw this muscle diagonally. In drawing, this muscle not only defines the shape of the neck but also separates its frontal part from the side plane.

12. Trapezium

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonThe trapezium is another important muscle that defines the shape of the backside of the neck.

There is one point you need to define when drawing a neck in the three quarters view – the place where the neck changes into the angle of trapezium. This point is on the same level as the bottom edge of the chin; see the dotted line on the drawing below.

13. Outlines of the neck and collarbones

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonFollowing the constructive drawing principles, we draw not what we see, but what we know. This fully applies to collarbones, which can be covered by model’s dress.

In perspective, the axes of collarbones appear foreshortened and tilted. The pair of collarbones is curved like a cupid’s bow or a stretched double “S”. It connects the breastbone with the shoulder blades.

Outlines of the neck are individual and you have to observe its shape on the model.

It is a proficient approach to draw shoulders as one continuous line from one shoulder to another, making sure they are on the same level and look natural.

14. Drawing the base of the neck

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonWhen main outlines and contours of the neck in place, we can mark the base of the neck. It has a circular shape and in perspective appears as a tilted oval. This oval goes through the top pair of ribs and defines the width of the neck at its base. This oval also marks the size of the top of the ribcage.

The base of the neck is an important contour because it separates vertical planes of the neck from more horizontal surfaces of the shoulders. As such, it serves as a border between light and shaded areas of those surfaces.

15. Rendering the main shades of the portrait

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonSo far, we do not draw any facial features or small details. Instead, we build a solid construction of the head in drawing. This will help us to avoid mistakes and misplacements when it comes to drawing facial features. Drawing eyes, mouth, nose, etc. at this stage is like decorating the walls before building a house.

Although this is a very general outline of the head, it is a time to block-in the main shades of the portrait.

Use very light pencil pressure to render shaded areas of the head and neck.

16. Drawing outlines of the eyebrow

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonCheck model’s forehead and eyebrow outline – it will be individual to every person.

Notice how this outline is protruding in front of the forehead – this distance is indicated in blue lines on the drawing below.

The eyebrow outline has its characteristic angle (marked in red lines).

17. Outlines of the cheekbone

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonWe move down along the contour of the face, this time paying attention to the individual contour of the cheekbone.

Once again, check this outline on the model; pay attention how far it bends and compare to the outline of the eyebrow. Usually, the eyebrow would be extended forward a bit more than the outline of the cheekbone.

The eye socket outline depicted in the previous step continues downwards with the cheekbone outline.

You can also need to check the direction of the line that goes towards the jawbone (indicated in green on the drawing below).

18. Parallel contours of the chin

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonUsually, female chin is less pronounced than a male one; nevertheless, both male and female jaws have characteristic direction of outlines that can be marked in two parallel lines, which are also parallel to the line of the back of the head (marked in red).

19. Drawing the eyebrow curve

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonIn a human head, the border between the cranial part of the skull, which protects the brain, and the facial part of the skull can be indicated by a curved virtual line that goes through the eyebrows and then sloped towards the ear channel.

This virtual curved line helps to build properly the bridge of eyebrows, which is not straight, but bent downward.

20. Indicating the plane under the eyebrows

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonWith the curved line of eyebrows defined, we can caw block shaded area below it. In most cases, the source of light is above a model’s head, therefore it will be a shade under eyebrows. So, we mark this shade in light tone applying very light pencil pressure.

As you see, we are still defining big masses without any attention to facial features like eyes, nose and mouth. Drawing such facial features before the main shape of the head is build proficiently is like decorating walls of a house that yet to be constructed. This sequence will help you to ensure correct proportions of the portrait and will result in greater likeness when we do the rest of the portrait.

21. Defining the cheekbones curve

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonThe cheekbones curve defines another important contour of the face. It bends downward from one cheekbone to another, with its lowest point at the base of the nose.

This virtual line is the border between the frontal part of the cheekbones and the upper jaw section.

A portrait artist can simply keep this line in mind rather than actually draw it. Nevertheless, as a part of the head construction, this line helps to “build” the portrait geometrically correct and proportionate.

22. Blocking the shade beneath the cheekbones’ curve

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonAs mentioned before, the cheekbones curve separates two surfaces of the face. The surface of cheekbones above that line is facing the source of light and therefore will appear lighter than the surface below.

To indicate this difference in tonal values, we shade in very light pencil strokes the darker area right below the cheekbones curve.

There is no need to worry about exact tonal value of this plane right now. All we want from this step is to show that two planes on both sides of the cheekbones curve have different tonal values. We will fine-tune the exact tonal values later on in this lesson.

