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Tips on How to Draw a Face With the Correct Structure

Updated on December 6, 2018
Johnmyoung profile image

A passionate portrait artist who has numerous qualifications in Art and Design just simply sharing some helpful tips.

Are you someone who have previously struggled to draw a face which, well, actually looks like a face?

Well if that's the case then hopefully this article will help you to expand on you artistic knowledge and allow you take away some invaluable tips. Here is what information you will be taking from reading on:

  • Use the grid method to actually draw what you see rather than what your mind is telling you to draw.
  • Why the most important thing when drawing a face is to start with the eyes.
  • How shading is your best friend when it comes to drawing a realistic face.
  • How to practice shading.
  • The eraser is your friend!

Gridding Method

In the picture below I have included an example of one of my portraits in which I used the gridding method. The gridding method is very common amongst a lot of artists because it allows you to break down a piece of art into many smaller pieces of art allowing you to tackle the drawing in a much more focused manor.

The equipment you will need for the gridding method will be a measuring Ruler, Pencil, Rubber and Paper. You will also require a reference photograph in which you will be completing you artwork from. These are the steps to take when you are gridding a piece of art.

  1. Figure out how big the drawing is going to be in comparison to the reference photograph. If the drawing is going to be twice the size of the reference photograph you need to make sure that the grids you make are twice the size on your canvas than what you have measured from the reference photo.
  2. Start lining out the grids on both the reference photograph and the paper which you will be drawing on.
  3. Once you have all the grids drawn out you can number/letter label them down the side and along the bottom (optional) to help you with referencing.
  4. You are now ready to start drawing your portrait.
  5. Whilst you are drawing your portrait on the grid, make sure each individual square looks exactly the same as your reference photograph before you move onto the next grid. When you decide to move onto the next square, rub the grid line out accordingly and move into the next square.

Most Importantly. Start With The Eyes!

The reason I say this is, what is the first thing you look at when you look at another person. That's correct, their eyes. For this reason you want to be making sure that you have the eyes looking proportional to how they look in the photograph otherwise it will just throw the whole drawing out of flow. Once you have completed the eyes you can expand around the eyes outwards until you gradually get to the edge of the face. The edge of the face should already be drawn out with fine lines so you have the structure however.

Shading left, right and centre.

Below is a little exercise I like to do to practice my shading technique. I simply draw out multiple rectangles and shade from one side (dark) to the other side (light).

The aim of this exercise is to get the smoothest transition from one end of the rectangle to the other. The better you get at doing this it will start to look incredibly smooth and then you will also be able to include the technique of blending which is widely used to get the graphite from the pencils to blend on the paper. One of the best investments I ever made when I started drawing was in a Blending Stump. These are extremely cheap. What they are, are pieces of paper rolled up paper which allow you to blend the graphite/charcoal extremely well.

Erasing for the Highlights.

There are many times that I have accidentally shaded over an area of a face where there is supposed to be a highlight. As long as you haven't shaded too hard over the area and ruined the tooth of the paper (leaving an indentation) then this is still salvageable by simply using an eraser to put back in the highlights on the drawing. The smaller the eraser the more finer highlights you will be able to achieve. I recommend using an ordinary eraser that comes on the bottom of a pencil as it has corners that can give really good detail when erasing.

© 2018 John Young


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