Drawing a self portrait is an excellent way to learn about shading, sketching, and proportions. Learning to draw a realistic portrait of the human face can be a difficult task even for advanced artists, but there's no better way to develop your artistic ability and grow in your trade. Whether you've been drawing for years or you're just starting out, if you follow a few basic tips and techniques, you'll be sketching a realistic portrait of yourself in no time.
[Edit]Setting up Your Workspace
Set up a mirror where it’s easy to see. Place it where you can move your head back and forth as little as possible while you draw. A rectangular mirror is preferable, but a circular mirror may be used as well.
Using a mirror allows you to see what you’re drawing in 3-D, and allows you to adjust your light source as you draw.
Angle the mirror based upon the profile you want to draw. Choose a comfortable pose that you can maintain for a sustained amount of time, as you’ll be using this pose throughout your drawing. Keep your eyes on the mirror roughly 80% of the time as you draw.
Because you’re drawing what you see in the mirror, you should spend more time looking in the mirror than actually drawing.
Use a photograph in place of a mirror for easier reference. Stand against a plain background that makes your features pop out, such as a solid-colored wall. If you can’t find a solid-colored wall, use a solid-colored drop-cloth to hang in the background. Adjust the lighting to cast shadows you desire.
Use top-lighting or lighting from above to find more shadows for your photograph.
Using a photograph gives you a 2-D reference that is easier to use than a mirror. The photo stays in one position, so you can reference the same image many times without adjusting your drawing.
Drawing from a mirror is more difficult and can help advanced artists improve their skill.
Keep your drawing surface as vertical as possible. Invest in a cheap table easel that has a clip built into it. Use the clip to hold your drawing in a near-vertical position while you sketch.
The self portrait can become distorted more easily on a flat surface.
[Edit]Developing Your Proportions
Draw a circle in the center of the page. To draw a well-formed circle, trace around the edges of a roll of duct tap or a cup. Keep the lines light so you can go back and tweak the shape of the edges later on.
Most head shapes are closer to an oval than a circle, so you can draw an oval if you’d prefer.
Draw a vertical line down the center of the circle. Then, draw a horizontal line across the center circle. The horizontal line will cross in the middle of the vertical line you just drew.
Your lines don’t have to perfect, as you will be erasing them later on. Just get them as close to center as possible.
Measure half the diameter of the circle with a ruler. Place the edge of the ruler on the bottom of the circle and transfer the measurement you just took. Draw a line underneath the circle where the measurement stops. For a female chin, draw the line slightly higher. Make the line roughly half the length of the circle.
This line will be your reference for where to draw your chin.
If you don’t have a ruler, you can use your pencil. Place your finger on the pencil at the point of the measurement. Use your finger and the edge of the pencil as a reference for the measurement.
Sketch 4 lines to connect the circle to the chin line. Place your pencil on the outside of the circle at the end of the horizontal line. Draw a line down, about halfway toward the chin line, and angled slightly inward. Then, place your pencil on the outside edge of the chin line on the same side as the line you just drew. Draw a line up and angled outward to connect it to the line you just drew.
Repeat these steps on the other side to complete the jawline.
If your jaw is sharper and more defined, use steeper angles to connect the chin line. If your jaw is more rounded, use softer lines. Refer to the mirror for reference on how sharp to make the angles.
Don’t forget to keep your lines light so you can flesh out the detail later on.
Re-draw the horizontal line at the halfway point of your current drawing. Erase the first horizontal line you drew. Measure the halfway point of the current drawing and draw a new horizontal line all the way across the outline.
This will be your eye line. Feel free to label it for easy reference when you start drawing the eyes. Just make sure you label it lightly so you can go back and erase it.
Draw a line at the halfway point between the eye line and the chin line. Then, draw another line halfway between the line you just drew and the chin line. You will now have 3 horizontal lines drawn across your outline.
The first line you drew will be the nose line, and the second line will be the lip line. For easy reference later, lightly label these lines with pencil so you can erase them later on.
Sketch a horizontal line at the center point between the eye line and the crown. Then, draw another horizontal line between the line you just drew and the middle eye line. You will now have a total of 5 horizontal lines.
These 2 lines will both be hair lines. Label them for easy reference later on.
