Drawing From A Photograph

When drawing a pencil portrait from a photograph, it is imperative to choose a quality photo. The qualities a photograph must have can be summed up as follow:

- The photo must exhibit a range of tonal values. That means, there must be dark and light tones. This creates a drawing with contrast and contrast will ensure a realistic pencil drawing. A repetition of dark and light values are balanced throughout our reference photo.

- A photograph that tells a story or emotion will deliver an interesting drawing. People are visually drawn to art in the same way they are drawn to photography. In our reference photo we have a famous actress holding an object of interest. The object itself makes for an interesting drawing and has a full spectrum of tonal values.

- The photo must be clear and in focus. Clarity is very important, especially for the eyes.


Drawing The Left Eye

The eyes are a critical addition to the appearance of the face and also the central position in many cases. Most of the appearance is recognized by looking at the eyes. This is the reason why I would start the drawing by doing the eyes first.

Do not outline the eye. Try to recognize the major shapes and blend the shapes so that each flow into the next. Make sure to read my tutorial that teaches How To Draw An Eye. The tutorial will show step by step how each section of the eye are drawn.

I finished the eye and started to layer graphite into the nose area. You can now blend with a tortillon. Here is a source where you can Buy Tortillons and other blending tools.

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Drawing The Right Eye

The trickiest part of the drawing is adding the right eye. The hair falling over the eye covers almost half of it. Further, the hair is not one solid shape and it divides the eye into many shapes. Drawing this eye asks for good observation.

Draw soft guide lines with your pencil to form the overall eye shape. Also draw the outline of the hair strands. Continue to work on the visible parts of the eye, alternatively blending them with a tortillon and adding more graphite with your pencil, until you see the structure of the eye form.

Leave the hair strands as white paper for now. Connect the nose with the eyes. The nose has a cylindrical bridge that flows into the corners of the eyes. Draw this and carefully blend.

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Drawing The Mouth

Study the reference photo to see what the mouth looks like. A small portion of the lower lip is hidden behind the microphone.

Carefully study the upper lip. It is almost the same value as the skin above the lip. This is due to the way the light bounces off the lip and skin. The lip is most defined by cracks that appear to be darker that the rest of the lip.

The inside of the mouth is without complication. The teeth are well defined and shows a cast shadow closest to the upper lip. The corners inside the mouth are also darker in value. Use the tortillon to connect the shapes. Pull some of the darker values slightly into the lighter areas.

The mouth flows from the upper lip into the nose. If you touch your skin just above your upper lip you will feel the skin makes a bump. Carefully observe to see how different values define this section.

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Layering Graphite for Skin Tone

At this point I will start with the skin area by adding an initial layer of graphite. This is done softly to give me an idea of where the shapes and shadows will appear.

Cover the entire face with some graphite before you blend. Different values will develop later into darker values. Especially on the right side of the face(as we see it). The upper lip area also takes form.

It is important to start with a soft layer and gradually build upon this layer. Do not start layering in dark values immediately, rather darken the values progressively, layer upon layer.

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Building Skin Tone

At this stage I have covered the entire skin area. I also blended the entire layer with a clean tortillon.

Extra care must be taken when you blend areas that appear to be very light in value. Some parts of the skin might appear white. However, if you compare it with the white background around the face then you will notice that all of the skin has value.

Although I have blended, I will add more graphite later, to build upon the darker values.

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Drawing The Microphone

The microphone is a focus point. It is made of metal with a cold appearance. There is a contract between the cold metal and the glow upon the face.

If you break the microphone up into sections or individual shapes, then it is fairly easy to draw. Therefore, study the photo carefully.

The top part of the microphone has four basic values: Very dark, medium, light, and a very light value where light is bounced directly to the eye.

Make guide lines and add these values. Divide the top part into different shapes. I did the same with the front screen of the microphone on its right side. Nothing has been blended.

