portrait Drawing Tutorial

Draw a portrait from a picture

I felt I had to make a contribution to this unique website and all of itís enthousiastic participants. This tutorial is about drawing realistic portraits based on a photograph. Iím not necessarily a great artist, but I do have a bit of experience in this matter, although just as a hobby.

Tutorial category: portrait  
Tutorial type:
Submitted by:
Tools used: My tools are cheap and easy. An RMD account, a mouse, sharp eye, reference picture, and the most precious tool: patience.
This tutorial is based on:
Jessica Alba by Brick1




Step 1

Choose a picture of your subject. Make sure itís a bright picture with high resolution showing lots of detail. When your subject is a person, make sure the person is very recognizable in the photo. Not all good pictures show many characteristics of an individual. So choosing the right picture is the foundation of success in your drawing.


Step 2

Put the picture on your desktop together with the RMD drawing screen. Depending on your monitor size, you have more or less space to work in. I donít mind switching a lot between screens, as I do this constantly when working on my pc. Use alt-tab as a shortcut for switching between programs.
In your drawing screen, choose a simple background to avoid drawing on a plain white screen. Iím not interested in fancy backgrounds with lots of detail but thatís just my lazyness and an economic way to deal with the limited ink factor. Start outlining your portrait in a very soft and gentle way. Avoid any hard lines or colours. Use colour light gray, thickness 2 and transpacency 50%.
This is just te basic setup to give everything a place in the big picture.



Step 3

Once you've given your figure a place in the workspace, paint it with a flesh colour and start indicating dark and lighter areas on the face and the hair. Donít try to find the exact matching colours from the photograph, you wonít find them, so leave it. Just choose colours that match together, and fit the mood you want to create.
Use a thicker pen, but keep everything transparent, especially on the face.


Step 4

Put some more detail in the face, use the zoom option, it helps to put things where you really want to put them. Donít do this for too long, after all itís the overall picture that matters. Keep working with a thick pen. If youíre working in IE7.0 you can zoom as much as you want by pressing the zoom button in the right bottom of your screen.


Step 5

In every drawing you make, you should build in a pause. After step 4 it was the right moment to do so. Save your drawing, walk away from your desk, go shop, go to sleep or do whatever. When you come back, youíll notice mistakes you didnít see before. This has nothing to do with your capacities as an artist, this is plain human behaviour. Then comes the most important thing in portrait drawing: FIX THE MISTAKES, no matter how much effort you already put in to make them.
In my drawing it was obvious that her right eye was way too low in the face. So I redrew it a bit higher. No matter how beautiful you draw a personís eyes (or nose or mouth or whatever), if it isnít in the right place, it sucks.
Besides that, keep working on indicating light and dark. Donít forget eyes have eye-lids.



Step 6

As you can see in this step, I never used any hard lines to create the face. By preference, I work with long strokes and much transparency, varying colours slightly. Erase bad strokes immediately by using the DEL key. Donít forget to apply light on the face. Most of the time the lighter areas have no hard boundaries, so donít draw any.
Be careful with applying highlights, it makes a picture overdone very quickly.


Step 7

Donít be afraid to change things from the photo. You notice that I didnít draw the orange blouse, because I think it would suck in this cut-off view.
Finalise your drawing by looking at the overall impression you get from it, and fill in whatever you feel is needed to make the composition stand. In this case I wrote her name, because I felt the composition needed something like that.


Step 8

Tips when drawing portraits.

1. Choose a good reference photo. Keep it in sight every second youíre working on the portrait. Spend more time looking at the photo than looking at your drawing.
2. Use big strokes with lots of transparency.
3. Donít try to draw every single hair, itís impossible. Look at it as an object with dark and light areas, highlights and shadows.
4. Donít try to find the exact colours of a picture. The RMD environment is too limited to do that.
5. Be careful with pure black or white when drawing in a realistic stile. Eyes and teeth are NEVER white. Pure white can sometimes be used for highlights or background.
6. I prefer not to use the airbrush tool, it takes away the firmness of a drawing.
7. Fix mistakes!
8. Be patient. Ink on RMD is limited, but I never ran out of it in my drawings. Thereís plenty of it to draw a decent portrait, so use it. Donít stop with 50% ink left.

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