[Edit]Sketching the Main Features
Make small, vertical dashes to split the eye line into 5 equal sections. Use a ruler to measure the entire width of the head and divide that number by 5. For instance, if the widest part of the head is long, divide that by 5 to get . Then, use your ruler to split the horizontal eye line into 5 sections that are each.
You will end up with 4 equally spaced tick marks that divide the eye line into 5 equal sections.
Draw the left eye between the 1st and 2nd dashes on the horizontal eye line. Start the left edge of the left eye on the 1st tick mark from the left, and make the right edge of the left eye touch the 2nd tick mark from the left. Draw the far right edge of the right eye touching the 1st dash from the right, with the inner corner of the right eye touching the 2nd dash from the right.
This will ensure your eyes are evenly spaced and identical in size.
Fill in the eyebrows directly above the eyes. If the portrait ends up looking sad, your eyebrows may be spaced too close together. Try spacing them further apart for a happier demeanor.
Sketch a vertical line from the inner corner of the left eye to the nose line. Do the same for the right eye. Sketch the nose inside of these boundary lines, using the vertical line in the middle as reference to keep the nose as symmetrical as possible.
For a medium-length nose, draw it above the nose line.
For a longer nose, draw it beneath the nose line.
For a shorter nose, draw it between the eye and nose line.
Keep the boundary lines light so you can go back and erase them later.
Make a vertical line from the middle of each eye down to the lip line. Draw the lips in between these boundary lines, with the bottom lip resting on the lip line. Use the middle vertical line as reference to draw the lips as symmetrically as possible.
If your mouth is an average size, sketch it well inside the boundary lines. Adjust as necessary for larger or smaller mouths.
Make sure to draw the boundary lines lightly so you can go back and erase them later.
Add the hairline in between the 2 separate lines labeled “hair”. For a female face, draw a smooth line around the forehead. Try to avoid adding any angles. For a male face, sketch a well-defined, angular hairline. Then, fill in the rest of the hair, using the hairline you just drew as reference.
Fill in the hairline with thick lines, adding shadows and highlighting as you work.
[Edit]Filling in the Details
Erase all unnecessary lines from the portrait. Use light pressure when erasing the lines so you don't rip the paper. This includes the original vertical line, all of the horizontal lines, and the boundary lines you used for creating your proportions.
If you labeled your eye, lip, nose, and hair lines for easier reference, erase those as well.
Fill in the ears, areas in the eyes, lips, and nose. Draw your ears roughly between the eye and nose line, then sketch out your neck. Go back and add any details you may have left out when sketching the outline of the main features.
Fill in things like lip wrinkles, shadows under the eyes, and shading on the bridge of the nose.
Spend time adding wrinkles and sunspots to the skin, jewelry such as earrings or nose rings, details in the eyebrows, and any other minute tweaks you want to add. The more details you add to the portrait, the more realistic it will appear.
Shape the jaw and cheeks based upon the angle of the face. If your jawline is more defined, add sharp angles to the jaw area. If it is more rounded, erase any sharp angles and smooth them out. Do the same to the cheekbones, adding or removing definition as necessary.
To make yourself look younger, make the jawline narrower so your bones look less developed.
Add shading to your portrait to make it more realistic. Use a smudging tool or your finger to add shadows as you go. As you shade, take into account any glares in the hair or eyes.
Make sure to add shadowing to the neck area. This will keep it from looking like it’s floating in thin air.
Hang your portrait in a frame that compliments your work. Use a frame that goes well with the medium you used to draw your portrait. If you used a charcoal pencil, compliment your drawing by hanging it in a simple black frame. If you used colored pencils or soft color of any sort, try a wooden frame.
Drawing a self-portrait is hard work, and framing it is an excellent way to display your accomplishment.
Use a 4B charcoal pencil to help you gradually build up shadows as you draw.
Try to keep dark colors in the hair and eyes so that they pop more.
Be careful not to rip the paper when you erase the markings.
[Edit]Things You'll Need
Mirror, preferably rectangular
Pencil, preferably charcoal
Sturdy, clean drawing paper (preferably newsprint)
Kneaded eraser, optional
Photograph of yourself, optional
Draw a Girl's Face
Draw an Eyebrow
Draw a Human Head
Draw a Semi Realistic Portrait