Drawing or painting still-life scenes is a skill many artists master fairly early in their careers but creating portraits, especially lifelike portraits, is another thing entirely. Creating a portrait isn’t just about capturing a person’s likeness – it’s also about capturing their energy and their personality. It is a skill that can take years to develop and, hard as you may try, you may never perfect it. To give you a head-start, here are some tips for creating lifelike portraits.
1. Prepare your materials ahead of time.
If you are going to work on a portrait, make sure to choose the right materials and prepare them well. Choose the right kind of paper, as well as your medium. If you’re drawing a portrait, pencils are a great medium to work with, just make sure that they are sharpened so you can use the sharp point to capture minute details.
2. Start with an outline.
When you’re ready to begin, start with a light outline and work with the drawing as a whole for a while before you start adding the details. Once you have your outline, draw in the major shapes, including areas of light and shadow, then fill in the details. When drawing in the major shapes, be sure to pay close attention to the proportions so it looks right.
3. Don’t take shortcuts.
If you are working on a particularly difficult subject, it may be tempting to just trace a photograph and then fill in the details. By doing this you may end up with something that looks just like the photo, but it may not be as lifelike as a handmade portrait. Plus, you won’t be developing your skills if you just trace a photograph instead of creating from scratch.
4. Keep looking back at your subject.
When creating a portrait, it is easy to draw your subject the way you think it should look but that isn’t realistic. As you draw, your eyes should be bouncing back and forth from your subject to your paper and back. Pay attention to the tiny details as well as the major details – this too is a skill that can take time to master, so get plenty of practice.
5. Use many different tones.
Human skin is not a single color – neither is hair. If you want your drawing to look truly lifelike, you’ll have to capture variations in tone. The previous tip will help you to capture those variations but you’ll also need to have a variety of pencils on hand and use them in different ways to achieve different tones. Don’t forget that you can use the side of the pencil as well as the tip.
6. Work on your shading.
A human face is not made up of different sections of color – they blend smoothly together which is something you’ll need to learn how to do. To achieve even shading, you may need to work back and forth over the same area for a while, changing where the tip of your pencil lands and using circular motions to create an even flow.
Creating a lifelike portrait takes a good deal of time and a lot of patience – it also takes practice! By taking the tips above into account and putting them to work you can strengthen your drawing skills and eventually create the perfect portrait.