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Article: 12 Tips on How to Draw A Portrait like a Professional

12 Tips on How to Draw A Portrait like a Professional

Draw a portrait can be challenging most of the time.
Here, we have noted some of the tips so you can create one like a professional. Find out more!
Created by Mihalis Karamanlis |

There is always an interest in how to draw portraits. After drawing a cartoon or caricature, a portrait is often a preferred skill to learn. This is because portraits illustrate real-life depictions of someone. That's another reason why a portrait is often preferred as a gift.

Anyhow, asking a professional to draw portraits can take a long time, and not to mention expensive as well. That is why there are a lot of classes on how to draw. To illustrate, there are a lot of websites and videos offering free tutorials today compared to a couple of years ago. And this number is still growing. 

You will be surprised at how easy it is to draw portraits like a professional. Of course, it won't be an overnight success as you still need to understand the technique and spend some time practicing. 


Why Portrait Drawing

Many people often claimed to have difficulties when asked to illustrate an object. It's simply because they think they don't have the skill. But that's just not true. Everyone can learn to illustrate, given they have the will to enhance the skill. 

Anyway, a portrait is often given as a gift. It's considered to have a personal touch thus given to someone you care about. Most portraits are used to illustrate humans and other living objects such as pets and flowers. But the definition has changed nowadays.

A portrait is now known to be a sketch of an existing picture or have the human object modeled for the artist. At any rate, there are a lot of people looking for tutorials to draw portraits. The interest has always been high.

Rest assured, the following tips will help you understand the technique and what you need to know to illustrate a human on paper. Anyhow, don't forget that this skill needs constant training and insistence to grow better.

Created by St Rusim |


12 Tips on Drawing Portrait

There are various easy ways to draw portraits. But these twelve tips will help you to understand the important points that you need to pay attention to when working on illustrating an object. These tips are not just easy to follow but also applicable to any type of object you want to illustrate. With continuous practice, you will be able to illustrate anything, not just limited to the human picture.

1. Start by investing in good art supplies

You must know that equipment also matters when it comes to drawing portraits. Of course, it not more important than the skill. But the equipment you use can affect the result. Do not fall under the idea that it has to be expensive. What more important is how the equipment will enhance your skill.

It is best to spend some time researching the supplies to find out which one you will be more comfortable with. What you use to draw can illustrate your portfolio in a nutshell. Even though this is not always the case, but you can have an idea how the portrait will look like from the artist's preferred equipment.

Again, your comfort is the most important thing. You won't be able to illustrate anything when you are not comfortable with what you use. It doesn't have to be expensive. You can start small by using any pencil you currently have to draw a portrait.

As you progress, you will be able to compare the equipment and eventually settle with those you are comfortable using. You will also notice how small things like the eraser and how sharp your pencil is can make the difference. 

Anyhow, keep in mind that you are not a pro yet. So, it's not a problem if you can't get the raved equipment to draw portraits. It is okay to idolize an artist, but it's best to draw the line on what you can afford to follow.

Created by Zubair Sheikh |


2. Simplify the portrait

Start by simplifying the portrait by seeing it in geometric shapes like rounds and lines. It sure seems weird to see a human face as geometric shapes. But you'll get used to it after a while. And you also will understand that it will help you measure the lines and proportion in the portrait.

The shapes you can use to simplify when draw portraits are the combination of lines, squares, triangles, circles, and ovals. However, since there is no corner in the human body, never forget to smooth the corners by rounding them. 

For example, when you illustrate the nose, you can break it down using triangles and squares for the bridge and circles for the top of the nose. See if you illustrate it right by comparing your sketch side by side with the original picture.

This is meant so you can study the object as you work on the shapes. You also can correct any mistake you make along the way. Remember, a human is full of emotion, and their expression must be well presented in their portrait.

Created by Sylvain Mendy |


3. Study each human feature separately

Human is a unique subject to draw. The face has unique features that no human has it alike, even on an identical twin. A single wrinkle in a human face can make all the difference. 

