5 tips to improve your portrait drawing skills


I am not claiming to be an expert on drawing realistic portraits - because ... I am not. But maybe that makes me the right person to give you five simple tips that will improve your portrait drawing skills immediately.
So these are the five things that I always keep in mind:

1. Practice makes perfect

Maybe not the most exciting tip, but definitely the best! Think about it: if there was some magic potion out there that would make you a better artist, then everybody could draw beautiful realistic portraits. But since there does not exist such a magic potion, practising is the only way you are going to get better!

2. Choose somebody recognizable

Choose a person who is easily recognizable, for example: Marilyn Monroe. Even if you only manage to draw some red lips and a beauty mark, people still know it is her.
This tip might not make you immediately a better artist, but think about the previous tip: keep practicing. It is easy to give up, when nobody recognizes who you drew. It is far more encouraging when you can easily recognize the person you draw. That way you keep drawing and improving. Think about it as levels: level 1 is an easily recognizable person, level 2 is a fairly easy recognizable person, level 3 gets a little bit harder... Eventually you will be able to draw anyone you want!

3. Proportions are more important than shapes

You have the basic proportions of a face:

  • There is a third - invisible - eye between your two eyes.
  • The eyes are halfway the face.
  • The nose ends halfway between the eyes and the chin
  • The lips are one third underneath the nose.
But not everyone's face is built the same: some people's eyes are further apart, some people have a large forehead, etc. These proportions are far more important to make somebody recognizable then the shape of their eyes, lips, ... So focus on the proportions of somebody's face rather than on the shape of it!

Extra tip: struggling with finding the right proportions? Keep your drawing in front of a mirror. A mirrored image will show you exactly what is wrong.

4. Draw upside down

Ever seen a face in the hood of a car? Your brain is designed to recognize faces in everything. While this came in handy for cave men, to draw a portrait it is not such a useful ability.
Sometimes you just need to see the basic shapes in things. However when you look at a photograph of someone's face, you will see a ... - eh - ... face... ?!
Fortunately there are a couple of tricks to make it easier to see shapes and forms in faces. Turn your photograph upside down: bye bye face, hello geometric forms! 

5. Do not compare yourself with others

It is a lot easier if you have a photograph and a drawing from that photograph of another artist. However think about the second tip I gave you: don't get frustrated!
It is very easy to find a photograph of Marilyn Monroe and a sketch of that photograph. A quick search in google will show you how amazing some artists are. But every artist is different. You do not learn anything if you just copy there art. You will only get upset, because they are - or at least  seem - better than you. And if you get frustrated: there is no fun in drawing anymore... and what then? You will stop drawing? Think about the first tip I gave you: keep drawing, that is really the best way to improve your skills!

Keep drawing and may the force be with you!

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