A few tips for the portrait drawing newbie. How to draw—book recommendations, advice, lessons.
Drawing for Newbies



One of the most basic things an artist has to learn is about shades. To get a realistic drawing, you have to recognize shades of light and dark in your picture. Here you see 5 shades, from black, a few grays, and whites. Remember these—you'll be using them a lot in your portrait art, and all your drawings!

Sphere and shading

Here's a makeshift illustration I made in Photoshop. Don't look too closely, it's messy.

This illustration shows how some basic grays, blacks and whites can create depth and dimension to a picture. In this illustration, I used about 5 grays (like the ones in the strip of grays I show at the top of this page). See how when I render these grays in specific areas, the sphere looks round and realistic.

Bear in mind that most pictures have more than 5 shades of gray, and you'll often find yourself rendering more than 5 distinct shades of gray. But for this tutorial, it's easier to break the tones in a picture down to about 5 basic grays.

The "highlight" area is usually white, or almost-white. The "light gray" area surrounds the highlighted area, and blends the white in with the darker tones. The "middle gray" tone is the actual color of the sphere, without any highlighting or shadowing on it. The "shadows" are dark grays and blacks. The "reflected light" is usually one tone lighter than the shadows.

Especially take note of the "reflected light." This is a slightly lighter "rim" that is often seen on the darkest shadowed part of an object (in this case, the sphere). It is there because some light bounces off of the lighter background, creating this little strip of lighter tone. (Most portraits will have this "reflected light" area as well.)

Just like an artist shades a sphere like this, an artist shades a portrait. The same principle applies. Practice drawing your own spheres, and shade them, like the sphere on this tutorial is shaded. You can learn how to use shading in your drawings! (See this step-by-step illustration, which will show you how to sketch your own practice spheres.)

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I hope this "newbie" drawing tutorial was helpful. The main secret to learning how to draw is practice, practice, practice! Bring a sketchbook with you wherever you go, and do lots of sketches. Don't worry too much if your drawings are not perfect right away. You'll get better, as you study, and learn, and most of all...practice!

Some other tutorials that will benefit you, the newbie:

| Shading Basics | Drawing Techniques | Advice for Newbies | "Goof Off" Art |

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Shameless plug!

I've got my own book now, self-published, called Drawing Portraits: Fundamentals. Check it out!

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