When you start to draw portraits, pay attention to these facial features. They are unique and will set the whole tone of the portrait. Remember that a human is a complex subject, with equally complex features as well.

Sometimes, they may look disproportionate. But it's okay. A human face is not always symmetrical. Even those lucky humans with the golden ratio on their faces will still have a slight deviation between the left and right sides.

It doesn't matter which feature you choose to concentrate on first. Many people would suggest starting with the eyes when you try to illustrate a human face. Not because it's the easiest, but the eyes could capture the human emotion and show it in pictures. 

Naturally, we are attracted to the eyes when we see a human-featured portrait. Therefore, pay attention to any small detail related to the eyes. Notice how thick the lashes are, if the eyes are arching down, and other details. 

Try to draw these human features as practice sketches. It is best to illustrate them separately to understand these features. And when you think to draw a complete picture, start by using lines to if you got the right measurements.

Created by Chetana Pawar |


4. Utilize the lines

When you draw a portrait, there are lines that you need to pay attention to. First and foremost, these lines are the way to measure the sizes of each feature as well as the proportion. The lines also work as your guide to know which direction the angle should be.

You can start by drawing the lines to separate the features based on the human picture provided. You can start to illustrate after the shapes and lines are in the proper place. It may take a while to get used to, but mastering these lines will help you measure the proportion and distance between each human feature.

Compare the lines, as you draw them, with the actual human or the image to measure the distance between each feature you illustrate. Remember that these lines are guides, so you can still adjust the measurement if you think it's a bit off.

Don't draw any conclusion too soon when your lines are a little wonky. As long as the proportion is measured correctly, that will be illustrated in the final picture.

Created by Mansi Jain |


5. Consider all angles

Instill in your mind how an angle works. A slight deviation on an angle can change the whole portrait proportion and subsequently the whole human image altogether. Do understand that angles in this context cover the angles for each feature as well as the whole picture.

It may be difficult at the beginning. But by seeing all angles, you can tell which side will illustrate the personality best. Any slight changes you want to make in the portrait can be done by adjusting these angles.

Think beyond which direction the human face looks. Try to find the correlation between each facial feature. Draw the lines to measure the distance between each eye and how close they are to the nose, and so on.

Using lines with the right perspective angle as your guide to draw can help you illustrate the object. It's challenging at first, but when you are used to it, you will be able to draw straight from a human model. 

These angles are important when you draw portrait because it sets the emotion. Other than a good command of dark and light tones, angles also could make the portrait illustrate the right emotion.

Created by Evren Tural |


6. Remember the mid-tones

A common mistake someone tries to illustrate a human is that they forgot about the middle tones and only focused on what meets the eyes. If you want to illustrate like a professional, then you should learn how to identify these tones and work on them.

When you draw a portrait, utilizing these tones is important to illustrate more depth and make the image looks real. After all, realism is what the portrait has to illustrate. When you draw for the sake of novelty, then you have to illustrate the real condition the best way you can. 

Mid-tones is often forgotten since it's often lost in the shadow. And that is what will be covered next.

Created by Jim Gastinger |


7. Understand how to draw shadows

As mentioned before, a human figure is a complex object to illustrate. When you draw portraits of your close friends and families, you will notice that each human is different. Any slight change in angle can affect the shadow and how the human look overall.

As you start to draw portraits, you will have to get used to adding shadow to illustrate the light in the picture. Where the shadow falls, and how dark it is. Remember that shadow doesn't always come in black.

A shadow has multiple colors to illustrate. See how the colors work and try to get used to those shades. See how dark you want the black and grey to be. Which tone illustrates the actual picture. 

Human features can be tricky to illustrate. It might be difficult to draw shadows properly on the first try. However, don't be discouraged. Try to back on track and keep practicing how to draw shadows.

Created by Adam Janusz |


8. Use the right tools to draw the shadows

When you illustrate a human, you must see how the angles create shadows. When you draw portraits, you will have to be familiar with how the shadow works. Understand the shadow depth to illustrate real-life. 

Anyway, the most common mistake is to rub out the lines to create shadows. Unfortunately, that is how most people are taught how to create shadows. But that way will remove the depth and other tones. 

