Artist Shares Her Secrets On How To Draw Stunning Portraits

How to draw a Portrait Tutorial

Have you ever wondered how to draw a portrait that actually reflects the character of your model?

The wait is over. In this tutorial, Sabrina Hassler will show you how to achieve beautiful results with just a few materials.

May I briefly introduce myself?

My name is Sabrina Hassler (Website / Instagram) and I am an illustrator and artist from Salzburg. For a long time I have been involved with portrait drawing and have developed my own technique to achieve great results.

I am very happy to be the guest author of this article and to be able to show instructions on how to draw a portrait with pastel chalk, charcoal and pencil.

Drawing materials for a portrait

Portrait Drawing Material

In the picture you can see all the pens and utensils I used. However, it is not necessary to use all materials.

If you don’t want to buy many pens, the following equipment will do:

  • Tinted paper (e.g. Canson Mi-Teintes)
  • White pastel chalk
  • Pencils (HB-6B)
  • Charcoal (as pen or stick)
  • Black crayon
  • Eraser
  • Sharpener

Step 1: The sketch

This step is very important and you should devote enough time to it in order to have less work later.

When sketching the face, I like to follow basic shapes (such as the oval shape of the face) and axes (vertical nose and horizontal eyes/mouth). Trying AND studying is what it’s all about here.

How far apart are the eyes from each other? How long is the nose compared to the whole face? I often rework the parts of the face several times until I feel that the proportions are right.

First I concentrate only on the face (as here in the picture) and then I sketch hair, neck and shoulders.

Step 2: Drawing the light areas

When I am satisfied with the sketch, I take my white chalk and apply it to all areas that are brightly lit in the reference picture. At this point it is recommended that you proceed step by step and apply only a small amount of pastel chalk at first.

Then blur the strokes with a paper stump (or a cotton swab) or your fingers. This will make the surfaces more even and less opaque. Now you can apply chalk a second time, but only on the areas that need to stand out more (e.g. the highlight areas: shine on the tip of the nose etc.).

Step 3: Shadows

How to draw a Portrait 3.1

In the third step, the shadows are added. Here I proceed similarly, as with the light. I start with a harder pencil (e.g. H or HB) and apply very little pressure. It is very important to be gentle with a hard pencil, otherwise you may damage the paper.

When I have applied the first layer, I use a softer pencil (2B-4B) to emphasize the darker areas. I leave out the very dark or almost black areas at this point, because you can still get darker later.

Note: When drawing a portrait, it is important to proceed in a structured way and only add the light and dark highlights at the end.

Step 4: Drawing the facial features

How to draw a Portrait 4

Now on to the facial features – that’s my favorite part! I work my way from one feature to the next. It doesn’t matter where you want to start, whether nose, eyes or mouth.

For example, I choose the mouth and start to check the shape, position and relationship to other parts of the face again. Then I work with chalk for the highlights and pencil and black crayon for the dark areas. I start step by step and then get progressively darker or lighter so that the contrast slowly increases.

What really matters are the details I draw. That’s what takes the most time for me, because they make the greatest difference. Small cracks in the lips, individual hairs in the eyebrows, fine eyelashes, small wrinkles and light spots on the pupils and at the inner corner of the eyes bring the portrait to life.

Step 5 in How to Draw a Portrait: Hair

How to draw a Portrait 5

The next step is to draw the hair in. First I fill the whole hair area with the basic color of the hair (in this case black – I used the charcoal pencil). Then I take my eraser pencil (to erase fine lines) and erase individual strokes on the shiny areas. Afterwards I use a charcoal pencil or a black crayon to go over the dark areas again and apply more shape to the head.

At this point it is also good to emphasize the dark areas of the face even more. With the dark hair you will know which is the darkest tone in the drawing and can adjust the contrast in the face.

Also with the hair the details count: The hair is rarely very smooth. It seems much more realistic if you draw single hair sticking out from the head.

Step 6: Freckles and clothing

How to draw a Portrait 6

Finally I draw the neck and shoulders, which in this case are covered with clothes (which makes things a lot easier).

As a last step I have added freckles. You shouldn’t create a regular pattern, instead scatter the freckles as randomly as possible. You should also be careful not to get too dark and vary the size of the dots. The shape of freckles is usually not strongly defined so you should never draw in any hard contours.

Stay in contact with me

I hope you liked the instructions on how to draw a portrait and you have a lot of fun trying it yourself. Practice really makes perfect.

If you would like to see my work or write me a message, please visit my website or see my Instagram profile.

I would love to hear about your first attempts at drawing a portrait!

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