4 Simple Tips for Drawing More Realistic Portraits


4 Simple Tips for Drawing More Realistic Portraits

4 Simple Tips For Drawing More Realistic Portraits

Today I wanted to share a few useful tips with you for drawing more realistic portraits. Those are pretty simple things I sometimes do when I think that the person I’m drawing doesn’t look quite like themselves. It’s hard to discover if an eyelid should be drawn more upwards or downwards or the position of the nostrils etc. The first one I’ve read somewhere but unfortunately I can’t remember which artist wrote that, otherwise I would’ve linked to the article. The other three are something I do, but I’m sure that other artists have probably come to the same solutions. Human minds are unique but since they should all function in the same way, it’s not at all rare to come up with the same ideas.

So here’s four tips I use to make drawings more realistic:
  1. Flip the drawing (if it’s not on canvas, that is) and put it in front of a bright light. That way you can see the flaws better – for example, if the eyes are not looking in the same direction, if the jaw should be wider on one side etc. (I had so much problems with this Captain Marvel drawing!)
  2. Leave the drawing and get back to work after a few hours or the next day/week. I’ve found this really helpful. If you stare too long at something you get so used to it that you can’t spot the mistakes. (In a way it’s the same when you repeat the same word over and over – it looses meaning.)
The most useful one (for me):

3. Scan the drawing. This puts it in another light. When you see it on the screen, it gets so much easier to spot the flaws – if the colors look off, if the smile looks fake and so on.

Last but not least:

4. In the extreme cases where I absolutely can’t figure out what I’m doing wrong I use this trick. I scan the drawing and then I compare it side by side with the original photograph. Or even better, I open it in Photoshop and make a new layer out of the original. Then I adjust the opacity to, for example, 50% and adjust the size so it fits over the scanned drawing. That’s the easiest way to see what is the problem but beware because that might be cheating… I think it’s absolutely okay when you’re learning to draw since it’s harder to discover the flaws in your portraits.  

Portrait comparison side by side, photograph and watercolor painting.
Side by side comparison helps, too.
Other than that it’s just practice practice practice.

You can see in my portfolio how my drawing changed over time: 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Do you know any other advice or tips for drawing more realistic portraits? Have you tried any of these? Please feel free to share your experience! Or just say hi!

  • Grazianne Delgado

    I will show this tips to my daughter! Thanks for sharing those!

What do you think?