23. Drawing the central line of the face

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonA virtual line that goes exactly in the middle of a face from the very top of the forehead to the bottom of the chin is one of the most important landmarks of every human face. It serves as the axis of symmetry and is used to balance all facial features at the same distances from that line.

Because the nose is located in front of this line, we can break the line or mark it very thinly within the nose area, so it would not interfere with lines of the nose later.

Many drawing books and tutorials suggest drawing a central line of the face much earlier in a portrait drawing. The reason why we do it now is because it is much easier, especially for beginners, to mark this line with precision when the overall structure of the head is in place.

I want to point once again that the sequence of steps is a personal preference and some artists do not draw all virtual lines at all, keeping them in mind instead.

24. Marking contours of the eyebrows’ corners

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonWith the central facial line in place, we can continue by drawing smaller details making sure that facial features are symmetrical in relation to that line.

The shape of eyebrows is individual and you need to observe its character on the model first.

The bridge of the nose is bordering with the eyebrows corners, so we need to portray its width and angle.

25. Marking the upper eyelids’ contours

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonWith the inner corners of eyebrows in place we can now mark the curvature of the bridge of the nose. This line is a helpful landmark, which usually coincides with the level of the upper eyelids contours. Because every face is individual, you need to check this level on the model and adjust the drawing if required.

Symmetrical features like eyelids have to draw in pairs, making sure they are located on the same virtual horizontal line and have similar curvature. This helps to avoid the mistake of drawing one eye higher or lower than the other.

26. Shading the area above the upper eyelids

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonThe area below eyebrows has darker tones than upper eyelids. So, we could build up tonal values to block the area above the eyes.

Go light with rendering upper eyelids. We will come back to darken these tonal values to required depth later on. It is a good technique to build tones gradually. A proficient way of applying pencil strokes is along object’s contours. Also, if you are drawing in graphite pencil, smudging pencil marks is a big no-no. I will explain why later.

27. Marking the corners of the eyes

Depicting eyes with precision is a critical step in portrait drawing. It is not an easy task for beginners. I often receive portrait drawings for critique with eyes that are too close to each other or not symmetrical.

To pinpoint the exact location of eyes in a portrait drawing, you can use the following rules:

  1. The distance between well-positioned eyes is equal to the length of one eye.
  2. Both eyes must be on the same level, which is the horizontal line that divides the height of the head in half.

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonThese rules are easy to use when you draw a full-face straight view portrait. In our case, it is a bit more complicated because the head is turned three-quarters and, therefore, is foreshortened in perspective. The eye-line is also slightly curved in this view.

We begin with marking model left eye’s corners. Check the distance from the central line of the face to the eye’s inner corner. Make sure, this corner is not too close to the nose in your drawing.

When this inner corner of the eye is pinpointed with necessary precision, you can also mark the wing of the nose, which is slightly closer to the central line of the face. I marked the distance between the eye’s corner and the nose edge in red lines.

Check the length of the eye on the model and mark it in drawing.

Repeat this step for model’s right eye. In the three-quarter view, the nose can overlap the inner corner of another eye. Draw this eye complete as if the nose is transparent.

28. Depicting eyelids

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonWith all four corners of eyes in place, we can “build” eyelids with precision. I’m using the word “build” rather than “draw” because we use constructive drawing principles, drawing what we know instead of copying what we see. This is especially critical when portraying eyes.

An eye is a ball about one inch in diameter and eyelids wrap around this ball. Despite an eyelid is a very thin muscle, it has certain thickness that has to be depicted.

There is one rule you must know to draw eyelids skillfully – upper and lower eyelids are not symmetrical. The upper eyelid has its top point one-third distance from the inner corner while the lower eyelid has the lowest point of its curve one-third from the outer corner of the eye. Avoid a junior mistake of drawing tuna-shaped symmetrical eyelids.

This rule is easier to follow in straight view portraits. In our case, the upper eyelid is foreshortened in perspective. Nevertheless, the rule is still in place.

29. How to Draw Eyes

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonWith eyelids depicted accurately, we can place an iris of the eye. Here’s another amateur mistake you must avoid – placing an iris as a full circle symmetrically between the upper and lower eyelids. Usually, the upper part of an iris is partially covered by the upper eyelid while it might be a small gap between the lower edge of the iris the lower eyelid.

You should also remember that the eyeball is not pure white and often has darker tonal values than highlights of the forehead, for example. Also, there is a casted shadow under the upper eyelid.