Human features are complex to see. How the shadow falls on the face and what kind of tones they create can be difficult to replicate. Therefore, you need to use at least two types of pencils to work on the shadows.

As you know, pencils come in various hardness, and that means various color depths. Some black pencils can be very black, and others can be quite light. And these pencils are what you should use to illustrate the light on the portrait.

Anyhow, understand which pencil to use is not enough. You also need to remember which pencil hits the right grey and black. How hard or light your hand must be when using it, and so on. These little tricks will help you accustomed to illustrate the light and shadow on a human face.

Created by Randa Mohamed |


9. Keep on assessing the lines and shapes

It is normal to constantly check on your ongoing work. It is even encouraged to do so. These lines and shapes are what made the human portraits works and resemble real life.

When you attempt to illustrate a human in real life, you must make the portrait to be as real as possible. Therefore, you need to constantly assess the lines and shapes you used when you draw portraits. 

No need to worry about how strange it will look. The starting sketches are always looking weird. Don't be discouraged by it. You will get the hang of how to draw portraits.

Created by Lydia Kharsyntiew |


10. Work on highlight and shadows

When you try to illustrate a human figure, you inevitably have to work with highlight and shadows. Unfortunately, most people forgot the highlight and light shadows and think that shadows mean only dark tones.

This is a common rookie mistake. To avoid making this mistake, you have to pay attention to the lighting as you draw a portrait. Notice how the angles highlight certain features and hide the other at the same time.

The shadows illustrate the depth and texture of the image. While the highlight reflects the light, the best way to illustrate the complex human features is by combining both of them in the picture.

Keep in mind not to start with a shadow area that is too dark as it will be hard to draw a correction if needed or even to correct it. Start with the light area and work your way up.

The same goes for highlight. People often forget that highlight is also important to illustrate life. Therefore, do not leave the area plain and empty. Instead, think of how the light is positioned and how you should fill the area.

Do not illustrate the highlight larger than the area where it is. That will make the human drawing unrealistic and plain. Also, remember that you can still correct any mistake by blending the shadow to create the tones that will work as the highlight.

Created by Monon Saad |


11. Keep the proportion

Proportion is another important thing when drawing a portrait. It doesn't matter what the object is. Proportion is one thing that can make the image looks realistic, especially in a human-featured image. Any artist will work on the proportion to keep illustrate what they see.

Notice how a human proportion works. Understand that even though things may look askew at times, but they will still be in proportion. Another thing about proportion is that it works closely with angles and shadows.

It doesn't matter which you master first, the shadows and angles or proportion. Think of this knowledge like the joints in a human body. All are connected and working together. These connections are included in what you have to illustrate in a portrait.

Created by Tatyana S |


12. Use sketches as a practice to draw portraits

There is no easy way to be able to draw portraits like a professional. It will come down to the persistence to work hard and always practice to enhance your skill. You may start by sketching or illustrate an inanimate object first instead of going for a human figure.

Even when you think that you have zero skill in drawing and can illustrate nothing, you will be just fine as long as you keep practicing to get a better understanding of how to illustrate humans. Keep practicing until you have muscle memory and the ability to draw all the elements for a picture that illustrates real life.

Keep in mind that Rome wasn't built in a day and nor is an artist. Even if your aim isn't to be a professional, you still need to practice sketches to illustrate what you see and merge them with the idea you have in mind. 

Created by Mansi Jain |



If you plan to illustrate human faces, you can start by collecting pictures close-up pictures. This is great because these pictures will help to understand the proportion, angles, shadow, and highlight. Any high-quality close-ups will be good to illustrate. 

Anyhow, despite the complexity, human is still the most favorite object to illustrate. You will understand this when you are deeper in your pursuit to understand how to draw portraits. Even when you are not ending up as a professional, these tips on draw portraits will help you to have a skill you can be proud of. Lastly, don't forget to enjoy the process!

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1 comment

Thank you. This is useful and encouraging, As a novice, I like your images as they each illustrate your points. I have gained from your points on shading and be more aware of its value.


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