One of the first things that children try to draw is the human face, and for good reason! From a very young age, we seek out connection in the faces of others. The face of our mother or father is one of the first things that we see. Many of us can read someone’s facial expression and tell what that person is thinking or feeling. And of course, we’ve all heard it said that the eyes are the window to one’s soul. Because the image of the human face can be such a powerful thing, artists are always learning how to draw better portraits.
Today’s blog post is for any of you artists out there who are looking for some strategies for drawing better portraits. Of course, defining what “better” means also depends on your personal art style and what you are trying to achieve with your art. Every artist has their own unique style to cultivate and their own approach to Portraiture! Whereas one person may strive for Hyperrealism, another may be drawn towards a more Surrealist approach. On Sparketh.com, our online art classes for kids and teens cover several different styles of Portraiture and teaches kids how to recreate them. This is an awesome place to start for young artists who are trying to discover their personal style. But whatever your preferred art style is, there are definitely some strategies that can help you to continue to improve your skills and draw better portraits!
The below portrait tips come from the professional artists and art instructors on the Sparketh team. Here are a few tips that have helped them increase their portrait skills and draw progressively better portraits. Below several of these tips, you’ll also find some visual examples that they created to demonstrate!
Tips for Drawing Better Portraits
1. Go from low to high detail.
This was the number 1 tip from artists on our team! When drawing portraits, always start with simple shapes. (For example, don’t start your portraits with a really detailed eye, even if eyes are your favorite!) Once you have the shapes, you can get progressively more detailed as you add to your work. One of Sparketh‘s art instructors compared this process to sculpting a face out of clay. In sculpting, you have to get the basic shapes and planes right before going in to add onto and tweak each one.
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2. Study proportions and planes of the human face.
While diversity is a huge point of interest when it comes to portraiture, there are some standardized features and proportions that you can study and practice to become more comfortable with facial anatomy! Learning some of the common planes and proportions of the human face can give you some great techniques to practice as you work on generic faces (or even as you develop an OC–original character).
As you become more comfortable with the basics, you can branch out and study features that are more common among certain ages, genders, and nationalities. The videos below from Sparketh’s social media channels will give you a couple of quick tips to get started, and our online art classes for kids and teens also contain several lessons on anatomy for portraits.
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3. Use a mirror to “check your work.”
Using a mirror may be an obvious tip for self-portraits, but did you know mirrors can help you with any of your artistic creations?
Reversing an image can help point out issues we may have missed in our artwork. If something looks off about your portrait (or any of your art) try looking at the piece in the mirror! Since your eyes get used to looking at your paper/canvas from one perspective (sometimes for hours), this simple trick can be a good way to change your point of view. When you shift your perspective this way, you will often see flaws you may have not noticed before! Similarly, you can also try looking at your work upside down.
4. Try black and white.
Many of us love the fun of working in color, but sometimes going back to basic black and white can be a great way to hone your skills, especially when it comes to portrait work! Why? Charcoal or graphite (pencil) can be really effective tools to help you cultivate your sense of highlights and shadows, which adds a lot of depth and realism to your portrait.
Once you’re comfortable with adding shadows and light to your portraits this way, then its time to try a portrait in color!
5. Take a break.
Art can be such a meditative and high-concentration activity. It can literally take your mind off of everything else (which is one reason its great for helping kids learn how to focus and make decisions!) However, this also means that you can sometimes get hyper-focused on striving for perfection, especially when presented with a highly-detailed task like a portrait.
One quick and easy tip you can try when this happens?
Take a break!
Just like with anything else that demands your focus, sometimes a little break is all that’s needed to reset and approach your artwork with a new perspective. So if you find yourself getting frustrated: take a walk, eat a snack, chat with a friend or family member, play with your pet! We bet the next time you come back to your art, you’ll feel less frustrated and more ready to get creative and try a new approach.
6. Watch others create.
Watching other artists create is one of the best ways to get inspired! This is also a wonderful way to discover new styles and techniques that you’d like to try! When working on your portrait skills, you can follow artists who have both similar and different styles to your own. Getting inspired by a variety of different artists can be a great way to learn more about your own developing since of style. You can even watch a time-lapsed project and try to recreate it, step-by-step, in real time (and add your own twist!)
If you don’t already, follow Sparketh on TikTok, Instagram, Youtube or Facebook. Our team of artists is regularly creating free tips, tricks and challenges for young artists who are looking for artistic inspiration. For example, in the activity below, students learn quick way to recognize light and shadows in a fun and easy drawing activity.
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7. Practice with a variety of subjects.
You knew this one was coming, right? The #1 tip for all things creative is to practice! The best way to learn how to draw better portraits is to get better every day by doing. Here are some ways you can encourage yourself to practice your portrait skills, every day!
- Set aside a little time daily to work through Sparketh’s Art Style Portrait Track. This will give you step-by-step guidance as you practice through several different art styles. It’s a great way to help you discover which style(s) resonate with you most!
- Ask your friends or family to sit for you so that you can practice drawing from life. It’s a whole different experience.
- Also practice drawing from a reference photos. Maria from our Youtube channel has some tips on this one, here.
- Don’t get stuck in a rut. Practice drawing people of different genders, ages, and nationalities!
We hope these tips help you in your quest to draw better portraits! We’d love to see your work, so please feel free to share it with us in the Sparketh gallery if you’re a Sparketh member, or in the Sparketh Community!