Many art students ask me “how to draw eyelashes?” The professional way is not to depict individual eyelashes unless it is an advert drawing for mascara. One dark curved line would do the job. This is especially important for male portraits.

To learn more about how to draw eyes in this video lesson »

30. How to draw a nose

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonThe shape of the nose can be simplified as a prism. The base of the nose is already marked at the same level as the bottom edge of the ear and the bridge of the nose is curving between eyes. The width of the nose can be double-checked by comparing it to the distance between eyes.

The individual shape of the nose has to be observed on the model. Shapes can vary from person to person and capturing likeness depends on how accurately you “build” model’s nose contours and outlines.

First, you can simplify nose contours as straight lines, depicting their angles and proportions. Then, you can smooth-up lines with softer corners.

The lower plane of the nose is in shadow and its tonal value can be blocked in light tones for now. We will work on tonal values with necessary depth later.

31. How to place a mouth correctly

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonWhen drawing a mouth, there are some proportions you can you to place it correctly.

We begin with placing the line between lips. This line is located one-third from the base of the nose to the bottom of the chin. This is an ideal proportion in real life it cad differ, so you can measure this distance and adjust if required.

If you draw an open mouth, keep in mind that the lower edge of the upper lip usually would be at the halfway point of the upper front teeth.

Of course, when drawing a portrait in the three-quarters view, the line between lips will appear in perspective and might not be straight in your drawing.

32. Placing the lower lip

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonIt is quite easy to locate the bottom lip – its lower edge is exactly in the middle of the distance from the base of the nose to the bottom edge of the chin. This proportion is also idealized and should be amended if your model is slightly different.

Avoid a junior mistake of placing the mouth exactly in the middle between the nose and the chin. It is actually located in the upper half of this distance.

33. Marking the upper lip

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonTo locate the upper lip, simply divide the upper half of the distance from the nose to the chin in half. Once again, this line is marked according to classical proportions.

34. Blocking shades of the mouth

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonSo far, we have three parallel lines corresponding to the upper and lower edges of the mouth and the line between lips.

To indicate the form, we can slightly render shaded areas of the mouth, which are the upper lip and the place below the lower lip.

At this step, we only differentiate planes of the mouth without going into details.

35. How to draw a mouth in a three-quarter view

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonWhen it comes to draw a mouth in perspective, there are few things you need to keep in mind. First of all, it is important to draw what you know – the construction of the mouth, rather than copy what you see – outlines of lips. Copying leads to inevitable junior mistakes.

Here’s what you need to know. The mouth’s construction has a three-dimensional nature. The upper and lower lips not only curved as a cupid’s bow, resembling widespread characters “M” and “W”, but also curved from front to back from the mouth center to edges. This presents a certain challenge in three-quarter drawing.

The half of the mouth that is further from the viewer will be considerably foreshortened in perspective, while another half will be visible in without foreshortening.

There is one simple way you can use to overcome a challenge of drawing a mouth. Draw three equal size balls – two at the bottom and one above them, all touching each other. These balls should be constructed in perspective, so one that is closer to the viewer might partially cover other balls. The upper ball sits in the middle of the upper lip and two lower balls correspond to the bottom lip.

To learn more, check this video lesson on how to draw a mouth »

36. Drawing the mouth’s outlines

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonIn previous step, we put three circles as the base of the lips – two balls for the lower lip and one above them. Now, these balls can help us to define the outlines of the mouth.

The top ball coincides with the central part of the upper lip. The upper lip’s groove divides this ball approximately in half.

The bottom outline of the lower lip goes around two balls, and the line between lips curves around all three balls, resembling a cupid’s bow.

37. Defining the contours of the mouth’s

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonWith main outlines of the moth in place, we can further define contours of the mouth. At his step, virtual balls of the mouth are redundant and can be erased altogether. This is the time to observe model’s mouth shapes and depict its individual shape, trying to achieve the necessary likeness.

Make sure that the linear perspective is in place and the half of the mouth that is further away from a viewer has more foreshortening than another half.

38. Virtual angles of the mouth

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonWhen defining the contour and outlines of the mouth, you can double-check angles that usually follow this rule – the upper lip top points, connected with the lower lip bottom points form two lines that go diagonally to the prominent points of the chin. Every model has its individual shape of the mouth and chin, but in general, the upper lip protrudes more forward than the lower lip and the lower lip protrudes more than the chin. This protrusion is usually forms a trapezium plane that is based on six points of the chin and lips (marked with red dots).

You can either draw those lines and dots or keep them in mind.

39. How to draw an ear

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonThe ear’s outline was marked a few steps earlier; it resembles the character “C.” It’s a good time to double-check its main proportion, which is the height of the ear is equal to the height of the nose or the distance between the line of eyebrows and the base of the nose.