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Drawing The Microphone

The areas on the skin showing shadows are darker in value now. Make the values darker by adding more graphite with your pencil. For this drawing I only used a 2B pencil. Adding graphite to a layer that has been blended must be done with care. Keep control over the pencil allowing the valued shapes to gradually flow into each other. I cannot overestimate this importance, since you do not want the values to look "choppy", but rather smooth.

Continue with the microphone, adding the openings on its back right. Again, study the photo. The darkest values shows the inside of the microphone.

Blend the top of the microphone. You will notice the shapes flow more evenly and also appear darker in value after they have been blended. If you over blend a certain area, use a putty eraser to lift off graphite to correct for proper highlights.

I also blended the front screen.

Drawing A Microphone

Drawing the Microphone

Here we have a detailed view of the microphone. You will notice that each opening has three main values:

- A dark value representing the inside of the microphone

- A medium value representing the edge of the openings

- A lighter value below the edges representing the reflective light

Each opening is connected to each other by medium values. Add these values step by step, then blend. After blending, correct areas that need to be lighter in value with the kneaded or putty eraser.

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Drawing The Hair

It is important to make the hair part of the face. This can be done by adding shadows where the hair meets the skin. Especially where the hair line shows.

Add more graphite to the shadow that falls on the hair line. I also started to draw the hair. This I do, by breaking the hair structure up into smaller sections. Most of the shapes are light in value. Draw the hair by making strokes in the direction the hair grows. In this photo, the hair grows downwards. Keep your hand firm but relaxed. Be confident when making the strokes.

We have two prominent shapes showing dark values as part of the hair. These dark areas I create by layering graphite multiple times. The left side is a key value and the darkest part of the drawing. Here you need to go as dark as possible.

Notice the reflective light on the left of the face. I created this by initially leaving this area white, then later blend some graphite into the area. If you over blend you can correct the area with a kneaded eraser.

Parts of the ear that fall in the shadow are also visible.

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Drawing The Hair And Shadows

Blend the shadow below the hair line. Blend the dark shadow and the ear. Apply graphite to the neck and blend.

You will notice as I apply graphite to the right area next to the microphone, I also fill in the gaps that have been left clear until now. Notice the dark shadow on the hair behind the right ear. This shows how the hair falls over the right ear along the neck line. Adding dark value to this area gives depth to the drawing. The same depth can be seen on the left of the face. The closer the hair gets to the face, the darker the shadow will be.

Add more value to these dark areas and blend.


Drawing The Skin and Hands

Continue to add graphite to the neck area behind the microphone and the hand.

I also started to develop the hand. Draw each finger by breaking it up into smaller parts. Observe each shape carefully. Study the photo and add guide lines on each finger to help you. The lines serve as guides to show where darker values will be layered.

Notice the reflection on the chin line to the right of the microphone. Create the reflection with a kneaded eraser.

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Drawing The Neck and Hands

Carefully study each finger to see how light falls upon it. Both the left thumb and index finger touching the microphone have shadows falling upon them.

At the bottom of the drawing you will see part of the right hand. I added graphite to this area. I completed the neck and blended. You will also noticed I added the dark section of clothing where the hand is.

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Layering the Clothing and Background

Drawing clothing depends on the color value, texture, patterns, and how the light falls on it. This sweater has a plain, dark value. In the photo the sweater is plain black with little character. I decided to change the collar slightly to make it more interesting.

You can draw the background according to preference. I decided to keep it simple and make certain areas darker in value. To bring balance, I decided to make the top part of the background darker in value and gradually lighten it towards the bottom.

Making the top dark gives a contrast between a dark background and lighter blonde hair. This contrast between light and dark values occurs more than once throughout the drawing creating a nice balance and realism.

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A Complete Drawing

We now have a complete drawing. With the darker background added, the drawing remains balanced. As you look at the drawing, your eye will first focus on the left eye, then move towards the microphone.

After some minor corrections I made, I took fixative spray and covered the drawing lightly with a protective layer. Make sure to keep the fixative spray at least an arms length from the drawing. Allow the drawing to dry for a few minutes.

Last but not least...sign your drawing. The next page shows a larger image of the finished drawing.

Make sure to check in regularly for more drawing tutorials!