The ear’s height divided in half will give us a dimension of the ear’s width.

Further, we can divide the height of the ear in three equal parts. Every part is as follows:

  • At the top, there is the antihelix, which is the outer rim of the ear.
  • The middle third coincides with the concha – the ear’s bowl.
  • And the lower part is taken by the lobule.

The curve of the antihelix is echoed by another rim that is located inside and called the helix. At the top of the ear’s bowl, the helix splits into two arms like the character “Y”.

You will find more information on how to draw an ear in this video lesson »

40. Defining the side plane of the head

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonThe curve where the forehead’s plane changes into the side plane of the head is an important “landmark”. Usually, at this border tonal values will change from light to darker tones. This border can be marked earlier in drawing and now we can double-check its location and apply light tonal shades to differentiate planes of the head.

41. Shading the temple

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonTo separate the plane of the temporal bone, we can shade its tonal value using broad strokes with light pencil pressure.

The direction of the strokes can go contours of that plane to emphasize its spatial position. There’s no need to finish this part in one go, we will come back to it later to deepen the tonal values as required.

42. How to draw a hairstyle

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonUp to this step, I’ve intentionally left the hairstyle untouched to demonstrate the planes and construction of the model’s head. Drawing a bold head is not required and you can indicate the hair volume much earlier in the drawing.

Students often ask me how to draw hairs. There are several points to keep in mind:

  • Draw a hairstyle not as individual hairs, but as one big mass.
  • Construct planes of the hairstyle.
  • Avoid rendering individual curls in the beginning. Details will come later.
  • Apply pencil strokes along hairstyle contours, Do not doodle randomly.
  • Render a hairstyle gradually; do not complete it before other parts of the portrait.

You will find much more information on how to draw hair here »

43. How to render tonal values

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonThere are many approaches to rendering tonal values. Here, I will describe the classical way:

  • It is better to start from rendering big areas with the darkest tonal values.
  • The process can develop gradually in multiple layers.
  • The aim is to keep the drawing getting darker simultaneously in all places without finish one area before others.
  • While shading, you need to keep an eye on relative values, comparing different areas to each other.
  • When drawing in graphite pencil, the pencil tip should be sharp at all times.
  • Avoid going the full strength a drawing tool can provide from the beginning.
  • Apply pencil strokes along the contours of objects.
  • Reveal the volume of an object with strokes.
  • Avoid 90-degree cross-hatching unless you draw a drapery.
  • Keep the gamut of pencil strokes rich and wide – use various directions of strokes, pencil pressure, curvature and length of lines.

There are many more tips and professional demonstrations on how to render tonal values presented in the Drawing Academy video lessons »

44. Drawing small details

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonWorking on a drawing goes from big areas to small details.

When working on smaller details, it is tempting to finish some places before the rest of the drawing. Professional artist keeps the whole drawing complete, but not finished at all times until one decides that the creative task is achieved.

Smaller details in a portrait are shaded using the same rules of rendering tonal values as when shading big areas; however, shorter pencil strokes are required for such task.

The good way of working on a portrait is when drawing goes from big areas to small details and then back to big areas once again. Such cycle can be repeated several times. This will ensure that a portrait looks unified yet detailed.

45. When to finish a head drawing

How to Draw a Portrait by Vladimir LondonThe beauty of working on a portrait rendering it gradually is that it would look completed at all times. So, it is your decision as an artist when to finish it. However, if you leave the drawing slightly unfinished, it would appear more interesting to a viewer. Overworking a drawing is less desirable than stopping just before you think it is done.


I hope this information on how to draw a portrait was helpful. This is just one way of drawing a portrait from many that are described in the Drawing Academy course. If you want to learn more, enroll in the Drawing Academy course »

If you have any questions, you can ask Drawing Academy tutors online: //

I wish you all the creative success you deserve.

Vladimir London
Drawing Academy tutor and founder

About the Author

Vladimir London is the internationally published author of several art books and the founder and tutor of Drawing Academy – the online video course where you can learn how to draw whatever you see, think or imagine, using traditional drawing techniques.

He is also a creator of the Anatomy Master Class – // – the video course for fine artists who want to learn fast all you need to know about how to draw human figures and portraits with the necessary knowledge of human body, head and face anatomy and proportions.

Vladimir, together with Natalie Richy, fine artist and teacher, is also a co-founder of the Web Art Academy – // – the online video course that teaches traditional oil painting techniques.

To learn how to draw whatever you see or imagine,

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